Kalamazoo Legal Legacy: There's No Place Like Home0
When little girls start thinking about what they want to be when they grow up, they're influenced by the world around them: pop culture, media, peers... and family. Young Rachel Foster absorbed the family influence and today is a successful local attorney at Warner Norcross + Judd LLP in Kalamazoo.
From the time she was in sixth grade, Foster knew she wanted to be a lawyer. The legal world and local politics surrounded Foster in her early years in the form of her grandmother, Bess Jordan.
"My grandma was so career-minded," Foster recalls. "It helps shape who you are."
Locals may remember Jordan as a former Bedford Township Supervisor and Calhoun County Commissioner during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Foster says her grandma was "always running for something," and a master of political capitol, using her positions to get necessary resources for her community.
As she went through school, Foster was concentrated on her goal of being a lawyer.
"That's all I thought about - it never changed," she says. "I was disappointed to learn that I had to go to college first."
A Hickory Corners native, Foster attended Gull Lake Community Schools, and then completed undergraduate studies at Western Michigan University (WMU), where she graduated with a degree in criminal justice. Because being near family is important to Foster; she lived at home through all four years at WMU.
During undergrad, Foster secured pivotal internships, solidifying her passion for the law. She observed trials and shadowed sitting judges, including one of her favorites, Judge William G. Schma. Throughout her education, she also had the support of her parents, who still live in the family home in Barry County. They encouraged both Foster and her younger sister to push for success.
After WMU, Foster went on to graduate from the highly regarded Chicago-Kent College of Law. In 1998 she began her professional career in Chicago, living right downtown and working as a litigator - a much different lifestyle than what she'd experienced in Michigan. And after living away from her family for four years, Foster began to realize she belonged closer to them.
"I just want to go home," she remembers thinking.
So in 1999, Foster also passed the Michigan bar exam, and headed back to southwest Michigan. She began working in the pre-hearing department for the Grand Rapids Court of Appeals, moved up to several Kalamazoo-area law firms and eventually narrowed her expertise to real estate law.
Foster's career today revolves around transactional real estate law; she's been with Warner Norcross + Judd for three and a half years, now Senior Counsel. What she loves about the firm is the company culture of work/life balance and the people.
"Not all firms are created equal," says Foster. "The people I work with are not just co-workers."
Foster applies her legal experience to the local non-profit community, as well. She works with the Kalamazoo County Land Bank, Calhoun County Land Bank Authority, Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity and Greater Kalamazoo Association of Realtors. The Kalamazoo Humane Society also benefits from her time. Foster is an animal lover and says working for the humane society is a passion for her.
Today, Foster lives in south Portage with her 19-year-old son Jonathan and two dogs. Outside work, she walks Portage trailways and parks, and loves to travel with girlfriends. Next up is a girl trip to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Foster's best career advice applies to everyone.
"It's important to enjoy what you're doing because so much of our time is spent at work. Be passionate about it because it takes time away from your family. With today's technology it's hard to get away - the 9 to 5 is rare, so you really have to enjoy what you're doing."