Andrea McKinnon’s fervor for the law was cultivated in middle school social studies classes.
“From a young kid, I always wanted to go to law school,” McKinnon said. “In fact, I thought I wanted to be a judge when I was a little kid. I’m not sure why, I think it was in sixth or seventh grade, I was fascinated with things about the courts and the Supreme Court. I sort of declared that that was something I was going to do later.”
But she wouldn’t take that route immediately. Following in her mother’s path of selling residential real estate, McKinnon worked at RE/MAX and then Crye-Leike Realtors Inc. for seven years. And then Sept. 11 happened.
“A lot of things were going on in the world and in the market,” McKinnon said. “I was doing well, but it was really sort of taking over my life. I needed to either make the plunge and hire an assistant and take the next step, or, I needed to take that opportunity to redirect my career path. I had a good client base and I was able pull back a little bit, still be OK and transition into something else.”
A native Memphian, McKinnon had received her undergraduate degree from the University of Mississippi in accounting because she “knew it was sort of a difficult degree and it would look good for law school.” She then “wrapped that up real quick,” and landed a job as a tax accountant with AutoZone Inc.
“Then, that sort of transitioned into, ‘Oh, well, I’ll start my master’s in tax, and then maybe I’ll apply to law school somewhere down the road,’” McKinnon said. “It was a roundabout way to get into law.”
Upon graduating from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2008, she nailed her interview with Evans Petree PC, where she is a property tax attorney today.
When asked if she structured her career to eventually wind up in property tax law, McKinnon told her prospective employer, “No, that wasn’t exactly what I planned. But it seemed to be the right fit.”
McKinnon represents taxpayers in administrative and judicial appeals of property tax assessments. She focuses her practice on property tax appeals of multifamily, commercial and industrial properties.
When she’s not working with assessors in various jurisdictions, preparing for hearings or working out settlements, she’s scouring the news in efforts to stay abreast of what’s happening in the commercial and financial markets.
“Knowing what’s going with our clients and the value of their property is critical to knowing how we can best help them,” she said, “and make sure that the value of their property and the taxes they’re paying on their property are in line with what the true market value is.”
Her time in the residential real estate sector helped her understand how buyers and sellers approach the market.
“I understand the market forces that exist and how it impacts that value of property,” McKinnon said. “How supply and demand and how location is so critical. When you’re looking at residential real estate or commercial real estate, comparable sales are still critical. Buyers are buyers and sellers are sellers, it’s just a different type of market.”
And her experience in accounting assisted in shortening the learning curve of property tax law.
“With commercial real estate, these are income-producing properties, generally, and their income stream determines what they’re worth generally,” McKinnon said. “When you combine my background in accounting and tax with my familiarity with the real estate market, I was able to hit the ground running when I started.”
The biggest challenge McKinnon faces is “trying to bridge the gap” in how two parties see the valuation of property.
“It’s been a rough few years for the commercial real estate market, so it’s been a real struggle to where the assessors believe the value is, or they want the value to be, and where the value really is,” she said.
When she’s not working, which is rare, McKinnon enjoys fixing up her house, watching college football and spending time with her 2-and-a-half-year-old son. She’s worked with the White Station High School mock trial team in the past and looks forward to coaching in the future.
“I’m a little bit of a workaholic and I’m not ashamed to say it,” McKinnon said. “So many people, they get out of law school and it takes them awhile to find their home. I was really lucky to find my niche right off. I enjoy what I do – it’s challenging, but it keeps me on my toes. I feel very blessed.”