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Meet Heidi Thompson of Lifeguarding Legacies in Northeast Phoenix

Today we’d like to introduce you to Heidi Thompson.

Heidi, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
From middle school, I’ve always believed I would be an attorney, but it was not a direct path. I majored in my undergrad studies in Psychology and ended up taking a detour when I discovered that I wanted a career that would be compatible with family. I was married at 21 before I completed college. While my daughter and sons were babies, I completed an Educational Masters in School Counseling and when they were two and three, we moved to Florida where my husband had accepted a job in Finance with Walt Disney World.

In the spring of 2004, my sixth year as a school counselor, my undergrad alma mater sent out a newsletter advertising the new law school that was planned to open in the fall. They announced full scholarships to eligible candidates. I shared the article with my husband and he said: “You’d be an idiot not to apply.” To which I responded, “But we’d have to move to Virginia.” He agreed to the crazy plan, which had me starting law school with children in third and fourth grade.

Despite the challenges, I completed law school and passed the Florida Bar in 2007 intending to move to Florida and start a law practice. But God laughed.

Between 2007 and 2008, the economy had tanked and my husband couldn’t find a job that would relocate us back to Florida. In summer 2008, we ended up in Houston, Texas with him at General Electric. I had missed the window to take the Texas Bar, so I thought I would foray back into school counseling for “one year” until I could take the bar exam. I loved working in Texas high schools, especially when my children were at the high school with me. But then my son’s triple-threat talents dragged us to Hollywood, where he attended Orange County School of the Arts and my career took a back seat to “momaging” his. When he decided to go to college (after a gap year of auditioning full time), we moved to Washington state to be near my family.

I found a wonderful job as the district behavioral coach for a high-needs school district in southeastern Washington. I helped campuses develop their behavior plans, then taught teachers, counselors, and paraeducators how to direct and manage behavior, and coached them when they had particularly challenging students.

When my husband’s job brought us to Phoenix in 2017, I was at a loss. After 15 non-sequential years in public education, it would be a $30,000 pay cut to remain in education in Arizona. I was trying to determine what to do next when I attended my law school’s ten year reunion. A colleague grabbed me by the arm and said, ” You need to be doing what I’m doing.” I replied, “What are you doing?” He said, “Estate planning.” “I’d have to take the bar exam in Arizona.” “Yes, and when you do, you can spend a week with me [in Florida] to learn what I do.”

It was a crazy idea. I was an educator. I had not practiced law in all these many years. But as I examined estate planning, it was the same skill set. It is educating, counseling, coaching, and advising clients. So I sat for the 2018 Bar exam. As a new grandmother. And in the fall of 2018, after much legal and business preparation, I opened a law practice in Estate Planning.

The name for Lifeguarding Legacies partly came out of playing with my grandson. I look at him and can’t help but think that my job is to do better for him—as the biggest part of my legacy. Also, the Lifeguarding piece comes from my near obsession with the beach. I have to dig my feet into the sand and tide at least twice a year. It also allows me to talk about how I do “guard” people’s legacies from the things that life throws at them, things like divorce, lawsuits, and family strife.

I still love to teach. I welcome the chance to talk to just about any audience for any length of time. I’m helping the Arizona Bar lawyers with better engagement techniques so that they don’t just stand up and read PowerPoints. In my workshops, I break people into groups, ask lots of questions, and use fun pictures to seal in key themes and ideas. One talk I gave was to the Arizona Society of CPA’s. I ran a game show with them called “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader – Estate Planning Edition.” The response pads were smartphones for the whole audience, with an active leader board. I guess it is safe to say that I am not your typical attorney.

With my clients, I spend a tremendous amount of time understanding their needs and asking tough questions before I start to come up with solutions. The counseling degree often is as used as a law degree. It was a winding road, but that middle school girl who thought she’d be a lawyer someday is now living the dream.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
No, it has not been a smooth road. Law school is always difficult. But a start-up law school takes hardship to another level. To become accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA), my law school piled on the work. The ABA representatives at the walk-through told my law school to lighten up the load. (Of course, that was near the end of the second year.) I averaged three hours of sleep most nights during the first and second years. Granted, I was still at several baseball games, every ballet recital, every stage performance, and occasionally read to my kids’ classrooms.

Starting the business has not been a cake-walk either. Think about this business model: do something you’ve never done, in a place where you know no one, with no business training or experience. Honestly, it is a crazy plan.

But I’ve become very marketing savvy, have joined several networking and business groups, and have built a network of over 600 people who could tell you who I am and what I do.

It is still difficult to go from a comfortable school-based job to a small business where you are never really off the clock. The potential of freedom to travel and the unlimited nature of small business earnings make the hard work toward the dream worthwhile.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
My purpose is to safeguard your values-based legacy by earning and building your trust. As both a counselor at law and a counselor at heart, I serve as your family’s lifeguard. Regardless of your stage of life, I help you:
• Find peace by avoiding future family conflict
• Safeguard values for future generations
• Find the hope of mended relationships through relational counseling
• Design distribution plans that promote industrious behavior from our children
• Limit the impact of probate, creditors, divorce, and lawsuits
• Establish guardianship for children
• Keep business assets in the family
• Avoid enabling alcohol and drug abuse
• Address the special concerns of blended family dynamics
• Build a financial and healthcare plan for incapacity
• Create a care plan for forever pets
• Leave what you’ve worked to achieve for those you love or the causes that you believe make the world a better place

I strive to earn your TRUST, which is the cornerstone of my business values. TRUST=Time Honoring · Relational Counseling · Unity Seeking · Servant Leading · Transparent Dealing. And one more thing. I provide concierge service to clients–coming to their homes and businesses rather than having a public office.

What were you like growing up?
Driven. My parents both graduated from high school, but neither went to college. My father was (not kidding) the milkman. He had his own business delivering milk door-to-door and to businesses for 40 years. He now drives a school bus. My mother was a secretary/administrative assistant and for a short term teaching elementary school when private schools did not require degrees.

My parents never had to push me to achieve. They certainly affirmed me, encouraged me, and provided every opportunity. If I wanted to try tap lessons, gymnastics, volleyball, softball, or baton twirling, I was enrolled. I took piano lessons from early childhood through part of high school and again in college. I was a cheerleader in high school until my senior year when I decided to be involved with theater and choir. I was always (and still am) active in the church. I was a “bad” Baptist because I loved to dance (go figure that my son now post-college is a professional dancer). I was highly competitive at everything and took someone telling me “I would never be able to [x]” as a tremendous challenge to prove them wrong.

I was a people pleaser, teacher’s pet, and most of the time a good girl. If I wanted to do something I knew I shouldn’t, I’d find a way to do it and hide it. Much more than the punishment, I would dread seeing disappointment. I had friends that would publicly rebel–that was not me.

Contact Info:

 
Image Credit:
Picture of me reading to my grandson taken by Eric Thompson.
Book cover design by me – (book still in writing stage).
Charicature by Andre Bland.
Professional pics by Cindy Quinn of CMQ Photos.
Speaking photo by Mire Images photography.
Binder created on Zazzle.com

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