Making the Move from Law to Real Estate with Romy Frazier [TFLP199]

On today’s podcast episode, Sarah has a conversation with Romy Frazier. Romy is a former lawyer who made the move from law to real estate. The conversation is extremely helpful because she shares the importance of taking action and making a plan while moving gradually through the process. There are always some good takeaways from listening to someone else’s stories. Let’s get to know Romy and learn about her story.

A Journey to a Higher Salary and Entertainment Law

Romy Frazier graduated from USC Law School in 2013. Afterward, she practiced law for nine years, mostly as in-house counsel for a real estate company in Los Angeles. Romy went to law school after working as an assistant in the legal department of a large company. While she was making a salary of $32,000, she knew that the general counsel was making $320,000 each year. 

There was something about knowing that Romy was spending the same eight hours a day working for the company, but that person was making 10x the salary. The difference was a law degree, so she made the decision to go to law school. Luckily, her job allowed her free time to study for the LSAT and helped her do well. 

Having a few years between undergraduate school and law school was helpful for Romy, but there was still a shock at how difficult law school was. Many of these students had prepared for law school since early high school. Socializing was one way that Romy got through the hard times. The school was in downtown LA, so there were lots of cool things for the students to do. 

Entertainment law was where Romy saw herself going. She worked at an entertainment company before law school. However, she ended up doing an internship at a huge multinational conglomerate entertainment company, and the work was mainly in intellectual property and contract work. It was boring and didn’t feel like her. 

The internship was well paid had some great perks, and Romy really liked her colleagues. But the actual work was boring. Everything is done in front of the computer, so even though the company is interesting, the work is not. 

What is Real Estate Law

After that internship, Romy did a few more, one with the government and one at a large law firm. She worked for some non-profits and liked that. At the end of her search, she got hired as an attorney at a real estate company and stayed there for eight years. The company she worked for owned real-estate assets across the Southwestern section of the US. Her department’s job was to protect the company and defend its assets. She defended employee claims against real estate disputes and dealt with construction litigation. There was definitely more variety than working on contracts all day in entertainment law. 

Romy found real estate law thanks to some connections she had met in bar associations. She met an older lawyer who asked her to describe her ideal job. Romy wrote out her interests and included employee issues and real estate because she had been introduced to these areas before law school and had those interests. She helped clarify the options available and put her on the right path to end up in real estate law.

During her time there, Romy really bonded with her boss, the company’s general counsel. He assured her that she could be in his seat someday. The company had a staff with a lot of longevity, so it made her look in the mirror after five years to ask herself if that was what she wanted. She knew it was time to consider a backup plan when there was hesitation.

How Do You Find a Back Up to Law

Romy didn’t have an idea in her head what she would want to do if she left law. Her fiance had his own law firm, and she could see his flexibility even though he was a practicing lawyer. His work-life balance was inspirational for her. She knew she wanted control over her own schedule. Reading Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Workweek was also interesting, but there was no way it would work for any lawyer.

After checking with her boss, Romy was told that a part-time option wasn’t available. She was considering doing some real estate, like Airbnb or entrepreneurship. She kept reading and listening to podcasts about real estate investments. 

While living in LA, Romy went to a real estate meetup. She used her law license to waive into the broker exam and skip some of the education and experience requirements others have. She was renting half of her apartment out on the side and was interested in buying a property with a back house or a duplex. In LA, purchasing anything without a huge amount of cash to put down was hard. 

Romy met someone who invited her to Dallas to invest in a giant apartment building. She could use the same amount as the down payment for a single-family home in CA and invest it in a large apartment building instead. This was a fractional purchase, so someone else was on-site managing and working the deals, but the investors each get a deposit quarterly or annually.

It was scary at first for Romy to wire that much money into one investment. It’s much more than purchasing one stock in a formidable company. But taking a risk like that can also have a much larger payoff.

This was exciting for Romy, and she wanted to get more involved, so she returned to her boss and asked again for part-time work. When he said no again, she gave him her resignation, prompting a conversation. She scaled back to three days a week and started working on how to become the person who puts the deals together and rounds up investors for real estate projects. 

Romy’s Full-Time Move from Law to Real Estate

This was a new side of real estate to explore. Previously, she had worked on a team that acted as a speed bump instead of the team making things perform. It gave her a full picture of the real estate process, which was exciting. She found a deal that was too good to pass up and pounced on it.

Leading up to this transition, Romy built relationships and learned about neighborhoods in San Antonio, Texas. She had been living in LA for 15 years and needed to learn more about the areas she was considering investing in. Finding people who could draft the deals, insure the property, and manage things on the ground was also important. Those things took time. 

Once COVID hit, everyone could work from home all of a sudden. Romy moved to Texas and still worked for her California during the day. A few months after moving, the company announced that they were selling to a publicly traded company. Romy got to help work on that transaction, which was a 10-figure transaction. All of this was happening at the same time that Romy was also doing the deal on her first project in San Antonio. 

Leaving the company for good was tough for Romy. Even though she tried to resign at one point, in the end, she was pushed out the door. There were a lot of feelings about it. She never quit because she felt loyal and felt like her coworkers were her family. She was worried about losing the respect that comes with being a lawyer. 

What to Think if You Want to Try Real Estate Investment

Now that Romy is on the other side of that, things are going well in the real estate business. She is looking at apartment buildings and self-storage facilities to add to the $20 million in assets she currently manages. 

Romy advises anyone who thinks this sounds interesting to invest in something now. Throw your hat in the ring. Lawyers are smart people, and they are well-researched, so they will make good choices. Real estate isn’t usually a gamble. It historically appreciates over time. You cannot touch your retirement accounts for a while, but you can start to build up your assets now and create a cushion for yourself.

Sarah Cottrell: Hi, and welcome to The Former Lawyer Podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Cottrell. I practiced law for 10 years and now I help unhappy lawyers ditch their soul-sucking jobs. On this show, I share advice and strategies for aspiring former lawyers, and interviews with former lawyers who have left the law behind to find careers and lives that they love.

Today I'm sharing my conversation with Romy Frazier. Romy transitioned away from practicing law into real estate investing. I think her story has some really instructive pieces including both about how to make a plan and move gradually and at the same time, the importance of taking action when you are really wanting to move in another direction. I'm excited for you to hear my conversation with her.

Before we get to that, I want to remind you, the next round of the Guided Track, the fall 2023 Guided Track is starting in two weeks from the day that this episode releases. For those of you who don't know, the Guided Track is a live 10-week small group intensive for lawyers who are wanting to jump-start their search for an alternative career.

What happens is when you join the Guided Track, you also get access to The Former Lawyer Collaborative, which is my entry-level program for lawyers who are interested in figuring out what it is that they want to do that isn't practicing law. Then as part of the Guided Track, not only do you get access to all of the Collab stuff, The Former Lawyer Framework, all those things, you also are going to be participating in a 10-week small group experience where I've created a Guided Track action plan that is designed to take you through the framework in 10 weeks.

We will meet you and the other people who are part of the Guided Track weekly for 10 weeks to check in, talk about your progress, answer all your questions, tackle the issues as they arise. This round, the small group is kept at a maximum of eight participants.

In addition to meeting with that small group, weekly calls with me for 10 weeks, you also will get a free CliftonStrengths 34 Report, a free CPS Enneagram Compass report. That's a personality assessment that I recommend in the framework. And you are also going to get custom analytics that elaborates on how your talents drive your motivation based on your CliftonStrengths Report and that is going to be part of a half-day private interactive virtual workshop with a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach that I put on for participants in the Guided Track, which includes hands-on exercises for gaining additional insight into how your strengths relate to your potential career path and is always a huge favorite.

You also, as part of the Guided Track, will get one 60-minute one-on-one call that you can schedule with me anytime within six months of enrolling and that's just for additional follow-up and personalized support.

Again, the Guided Track is going to be starting on Tuesday, September 19th and it will run until Tuesday, November 21st. The CliftonStrengths Workshop is going to be held during the day on a Saturday in October. The calls are going to be held on Tuesdays at 8:00 PM, the weekly calls, and again, the kickoff date is September 19th.

If you're interested in joining the Guided Track, go to You can see all of the information and how to enroll. Enrollment is going to close either the Monday before the Guided Track starts or when all the spots are taken, whichever comes first. Again, if you're interested, Let's get to my conversation with Romy.

Hi, Romy. Welcome to The Former Lawyer Podcast.

Romy Frazier: Hi, Sarah. I've been looking forward to speaking with you.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I'm excited to hear your story. You actually reached out to me to tell me a little bit about yourself and I'm excited for you to share with the listeners your background and what you're doing now. Let's have you introduce yourself and then we'll go from there.

Romy Frazier: Thanks. I'm Romy Frazier. I am a former lawyer. I graduated from USC Law School in 2013 and then practiced law for about nine years, mostly in-house counsel at a real estate company in Downtown LA. Then during COVID, lots of changes and so now I am in Texas and running a real estate investment company out of my living room.

Sarah Cottrell: I am super excited to talk about this, in part because real estate investment is something that I wouldn't say comes up as frequently as some things that lawyers consider but it's definitely something that comes up quite a bit. I think there are a lot of people listening who are going to be super interested to hear about how that all evolved.

But of course, on this podcast, we usually start in the same place which is what made you decide to go to law school?

Romy Frazier: Oh, yes. I wish I had a really good reason or a noble reason but it was probably just money, unfortunately. After college, I was working as an assistant at a company and our department reported to the legal department of the company. I noticed that at the time, I was making $32,000 a year and the general counsel was making $320,000 a year.

I know as an assistant right out of college, I probably shouldn't have even noticed or cared but it was very notable to me that we were spending the same eight hours a day in the office and then going home at the same time but this guy was 10xing me on salary. I thought what's the difference between what he's doing and what I'm doing?

It looked like the difference was a law degree and many decades of experience, so I thought, “Why don't I try this path?” and had a lot of encouragement from my mom to do that. That's about it. That was the start.

Sarah Cottrell: Had you ever thought about law school before that point?

Romy Frazier: No. I didn't know any lawyers, but not specifically law school. My mom is Korean, which is relevant because I think Korean moms generally want you to either go to law school, med school, be an engineer, or something like that. There was a lot of “When are you going to do a real job?” because I started out, I was in the entertainment industry and I was in LA, it was just not really taking anything seriously.

Luckily, the job had so much free time that it allowed me to study for the LSAT a little bit and then I just ended up doing well on the exam, which helped because I didn't really make that great grades in college. That's really what was the determining factor.

Sarah Cottrell: When you got to law school, what was your reaction? Some people go on the podcast and they're like, “Someone told me when I was seven that I was good at arguing and I should go to law school,” or whatever and so it's something they've been thinking about being a lawyer for a really long time.

Then there are many of us who have the experience, this is my experience of course, of being a liberal arts major and undergrad, getting towards the end of college, not really knowing what to do, and thinking that law school was a logical next step. I think people go into law school with very different expectations of what it's going to be like so I'm curious when you got there, what was your reaction?

Romy Frazier: Yeah. Well, there were a couple of years that I had between college and law school so I think that helped make me feel a little bit more comfortable. I was slightly older than most of my classmates in law school. Then it was just day one, everyone has their undergrad on their name tag and I realized I was surrounded by all these valedictorians and people who were always top of their class and just did debate and speech in high school and middle school. That was not me at all.

It was kind of a jolt but it was good to be surrounded by people who were a little bit more academics or intellectuals than I considered myself to be. It was horrible. I don't know how that was so hard. It was a jolt. I remember probably 1L, I think I cried almost every day. It was miserable. But then I got a little better at it. Then 2L and 3L, my grades got better and then they let you do off-campus internships and all that. It ended up pretty good.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I actually think, of course, it's very common knowledge that law students' mental health is not great and degrades over the three years, I think part of it is because so many are the type, the valedictorian type who then are in a situation where it's like you're being graded on a curve. A lot of people are having this experience of not being what they expected to be.

I think in a certain sense, coming into a situation like that and not feeling like that is your identity can be helpful but then on the flip side, I think because that can be such a strong vibe in law school, if that's not your experience, it can feel like, “Why am I here?”

Romy Frazier: Absolutely, yeah. I think the socializing helped me a lot. I was going to school in Downtown LA. We had access to all kinds of cool stuff to distract us from studying. Then also with the students, we had bar review every Thursday where we literally went to bars. I'm the worst example of a law student, Sarah.

Sarah Cottrell: I mean the worst or the best. There are lots of paths is what I would say, especially after hosting this podcast. You're in law school and you basically decided to go because it seemed like a clear path to being more financially secure or having access to jobs that would create more financial security and you didn't love it, hence, all the crying, which is a very common experience for many people in law school.

But did you, at any point, decide, “Oh, I want to do a specific type of law when I graduate”? What was your thinking about what you were going to do once you graduated?

Romy Frazier: I thought I would go into entertainment law. I was working at an entertainment company before law school and then I went to USC and so they also had a film school attached. We had a cinema school program with entertainment law certificate and all of this where you can take classes with the film students and I was pretty sure that would be the path that I would take but it didn't really turn out that way.

Sarah Cottrell: Okay. Tell me what happened.

Romy Frazier: I did the real thing. I did an internship at a huge multi-national conglomerate entertainment company. It lasted a year and I got to work with big names, big shows, and it was in licensing so we would license out TV shows to products and it would help people sell consumer products basically. It was a lot of intellectual property and contract work. After a year of that, I thought, “This can't be it. This is so not my speed.” It just didn't fit me. It was boring.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. This is interesting because a lot of people who are thinking about leaving the law have a particular area of law that they think of as either the one that they might like or the one that could be a fit even if everything else doesn't feel like it is, and entertainment law is one of those areas that tends to come up a lot.

I think what you described illustrates this. What I find that many people ultimately realize is the area of law might be marginally more interesting to them in terms of what the ultimate result or goal is but the work overall is not necessarily any more glamorous than any other type of law. Do you think that that's a fair way to describe it?

Romy Frazier: Absolutely. At the end of the day, you're still staring at your computer screen for 10 hours a day, redlining stuff.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. If you love redlines, entertainment law is for you. Kidding, not kidding. Can you tell me how early in that year did you start to have this sense of “This is probably not for me”? Was it really early on, right away, or was it later? How did that realization come about?

Romy Frazier: That is such a good question. I guess it didn't really hit me all at once because I'm having a hard time even thinking of when that came about. But probably just evaluating it afterwards, there were upsides to the internship, it was paid, which was great and the most I'd ever been paid. Then it was attached to a theme park which was pretty freaking cool.

My colleagues were amazing. I'm still in touch with some of them. There were things that were not really about the legal practice that I liked about the job. Oh, yeah, plus we got consumer products. We got all the little tchotchkes and stuff.

But the actual work, when I thought about it, I met with other lawyers who worked there at the company, a lot of them, my boss at the time connected me with his colleagues. He really did help mentor me and introduced me to a lot of folks who I ended up doing just informational interviews.

It sounded like they were doing what I was doing, a lot of, like we said, redlining or just working on contracts. It's a lot of back-end office work. Even if it was the most exciting parts of the job that I thought I wanted to do like production, being on set, and this kind of stuff, even if they visit set, that's not where they're living, they are living and dying in front of their computers.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. This is another thing that I have had a lot of clients realize. They might feel drawn to either a particular industry or even a specific company but often, what they are really drawn to is the actual substantive thing that company does.

To your point about going on set, the thing that they actually are drawn to are jobs that would actually involve that but I think as a lawyer, it's hard to even see that that's what you're really wanting because even in that hypothetical scenario, you know that, “Oh, that would mean that I'm walking away from being a lawyer,” which can feel really difficult.

Romy Frazier: Right. After we spent so much time getting to that place.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, for sure. Tell me what happened next.

Romy Frazier: I started looking for a job after law school. That internship was 2L, I did a few more internships, one with the government, one at a large law firm. I just continued doing that kind of thing, just exploring, experimenting, and seeing what I was into.

After law school in the bar, I started networking and trying to find my first legal job because I didn't get a job right out of OCI, which shouldn't be a huge shock because I I was spending most of my time in law school just trying to stay on the top half of the curve as opposed to way top of the class.

I wasn't getting recruited to the biggest law firms. But I did end up meeting my boss at my in-house job, actually what happened very next was that I did a couple more volunteer attorney. I did some work for non-profits. That was fun. Then I actually got hired somewhere as an attorney and that was a real estate company where I ended up staying for almost eight years.

Sarah Cottrell: Okay. For those of us who haven't practiced real estate law, because I know there are different flavors, I guess I would say, of real estate law, so can you talk a little bit about the type of real estate work that you were doing?

Romy Frazier: Sure. There was a little bit of real estate law and it surprisingly does not correlate that much with what I do today. But the company owned real-estate assets across the Southwest US. My job and our legal department's job was to protect the company, defend the assets.

Mostly, my work was defending employee claims against real estate disputes. We had construction litigation. Just really anything that walked in the door of a mid-size company: tenant issues, licensing. We actually did serve as a set because they owned some assets in Downtown LA where there was a ton of filming. I actually did get to work on some of those deals that we did. But really, it was a general practice of defending and protecting this company's real estate assets.

Sarah Cottrell: Clearly, it was different and it sounds more varied type of work than say when you were interning, it was primarily licensing stuff. When you took that job and started doing it, were you expecting it to be more satisfying than say that previous internship or was your approach more like, “Okay, this is a good next step” in terms of getting experience in practice? Does that make sense?

Romy Frazier: Yeah. That makes sense. I had a couple of experiences that helped shape those initial decisions and really, it was joining the bar associations. I'll just lead in with that. I was meeting a lot of lawyers in a lot of different practice areas. Because I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, I just knew I probably don't want to work in a contracts department, I probably don't want to work at a huge entertainment company. I know I don't want to do consumer products, licensing IP, and so I was ruling out what I didn't want to do.

Then I went to this bar association event and this older lawyer, she was asking me, “If I were to place you in a job, what would that job look like?” Then I was fumbling over my words and all of this and she said, “Just send me an email with a paragraph describing the job that you think you want.”

I wrote it out and I said, “I have these other interests.” I'd worked in HR before so I said, “I'm interested in employee issues. My mom had real estate interests as I was growing up and so I was also interested in real estate and grew up around that.” My mom always put us to work helping her do fixer-uppers and that kind of thing so I thought, “This is so random but I'm just going to throw these two things together like employment and real estate.”

I molded it into this paragraph and I sent it over to her and she was like, “That's great.” She didn't end up helping me find a job but she did help me clarify what would be interesting. Then I went to another bar association event and then ended up meeting this senior lawyer who was like, “Oh, this is crazy. My attorney quit yesterday or just put in her notice yesterday and we have this position. It's mostly employment and labor and real estate.”

I was like, “Oh, my God, the stars aligned. How did this happen? I gotta try this out. That's how I ended up there.

Sarah Cottrell: Okay. As you were doing that work, obviously, I know eventually you left, so I'm curious to know how did that develop for you? For some of us, from pretty early on, we were like, “Uh, this doesn't seem like a great thing.” For other people, it works for a while and then something happens or a series of somethings happened and that changed their perspective. I'm curious, how did it develop for you?

Romy Frazier: Yeah. It took me a long time to get there. It's really amazing when you're working as an employee at a company, how quickly time flies. It felt like I put my head down and then when I looked back up, five years had passed. It really made me think about what the next five years would look like.

I really did bond with my boss, the general counsel of this company, the real estate company, and he would encourage me and tell me, “If you keep doing this, you have this bright future ahead of you.” He's in his office and he's like, “Look at this, all of this could be yours,” and things like that.

It was him and also a number of my other senior mentors who would say things like that, like, “Oh, one day you could be living this life that I'm living.” The more that I looked at that as much as I admired them, I thought personally, I can't see myself still being here working, unlocking the key to this office, and sitting in this chair for the next 10 years, which was outrageous because the company actually, all of every other lawyer, I was the first new hire in 20 years, the executive leadership had been there 20, 30, 40 years.

It was an extremely long-term, long vision company, generational company and so to think I was only five years in when I started asking all these questions, I figured I should probably come up with a backup plan.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. It's so interesting because the story that you told is very similar to one of the things that I experienced. It has come up on the podcast so many times where people look at the person or the people whose job they're ultimately supposed to be aspiring to and even if they like that person or those people, there's this very clear sense of “I do not want that. I do not want the work life that you have,” which can be very clarifying because that's what you're supposed to be working towards.

If you're like, “I actually don't want that,” it's a pretty clear indication that there's something else to think about. Five years and when you had this realization, did you have specific ideas about what it was that you might do otherwise, or was it like, “Oh, no, I don't want to do this, what will I do?”

Romy Frazier: I didn't know. I still don't totally know. We're still all figuring it out. But I think that I had some exposure to people who were living a more free lifestyle. My fiance, well, boyfriend at the time had his own law firm and even though he's a practicing lawyer, he just had this flexibility that I didn't have.

Watching him was pretty inspirational because it made me want to aspire towards retirement, freedom, control over my own schedule, and things like that. What started happening in the background, I have always been a self-improvement person, I would find those books and listen to podcasts like yours, listen to YouTube videos, and all of that, and I started reading this book by Tim Ferriss, it was called The 4-Hour Workweek. You know this one?

Sarah Cottrell: I know of it and then also there have been other people on the podcast who have mentioned reading that book.

Romy Frazier: Yeah. It was totally unrealistic in my life because as a practicing attorney, four-hour work week? You got to be kidding me. It's like four hours just to show Facetime before the work day even starts. We had this crazy, just I guess in transactional law, it's not like it's crazy around the clock. We had some litigation as well but basically, the work schedule was ebbed and flowed so when it was intense, it was super intense and when it was quiet, it was really slow.

On those super intense days where you have a mediation that goes until 3:00 AM or long nights and long weekends and answering your phone around the clock and stuff, it just felt like I couldn't get away in four hours. There's no way. In the book basically, Tim Ferriss says, “Just start to prove your value when you're outside of the office and show them, your employers, that you can get this work done and contribute even more value when you're out of the office.”

Right around that five-year mark, I started to ask my boss, “Hey, maybe can I back out of this a little bit? Can I scale back and maybe do part-time? Because I wanted to explore a little bit of entrepreneurship, I didn't know what that would look like. Maybe it would be doing my own legal work on the side or having some rental property.” I was trying to Airbnb my place at the time so I just asked him, “Can I step back and take some time away?” He was like, “You got to be kidding. You're a lawyer.”

Sarah Cottrell: Was it like, “You're a lawyer, why would you want to do that?” or something else?

Romy Frazier: It's a full-time job so he's like, “I hired you to be full-time.” I just let it go. I think I just wasn't completely happy in the job but I also started looking around for role models in the areas that I wanted, people who had more flexibility and freedom with their time.

The more books and everything else I was reading, it seemed like that could come from real estate investment or just generally investing where it was like, “Hey, my money's working for me so we're here trying to earn income as attorneys. We should be employing that money so that when we're done being attorneys, we have this mountain of cash ready for us.” As I moved in that direction, I started to slowly invest in real estate opportunities.

Sarah Cottrell: I know you mentioned that your mom had some real estate interests, flipping houses, and whatnot growing up. The type of investing that you were doing, were you drawing on some of the experience that you had working for your mom on those things or was it really different?

The reason I'm asking is because a lot of times, when people listen to the podcast, they listen for all of the reasons why they couldn't do what the person who's sharing their story did if that makes sense, and for sure, we each have our own different experiences that can contribute to whatever knowledge we may have in various areas but I think people would be interested to know how much of that experience was being brought to bear in what you were starting to do with real estate.

Romy Frazier: Yeah. It would have been ideal if I could go down my mom's path but that's not what happened. I really think that what I did, any lawyer can do, and probably even more so because I had limited resources. I know I was a lawyer but I wasn't earning like a law firm lawyer so the amount that I could invest wasn't the same as a fifth year at some big firm.

Also, a fifth year at some big firm is probably making over $200,000 a year which constitutes as an accredited investor, which allows you to access all these other investment types. I didn't even have access like your listeners probably could have. But to be more specific my mom was doing single-family holds. She just buys, holds, and rents it out.

It was just good timing because I grew up in San Antonio, Texas and in recent years, San Antonio has just really exploded and grown. It was just good positioning, good timing, luck, all of that. That would have been super cool but that's not how it worked.

Sarah Cottrell: Here in the real world.

Romy Frazier: Yeah. Then I was living in LA and had no time because I'm devoting my whole life to this company that I'm working for. I went to a real estate meetup. I used my law license in California to waive into the broker exam. They do it so that if you have a law license, you don't really need to have some of the experience and education requirements, you can just take the exam, AKA broker license.

I had a two-bedroom apartment at the time and I was Airbnb-ing out one side. That was exciting because it was on and off with a roommate that I had. When she wasn't there, we would rent out that room, and then that ended up covering the rent. That was super exciting for me. Then I thought, “Why don't I own the place instead of doing the rental?”

So I started looking for a duplex or a house with a back house or something like that. But again, this is LA so unless you want to live in the hood, there's no way you could have bought a house, and this is way pre-COVID, so you couldn't buy anything without tons of money down, whatever, all that.

I was trying to find a steal. I went to a real estate meetup. I ended up not finding a duplex but I found this guy who said that he bought apartment buildings in Texas. I was like, “Oh, I'm from Texas.” He said, “Come on out to Dallas. I host a meetup,” and he mentors people who buy apartment buildings.

I went thinking that it was going to be like a duplex but he was talking about $100,000, $200,000 unit apartment buildings, the huge complexes. It was like, “How am I going to do this? Those things are multiple millions of dollars.” But it turns out that you can invest in those apartments, usually the minimum is $50,000.

The same amount that I would put into a down payment in a house, I could put that same amount into somebody else's hard work and efforts. I wouldn't do a thing and then at the end of the whole period, I get my money back, plus whatever appreciation and rents came out of that. It was a way to invest in real estate passively. I know that word is so thrown around these days but it truly was, it truly was passive because I was still working full-time.

Sarah Cottrell: Is it fractional?

Romy Frazier: Yes.

Sarah Cottrell: Okay. Can you talk a little bit more about how that works for people who might not be aware?

Romy Frazier: Yeah. For example, if you buy a $10-million building and you need to put $2 million down to buy the building. Most people don't have two million dollars in their bank account, but most people have $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, $100,000, something like that and so you can pull together friends and family, accredited investors, and everyone just chips in a little bit and so rather than one person coming up with two million, you just have a handful of people who chipped in a little bit and then you split up the proceeds.

Usually, the person who's running the deal, the person who is showing up every day, managing the asset, and making sure everything's running smoothly and the business targets are hit, all of that, that person is going to be compensated for doing that. Then the investors just get direct deposit every quarter, every month, or maybe just at the end of the project.

I just tried it out. It was terrifying but I tried it out and it panned out so I tried it again and again. Then a couple of years into that, I wanted to do it myself. I wanted to do it myself from the beginning but a couple of years in, I had a little bit more confidence and enough saved up that I went to my boss again in the legal department, back to the day job, and I asked him again, “Can I back up a little bit?”

Ideally, I can get my work done in, let's just do four, or you know how they do those split work weeks where you're still doing 40 hours but you're only coming in the office, so I said, “Let's try that,” and he said, “No,” and then I had the confidence to tender my resignation. Formally, it's all awkward, I'm like, “This is my resignation.” He looked at me like, “Alright, let's figure something out, weirdo.”

Sarah Cottrell: You're like, “Well, there are only so many ways to play this.” Can we go back just briefly, you said when you invested in the first deal that it was terrifying. Now I'm sure most people listening have some concept of why that is but can you just talk a little bit about what about it felt terrifying? Because I'm sure people listening who might be interested in something like this are like, “Yes, this is interesting but also it feels terrifying.” Can you talk about that a little?

Romy Frazier: Yes. It's a huge chunk of money. That was a big deal. I'd never wired tens of thousands of dollars to anyone. My mom was like, “Why don't you just buy a house in San Antonio?” and then I was thinking, “That would be cool but then what? Who's going to collect the rent? What if the plumbing breaks and what? Am I going to fly to San Antonio every time something goes wrong?” I don't want to leave it to her to have to take on that responsibility and all that.

In that sense, it was like, “Okay, well, it makes more sense to try out something that's slightly more passive or a lot more passive.” I hadn't sent that amount of money ever. Even on other investments, thankfully, the people I was working with gave me some advice on stocks, ETFs, how to set up my 401(k), and things like that, mostly because I really asked for that information from the people who seem to be doing well.

Also, it was a publicly traded company that I was working for so we had the opportunity to buy stock in the company and that's how a lot of people had developed wealth over the years, decades, and everything that they've been working there. It felt scary because when you buy a stock, you're putting in as little as $10 or even less, you could buy a share of a bigger company like Apple, Tesla, or something for a couple of hundred bucks but that's scary too.

The first stock I ever bought was Tesla and it was $80. I was like, “That's so much money.” Because I was 29 and it just seemed like you can have $160 today or you can plug in $160 into this system and have two shares of Tesla. What does that even mean? What's going to happen? You could lose it all, there's that fear. But ultimately, that ended up panning out where I'm like, “Man, I should have bought more than two shares.”

Then it felt like, “Okay, well, this is like a larger gamble,” and I ended up negotiating a little bit because the real estate deal was a 200-unit apartment building and they would let you get in for $50,000 and I was like, “Could I do it for $25,000?” The woman who was running the deal, I knew her, and she said, “That would be fine,” because it was my first deal and all this other stuff.

I had to weigh it. At the end of the day, if you lose twenty $25,000, are you going to survive? I couldn't spend the money I needed to live or die. I could only spend money that it was like, “Okay, it's a risk but let's roll the dice.”

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. There's a difference between it being a risk and it being a true gamble. Can you tell me from the time you invested in that first property to when you had this conversation with your boss where they were like, “No, you can't work out,” whatever, and then you were like, “Okay, then I'm going to resign,” and then they were like, “Ahh,” how much time was there between those two events?

Romy Frazier: Oh, less than a year.

Sarah Cottrell: Okay, so tell me what happened next.

Romy Frazier: He agreed to let me scale back. I did part-time legal work and I was coming in the office, I think it was Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then I started to look at being the deal sponsor. I wanted to be the lady who was rounding up the investors, running the deal, and making that asset perform.

It was really incredible because when I started looking at real estate from that angle where it's like, “Okay, how does this perform, and what do the financials look like?” Every single line item is critical and all of this. From the legal department, even though our company had real estate assets, I never looked at it from that angle. It was more like we’re the speed bump or we're negotiating the indemnification clause, we're not worried about money coming in. We're like the money-spending department or a cost center as they call it.

I wasn't on the business side of any part of the deals. Suddenly, having exposure to that other side, I felt like I was better at my job. I felt like a better lawyer. I felt like a better employee overall like, “Wow, I really understand in a way that I didn't before and now there's these multiple facets, I appreciated the business people more.”

I was just starting to look for deals and just reached out to brokers and other people who were selling real estate and got signed up on their lists and everything else just to start keeping an eye on the market. Then a deal came in that was really just too good to pass up. I pounced on that and it turned into taking up way more than half time. It was like, “Time to make a transition.”

Sarah Cottrell: Got it. Can you talk a little bit about what you were spending your time on with that deal that was taking up that time?

Romy Frazier: Yeah. It's analysis. Probably half of it was relationship development and getting to know the people in the market. I was focused on San Antonio, Texas because I'm familiar with it.

It was getting to know the people who sell apartment buildings in San Antonio and learning about what's going on in different neighborhoods because I'd been living in LA for 15 years so I was a few steps away from it even though I came home to visit from time to time learning about statistics, demographics, crime rates, what neighborhoods are increasing in value, population growth, and really just learning an entirely new side of my industry.

That took time, then relationship development, and then starting to network in the areas, meeting people. Ultimately, it was like a win. I knew I would buy an apartment building and it was literally in my to-do list. It was on my vision board. It was in my planner. It's like I'm in my legal department meetings and I have all the other stuff I'm going to do during the day and it's like, “Write discovery responses for blah-blah-blah,” and then under it “Buy an apartment building,” which is a little bit ridiculous but it worked.

I was seeing that every day, this is the goal so I knew it would happen. I knew ultimately we would need an insurance agent, we would need a property manager, we would need someone who provides all the services you need to make a property go. Time went into interviewing those people, getting to know, shockingly, the lawyers who would be working on the deals because we do, we do hire outside counsel from time to time as well. That's where the time went.

Sarah Cottrell: Okay. From then until now, can you tell me what has happened?

Romy Frazier: Yes. COVID happened, which changed a lot because I worked so hard to get to that four-hour work week, get out of my nine-to-five office, and then everyone got the same deal where everyone got to work from home and I'm like, “This is nuts. I don't feel special at all.”

That was pretty cool. That allowed for us to move to Texas because once we did find that deal that made sense, we had that freedom to move because even though both of our businesses and our day jobs were in LA, with COVID, we’re both work from home so then it was no one's even going to notice if we moved to Texas.

Obviously, we both moved to Texas during COVID while I was still working for my company during the day. Then a few months after that, the company quietly internally announced that we were going to sell, which was insane because that company had been around for 150 years. They were going to sell to another publicly-traded company and I would get to work on that transaction, which was really cool because it was a 10-figure transaction, the biggest one I'd ever worked on.

We were spinning off 60-plus real estate assets and then it was at the same time we were closing on this 168-unit apartment building in San Antonio.

Sarah Cottrell: Just a small number of things.

Romy Frazier: Yeah, unbelievable, all at once and all this other stuff. Once one thing happened, a million things happened. It was probably the hardest time being an employee for that company because I didn't want to be focused on that company but it was so important, and all hands on deck, this is the most important deal. Everything needs to go smoothly.

I learned so much. We did due diligence, title, and all that on all of the properties. I continued to learn as we were closing our deal. Then as we were doing takeover on the apartment building where we transitioned from the seller to our management, we were here in San Antonio and then the company in LA, we ended up closing that transaction. I hope I'm explaining this somewhat clearly but basically, two huge transactions happening at once.

The one for my employer closed out in a way where we were pink slipping all the employees and doing all that because it was this complete sale. Ultimately, we all worked ourselves out of a job. The timing was great for me personally.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. You're like, “Convenient for the circumstances.” It is interesting, I think some people could hear that story and the conclusion of the sale piece of it and think, “Oh, that was very convenient and is not something I could replicate.” But the thing that I think is so important for people to hear is you would not have been in a position for it to be such a good thing for your circumstances if you hadn't taken action on the other things that you really were interested in, in terms of the real estate investment.

Romy Frazier: That's exactly it. That is exactly what happened. Unless that had been prepared, I wouldn't have felt confident. I would have been freaking out looking for another job and trying to land somewhere soft. Because some people jump ship before the transaction closed because they're looking for jobs. Not everyone's going to stick around, see what happens to them, what the severance pay is, and all of that.

It would not have been convenient but for my plan to leave anyway and my preparation to get there, the investment, and all of that, it was a slow build getting to that point and we just happened to hit. I never would have planned to do those two transactions at the same time. That was out of control.

Sarah Cottrell: I do not hate myself so.

Romy Frazier: Ultimately, it was so hard leaving. I'd been with that company for eight years and it was hard. I never quit. As much as I threatened, complained, and everything else like, “Oh, I'm going to resign,” and even went as far as to say that to my boss, I never ended up quitting because that part of it was so hard for me. Until I literally got pushed out the door, it was hard. It was too hard to quit.

Sarah Cottrell: Can you talk a little bit about why that was?

Romy Frazier: Oh, wow, probably some weird loyalty. It's not weird. Once you've given so much of your time and career to a company, you really do feel like family. Our department certainly referred to each other as family. We spent a lot of time together out of the office so there was a closeness there. My boss was truly and still is my mentor in many ways and so I didn't want to let him down.

There was part of it that if I leave and I don't go directly into another legal job, then what's going to happen? You get this respect for being a lawyer so I was a little worried about that. There was a lot going on.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. It's interesting that there are a lot of people who have been on the podcast who have some sort of story where it's basically like they were thinking about leaving but hadn't really been able to get themselves to the point where they were actually going to do it and then something happened.

I think you used the term you got pushed out the door because of the acquisition and all of that and then ultimately, a lot of people, this is true with people who I work with also, they'll say, “I'm so grateful that happened because it helped me to take that step that I either thought I wasn't ready to take or that was just very challenging.”

You closed on this apartment building and where are things today? Are you just managing that particular deal? Tell me all the things.

Romy Frazier: Yeah. Things are great. We're definitely still managing that building. We had investors come along with us for the ride. A lot of those were my colleagues from the legal profession, which was amazing, supportive, and great, as well as my friends, family members, and people I knew from college, law school, and so on. That is amazing.

Every day, we're looking for new opportunities. We have about $20 million in assets under management currently and now I'm looking at apartment buildings as well as self-storage facilities and a couple of other types of real estate assets. But those are the top two because now I love this commercial approach of scale and being able to bring people along when we find a good deal. We're putting our money down and now we can invite other people to enjoy in that same kind of return with us.

Sarah Cottrell: For people who are listening who have had an interest in doing something like this or are just listening to you talk about it and are like, “That sounds interesting,” what would you tell a lawyer who has thought about this or maybe hasn't until now but has an interest but isn't really sure where to start? What is the first thing that you would tell them to do?

Romy Frazier: Invest in something. Start now. I would say until you throw your hat in the ring, you probably don't know what this feeling is. It's a great feeling. It wasn't until my HR director at the company that I was working for said, “Next time Apple shares go down, just buy a share and feel what that feels like.” I watched Apple grow since then. It's just putting your hat in the ring.

Another thing I would share is that you don't need a real estate background to invest in real estate, you just have to be generally competent and you probably already are. Lawyers are really smart people. Lawyers are well-researched people and lawyers know where to go for good resources. They're not just going to willy-nilly invest in something that seems like a gamble.

Generally, real estate is not a gamble. It is historically appreciating over time, historically the cash flows, things like that. We have this thought that you might need all this real estate background but in reality, my upbringing did not really come into play. Until we really got into the nitty-gritty of running a deal, and I don't know that that's for everyone, but investing, certainly passively and in a syndication, that could be for everyone and anyone.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I think one of the things that I have definitely learned just now hosting the podcast for almost four years is that lawyers have a tendency to think that they are not qualified to do things that in fact they are qualified for because of the way our profession is and a bunch of other things.

There tends to be this idea that you have to have super special knowledge. To your point, I think that one of the things that is most helpful is when someone who's a lawyer who's thinking about doing something else can see, “Hey, I'm a competent smart person and that actually goes a long way in a lot of different things including this type of thing.”

Romy, as we're getting to the end of our conversation, is there anything else that you would like to share that we haven't touched on yet?

Romy Frazier: Just start now. Really, if there's any inkling in your mind about leaving the legal profession or about leaving any specific law firm, a little cushion in the bank isn't going to hurt you. Starting to think about investing, it may feel like there's no time and we're all just so busy to learn enough to get invested, and all of that.

You're not going to be able to touch your 401(k) for a while, I mean there are ways you can and we could talk for hours about that, but anyway, you're not going to be able to touch your retirement for a while so in the meantime, you can build up your assets starting now and create a cushion for yourself so that whenever that transition does come, you have that confidence to walk into your boss's office and say, “I'm out.”

Sarah Cottrell: Which is the best. That's what we're here for here at Former Lawyer. Okay, Romy, if people want to connect with you, where can they find you online?

Romy Frazier: Sure. They can find me on YouTube under my name Romy Frazier.

Sarah Cottrell: Awesome. Okay, well, thank you so much for joining me today and sharing your story. I really appreciate it.

Romy Frazier: Thanks so much, Sarah. This was fun.

Sarah Cottrell: Thanks so much for listening. I absolutely love getting to share this podcast with you. If you haven't yet, I invite you to download my free guide: First Steps to Leaving the Law at Until next time, have a great week.