Norma J. Williams, Esq. From Big Firms to Own Firm: Lessons Along the Way

Norma J. Williams
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Attorney at Law Magazine Los Angeles Publisher Sarah Torres sat down with Norma J. Williams to discuss her career and mentors that inspired her.

AALM: When did you first know you wanted to become an attorney? What drew you to this career?

Williams: I did not decide to go to law school until my senior year of college. I did, however, decide on real estate law in my first year of law school. I was drawn to real estate as a business law area that was also very concrete and non-abstract. I also liked the mathematical and problem-solving aspects of the practice area.

AALM: Do you have any mentors or professors that encouraged you along the way?

Williams: Several of the partners in the first law firms in which I practiced were strong mentors. At the time that I started practice, new associates in large law firms were encouraged to spend the first three or so years just becoming “the very best lawyer that you can be” without pressures related to business development, administration or other matters. Through research, drafting and other assignments, I was able to see many variations of real estate transaction structures and solutions to achieve clients’ goals. I also remember a real estate partner in my first firm who insisted that I know the meaning and intent of every single word in a document that I claimed as my own (yes, even hereditament)! I learned that there is no such thing as “boilerplate.”

AALM: What experiences have taught you the most?

Williams: The experiences that have taught me the most are the ones in which I felt that I had to create opportunities or resolutions to challenges anew without necessarily having experienced them before. These experiences have led to outstanding opportunities and creative and resourceful solutions to challenges. They have also given me a general level of confidence about being able to address new developments and circumstances.

AALM: What first drew you to your firm? How would you describe the culture of the firm?

Williams: I practice in my own firm now after having practiced in large and mid-size firms and in house in a large commercial bank. I value my independence and am proud that I am able to have the same type of transactional commercial real estate practice that I did in my other work environments.

AALM: Tell us about your fellow attorneys at the firm? How do you work together?

Williams: The practice model for my firm is myself as principal together with (a) attorneys with whom I have worked over a long period of time on an of counsel basis; and (b) contract attorneys, many of whom I have also known for a long period of time. I tend to work primarily with attorneys who also have large firm backgrounds. I have worked on this basis on very large transactions including those involving multiple assets. My marketing firm calls this scalability! I also have outstanding relationships with attorneys in firms all around the country and sometimes work with them jointly on matters as well. We work together in person and virtually, making use of various technology platforms to do so.

AALM: What accomplishment are you most proud of achieving?

Williams: I chaired a committee of the State Bar real property section that spent three years drafting California’s current assignment of rents law, codified in 1997 as Civil Code Section 2938. That statute was used as the model for the Uniform Assignment of Rents Act in which process, I was also an active participant. The Uniform Act was adopted in 2005 and has been enacted in five states.

AALM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?

Williams: I enjoy cooking, gardening and spending time with my family. I have enjoyed writing the articles for Attorney at Law Magazine and writing in general. The articles for the magazine are an opportunity to present complex real estate subjects in terms that are understandable to real estate practitioners as well as to other attorneys.

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