Jim Pace is a perfect fit for the almost-100-year-old house where he practices law as a partner in Sinai, Schroeder, Mooney, Boetsch, Bradley and Pace.
He easily tells stories of what the house was like before it became an office, how the children played in the dumbwaiter, and how an elderly resident had panic buttons in each room in case she had trouble while living alone. The stories are about families, people and the lives they lived.
And Pace relishes the people and families in his own life.
He grew up in Fallon and came to Reno in 1977 where he graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, with an accounting degree. But the self-described debate geek who wanted to be an FBI scientist found another direction.
"People were always telling me I was a mouthy, talkative, argumentative kid and I should become a lawyer so I took it to heart," he says. "I used to watch 'Perry Mason' reruns and think that would be cool to do."
Pace became a certified public accountant before graduating from the Nevada School of Law, thinking he should have a career in reserve if law school didn't work out. It turns outs he really like accounting, too.
Pace been working as an attorney for 22 years, with the last 20 focused on business and estate planning.
"I would go back to accounting before I did divorce or child custody cases. I did some of those cases at first, but found that I was getting too involved. I would wake up in the middle of the night wondering how I was going to help someone get their child support," he says.
He admires the partners at his firm who practice family law, and he says they have the ability to maintain a professional detachment yet still serve their clients. But he knows the niche he's found is right for him.
"What I like is I'm usually helping someone build something, rather than tearing something down," he says. "I get so much pleasure out of seeing my clients succeed."
Even with the tough economic situation, Pace still works to give his clients, many of whom are suffering a financial reversal, some peace of mind.
He says he recently spoke with a man who was in a financial disaster, and he laid out the man's situation and options. While it wasn't a pretty picture, the man called Pace the next day and told him he'd had his first full night's sleep in a long time.
"Sometimes it's helpful to let them know what's actually going to happen. And sometimes the reality is actually better than what they suppose," he says.
The harsh reality is not something Pace sees only at work, either. While he's watched first-hand as his clients have been affected, he's also seen his wife Deidre, a senior program analyst for Harrah's, working many more hours in the last year.
"'Why is Mom going to work on Sunday?' is a conversation we've had to have this year,' he says. "You say she's going because that's how you keep your job."
While his wife is working, however, Pace is at least making sure Deidre and their three daughters (two of whom live in Reno) are well-fed. Cooking is Pace's creative outlet, and he loves creating dishes for his family. He loves Italian cuisine, and lately has been getting into Indian food as well. He also attempts to cook a few recipes each month from his "Bon Appetit" magazines, just for fun. Pace's brother was a professional cook, and his mother made her four sons a part of the kitchen experience, so cooking was always cool in his family.
"I kill trees for a living all day, then I get to go home and switch gears. Only so much time you can devote to trust documents," he says. "It gets my creative juices flowing.
"My wife loves it. Her mother has a home economics degree, but was a bit autocratic in her teaching so Dee rebelled. But she really appreciates my cooking. The kids love it, too. I've had them at my elbow since they could hold a knife."
Spending time with his family is one of the reasons Pace loves being his own boss, and it's one of the benefits he passes along to his employees. He says he's a parent first, and knows that you need to treat employees the way you'd want to be treated.
"I can't pay big-firm wages, but I can offer flexibility and humanity," he says. "I see the juxtaposition between the corporate world and being self-employed every day. My wife works in the corporate world. I'm the one who's able to pick up our daughter after school if something is wrong. Plus, if I had to be a drone, I wouldn't have the energy and ability to be the boss I want to be," he says.
The fact he tries to take care of his employees like they were family says a lot about Pace. He lost his parents at a relatively early age, and the loss made a large impact on him.
"What would I like people to remember about me? That I was a good dad. It's really important to me to be present and involved in their lives. I aspire to be perfect," he says with a wink. But I don't always make it."
The family lawyer
Who: Jim Pace
What: Attorney and partner in Sinai, Schroeder, Mooney, Boetsch, Bradley
Family: Wife, Deidre, two daughters and
He says: "With all the cuts to education, we're not competing with other states anymore, but with Third World countries."