It was the building boom of the 1970s that brought Aiken native Denny Fraser to Hilton Head Island. It was the island’s lifestyle that has kept him here.
He arrived in 1973 when his employer, then Daniel International Corp., put him in charge of the field office for the Queens Grant development in Palmetto Dunes.
Enamored with the area, Fraser, a licensed builder, stayed, eventually starting his own construction company that later specialized in fabricating metal building products.
With his company going well and with the blessing of his wife, he considered a new chapter in his life: law school.
“I always had an interest in going back to school,” he said.
It wasn’t an expected path in the 1990s for a 48-year-old father of two.
No matter, Fraser did it anyway. “I knew the window was closing,” he said.
The University of South Carolina offered only a full-time law curriculum. Fraser had to drop everything to be in Columbia all week for his education.
“I left Hilton Head at 4 a.m. on Mondays and returned late Friday evenings for three years. Fortunately, my children were young enough, 6 and 12 at the time, that I only missed a couple of hours in the evenings with them,” Fraser said. “We made up for it on the weekends. But it was extremely difficult on my wife."
Fraser passed the bar on his first try and joined Finger & Fraser in 2001, focusing on property, construction and commercial law. He likes that type of law. “We work on making deals, not breaking deals,” he said. He went out on his own two years ago, forming the Fraser Law Firm.
In the meantime, many people have asked Fraser about his experience with his midlife career do-over.
“I was contacted by a lot of middle-age people who had lifelong dreams that they couldn’t realize earlier for one reason or another, be it family or career or financial,” he said.
He decided to capture his experience in a book, “Law School at Fifty: Read It Now and Thank Me Later,” published locally by Cowcatcher Publications.
“I hoped that it would bring joy and laughter to others. It’s been out nearly a year. It was fun to do,” he said.
The description on Amazon reads: “‘Law School at Fifty’ is more than a witty memoir; it is a thoughtful personal narrative about picking up a dream while ignoring the inescapable question, why did you ever think you could.”
His advice to others considering an education-intensive goal later in life is that there has to be a reality check early on.
“There has to be a cost-benefit analysis. People should not go into a profession without doing a market analysis. Unless you’re doing it as a hobby, the investment is huge,” he said. “You have to consider both the deferred income and cost outlay.”
The desire for such sound advice keeps Fraser in front of audiences, telling them about his experiences — the good, the bad and the hilarious.
It’s just another chapter in a life that keeps providing surprises.