By Sheri DeSantis, Senior Trust Administration Paralegal
"If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life." – Marc Anthony
These words ring so true as I reflect on almost 21 years working at Thompson | Von Tungeln. I can remember interviewing with both Mark and Kevin back in 2001 to join their law firm as a paralegal and, not long after I was hired, I was transferred from drafting estate plans to working in the Trust Administration department. I've been here ever since and I can see how the experiences that I have had throughout my life have prepared me for this type of work, which has made my experience here all the more rewarding.
Early Exposure to the Legal Field
I was exposed to the legal field through my father, who was a civil litigator. I started working for his law firm when I was just 16 years old and I helped him with everything from drafting documents, working on the books, and running around doing errands and to the courts. My father was a Yale graduate and his passion for his work and the legal field was admirable. In fact, he worked until he was over 80 years old until he fell ill with Alzheimer's and was unable to work any longer. In the brief time that I worked for him at that time, I really learned how to think logically (and legally!) and he instilled a work ethic in me that I still value and carry with me to this day. Despite enjoying working with and for my dad, I decided to take a different career path.
My Brief Time as a Teacher
My mother, on the other hand, was a teacher and one of my first career paths was to follow in her footsteps. I obtained my early childhood education license through UCLA and then worked in early childhood education for just a couple of years. I picked up a lot of skills that are necessary to be a teacher, including patience and the ability to teach and transfer knowledge to others. However, my teaching career was short-lived when I quickly decided that this line of work was not for me after a child bit me! I was pregnant with my second child and the time and it was that very incident that I decided, “Nope, this is not for me!”
Back to Law (and Helping Dad)
The law bug had also bitten me, so I went back to work with my dad. He encouraged me to go back to school and get my Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Cal State Northridge. My dad's law firm was located in Century City, so I worked for him while finishing up my degree. I then decided to make the move to Lancaster in 1990 and did the commute from Lancaster to Century City when traffic and gas prices were far more reasonable, but that was still quite the trek! In 1995, the Northridge earthquake was powerful enough to shake more than just the ground, but shake some sense into me that I had enough of the commute and working in LA. But I couldn't just ditch my father, so I stuck it out with him for another 6 years. After 12 years with my dad's firm, I finally made the decision to work for a local firm and found my “forever place” at Thompson | Von Tungeln
Unique Experiences to Bring to the Table
I worked closely with Mark, who recognized that I might have what it takes to excel in the area of trust administration. This was when he decided to move me into the Trust Administration department and it was here that I thrived and really found such joy and purpose in the work that I do. Trust and estate administration is a very challenging area to work in, because every administration is different with unique parties, circumstances, and moving parts going on. While working in the Trust Administration department, I served as Trustee twice - for my grandmother and for my father. Having gone through this personally, I am able to relate to clients and what they're going through when they come to our firm to help their families through such a difficult and challenging process, while grieving the loss of a loved one. I feel that I am able to provide an empathetic ear and really provide guidance to those going through an administration. Working with the attorneys to be a problem solver and genuinely help our clients out has to be the most gratifying work that I could possibly do.
Retirement Plans, Music and More
As much as I enjoy the work that I do, my plan is to retire somewhere between the ages 65 to 67 (which is in about 5-7 years). I can remember wanting my father to retire and relax and enjoy life, but that just wasn't in him. I am heeding my own advice to him and looking to retire earlier than he did and enjoy myself and what life has to offer me in retirement! My father had property up in Yosemite and I have fond memories from my childhood of spending time up there and enjoying the outdoors and nature. My partner of over 10 years and I eventually want to move out of California with our chocolate Labrador, Gozer the Destroyer. We'd love to go somewhere with more beautiful nature and outdoor activities, including fishing and skiing (we are happy to take suggestions if you have any!).
In my spare time, outside of spending time outdoors and with my 2 sons, my daughter-in-law and my doggie, I also have a passion for music and have been musically inclined. My mom was an opera singer, and I have played classical piano since I was 6 years old. As many at Thompson| Von Tungeln can attest, I am a big fan of karaoke and singing. Perhaps in retirement, I will be able to explore my musical interests further.
Until then, I will continue to “work” and help our clients here at Thompson | Von Tungeln as much as possible. I have already begun to train others here at the firm and set up procedures and processes on how to handle trust and estate administration. Again, seeing how my brief time teaching and also being trained by my father and Mark, I am able to use these skills to help pass along my experience and knowledge to others here at the firm, which then allows me to continue to positively impact the lives of our clients and their loved ones.