I grew up in Port Washington, N.Y., less than 20 miles from Manhattan. As a teen, I worked one summer for Publishers Clearinghouse in their sweepstakes department with nearly 100 other teens. It was fun. We opened and sorted the sweepstakes forms that people completed and mailed back. When the assignment ended, my boss asked me to stay on for the rest of the summer in the marketing department. The experience taught me that, regardless of the job, if you're diligent and conscientious it pays off.

I attended Syracuse University initially as an architecture major. It's a field I'm still passionate about, but I thought it would make a better avocation than vocation. I changed my major and graduated with a B.S. in accounting in 1985. I got a job with Ernst & Young — then Ernst & Whinney — and worked as a CPA for three years, but always intended to go to law school. After graduating from Brooklyn Law School in 1991, I worked for the New York law firm Proskauer Rose LLP in their trusts and estates group for about nine years.

In 2000 I joined U.S. Trust as a senior vice president. I enjoyed practicing law, but a headhunter called me and the position was an interesting opportunity. I had worked with U.S. Trust while at Proskauer, and admired the organization and its people. I did some soul searching and decided to make the move. I realized that financial services firms were recruiting from the major law firms because they needed people with legal expertise to help structure planning for their high-net-worth clients.

My tax background, along with my legal background, is a perfect combination for this field. I'm a better practitioner for it. Clients want to make informed decisions based on integrated and holistic advice. We assist them from the initial goal-setting stages, through education and ultimately in structuring and implementing their estate and investment planning. We act as the architect for our clients' planning and investing.

The speed of change regarding tax laws and regulations in this environment is fascinating, and sometimes frustrating. Late last December, we had a major tax bill that included significant income and estate tax changes. We had less than two weeks before year-end, to not only digest and understand the implications, but also find planning opportunities for our clients. We were able to do it in the generation-skipping tax area. We had to communicate with the appropriate clients and their attorneys and act as quickly as possible. Clients expect this insight, analysis and service — and so do I.