I recently had an opportunity to catch up with Orly Reznik, a board certified specialist in estate planning and probate law. Orly is a solo practitioner in Cary, NC, with a niche practice focusing on wills, trusts, estates, and business succession planning. She graduated from Rutgers University School of Law in 2007, and moved from New Jersey to North Carolina in 2009. Orly became certified as a legal specialist in estate planning and probate law by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization in 2022.
Q: Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Essex County, New Jersey. I attended Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, for my undergraduate degree. St. Louis was a great college town and I really enjoyed living there. So much so that I took a year off after college to enjoy St. Louis and work before beginning law school at Rutgers University. During law school, I interned at Archer and Greiner PC, a medium-sized New Jersey law firm. The firm was a great fit for me, but they didn’t have a spot in the trusts and estates division. Nonetheless, after graduation I joined the firm as an associate in the environmental litigation department. The work was interesting, but it wasn’t the area in which I wanted to practice. After about two years at Archer and Greiner, my husband received a job offer in Cary, North Carolina.
Moving to Cary was the best decision we ever made. We love living here and it was the perfect opportunity for me to transition into a different area of legal practice. After relocating, I took the North Carolina bar exam and worked in property management, drafting leases and managing eviction cases. Eventually I joined a small business and estate planning law firm in Cary. It was at that time I decided to truly dive into the field of trusts and estates and began to work towards specialization and pursuing advanced legal degrees.
In 2016 I founded my firm, Reznik Law, PLLC, a law firm focused exclusively on estate planning. I founded my own firm so I could provide a lot of hands-on assistance to clients. I wanted to create a law firm where clients knew their lawyer was accessible and available to answer their questions. As I worked on growing my law firm, I also worked on expanding my level of expertise. I completed my Master of Law in taxation in May 2023, and will complete my Master of Law in elder law by the end of 2024.
Q: What led you to become a lawyer?
My family inspired me to become a lawyer. I’m a first generation American and my parents never had the opportunity to attend college. They moved to this country with a high school education and a business idea. They worked tirelessly, seven days a week, to make their business a success. One of their biggest struggles was obtaining affordable legal assistance. My parents were adamant that they didn’t want me taking over the family business, so I figured obtaining a legal education was one way I could still help them and their business.
Q: How has certification been helpful to your practice?
Board certification has been a tremendous help to my practice. The exam preparation process deepened my understanding of this area of the law. It also helps to let clients know that I am truly committed to this area of practice. It demonstrates my dedication to staying current with the latest changes that impact estate planning. I have also received feedback from clients that they specifically chose to work with me because of the board certification.
Q: How does specialization benefit the public? The profession in general?
Specialization benefits the public because it gives the public an objective measure of their attorney’s capabilities. Many people don’t know attorneys personally, and often turn to internet reviews or social media for attorney recommendations. That is a great place to start, but that recommendation alone may not provide the individual with an assurance that the attorney is the right fit for their legal needs. Specialization allows the public to confidently hire an attorney and know that they are truly committed to that area of practice and have the necessary skills, because they can rely on the specialization application and exam process.
Q: Tell me your biggest success story related to your estate planning law practice.
Unfortunately, success stories in the field of estate planning can be difficult to truly celebrate because they are typically related to someone’s passing. The closest thing I have to a success story is a case that is very personal to me because it involved a member of my community. A young single parent received an unexpected terminal diagnosis, and they didn’t have the time or means to update their estate plan. An update was essential because the individual didn’t have a trust for their minor child, and the current guardianship arrangement was no longer in the child’s best interest. I volunteered to create the estate plan pro bono, and a very generous family friend volunteered to become the child’s guardian. Time was of the essence, and I worked through the night to create the estate plan, present it to the client while they still had capacity, and get all the documents signed. The client passed a couple days after signing the documents. This case was very meaningful to me because I saw the relief and peace in the parent’s eyes as they signed the documents. They seemed to gain a sense of peace knowing that their child would be cared for by the right people, and that the child’s finances were all in order.
Q: What is most challenging about your work?
Planning an estate and thinking about one’s own legacy and mortality can be very emotional. Every client’s level of comfort in discussing these topics is different. For some, this topic is extremely difficult, and it’s my job to not just offer legal advice, but also provide emotional support to help the client get through the estate planning process.
Q: How do you keep yourself motivated?
My colleagues help keep me motivated. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful group of estate planning colleagues. We’ve been friends for years and we have Zoom meetings, group texts, and lunch meetings. We all have different skill sets and work collaboratively to help support each other and our law practices. We are there as a sounding board for practice management issues or anything else that comes up in our practices and personal lives. Burnout is real, and this group of colleagues has been a great resource to help keep the practice of law fun and help me maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Q: Why is this job a good fit for you?
I truly love this area of practice! I enjoy creating an estate plan because it’s like putting a puzzle together. We need to consider the client’s assets, their goals, their unique family situation, and the tax consequences. All these elements need to fit together in an efficient and cohesive way. The most rewarding part of my practice is problem solving. Often clients come to me with a planning scenario they think isn’t possible, or an estate/trust administration issue that they think is unsolvable. I love being able to provide solutions.
Q: What advice do you wish you had been given when you were starting out?
Trust yourself. As a young associate attorney, it is tempting to quiet one’s own instincts and listen to senior people around you. While advice from senior practitioners is helpful, it should not be taken to the point where it contradicts one’s own interests or desired career path.
Q: What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
I enjoy spending time with my husband and two children. We like taking road trips and being patrons of the arts. We love to attend musicals, plays, symphonies, concerts, and festivals. I also enjoy doing volunteer work with my daughter. She and I are members of the Carolina Lily Chapter of the National Charity League. This is a national charitable organization dedicated to mothers and daughters doing philanthropic work together. It is a six year service commitment and a great way to do some mother-daughter bonding while giving back to our community.
Q: What is your immediate next goal in life?
My immediate next goal is to complete my second Master of Law. I graduated from Boston University with my Master of Law in taxation in May 2023. I am four courses away from completing my Master of Law in elder law and estate planning from Western New England University. I wasn’t kidding when I said I was a lifelong learner.
Q: What piece of art (book, music, movie, etc.) most influenced the person you are today?
I read a quote once that really resonated with me. I don’t remember the author, but it went something like, “Life is hard, do what you can to make it easier for those you encounter.” I try my best to incorporate this philosophy into my daily life and law practice. Modern life is fast paced, and everyone is so busy. It can be hard to find time for anything extra. I always acknowledge to my clients that estate planning is extra. They are adding estate planning to an already full to-do list. I try to provide support and resources to my clients to make the planning process as easy for them as possible. This includes having a lot of client contact and not simply sending the client estate drafts for them to review on their own. I meet with the client and explain the documents to them, section by section. This makes the planning process less overwhelming for the client. It also assures me that the client read their documents and understands them, because I was there and we did it together.
For more information on the State Bar’s specialization programs, visit us on the web at nclawspecialists.gov.