From Caribbean Roots and a Random Convo With Warren Buffet to a Career in the Title Industry
Member Profile: Deborah S. BaileyAttorney – Managing Member | Bailey Helms Legal LLC
How long have you been in the title industry and how did you get started in this profession?
I entered the title industry in the fall of 1998 as part of a project to assist the Clerk of Superior Court of Fulton County—the most populous county in Georgia—clear a recording backlog that had grown so large, it was adversely affecting the economy. I had unique skills they needed, and the position was meant to be a temporary career detour, but I became fascinated by the title industry. After the backlog was cleared and I helped with the implementation of a new recording system, I accepted what I thought was another temporary position to learn title examination from some of the best examiners in the business at that time. The leadership team of the firm reassigned me to work on several projects in the firm’s transactional real estate practice and before long the years passed, and I faced the reality that this is my profession and my calling.
What’s a day on the job like for you?
I usually start when I arrive at the office or on most days before, depending on the needs of my clients. During the day I am either in closings, drafting documents, reviewing titles and communicating with title underwriters about title to properties in our pipeline or I am performing tasks related to the business side of the practice. I also spend a significant amount of time on the phone or responding to emails or I am assisting answering with questions related to deal structures.
What excites you about what you do or what is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The most exciting and at the same time most challenging part of my job is the human interaction. It is such a joy to interact with people from every walk of life every day. There is also the reality that things are unpredictable, so no two transactions unfold alike, and it can be challenging to manage the range of emotions associated with the interactions.
What’s your best industry “war” story?
I have volumes of “war” stories, most of which cannot be disclosed for a variety of reasons. One of my best industry stories is a happy one that came out of an encounter I had while shopping in my local community a few years ago. A couple was having a hard time getting their young boy to walk along. The boy refused to move, he refused to let them pick him up and he kept pointing in my direction. I thought he was pointing to someone else but there was no one else there so I became curious and decided to walk toward the family. With each step toward them, the child grew more excited and started jumping for joy, which made me conclude that he knew me. When I reached him, I knelt and told him hello. He could not contain his happiness and giggled loudly as I gave him a hug. His parents were perplexed by his behavior because they didn’t recognize me. After a few minutes, I realized that I was their closing attorney at their closing when they purchased their home. I always take time out for the children who attend my closing. This little boy remembered me even though he hadn’t yet learned to speak. His parents, who speak English as a second language, had a good laugh when they made the connection that I was their closing attorney. We chatted, then said goodbye as their son willingly walked away with them. The encounter reminded me of the significance of the Dr. Maya Angelou’s quote: “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”
Why is the title industry a great career opportunity for those entering the workforce?
You are a part of one of the oldest professions that exists in every community. The various jobs in the title industry may require a unique set of skills, but most of which can be learned or taught on the job. There is room for advancement in the industry with or without a college degree.
What advice do you have for professionals starting their career in the industry?
The same advice I received when I came in the industry. Focus on the human side of the practice and protect the consumer’s interest and you will be rewarded in the end. There is a business side to what we do, but resist the urge to reduce your practice to just running a business because it is a short-sighted path. There are no shortcuts to success in this industry, so stay on the good path and practice transparently because truth always comes out in the end. Whatever you do in darkness will be revealed in the light. I would also add, trust but verify, and above all, question those things you believe to be true because what will hurt you in this profession isn’t what you don’t know but what you know that simply isn’t true.
How has the industry evolved since you began your career?
The industry is moving away from a paper-based and manual-intensive industry to one that is rapidly embracing new processes, procedures and technology. We are increasingly welcoming the reality that our survival as an industry requires us to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers and clients.
How has your company had to change in order to remain competitive?
We are always improving our listening skills and looking for new ways to adjust based on market trends and feedback we receive from our customers.
What have you learned about yourself or your company since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?
We are adaptable and we are willing to break away from the herd and take a different path if we believe that it is in the best interest of the consumer and our firm. We are also willing to reflect on past experiences and draw from those experiences which helps us manage fear in a time of crisis.
Why are you a member of ALTA?
It is hard to justify not being part of an organization that has among its active members some of the best minds in the industry. I enjoy growing and learning from others with a lot more experience. By being a member, I can give back to an organization that has given me so many valuable tools to survive and compete in my market. I am also proud to be associated with an organization that is singularly focused on issues related to land conveyancing on a national, state and local level, and truly committed to protecting and defending property rights.
Which ALTA committees do you participate in? Why do you participate?
Abstractors and Title Insurance Agents Section Executive Committee; Education Committee; Real Property Records Committee; and the State Legislative/Regulatory Action Committee. I believe in good citizenship and service is my way of giving back to the industry. I also enjoy the relationships that I can build with others in the title industry throughout the country as I participate in these committees.
Tell us something that others in the industry may not know about you.
When I was in my last year of my undergraduate studies, I was assigned to be the chaperone for a gentleman who was giving a lecture on value investment at the State University of New York at Buffalo for a stock investment group I co-founded. At the end of the evening, the man complemented me on how I treated him and asked if I would sit and talk with him for a few minutes and talk about plans for the future. I told him I wanted to pursue a career on Wall Street. He thought it was a good idea, but encouraged me to learn a lot and not stay too long in that career and take my skills instead to “Main Street” where he believed my career would have a bigger impact on society. I listened to his advice. I left a bright future in banking on Wall Street and went to law school and then went on the path that lead me to the title industry.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?
Warren Buffett. For years, the conversation I had with a kind man I chaperoned one night in Buffalo, N.Y., remained in my mind, but I failed to connect the dots and recognize whom I was speaking with. Turns out it was Warren Buffet. He knew that I had no idea who he was, and that allowed for an honest unfiltered conversation. I would like to have dinner with Warren Buffet to thank him for the advice and share some of my experiences and more importantly to discuss the power of words.
What’s your favorite book/movie/TV series? Why?
The Bible because every time I read this book, I learn something new that causes my mind to change in a positive way. My favorite movie is The Color Purple because of the complexity of the story telling and the theme of redemption. My favorite TV series is Swamp People. I find the show entertaining and the fundamentals of the alligator hunting business are the same as the title business.
What’s in your music playlist?
A heavy rotation of calypso, the music of my Caribbean roots. My life anthem, Koffe – Toast, it is all about blessings, giving thanks and expressing gratitude. Sir David Rodigan selections of classic and new music reggae and dancehall music to expand my mind. Anything Abba and Queen to remind me of my youth. Chronixx – Here Comes Trouble, Elvis Presley – Suspicious Mind, and King Short Shirt – True Patriot to recalibrate my mind in a season of uprising. Danza Kuduro & Lucenzo – Don Omar, and Elvis Crespo – Suavemente, when I want to dance and remember my last cruise vacation. Finally, La India and Marc Anthony – Vivir Lo Nuestro (Letra), this song is a beautiful expression of love, the universal language.
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