A Mentor Like None Other

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Attorney finds working for dad elevates her game

Catherine Scarminach grew up on Hilton Head Island and wanted to explore new lands after high school.

She went to Atlanta for college, Knoxville to teach and Nashville to practice law.

But then her father, Chuck Scarminach, managing partner of Novit and Scarminach, called in 2011 with an offer that gave her pause.

“I called and told her our firm was going to be taking on a new associate and after that, we didn’t plan to grow any further. It was now or never if she wanted to return to Hilton Head,” Chuck said.

Catherine remembers, “we had a discussion about where I was going with my career. I was just beginning and anyone would be lucky to have that opportunity to work at Novit and Scarminach. And I did miss my family.”

Chuck Sr. said he didn’t push any of his five children to follow his footsteps.

“I was neutral on it,” he said. “It’s a hard business. There are so many lawyers now. It’s a different business now. It’s hard to practice on Hilton Head Island.”

If anyone knows what it’s like to practice law on Hilton Head, it’s Chuck. A former U.S.Army Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG), he was hired on the spot by Sea Pines Company’s Charles Fraser in 1973. He started his own rm in 1978 and thinks Novis & Scarminach is the oldest rm on the island. When development was at its peak, the rm had 12 attorneys.

Catherine and her brother Chuck, who is a business litigator in Charleston, are both attorneys. The rest of her siblings are scattered around the world. Robert is an Army of cer stationed in South Korea, brother John lives in Atlanta and her sister Karen lives in New York City.

Chuck Sr. encouraged Catherine and Chuck Jr. to start out at large rms, which they did.

“I never expected Catherine to come back to Hilton Head,” Chuck said. “Nashville is an exciting town.”

As with most new attorneys, Catherine handled a range of cases, from criminal to family law. She realized real estate and estate law was more to her liking. Her dad’s call in 2011 was well timed.

She agreed to come back home.

“I realized what it was like to live on Hilton Head as an adult. I had to gure out how to entertain myself,” she said. Soon afterward, she met her future husband and now is the mother of two.

“I couldn’t be happier to raise my family here and have my children near their grandparents. My grandparents lived in New York so I only saw them once a year or so. My kids get to see my parents all of the time.”

While Chuck specializes in corporate, real estate and commercial law, Catherine concentrates on residential real estate, estate planning and probate law.

Both were cautious to be impartial when Catherine joined the firm.

“The initial part is you want to make sure the rest of people don’t think your daughter is getting special treatment,” Chuck said.

And as he did when he coached his kids’ sports team when they were young, he pushed Catherine harder than other employees.

“I told them, ‘you have to earn your spurs,’” Chuck said. Catherine reports to someone other than her father, but she’s aware he’s watching.

“I want to live up to his expectations. We don’t work together so it’s not overly oppressive. He has a vested interest in me, so he takes the extra time to mentor me,” she said. Chuck loves the arrangement.

“It’s been a joy, having a family member that you can work with directly. I’m sure I drive her crazy with all of my suggestions. I’ve always enjoyed mentoring young people.

“I think ‘boy, she’s really coming along’ and I get to see it. It’s sel shly rewarding.”