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Front Page - Friday, March 6, 2020

Floberg can’t seem to pull herself away from classroom

Hollie Floberg is a business law attorney with Grant, Konvalinka & Harrison in Chattanooga. She became a lawyer after working as an accountant for several years. - Photo by David Laprad |The Ledger

As a business law attorney and former accountant, Hollie Floberg is comfortable with numbers. Some might even say she’s good with them.

But as Floberg counts her careers, she stops at two. Even though she teaches an online accounting class for her alma mater, Tennessee Wesleyan University, she doesn’t consider serving as an adjunct professor to be one of her careers, or even a side gig.

This is because Floberg loves school. Whether she’s a student, a teacher or merely daydreaming about being a student or teacher, school is one of her passions.

“If I could earn money going to school, that’s where I’d be,” Floberg says with a laugh. “I like to learn.”

Floberg’s father pushed her to pursue an education. He had earned a GED and joined the Navy, but he wanted his daughter to go to school.

“Joining the Navy was his dream. He loved it,” Floberg says. “But he saw the way the world was trending and believed an education would be a necessity.”

Floberg has rarely not been in school since her first day in kindergarten. Indeed, school has been such a ubiquitous presence in her life, it’s guided her through the major crossroads in her 36 years.

Although 5-year-old Floberg wanted to be an attorney, 16-year-old Floberg liked the accounting class she took in high school, which she pursued as an accounting major at Tennessee Wesleyan College.

But after Floberg graduated and began working in the field for a discount store in Athens, she missed being in class.

“When I was in college, I was working 40 hours a week and going to school full time, so there was a gap,” she says.

Floberg decided she wanted to be an adjunct teacher, so she asked the head of the business department at Tennessee Wesleyan what she needed to do to become an accounting instructor. The answer was to earn a master’s degree, so Floberg filled the void with night classes at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

After graduating, Floberg called the head of the business department at her alma mater and told her she was ready to teach. The woman was surprised.

“I was quiet in class. I guess she just didn’t envision that I would want to teach, but I liked school in any way, shape or form,” Floberg says.

Despite her passion for education, Floberg would like to forget her first day as a teacher. She arrived in class with the wrong textbook.

“I assumed I had the wrong book because everyone else had this other one,” she recalls. “Luckily, the first chapter of most managerial accounting textbooks is basically the same, so we made do.”

Floberg did more than make do as a teacher, she excelled, and in time Tennessee Wesleyan asked if she wanted to teach full-time. While she initially enjoyed the position, Floberg is not a fan of downtime, and the gap opened again.

“I should have realized that would not have been the best long-term fit for me,” she says.

Floberg began studying for a Ph.D., but tacking more accounting material on top of what she was already handling as a teacher brought her to the end of that path. “I burned myself out,” she admits.

Floberg decided to pull her childhood dream of becoming an attorney out of mothballs and went to law school. This surprised her peers in accounting.

“I was in school for accounting during the Enron debacle, so all I got was, ‘Why would you want to be an accountant? You should be a lawyer,’” Floberg says. “Then, when I decided to go to law school, everybody was like, ‘But you’re an accountant. Why do you want to be a lawyer?’”

After graduating from Washington and Lee University in Virginia in 2016, Floberg secured a job with Grant, Konvalinka & Harrison in Chattanooga and began the second phase of her professional life.

As a business law attorney, Floberg handles a variety of matters, including forming LLCs, drafting operating agreements, reviewing contracts and more. As she puts it, her practice is “a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”

“That’s good for me because it keeps me from becoming bored,” she says.

The largest portion of Floberg’s practice entails tax work, but even that enables her to touch on other areas of the law.

“I might be working on a case in which the issues revolve around financial documents, or I might be helping with a divorce that involves a lot of assets, and there are financial implications there.

“So, I have a lot of opportunities to parlay my financial background into other areas. That’s good because even though I enjoy tax work, variety is the spice of life.”

Floberg’s desire for this spice is evident outside the office, as well. Her personal interests include an assortment of leisure time pursuits, including reading and watching science fiction, watching NASCAR and retail therapy.

As a science fiction fan, Floberg prefers “Star Trek” to “Star Wars.” As a NASCAR enthusiast, she’s attended the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. As a shopper, she likes to accessorize.

“I’m a watch person,” she confesses with a smile. “I have way too many watches and probably way too many shoes.”

When Floberg isn’t buying tickets to the next NASCAR event or searching for a new timepiece, she makes time to contribute to her community and profession.

Her current civic involvement includes sitting on the board of Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, while her work as treasurer of the local chapter of the Southeast Tennessee Lawyers Association for Women (SETLAW) allows her to support her female peers in the legal field.

Although all this would be more than enough for anyone (even someone who’s “single and searching,” as Floberg puts it), Floberg will stop everything to spend time with her godchildren.

“My roommate after college and I were practically joined at the hip, and after I married him off and they had kids, I became the godmother,” she explains.

Although Floberg has shifted gears when a job or career has lost its allure, she believes the legal profession will hold her interest. She says she’s pleased with the decision she made to become an attorney and doesn’t foresee anything drawing her away.

Except for maybe school.

“I don’t know if I’ll earn another degree. If I do, it will probably be an LLM in tax law,” she says. “I don’t think I’m going change careers again, either. Two is enough, right? I could teach full time, though. That would be a good retirement plan.”