Class of 2009
Joseph Polito describes himself as a “real estate nerd.” He loves working on a new development, from land acquisition in the beginning to leasing strategies at the end. Graduating with a degree in economics from the University of Michigan in 2004, he worked for two years as a real estate broker and loved the job.
Law school might not seem like the next logical step, but it was all part of his plan.
“Finance skills are valuable in this job, and that’s the kind of thing you can learn in business school or on the job, but I wanted a law degree to set myself apart,” he said. Polito moved to Seattle in 2006 and graduated from Seattle University School of Law in 2009.
“With a legal education, you look at the world differently. You become a problem solver. For example, if a site is contaminated, some people might say you can’t build there, it’s too complicated, and just walk away. But I see it in terms of knowing all the steps we can take to make it happen.”
Plus, lawyering is something of a family tradition. His father is a lawyer, and so is his sister. Polito chose Seattle University School of Law partly because his sister was a graduate but also because he saw Seattle as an exciting and growing city – the perfect place to ply his trade.
Polito now works as a development manager at Touchstone Corporation, where he manages urban in-fill development projects, primarily office buildings and hotels. Since he’s a licensed attorney, he also serves as a limited in-house counsel when drafting, reviewing and negotiating legal documents related to purchases and leases.
As a businessperson with a law degree, Polito said he’s been able to find the sweet spot between opportunity and risk. “Lawyers see everything in terms of liability, while entrepreneurs see everything in terms of potential payoff,” he said. “It’s nice to be in the center.”
Though Polito did have an internship at a law firm while in law school, he stuck with his plan to stay in real estate and focused his classes in that area of interest.
Polito credits the law school not only with teaching him the skills he needs to succeed in real estate, but also an appreciation for social ventures and volunteer work. To that end, he currently serves on the Board of Directors for Haiti Babi, a not-for-profit social venture that employs Haitian women to knit and crochet high-end baby blankets for sale in the United States.