He dreamed of designing sportfishing yachts and ended up building an impressive law career and legacy. Charles “Charley” R. Wood, managing partner of Attorneys’ Title Services, responded to the tragedy of his father’s untimely death by becoming the architect of one of Florida’s most respected, attorney owned title companies.
“My father was an attorney,” he says, “and when he passed away in a house fire in 2005 his law partner came to me and said, ‘You should follow in your dad’s footsteps, that’s what he would want you to do.’
“So, that’s what I did,” adds Wood.
He finished his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and went on to earn his Juris Doctor from Florida Coastal School of Law.
Fresh out of law school, Wood joined his father’s firm’s Jacksonville office and followed in his footsteps with the practice of insurance law. While he enjoyed the legal work, it didn’t take the young attorney long to realize that insurance defense wasn’t the niche for him.
“I was primarily handling insurance disputes in the beginning,” he recalls. “I missed the personal interaction with people and knew there had to be a better fit for me.”
In 2010, Wood found his calling. One of his colleagues, Michael Barker, invited him to attend a client lunch with a banking executive to discuss the details of a commercial transaction Mr. Barker was handling for the bank.
At the time, Wood had seen a lot of real estate transaction work crossing Barker’s desk and he was intrigued. At the lunch, he found his practice.
Barker took him under his wing and soon the two were handling residential and commercial transactions, not just in Florida but throughout the country.
“I relish the positive impact this type of work has on people,” he says. “I particularly enjoyed, and still do, helping families grab their piece of the American Dream by purchasing a new home.”
Not only was Wood helping families sell and buy homes he was soon helping facilitate large commercial real estate transactions.
“I very quickly fell in love with that as well,” he says. “You can begin to really shape the way a community grows and flourishes. I can look around me and see the product of our hard work all around. It’s humbling to have that kind of impact on our area.”
In 2013, Wood and his colleague Michael Barker had the opportunity to open a title company in South Jacksonville, and Attorneys’ Title Services was born. In the years since they have grown to five offices across Florida with over 30 employees.
Attorneys’ Title Services was launched on the heels of one of the largest recessions in U.S. history. The impact was felt across all industries, but real estate was one of the hardest hit. The duo was able to not only weather the storm, but discovered a way to thrive despite the adversity.
One of their clients required a lot of attention working with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) when they were closing down banks.
“We worked closely with them on all the non-confirming loans those banks had,” Wood says. “We worked with borrowers and the bank to ensure they were in full compliance with all legal requirements.
This work seemed to jumpstart everything for the company, according to Wood. They were handling hundreds of transactions throughout this tough time in real estate.
“Our expertise in real estate and banking law, both retail and default, gives us a different perspective when handling residential and commercial transactions,” Wood says. “When faced with a roadblock on a transaction that could stymie a transaction, we’re able to use our extensive knowledge to come up with solutions to get the transaction closed.”
Through hard work with a focus on customer service, it wasn’t long before they were expanding to new offices. Today, Attorneys’ Title Services has become known as the perfect partner for Jacksonville real estate agents and loan originators.
“We have the experience to handle all types of commercial and residential closings. Each one is complex and unique with a detailed process,” he says. “Over the years, we’ve seen pretty much every type of complex transaction and welcome the challenge of each new acquisition.”
As they’ve grown, Wood and Barker ensured that they stayed knowledgeable and on top of the latest changes. When remote online notarizations were legalized in Florida in January 2020, Attorneys’ Title Services was prepared to begin offering the modern service. “While most title companies and real estate law firms were not using this technology or were relying on some third-party notary service to handle their remote closings, we were using our own Florida approved platform where our attorneys were the licensed notaries and conducted our remote closings in the same manner as if the closing was in one of our offices.”
“Even during COVID our business was never disrupted,” Wood shares, “because our entire operation centers around technology that can be used seamlessly in the office or remotely. We have implemented one of the most advanced business software platforms available to keep us organized and ensure that every client gets continual updates.”
Known as “Northeast Florida’s Elite Title Company” Attorneys’ Title Services has not only expanded in size, but also in reputation over the past eight years. Certainly, Wood and Barker’s longstanding ties to this community have contributed to this growth as well as a strict adherence to the rule of quality over quantity. Customer service has always been the true focus and their clients have responded accordingly.
“We’ve learned that if you try to handle more than 35 files per person, then the personal touch is lost,” says Wood. “At that point people just become file numbers and when they call the office no one knows who they are without looking it up. Providing great service begins by personalizing and that’s always been our focus. Putting people first has ultimately been the key to our success.”
It’s a philosophy that obviously works. Not only do individuals seek out the services of Wood’s firm, but most of the larger real estate brokerages and banks opt to do business with them.
“I’m proud to say that we work with most of the major banks here in Florida and we do a lot of their transaction work,” says Wood. “The biggest closing I’ve ever done was the sale of building in Tampa for over $100 million. I’ve also been able to handle the closings of two of the largest buildings in downtown Jacksonville as well. We’ve had the chance to handle some very large deals, but we approach each transaction the same, whether it’s a family buying their first starter home or a huge company buying space for their corporate headquarters.”
Work for a Cause
After more than a decade in the industry, Wood is still as excited as he was over that business lunch.
“I’ll be driving around town with my wife and kids, and can point out these projects and buildings and say, ‘I helped put that one up.’ It’s still pretty cool.”
And on a more personal level, Wood finds great satisfaction in his work with military families.
“Jacksonville is a military town with both a huge naval ship base as well as an air base, so we work with a lot of military personnel and their families,” he continues. “To be a part of their transactions, perhaps buying their first home, is very rewarding.”
Beyond the firm’s professional work with military families, Wood is proud to be able to give back to the community in other ways. “The astounding growth and success we’ve been fortunate to experience has enabled us to give back,” Wood says.
The firm supports multiple military and youth sports organizations. Wood is probably most enthusiastic about the charity golf tournament he hosts for K9s for Warriors. Last year, he sold out his golf tournament with more than 100 participants with all proceeds going to the organization.
“I couldn’t have done it without the network and support of our company,” he says.
Wood is from a military family. He also lost one of his closest friends who was a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq.
“This work is near and dear to my heart. I’m passionate about supporting our troops and military organizations. I was proud to be able to support K9s for Warriors’ mission and raise more than $10,000 for their cause.”
Family has always been at the forefront of Wood’s heart and mind. Changing career paths to follow in his father’s footsteps has been a decision he’s never regretted.
“I love what I do,” he says. “I love helping people and I have to say I’m proud of carrying on my father’s legacy in practicing law.”
Looking back on the success he’s achieved, Wood shares that he owes a lot to his partner, mentor and best friend, Michael Barker.
“He taught me everything about real estate law,” Wood says. “Without him I would not be where I am today both professionally and personally. I also owe my success to my wife, Jen, who has stood by and supported me since the start of law school and through all of the long hours in building my legal career and Attorneys’ Title Services.”