Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, June 10, 2022

Mastering the art of ‘hard conversations’

Life lessons carry over into estate, trust practice

Colter Parker is an estate and trust attorney with Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel. He says his life and the people who have been a part of it taught him valuable skills law school didn’t cover. - Photograph provided

Colter Parker says he grew up with wonderful parents and three siblings with whom he remains close.

However, even a loving family can go through trying times, Parker adds, so there were occasions when his father and mother had to sit down with him and have what he calls “a hard conversation.”

“When there are four kids in a house, there can be tension,” he laughs.

Parker, 26, says he’s also had to work through tough moments with his wife, Sloan, whom he met in eighth grade and began to date in high school.

These exchanges as a youth and an adult taught him how to have difficult discussions with someone he loves, he adds.

“I’ve learned how to not only exist within heartache and tension but to also work through it and make good decisions.”

And, Parker continues, he also learned how to be an effective attorney.

Parker is an estate and trust lawyer with Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel in Chattanooga. In this role, he must sometimes tackle delicate topics, including illness and death, with clients. His experience navigating complex emotional terrain helps, he claims.

“Discussing an estate isn’t always easy because you have to deal with death, money and family tension. But the right professional can help you make a plan that works for you, your family and your specific situation – and I love being a part of that.”

Estate planning requires not only good interpersonal skills but also legal expertise. Parker says his Vanderbilt Law School education and his experience working as an associate with the estate planning team at Chambliss have given him the technical background he needs to serve clients well.

“I’m impressed with the extent of the estate planning services at Chambliss,” he says. “We do everything from ultra high net worth tax and estate planning down to helping clients who have qualified for government benefits have some quality of life.”

Parker built the foundation of what would someday be his legal practice during his days as an intern with his father, Clay Parker, a financial planner. As he studied finance and economics at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and worked with his dad, he discovered a love for the financial planning process, he says.

“I enjoyed figuring out where clients were and what their goals were and then developing a path to get them there.”

During his internship, Parker interacted with estate planning attorneys and watched as they plied their trade with clients.

“The work they did was similar to what my father was doing. They’d figure out what their client’s asset make up looked like, determine what their client wanted to accomplish and then help them implement those goals.”

Parker connected with Chambliss through Stophel Distinguished Students, a program at the firm that identifies business students who have made significant contributions to UTC and their community while maintaining a strong academic record.

Chambliss attorney Jeffrey Maddux served as Parker’s mentor and introduced him to the firm’s estate planning team. As Parker observed the practice of law, he was drawn to the legal profession.

“I enjoyed seeing what it looks like to work in estate planning on a daily basis.”

Parker also earned a master’s degree in finance through the business school at Vanderbilt. He’d seen similarities between financial planning and estate and trust work and believed a greater understanding of finance would complement his legal skillset.

“I believe that made me a more capable planner,” he notes.

Attorney Greg Willett, head of the estate and trust team at Chambliss, agrees.

“With both a ... (juris doctor) and a ... (master’s) in finance, Colter has the legal and financial skill sets to assist and advise clients in a unique way – whether on the planning side for business succession, or on the post-death side to assist with a variety of business transition issues.”

Parker says he is pleased to be working in the practice area of his choice and living in the city of his birth. He attended Boyd Buchanan School from kindergarten through high school and married Sloan while they were students at UTC.

Parker says his private education and his upbringing at home instilled him with faith that continues to be a significant part of his life. He and his wife lead a small group of college-age students and young professionals at Brainerd Baptist Church, and he spends a considerable amount of time reading theology.

“I grew up in church, and then when I was in college, I dug into what I believed to make sure it was in fact what I believed.”

Parker continues to dig deep into matters of faith as an avid consumer of theology.

He’s also a big believer in fitness – or at least pumping iron. He’s been lifting weights ever since his father built a workout room in the house in which he grew up. He says he has fond memories of working out with his dad over the years.

Although Parker professes to be less enthusiastic about cardio, he says he’s trying.

One leisure time activity that requires no effort is taste-testing local coffee shop fare with friends. Parker says his favorite menu item is the special of the day – whatever it is.

“I like it all,” he smiles.

This makes Parker’s proximity to several coffee shops from work a boon. But even without liquid motivation, he enjoys his work and the way it allows him to bring his diverse experience to bear in his service to his firm’s clients.

“My finance background, law school and training at Chambliss have provided me with technical competence, while my faith, wife, family and mentors have helped me develop the softer skills and the ability to productively engage in emotionally difficult situations.

“My strength in this job comes from the ability to combine these areas in serving clients.”