An Elon Law residency-in-practice at a prominent Greensboro real estate law firm offered William “Andy” Mason L’22 an insider’s view on the many legal and financial details that shape the way in which properties are purchased and sold.
For some people, practicing law is a lifelong dream.
William “Andy” Mason L’22 is not one of those people.
Mason attended Christopher Newport University in his native Virginia with the intent of going into business. There was just one issue: he really doesn’t enjoy math.
Reading? Writing? Research? Now those are fun – and they’re skills that make for a good attorney. After talking with the father of a childhood friend, Mason set his sights on a legal education, and his time at Elon Law already has led him to a practice area that blends his legal interest with his earlier passion for business: real estate law.
Mason answered questions recently about working with attorney Adelia T. Schiffman on real estate closings during a 2022 Winter Trimester residency at Chandler & Schiffman, PA in Greensboro, and his plans to practice law in North Carolina following his December graduation.
This is the third in a series of conversations with Elon Law students in the Class of 2022 completing their residencies-in-practice throughout the winter and spring trimesters.
Tell us a little bit about your daily responsibilities at the firm.
The firm I work at is purely transactional. Almost exclusively what we do is real estate closings. It’s my job to communicate, whether with the client or the seller or the real estate agent or the lender or homeowner associations, and we get all the information that attorneys need to put into their documents. I make lots of calls and send a lot of emails to track things down.
The biggest thing we have trouble getting is certain information from sellers. If they still have a mortgage on their house, which most of the time they do, we need to order a payoff and make sure there won’t be a lien on the property. Getting the correct account number? People never want to give it to us. And for us to order a payoff, we need their Social Security number, and people don’t want to give that out, either. We also do a lot with HOAs to know what dues will be, and whether there is a transfer fee, which also goes into closing documents.
Based on your experience, what’s surprised you the most about the practice of law?
The biggest surprise to me is how different it actually is when we’re working in a law firm versus reading case books. There’s so much more than our classes teach. For instance, you’re trying to put legal language into a simple form for clients. They don’t teach us that in law school. We figure that out on our own. Attorneys need to do that every day, to make what they’re doing understandable.
Which of your traits benefited you the most in your approach to this residency?
I love to talk with people. Considering my job is mostly talking to people on the phone and reaching out for information, that’s been so helpful. I have no issues calling agents and asking for things. If I was a little bit more introverted, I don’t know that I’d be able to do this part of my job.
How has your time at Chandler & Schiffman shaped plans for after graduation?
It solidified what I want to do. Whether I can get into the practice area or not, we’ll see. The plan is to stay in North Carolina, and Greensboro if I can, and Chandler & Schiffman if I really can!
Share one “quick tip” for current and prospective students as they prepare for their own Elon Law residencies or, more broadly, law school in general.
The residency program is seen as a learning experience, which it is, but it’s also an experience for making connections. Some people forget that. Go out of your way to make friends with the paralegals and the legal assistant and the associates. Everybody. Making friends with the legal support staff gets back to the attorneys. When they’re looking to hire, lots of times they’re reaching out to their paralegals to see what they think. That happened at my last internship, too, where I was friends with the paralegal and that led to the attorney wanting me to stay indefinitely.
Residencies are something to look forward to. They’re a little break from class. You’re working full time but we’re not in class full time. I come home from work, and I don’t have to read or study. It’s been great!
About the Residency-in-Practice Program
Elon Law’s highly experiential 2.5-year curriculum requires every student to complete a full-time, course-connected residency-in-practice during their second year of study. Through faculty-directed residencies, students cultivate essential skills, values and judgment to help them excel as attorneys and deepen their understanding of various practice areas, while enabling attorneys to convey wisdom about the legal profession.
Students work 32-36 hours a week over a 10-week trimester with a judge or attorney supervisor and a faculty member to create and implement a learning plan that develops an increased proficiency in professional legal skills and in an area of law practice.