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Front Page - Friday, September 30, 2022

A title, a survey and success

Edwards enjoys process, rewards of ‘dirt law’

Chattanooga real estate and finance attorney Rachel Edwards is now practicing at Baker Donelson, where she’s contributing to the work of the firm’s long-term health care team. - Photo courtesy of Baker Donelson

As the daughter of an attorney who practiced “dirt law,” Rachel Edwards liked knowing her father had a hand in building some of the shopping centers and other commercial enterprises in her hometown.

Born in Knoxville but raised in Chattanooga, Edwards played the role of the proverbial apple that fell close to the tree when she decided to follow her father, Jeffrey Guild of Miller & Martin, into the law.

Although Edwards had competed in mock trial at Red Bank High School, she had no desire to be a litigator. Instead, she wanted to labor behind the scenes as a transactional attorney.

“As one of my law school professors said, ‘If you like drama and conflict, do litigation, and if you like the happy side of the law, do transactions,’” Edwards says. “I liked the idea of putting a deal together, so that was a natural fit for me.”

Edwards, 45, also wound up following her father into “dirt,” or real estate, law.

Now when she drives her children around Chattanooga, she can point to the developments in which she had a hand during her 20 years of practicing law, including the former Alstom plants, the Wild Ridge residential development in Signal Mountain and the Broad Street property Publix is leasing.

The Broad Street site provided Edwards with an opportunity to do what she enjoys the most about her work – combining a jumbled assortment of parcels into a single piece of land suitable for a commercial venture.

“I like a title and a survey,” she says. “It’s like putting together a puzzle. And downtown Chattanooga is nuts because it was divided into so many tiny pieces.”

Included among the bits of land that now form the property on which Publix sits were several easements for “people who were no longer around,” Edwards notes.

In addition, a company that had purchased oil and gas rights on the property had gone bankrupt. To resolve this, she drew up a quiet title (a lawsuit filed to establish ownership of real estate when ownership is in question).

“Going through the history of a title, figuring out where it went wrong and then fixing it is gratifying,” Edwards says.

Although Edwards often must deal with jagged parcels of land, she can draw a straight line from high school to Baker Donelson, where she’s been practicing since Aug. 15 of this year.

After graduating from Red Bank, Edwards earned her undergraduate degree at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and then attended law school at the University of Tennessee.

Following a brief stint practicing medical malpractice law, Edwards joined Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel in Chattanooga, where she developed her real estate practice.

She moved to Baker Donelson this year after attorney Richard Faulkner extended an invitation to apply her experience in real estate, commercial lending and finance to the firm’s long-term health care – or senior living – work.

“The opportunity to do something different that was still in my wheelhouse was intriguing,” Edwards explains. “There’s been a learning curve but I like what I’m doing.”

Although Edwards has a different destination when she leaves her Signal Mountain home for work each morning, she returns to the comforting familiarity of her family at the end of each day.

Edwards is married to Dan Edwards, a dentist with Shallowford Family Dental Group. They have three children together, including a daughter who’s in high school and twin boys who are in seventh grade.

All three are attending Signal Mountain Middle High School and are active in sports – which fills Edwards’ leisure time.

“It’s a good thing we’re big sports fans,” she laughs.

Edwards is also enthusiastic about serving her community. She previously served on the board of the Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachian and is currently on the board of the Lookout Mountain Conservancy.

Additionally, Edwards is a trustee at Signal Crest United Methodist Church, where she also serves as a small group leader for middle school girls.

Like her work in the law, these activities give Edwards an opportunity to have a hand in building her hometown.

“I like meeting and helping people,” she says. “It means a lot to be able to contribute to this community.”