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Beyond the Office: Attorney Lowell loves do-it-yourself projects

At left: Inside the barn, framing the walls adds a new level of detail to the early stages of the project.

“Gutters aren’t that hard to replace,” Jill Lowell said as she talked about her experience with do-it-yourself projects around the house. She has experience pouring a concrete floor, building two different decks, fixing the foundation of her house, and adding an outside entrance and stairway to the barn loft she is remodeling.

Work days, however, you’ll find her at Littler Mendelson PC in Linden Oaks, focused on employment law. The Rochester office includes seven attorneys, and is one of 56 locations of the San Francisco-based firm.

Where to begin

Originally from Holley, N.Y., Lowell studied philosophy, politics and law at SUNY Binghamton, completing her bachelor’s degree in 2002. By then she was also signed up to attend Washington and Lee School of Law in Lexington, Va., and had law-related work experience that confirmed her enthusiasm for the law.

Lowell liked writing and analysis in college, and landed a job with Orleans County District Attorney Joe Cardone one summer. At the time, that DA’s office was focused on the use of battered women’s syndrome as a defense in a murder trial. She broadened her experience the following year when she interned at the Broome County District Attorney’s office, both earning college credit and getting a much broader exposure to the law.

“Broome County had all kinds of cases, from routine vandalism and check fraud to assault and murder. It was always interesting,” Lowell recalled.

She loved the strategy and analysis behind each case and knew that law was the path for her.

Law school

Jill Lowell

As a first year law student, Lowell was convinced she wanted to be a prosecutor. During her second year, she interned at the U.S. Attorneys’ Office in Roanoke, Va., earning course credits during the school year and a little cash during the summer.

“It was a fantastic experience. The attorneys were great mentors,” Lowell said. “I was in court arguing cases just about every other week, wrote briefs for the court of appeals, and even got to try my first felony case. The felon tried to claim ‘innocent possession,’ and that he found the firearm and was intending to turn it in. Some of the federal circuits have allowed the defense but the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit was undecided.”

About a year later, after Lowell’s internship had ended, the court issued a favorable decision, and one of the attorneys forwarded a copy of the opinion to Lowell, along with a handwritten note for a job well done.

Earning her JD in May 2005, Lowell had an early offer from a local law firm, Wharton, Aldheizer & Weaver in Harrisonburg, Va., and was there for five years.

“My very first assignment out of law school was an employment law issue,” Lowell said. “I liked it. As it turned out, 80 percent of my time would end up being focused on employment law while at the firm.”

Family and career

Meanwhile, Lowell met Crystal England and by 2008 they decided to tie the knot. They went to Connecticut to make it official, and continued to live in Harrisonburg for another two years.

It was largely the outdated adoption laws in the state of Virginia that inspired the couple’s move back to western New York.

In 2009, Lowell had a baby boy, Gavin. The laws in Virginia prohibited Lowell’s wife from adopting him. By May 2010, Lowell had an offer from Littler Mendelson with the opportunity to move back to the Rochester area.

It took a few months to sell their place in Virginia, but by late summer, they found a house in Macedon that was just calling their name. The 8-acre property includes a 3-acre back yard and a two-story barn.

“I fell in love with the barn,” Lowell explained. “It’s 3,700 square feet with a wonderful second floor.”

The ground floor is a perfect workshop area, according to Lowell, which she is continually augmenting with new tools to join her table saw, drill press, air compressor and other assorted power tools.

“My dad knew how to do everything,” Lowell said.

While growing up, she did numerous projects with her dad, and in turn he has helped with both the Virginia and Macedon homes. Lowell also did some projects with Habitat for Humanity, noting how well organized they are in instructing volunteers.

Meanwhile, Lowell’s daughter, Adriana, was born in 2011 and England-Lowell adopted both children.

Do it yourself

Above: The barn loft project began with a new door, stairs and deck and light — all to building code specs.

With a mission to create a wonderful play space for the kids, Lowell drew up blueprints and the barn loft became a big do-it-yourself project.

“At this point the walls are up and the subfloor is in,” Lowell said. “The electric is started, too.”

Lowell’s father helped run the electric in one side of the barn and has reviewed Lowell’s solo work when asked. Her family also helped put in an exterior door, with stairs and a small deck. Her mother helps by watching the children, who, at ages 1 and 3, require lots of watching.

Gavin gets to help with some projects, and knows how to handle various tools. In fact, in the entry way of the house, Gavin was given his own paint and paint brushes to participate in the project, creating a mural that looks something like a fish.

In May 2012, Lowell decided that a large maple tree that was a threat to the house had to come down.  It ultimately produced 25 face cords of wood.  All of it cut and run through the log splitter – in Lowell and her wife’s spare time.

Other interests

As a new mother, Lowell stays fit caring for toddlers. In her high school and college days she played soccer, basketball, softball, co-ed football and lacrosse.

She admitted she reads a lot of do-it-yourself books, and some relaxing fiction when time permits. She absolutely won’t watch lawyer shows on TV.

She is a member of the Monroe County Bar Association and the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys.

“With the barn project and two small children, our days are pretty full,” Lowell said.

 

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