Life as a Closing Attorney at South Oak
Feb 15, 2022 | Team South Oak | Share:
At South Oak, we’re dedicated to providing outstanding title and closing services to our clients. But we can’t do that without our partners.
Sandy Johnson, one of the partners and closing attorneys at South Oak Pelham, works hard to cultivate a relationship-driven and caring work community that consistently provides outstanding service. We talked with her to learn more about life as a closing attorney in Pelham, Alabama.
How did you get started as a closing attorney?
I got my start as a closing attorney over fifteen years ago. After ten years of working in the title industry, I opened my own practice with my business partner Cassy Dailey. A year later, South Oak leadership contacted us about joining the South Oak family. We’ve been with South Oak in Pelham since 2017.
I became a closing attorney because I genuinely enjoy transactional work, and also because I generally get to work with happy people. By the time people get to the closing table, everyone is excited: the seller is excited to move on to the next chapter in their lives, and the buyer is excited about their new home. The closing table is truly a place to celebrate. I definitely prefer closings to being in the courtroom.
What's a typical day like for you as a closing attorney?
As a closing attorney, I do all of the typical closing attorney duties you might expect. Not only do I coordinate and execute real estate closings, but I’m also involved on the title side as well. But in our particular office, I also handle bookkeeping and office management. Really, I feel like there’s no job that’s too big - or too small - for me to perform in our office, whether it’s overseeing a closing or just taking out the garbage.
But there’s really no typical day for me as a closing attorney since every single day is different. The day might include several closings, ordering assessment letters, or resolving title issues. Both Cassy and I have the ability to work a closing file from start to finish, and we often work side-by-side with our closing processors. We don’t just swoop in for the closing; we usually have a hand in every single file. I feel like we really operate as a team in our office.
What's the most satisfying thing about being a closing attorney?
One of the most satisfying things about being a closing attorney is seeing the efforts of everyone in the office come together at the closing table. Our goal is for every closing to be easy, efficient, and streamlined, so it’s a huge compliment to hear people say that was their experience.
Everyone in the office works hard and is committed to excellence throughout the entire process. When people do have a great experience, it’s a reflection of the hard work of everyone who worked on that file.
It’s also rewarding to see members of our team at South Oak Pelham grow and progress. Last year, we had a fairly new employee, and we challenged her to focus on building relationships with agents. She dedicated herself to working hard at this all year long, and that was so evident when we did her review. Agents wanted to meet her, put a face to her name, and let her know how much her work had helped them. I loved getting to see her achieve that goal.
What do you think is the key to a good closing?
Communication is key! For a closing to be successful, there needs to be effective communication among everyone involved from start to finish. The title company, real estate agents, and lenders all have to work with one another and keep the lines of communication open. Poor communication from just one party can impact the entire closing experience.
Good communication means a number of things. Agents need to be proactive about communicating potential red flags and getting the signed contract to the title company right away. If there are changes or issues on any side, those need to be communicated to everyone involved in the closing. And because we’re often working on short timelines, quick responses to phone calls or emails help everyone to do their job well. A good closing truly is the result of communication and collaboration among everyone involved.
What is your favorite thing about working with realtors?
We wouldn’t be doing what we do without realtors! Throughout the years I’ve been in business, I’ve been able to develop a lot of really great friendships and relationships with and because of realtors. For example, my own family is involved with Manna Ministries because of relationships with two realtors I work with on a regular basis.
I also love learning from realtors. Realtors always have great tips and tricks! One realtor told me to put RainX Wiper Fluid on my shower glass so that the soap doesn’t stick, and another realtor told me the best way to put my blinds in my house. But it’s also wonderful to learn about their lives and their passions as well as the things we have in common.
How have you been able to maintain excellent service in this crowded market?
It’s always been my priority to continue to provide outstanding customer service, even in the midst of busy seasons. I’ve never wanted to be a volume title company. It’s important to us that we treat every file with care and as an individual story.
Covid really threw us for a loop and we had to make a lot of adjustments really quickly. Early on, we had to work through a transition period and figure out how to handle closings in the middle of a pandemic. But soon after that, the market got very busy very quickly. Fortunately, we were able to grow our staff at a reasonable rate, and that has helped us continue to serve our clients well.
What would you say to someone considering a career as a closing attorney?
The title and closing industry really needs new faces! There’s a generation that’s aging out of the business, and there aren’t many people to fill their shoes. Not many people come out of high school or college thinking about working in the title industry. In fact, many don’t even know it exists! But it’s really an opportunity for a great career.
While many people stumble into the business, people just starting their careers can really grow in the title industry from the ground up, whether you’re a title abstractor, a closing coordinator, or a closing attorney. At South Oak, there are many opportunities for training and growth.
What's your favorite thing about working as a closing attorney in Pelham?
Pelham (and this part of Shelby County) has really grown, but it still really feels like a small town. We usually know people in the city and at the waterworks, and we’re right next door to the old library, which is now the Board of Education. We use a local bank here in Pelham that’s right across the street. So even though it’s definitely not a small town, it still feels that way.
People who are closing in our office are usually closing on local properties, and I love getting to talk about our area with them. And if they’re from out of town, it's always fun to hear their story and learn why they’re moving here. And we’re always happy to recommend a place for lunch (we really love Smiley Brothers here in Pelham!) or answer any other questions they have about the area.
At South Oak Pelham, we believe that every file has a different story, and we love serving Pelham and all of Shelby County with our personalized, boutique closing services. Order a title or schedule a closing today.