Member Highlight – Top 10 Lessons Learned in the Title Business

For all of our title industry professionals who have been very good this year, LTAMS has a special holiday gift – the collected advice shared by our members from the inception of the association to date. From the practical to the philosophical, so many of these responses fall within one of a few general categories. The following list reflects the top ten lessons learned in the title business, together with words of wisdom from the members themselves:

1. Read everything
“Always read the deeds and when you’re done re-read the deeds.”
– Santita Newsom

“Read everything. Don’t just get copies of the vesting deed and exception documents. Read every relevant document in the chain.”
– Neill Bryant

2. Know your legal description
“Lesson number one: Learn to plat!!”
– Sandra Warren

“Always ask the parties if they have an existing survey. If they do, make your abstractor happy and send it with the title order.”
– Fred Signs

“The very first thing I do when I receive a new real estate project is to find the current owner’s vesting deed so that I can read and plot the legal description and compare it to the tax map and Google maps. Before aerial photo maps became readily available (which admittedly dates me a bit), I would often try to visit the site in person. You will be in a much better position to evaluate the title and anticipate potential problems if you can visualize the condition of the land and its boundaries.”
– Jennifer Signs

3. Leave a trail
“When drafting documents, try to include recitals and as much information as possible, so the next person reviewing title doesn’t have to guess what you’re thinking.”
– Jeff Horn

“Always think about the people coming behind you. Draft your documents in such a way that the record and chain of title is clear. For example, if you file a corrected instrument, explain in the document what you corrected and why you corrected it. … Think about what you would want to see in the record if you were coming behind somebody else.”
– Neill Bryant

“The belt and suspenders approach practitioners often take in real estate law can teach you lessons in litigation and other areas of law.”
– Alan Windham

4. Find a mentor
“Because there is so many moving parts of a real estate transaction, you will not know everything and will fly by the seat of your pants for at least the first year, so make sure you have mentors and a good escrow officer to help you make hard decisions.”
– Courtney Robbins

“My advice would be to get a job working for a person that really knows what they are doing, and listen and learn. The best way to receive training in this industry is ‘on the job.’ Having good mentors over the years has paid wonderful dividends for me in both tactical title insurance knowledge, and sales/management/leadership abilities.”
– Jeff Lees

“I would advise someone just starting out in the title business to ask lots of questions! Our industry is full of very knowledgeable people who are very willing to share their knowledge with someone who is willing to learn.”
– Cass Tinsley

“Get to know lawyers and learn from them. This profession was taught by attorneys to clerks who read the law. While we have fancy tests and excellent education systems, nothing can replace practicing law as the best teacher. Having a handful of attorneys that you can call and visit with will help you tremendously. I have not found a single instance where I sought help from a fellow lawyer (even an adversary) where that lawyer did not help me. We’ve all been there, and we can be professional and kind to one another WHILE we zealously advocate.”
– Jason Purvis

5. Don’t panic
“There’s almost always a way to overcome title issues.”
– Danny Crotwell

“There’s no title issue we can’t overcome. I see every ‘obstacle’ as an opportunity to learn and grow in my knowledge of our profession. The most valuable skill you can master is adaptability. If you can adapt, you will prevail. Life ebbs and flows and the journey from your Point of Beginning will traverse many courses and distances. You may end up on a road that wasn’t on the original Plat. Don’t be afraid to create a new Landmark.”
– Julie Scianna

6. Be considerate
“Be careful with the books and take care of them. Be respectful to the county employees as well as others who work in the records room.”
– Sandra Warren

“Be kind to people because they always remember it.”
– Katy Boyer

“Be patient, diligent, thorough and vigilant with work projects, as well as take extra time in each clerk’s office to get to know the staff and local abstractors.”
– Phillip Hollimon

“Treat all parties to each transaction with respect, and how you would like to be treated if it was your own personal transaction.”
– Shannon Elliott

“I am reminded that the dignity of our profession has taken a hit every time I turn on the TV.”
– Professor Guff Abbott

7. Be responsive
“You can save yourself a lot of stress and risk by timely responding to phone calls and emails.”
– Joseph Tullos

“Stay organized, manage your time wisely, be over-prepared when you go to court, and always return phone calls.”
– Mason Wood

“Setting expectations early and maintaining open channels of communication with clients, lenders, surveyors and opposing counsel from due diligence to closing is critical to the success of any transaction.”
– Mark Bond

“I have learned that communication is key, and when things get tough, you must have perseverance, because that’s when the most growth takes place. I have learned that you can’t make everyone happy, but I always try my best to do so.”
– Angela Thrash

8. Be humble
“My mentor and former colleague Professor Jeff Jackson gave me two pieces of advice … that have served me well: (1) never take yourself too seriously; and (2) always know that you are not the smartest person in the room.”
– Professor Donald Campbell

“[Have] an honesty in yourself to ask for help when needed, a humbleness to know we all learn each day in this business and not one of us knows everything……things are constantly changing.”
– Jeaneen Bobo

“Like most people, I peaked at knowing everything around 23 years old, and I’ve been getting dumber every day since. I find it is amazing how strong clients will think you are when you have courage enough to say, ‘I’m not sure….’ It’s also ok to be kind to yourself and lean into your weaknesses.”
– Jason Purvis

9. Share your wisdom
“Sometimes our clients get too emotionally involved, get frustrated, and make decisions that are not in their best interest. Don’t be merely a scribe. We are not just advocates, but also counselors. Don’t be afraid to tell your client hard truths.”
– Neill Bryant

“Do not be afraid to blaze new trails. Do not be afraid to tell a client something the client doesn’t want to hear.”
– Hugh Keating

10. Take care of yourself
“There are going to be a lot of days that are mentally challenging, on those days I recommend a good playlist.”
– Santita Newsom

“Get involved and serve in professional, community and civic organizations. At all times, maintain a healthy balance between family, faith and profession.”
– Hugh Keating

When I was struggling with the decision of whether or not to retire from full-time practice, I called my big brother, John, who is a retired executive of a large chemical company and was responsible for an entire division of employees. Without hesitating, he gave me some advice that would serve anyone well in making major career decisions: ‘Your physical and mental health must be your first priority. All other considerations are a distant second.’”
– Jennifer Signs

We hope this insight from abstractors, agents, associates, and underwriters, young and old, gives you plenty to ponder as we bring 2022 to a close and inspires you to great things in 2023. Happy holidays from everyone at LTAMS!