Being a homeowner means “there’s always something” you need to attend to. For the past year it’s been my roof. In my School of Life Lesson #1: Insurance blog post I shared my insurance saga which ultimately ended up with me getting a new roof without any help from Esurance (ugh, they stink – I have found new insurance, THANK GOODNESS).
Silver lining, I was lucky to find a great roof contractor early on. Petti Construction is a local business with a 50 year history. I was always impressed with my interactions with Gary Petti. Last month, my roof was replaced and after everything was said and done, Gary shared he’s also a lawyer. Huh, my “roof guy” is a lawyer?! I knew there’s a story behind this because most people do not associate a successful law career with construction.
So, how does a lawyer become a contractor?
This is a story about making tough decisions, and ultimately doing what feels right to bring you happiness.
- Gary was a litigator for 15 years, which is a fancy way of saying he’s the stereotypical attorney you picture in a courtroom. How did he decide to pursue a law career in the first place?
I received a BA in history as an undergrad which isn’t worth much and was an easy path for me. I like history, but I had regret because I pursued it for no other reason than I knew I could do it. In the end, I felt like I cheated myself out of the opportunity to test myself. With encouragement from my future wife, I went to law school to prove to myself I could.
- How did you decide to leave your successful law career?
Early in my career, I enjoyed my job, but it waned over time. Eventually, it boiled down to doing a few essential tasks over and over again. A lot of the legal wrangling is focused on keeping evidence out of court. There is a disparity in power and the side with the most money usually wins the war and it is disheartening.
Law is a high pressure career and there are many unrealistic and abusive clients. I didn’t have time for trial, complex issues, preparing strategies or research. People come to lawyers with certain expectations and managing those expectations is what lawyers refer to as “client control.” I often began conditioning clients to accept a resolution they were not hoping for after just our first meeting.
I really wasn’t practicing law and I felt like a used car salesman trying to talk people into things all the time.
Once I realized I didn’t want to be in civil litigation anymore, I considered different options within the law. I learned to do the work I wanted I’d have to start over. I wasn’t going to limit myself to just the law, and I had experience in construction.
Petti Construction is a family business, so I grew up on construction sites. I continued to work for my dad after I became a lawyer, but he was getting older and really slowing down. I knew I could move into construction, and hit the ground running by working with my dad. Most importantly, I would spend my days meeting client expectations instead of convincing them of something they do not want.
- How did you make the transition from law to construction?
My wife actually deserves the credit to really make the transition possible. At first, I did a little of both law and construction, then I worked on making connections and renewing old ones in construction. My old law firm asked me to come back three times, but I found the less law I did, the happier I was.
My wife was in graduate school during this time. Her school program was very demanding, but she had a great work ethic. This set a great example for our kids, the girls in particular. At this time, I became Mr. Mom and a lawyer, but I stopped practicing law full-time 5 months before she graduated. Knowing her increased salary was coming gave me the freedom to reduce my income.
- How did the transition impact your family and personal life?
I sleep better. I no longer wake up in the middle of the night panicked about forgetting to file something. For the first time in about 10 years, I took a vacation and didn’t work. It was liberating.
My wife was fully supportive and her career advancement provided the opportunity to change mine. Since the change happened slowly it gave me the chance to be the go-to parent when she returned to the workforce full-time.
I think the kids felt some pride in “my dad is a lawyer” and the change puzzled them. On the one hand you want to teach your kids about staying the course, but on the other you want them to have the confidence to try new things and challenge themselves in new ways.
Hopefully, my kids see the transition as my way of continuing to try to provide them with a happy and stable home life.
If you are looking for a roofer or contractor of any sort, Petti Construction is AWESOME to work with. They are incredibly professional (the roof guys arrived right on time), they actually care about the customer beyond simply getting the job done, and really value doing the best job possible. I cannot say enough good things about working with Gary and his crew. They have been awesome.
(Note: this is NOT a sponsored blog. I receive no form of compensation for this blog post.)