Growing up, Joseph Shumow used to hear his mother – also an attorney – say all law students started out wanting to save the world after graduation.
But Shumow, an associate in the real estate practice of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren SC’s Madison office, said sometimes he feels he’s actually getting pretty close to that goal. He works with developers on affordable housing projects to secure tax credits and loans that help make their projects possible
“Making sure everyone has affordable housing is important and these projects make a difference,” Shumow said. “Wisconsin developers are very inventive and are coming up with projects that are sustainable and attractive.”
Shumow previously worked at the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, where he handled real estate financial closings. Leaving the agency for Reinhart earlier this year was a difficult decision, he said. But the opportunity to work on both sides of a development project –the equity and loan side – was a chance he couldn’t pass up.
“I am really seeing a wider part of the development process,” he said. “There are some similarities and differences in cases, but in the end it all comes down to providing people with an affordable place to live and that makes a huge difference.”
Competition is fierce for tax credits and Shumow typically gets involved to help developers write agreements to secure equity and ensure they receive their tax credits.
“It’s interesting and complex work that at the end of the day really fills a major need,” he said. “This type of work makes me feel like I’m changing the world just a little bit.”
Wisconsin Law Journal: What was your favorite class in law school and why?
Joseph Shumow: First Amendment with Professor Neil Richards and Religion with Professor Michael Koby at Washington University in St. Louis. It was fascinating to see how the courts have struggled through the years to find a balance between freedom for the individual and freedom for society as a whole. That tension, between individual rights and societal rights, is at the heart of the vast majority of real estate controversies as well. I think I’m the only person who has ever deigned to compare First Amendment law and Real Estate law; but that’s how I rationalize liking those classes more than Property and Real Estate Transactions.
WLJ: What career would you have pursued if you weren’t an attorney?
Shumow: My training is in real estate. But even at a young age, I’ve always been fascinated by how cities grow and why they grow in the way they do. I imagine I would have been interested in some facet of development work.
WLJ: What was your favorite toy as a child?
Shumow: I didn’t play with too many toys as a child. I do remember having and really liking one of those red plastic cars that you could sit in. It had a Fred Flintstone motor.
WLJ: What was the last non-work book you read?
Shumow: I’m currently reading ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’ by Goethe.
WLJ: What is your favorite thing to do in Wisconsin?
Shumow: I’m an avid sports fan, so I love watching or attending Badger basketball, Badger football and Brewers baseball games.
WLJ: If you could have one super power, what would it be?
Shumow: I’d never get tired. I could be significantly more productive if I didn’t have to sleep.
WLJ: What trait do you admire most in others?
Shumow: Patience. It is not a trait I come by naturally, and it’s something I’ve tried very much to acquire with age. It is a work in progress.
WLJ: What do you miss most about your childhood?
Shumow: My English teacher in my junior year of high school said that every phase of her life has been an improvement over the last phase. Since hearing that, I’ve decided that I want to be able to say that about my life, too. To that end, I try to not miss things about the past.
WLJ: What is your most prized possession?
Shumow: My dog, Atticus, though please don’t let him know I referred to him as a ‘possession.’
WLJ: What activity could you spend hours doing outside of the office?
Shumow: Walking around. I love exploring cities and nature on foot, as I think you get a much deeper appreciation for the nuances of both natural and man-made structures that way.