Shifting Focus

My Transition from Photography to Estate Planning

By Melissa Miroslavich

At first glance, there seem to be no common threads between the before and after of my drastic mid-life career shift. After 17 years as the owner and operator of a successful boutique photography studio, I went to law school and entered the legal profession. It felt like one minute I was standing in knee-high water juggling expensive camera equipment during a senior photo session, and the next minute I was sitting in a conference room with elderly clients making decisions about their end-of-life wishes.

As disparate as these two careers are on the exterior, though, the threads weave together in an important way. Both are about authentic connection with clients, a connection that helps them capture their stories for themselves and their families.

This career change came about almost by accident. After years in the constantly-changing photography industry—I started in an era of fine art black and white film photography and moved into the digital age—I faced a decision. Would I stay in photography as my lifelong career and continue to evolve with the industry or would I transition to another path? As a person who thrives on change and variety, I decided I was ready to explore a career pivot. 

I had initially considered law school after undergrad, and years later during a presentation by the dean of Mitchell Hamline, I realized that pathway was still open to me. As I listened to him share the skills required for future success in the legal profession, I heard him describe many traits I already had through my experiences in photography: creativity, versatility, business experience, problem solving and communication skills, and more. I was ready for a new challenge and a new venue where I could continue to hone these skills.

When I initially entered law school, I was convinced I would work with business owners. After all, that’s where I had the most experience. However, after exploring different legal avenues during and after law school, it became clear that what I enjoy most is working with the personal aspects of clients’ lives. It was a lightbulb moment for me. The other areas I tried were never quite right until I came to Schromen Law, a firm I was drawn to because of their authenticity and holistic care for clients.

After settling in at Schromen Law, LLC as an estate planning and elder care attorney, I see even more similarities between my career as a photographer and my journey as a lawyer. This goes beyond my skillset of creativity and versatility.

In both processes, I start with a client conversation. In photography, these interviews took place before a single photo was taken. In estate planning, it happens before a single document has been drafted. In both professions, this is an entry point for authentic dialogue and a chance to make my clients comfortable. During these conversations, I learn more about my clients: who they are and how they want to be represented. It’s also a time for loved ones to hear each other’s wishes. When I was creating images for high school seniors, for example, the teenage boy could listen as his mom explained why she wanted him to wear a suit in some of his portraits, and his mom could listen as he told her why he wanted to wear his athletic gear. A plan could be made that gave space and time for both concepts. In this way everyone benefited and was happy with the outcome. In estate planning, I listen and hold space during challenging conversations about healthcare wishes and benefactors, working to find solutions that achieve peace of mind for all involved.

Estate planning documents are living documents that represent clients in that moment, and similarly, portraits did the same in a visual form. In my photography business I was presenting a legacy through portraits, and now I help to preserve legacies through documents.

Just as I did in my photography business, here at Schromen Law, I work with clients of different ages and stages. From new parents expecting their first child to clients facing a terminal diagnosis and everything in between, my experience as a photographer equipped me with the compassion and capacity to walk through difficult but necessary experiences with a variety of clients. 

One of my most memorable photo sessions involved a young family with a dad facing a terminal diagnosis. Years later, after his death, I was scrolling through social media when I saw those portraits hanging in the background of a post by his wife, a way of preserving the memory of her husband and her daughters’ father. The work I did was meaningful to that family, and I feel that with estate planning work, too. In ways, both are preserving legacies. 

When I owned my own business, I showed up as myself. Thankfully, I can do that as an attorney at Schromen Law as well. My career pivot was worth it as I now get the chance to help clients with this important work in a way that is meaningful and holistic. And when I feel my creative brain needs to be warmed up again, I’ll stretch myself by creating authentic content for our social media channels.




Melissa Miroslavich works with clients to understand their individual goals to create effective, strategic, and adaptable estate plans and collaborates with clients to provide education and advice to help ensure care and asset protection. She believes estate planning is one of the best gifts you can give your loved ones. As such, she also assists pet owners in planning for their pet’s care in the event the pet owner is no longer is able. Melissa is also a qualified neutral under Rule 114 by the Minnesota Supreme Court and was the first attorney in Minnesota to complete Pet Custody Training.