Traditionally, the spring is a very busy time for real estate transactions. We thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to spotlight Carl A. Ecklund, partner at WilliamsMcCarthy, who focuses on industrial, commercial, and residential real estate transactions. We recently interviewed Carl about his interest in real estate law, most memorable achievements, and what he enjoys about our region.
When did you decide you wanted to be a lawyer?
I’ve wanted to be a lawyer pretty much my whole life. My dad is a lawyer and I worked at his firm in high school. I was basically a gopher – doing administrative and court filings and such – and I learned the system. In college, I did an internship for Congresswoman Lynn Martin and eventually transitioned to her staff. There, I got to see how many lawyers work for governmental agencies and how important those skills are for creating new legislation, implementing laws, and managing the issues that come up along the way. With a perspective on private practice and government applications, I saw a lot of potential avenues to apply my law degree.
How did you decide to focus your practice in real estate?
It was more of an evolution than deciding one day, “this is my focus.” When I started at Wilmac as an associate, I worked on a broad range of assignments from across the practice. I was able to get valuable experience in litigation, transactional law, and estate planning. Sometimes you gravitate to an area based on your interest or the personalities of the partners in that area. Other times you end up with a specialty because of the work you’ve done. For me, it was a combination. I’m very goal- and results-oriented. I had the opportunity to work on some very large real estate projects and enjoyed it. Having spent a lot of time at the courthouse early in my career, I knew I didn’t want to be there all the time. That experience was valuable, though. Now, I apply that knowledge to help advise my clients to avoid litigation in the future.
What makes real estate an interesting area of practice?
Most major real estate transactions are very gratifying. The larger ones consume your time for quite a while, but they do end eventually. Each one has some issue that most people wouldn’t notice but was a major deal to the transaction. The fact that each project is different keeps it interesting. Being born and raised in Rockford, I drive by all areas of town and think, “I remember that deal.” Real estate doesn’t move, so there are landmarks all over the region with which I’ve had some involvement.
Is there a notable achievement in your career of which you are most proud?
The transactional field of law is a little different than litigation – we don’t necessarily have that one big case we win. However, through the years I’ve had the opportunity to work on a number of complex projects that were very gratifying to complete based on the impact those transactions had on our community.
What do you like most about practicing law at WilliamsMcCarthy LLP?
I really enjoy the collegiality of working at Wilmac. We’re probably considered a mid-sized firm from a national perspective, but we are one of the larger firms in the area. As a result, we have the opportunity to work with some of the major players in our region. We have a big enough team to allow for specialization and handle anything a client may need. At the beginning of my career, I got the opportunity to work with Jack McCarthy and other seasoned partners instrumental in the development of the firm. They were some of the pillars in the legal community at the time, so I learned a lot from them and that has proven to be a valuable experience as I address client’s needs today.
What are some of the trends you see in your practice area?
Technology has had a huge impact on the way we practice real estate law now. So much is done electronically – documents are shared and signed and deals are made all through email. It has accelerated the pace of deals and has really changed the way we develop relationships with our clients. It has also made it possible to serve clients all over the world.
If you were to give one piece of advice to someone looking to buy or sell property right now, what would it be?
I think the most common question I get asked is, “Do I need a lawyer for this real estate transaction?” While most individuals or companies involved in commercial deals know they need a lawyer as a member of their team, individuals buying or selling a home may not know the benefit of having a lawyer at their closing. Illinois doesn’t require it, but I always advise that a lender’s or a title company’s job is not to represent your interests. In some cases, everything might be pretty straightforward, but in other cases, there may be provisions in the contract that could negatively impact you. Just remember, many of the documents you sign at closing exists because something bad has happened in the past. Real estate transactions can be stressful experiences so individuals may want the peace of mind that an attorney is looking out for them and making sure they are protected.
When you’re not at work, how do you enjoy spending your time?
I enjoy spending time with my family. I have a wife and two girls – one is in college and the other recently graduated from college. Both are competitive swimmers, so our weekend calendar has been attending swim meets for years. I love watching and attending college football and basketball games. I enjoy running and swimming, too. I recently completed a marathon, but right now I’m sticking to half marathons because it is easier to manage the time commitment for training.
What are your favorite things about our region?
Rockford is my home, and there is something special about the place where you were born and raised. I love the affordability of our community and its size. It is a good place to raise a family. Being in real estate, I look at valuations a lot and it’s amazing to me what you can get in terms of lifestyle here. From a professional perspective, I think our legal community is nice to work with. We know it is very likely we will work with the same attorneys in the region again on different transactions for different clients, so everyone maintains a higher level of respect, collaboration, and professionalism than you might find in other areas of the state and country.
Carl A. Ecklund can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 815-987-8944.