Estate planning attorney Pepprock proves popular despite being new to the area

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LEGAL NEWS PHOTO BY CYNTHIA PRICE

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

It is not every day that the winner of a local newspaper’s popular choice competition has been in the area for less than four years.

But that is the case for Samantha Pepprock of Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, who was recently named “Best Estate ?Planning Attorney” in the Grand Haven area by the Grand Haven Tribune.

And even a brief conversation with Pepprock demonstrates why. Everything she says on the subject of estate planning makes it clear that she is dedicated to improving the prospect that everyday people will not have to struggle as they reach their years of maturity.

“The firm does estate planning for High Net Worth individuals, and I do some of that, but I really do like to work with a lot of average-income people. I like helping those people; I feel like I’m one of them, just a regular person,” Pepprock says.
A native of Milwaukee, Pepprock comes from a family where neither of her parents has a college degree. “My parents aren’t lawyers,” she says. “My mom just recently got her degree [on the way to becoming a medical assistant], my father was drafted into Vietnam. But they’ve been supportive of me all the way, and always told me I could do whatever I wanted.”

Pepprock was determined to be a lawyer starting in seventh grade. “My American History teacher would have us do court cases based on famous instances in history, like the Lincoln assassination,” she explains. “We’d be randomly assigned a role, and I was  the lawyer. Even my parents remember I came home and said, ‘I’m going to be a lawyer someday.’ I always chose political and legal-related activities for high school electives.”

From there she attended Winona State University in Minnesota, where she received her B.L.A. in Pre-Law and Spanish. She co-founded a pre-law Legal Society at the school, and pursued her language studies in Granada, Spain. “I feel I was very fortunate to study abroad in Spanish,” she comments.

When life brought her to WMU-Thomas M. Cooley Law School Grand Rapids campus in 2009, she continued her interest in Spanish as a member of the International Law Society, the Hispanic-Latino Law Society, the Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity, and the Cooley Volunteer Corps, where she worked with Justice For Our Neighbors, Catholic Charities, God’s Kitchen, Kent County Department of Human Services, and the Landlord-Tenant Project of the Kent County Housing Commission. She also won the Best Interviewing and Counseling Client Award.

“I had a great experience at Cooley,” Pepprock says. “My professors were amazing and I learned so much that I was able to pass two bar exams with flying colors. I’m very grateful for Cooley’s methods and Cooley’s professors.”

The first bar exam Pepprock passed was in Wisconsin, where she returned after graduation. It seemed natural with her Spanish background that she would pursue immigration law, and she had already established a successful practice after two years in the diverse community of Milwaukee.

Then life intervened again. Pepprock had met her Michigander husband in law school, but though he originally made the move with her to Milwaukee, they  returned so that he could be closer to his two children in Grand Haven.“At first, we would take the ferry over for visits once a month or so, and they’d come there during the summer. We did that for about 2 years, and at first the kids were so excited about it, but then it started getting hard on them. I didn’t want to be the reason the situation was becoming strained, so we decided to move here,” she says.

Upon her return, she was still able to practice immigration, since it is federal, but – although she retained some clients whose court appearances were in Chicago – she found there were not many immigration cases in the immediate area.

After a period of uncertainty, when she “even waited tables,” Pepprock became a paralegal and, after doing well on her second bar exam, a lawyer in the small Grand Haven offices of Robert E. Robbins, P.C. Her mentor there, Robbins himself, is also a Certified Financial Planner, and he trained her well in the fine points of estate planning as well as other business law.

Pepprock started at the Muskegon office of Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge in January of this year.

In the meantime, she learned she was one of six or seven candidates vying to be the “Best Estate Planning Attorney” in the Grand Haven Tribune contest.

“I have no idea who nominated me. I had so many estate planing clients in Grand Haven, but there were a lot of Muskegon nominees. When I got notified, they said I should have my friends vote; I was already at Smith Haughey and they put it out there on their social media, and I won,” she says with a smile.

This is the fifteenth year the Tribune has given the community the chance to vote for “Best Of’s” in categories from Best Bakery to Best Cleaning Service. In 2018, there were over 86,000 total votes cast.

Though Pepprock is glad that the award will drive estate planning clients to her, since she loves that work, she also does a fair amount of general business law. Recently, she helped with the start-up of an LLC, and she notes that she sometimes runs into new business of that nature when counseling her estate planning clients. “I do a whole slew of things, including real property law, purchase agreements, writing deeds, even property disputes,” Pepprock says.

Right now, Pepprock, who lives in the City of Muskegon and is a member of the State Bar of Michigan (including the Young Lawyers Section) and the bar associations of both Ottawa and Muskegon counties, currently limits her community contributions to serving as treasurer of the Noah Project. Her love of animals promoted her to join the board of the?Muskegon “no-kill” shelter for cats and dogs.

She also actively participates in the activities of the award-winning Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.

This year, Pepprock obtained a Nonprofit Board Certification from the Johnson Center of Grand Valley State University. After presentations at the training, she is considering joining  a library board. “I was intrigued. I’d never thought of it before that, but I’m very passionate about learning and about kids continuing to read as they grow up,” she comments.
 

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