Why I Do What I Do.
I have always loved the written word and solving puzzles. That’s why working in estate planning is such a great fit for me–I get to use my precise legal writing and problem-solving skills to help people create the estate plan that is right for their family. Or, I can use those same skills to help make the probate or trust administration process feel less overwhelming and more like a defined set of achievable tasks.
More importantly, after more than 10 years working in top law firms and at major companies, I’m thrilled to be focusing on work that is more personally meaningful to both my clients and to me. Completing a major deal for a business is very satisfying. But it’s even better to see the relief and happiness on the faces of our clients when they put down the pen after signing that last page of their estate plan. It is quite wonderful to know I’ve helped bring our clients the peace of mind that comes with completing the documents that will provide their families with an easier and less expensive way to deal with their property after they pass on. The right estate planning makes a hard time just a little bit easier.
Why I Joined Summerall Law.
I began working with Summerall Law in early 2017 and officially joined the firm in May 2018, when firm founder Sarah Summerall’s pregnancy with her first child provided the perfect motivation for her to expand her family business. (Since I am Sarah’s brother this might be the best deal I’ve ever made–I got a new nephew and a new and rewarding position at her firm!) We’ve found that combining Sarah’s expertise in estate planning with my “big company” legal experience has been a great combination for us and our clients.
Why I Think Summerall Law is Unique.
We particularly enjoy solving the puzzle of creating the right plan for a blended or non-traditional family. We have personal insight on the joys and unique considerations that accompany a blended family because when I was 5 years old and Sarah was 3 our father remarried and his bride came with a 4-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son and then 2 years later they welcomed another son.
Plus, because I lived as a lesbian for a decade before transitioning to male in 2008, I have deep roots in the LGBTQI community. As part of that community I know there are many special considerations that apply to the families we create. And I know how our families can be built out of friendships as powerful and lasting as any blood ties. At Summerall Law we are happy to create plans that honor these relationships and that help ensure the choices our clients make about their property and relationships are respected.
The Commercial and Business Advising Services I Offer.
In addition to estate planning and probate and trust administration work, I am available to advise businesses and individuals on contract negotiation, intellectual property issues, and operational risk assessment. I combine my practical day-to-day experience running a small business with excellent legal training and broad experience with top companies to provide sound advice and real-world solutions for my clients. I tailor my approach to give you the right type and amount of advice whether I am taking a quick look at a confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement (“NDA”) or providing more nuanced advice on how to approach licensing decisions and build a compliance program.
My Pre-Estate Planning Professional Experience.
Prior to joining the family business, I spent 3 years at VF Outdoor, LLC advising top brands like The North Face, Vans, JanSport, Reef, and Eagle Creek on the legal problems facing their businesses, with a specific focus on commercial contracts. (VF Outdoor is part of the $12 billion apparel and footwear company VF corporation, which is part of the Fortune 250). Before joining VF Outdoor, I spent 5 years with 24 Hour Fitness doing similar work and pursuing my fitness hobby to the fullest.
At both of my in-house counsel positions I was quickly promoted and given additional responsibilities because of my strong organizational skills and my ability to collaborate with, and support the goals of, business partners across the country (or globe) and at all different levels of the organization. During that time, I gained extensive experience supporting sales, product, and marketing departments, primarily through drafting and negotiating commercial contracts, including distribution, sponsorship, marketing, technology license/internet service agreements and professional services (consulting) agreements and trademark, design, and other content licensing.
My Educational and Early Professional (and Unprofessional) Background.
The advice I give clients is informed by the legal training I received at Georgetown University Law Center, where I graduated with honors. Even more importantly, I have been very lucky to have excellent mentors and peers throughout my legal career. I spent the first 5 years working for highly-rated national law firms, including Kirkland & Ellis in San Francisco which is considered one of the best litigation firms in the United States, and Steptoe and Johnson in Washington, DC. I gained my work ethic by working full-time waiting tables while I attended the University of Utah. I majored in Political Science and Women’s Studies, graduating magna cum laude and summa cum laude, respectively.
I was admitted to the California bar in 2005. More detailed work experience available at linked in https://www.linkedin.com/in/kelly-wessels-12a34042/
When not working, I love hiking, backpacking, trying new fitness trends, and sampling excellent Bay Area food and beauty with my wife (natural, architectural, artistic, etc.). And reading, lots of reading. I read about 50 books a year, I especially enjoy science fiction, Pulitzer Prize winning novels, and autobiographies that expand my understanding of different cultures and diverse experiences.