Spotlight: C. Thomas Steele Jr.
Board Certified Specialist in Residential and Commercial Real Property Law, Burlington, NC
Please tell me where you attended college and law school and a little about your path to your current position.
I attended the University of North Carolina at Asheville where I earned a BS in accounting in 1984, and the University of North Carolina School of Law where I earned my JD in 1987.
Why did you pursue board certification in both residential and commercial real property law?
I wanted to be one of the best real estate lawyers in North Carolina and thought that earning the specialty designation would help me to learn more about this practice area and to distinguish myself from other attorneys who handle these types of cases. I was proud to become the first attorney in Alamance County to earn this designation. I am also proud to be partners with Joe Kalo, who is the other licensed specialist in this practice area in Alamance County.
Has certification been helpful to your practice? In what ways?
I do believe that earning my specialty designation has been helpful to my practice. Earning the designation helped boost my confidence in myself and my ability to serve clients. The designation has opened doors for me with clients, referral sources, and with other attorneys. I have also had the opportunity to get to know and learn from a number of other specialists who have become friends and mentors and with whom I have developed some wonderful working relationships.
What would you say to encourage other lawyers to pursue certification?
Earning the certification is not easy, but it is a worthy accomplishment. You will become humbled by what you do not know, you will learn a lot, and you will be pleased to see just how much you do know. One of my dear friends and mentors in the Alamance County Bar was John Xanthos, who used to say, in reference to the Lions Club, “It does not cost to be a Lion, it pays!” I would say the same about earning the specialty designation. It pays in many ways.
What career accomplishment makes you most proud?
I suppose I am proudest of the times when I feel I have helped a client with a complicated situation in a creative way. I will always remember a client who came into our lobby and was unable to sell a property in a historic district because years back he had combined two properties into one upon advice received from city staff. Then many years later he needed to sell one building and retain the other, which was on the same lot, but could not due to existing subdivision regulations. We talked with the city staff and city attorney and were able to come up with a creative solution which enabled our client, who had no health insurance and was sick with cancer, to sell a property so he could pay his bills and provide funds for his family. That was a great feeling.
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