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Courtney Flora - Land Use Attorney, Seattle, WA

Article | Seattle, WA | 30 September 2021
Courtney’s passion for public interest environmental work led her to law school and a career path in law. The financial security, diverse and flexible nature of her work are features of her job she appreciates. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
“I can look out of my office window and see all these projects that I’ve worked on. It’s great to be a part of shaping how the city’s skyline looks,” says Seattle-based land use attorney Courtney Flora.

Pausing as she surveys the skyline from her office, Courtney goes on to describe her work which focuses exclusively on land use law, a niche practice in the Seattle area. “We basically help people get permits and get them through the entitlement process. It involves environmental review, design review, and lots of negotiation, with city staff and elected officials,” she explains.

A combination of passions, interests and strengths are what lead Flora to pursue law school and then career in law. “I was always interested in writing and that was my strength,” she confidently conveys. “But the main reason that I got into this line of work was I had a passion for public interest environmental work, which is why went to law school.”

After law school, as many students do, Courtney said she had “some pretty substantial loans,” she had accrued which prompted her to take a job and start to pay them off. “It’s a very typical story, I clerked for a judge in Seattle, I worked for the government for a while and then I went into private practice.”

From her office window, Courtney can see the projects in Seattle that has increased the quality of life for its residents. One such project was the Ferris wheel that her children tell people “my Mom built that”. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
“I've never done environmental law. I thought I would be more of a public interest environmental advocate,” admits Flora. “But I feel like the land use work I do is very much about stimulating urban infill and big commercial downtown projects. I think the theory especially in Washington is to try to make downtown environments more liveable and more attractive to people, so that we can preserve the areas outside the city. So, I do feel like the work that I'm doing is fairly consistent with the environmental principles that I had when I came into this work,” Courtney highlights.

The financial security, diverse nature and flexibility of her work are all attractive features for Flora who is a mother of two. “The financial piece is huge as I’ve got two kids. The great thing about my work is that it is diverse, and I have a lot of flexibility,” she emphasizes. “A good day is a mix of writing briefs, hearings, examiner appeals and a lot of meetings with people, so it’s intellectually stimulating, and I don’t get bored.”

Being a partner at her firm also offers Courtney great advantages such being able to have good work life balance, doing work at a high level and being involved in very interesting projects.

Pikes Place Market in the heart of Seattle provides a venue for hundreds of small businesses to sell their wares and for the people to meet and enjoy this dynamic city. This is also the site of the original Starbucks which is easy to spot: there is always a long line outside. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
As a working mother she highlights the importance of being able to leave her office at 4:15 pm everyday so that she can spend time with her children, something she feels incredibly fortunate to be able to do.

“There is dignity in giving workers the respect to be able to manage their own schedules in a way that makes sense for their families and to be able to take time off when it's reasonable.”

Apart from the skills she has developed from her legal training and experience, Courtney adds that being able to deal with various people and their personalities and really understanding the psychology of the person in a particular situation or circumstance is very useful. “That part is not really law. It's just about how to effectuate the result, given the circumstances,” she reflects.

For Courtney work represents stability, security and an opportunity to grow. Growing up with a single mother who encountered struggles Flora says she “has always been very conscious,” of the fact that she needs to avoid being in a similar situation.

Courtney strongly believes that it is important for all workers to have a healthy work life balance. Empowering workers to manage their schedules and take time off at reasonable times she believes leads to dignity and the increased productivity of workers.ILO Photos/ John Isaac
“It’s always been important for me to provide for my family and feel like I have that independence to do so. I find my work intellectually stimulating, it allows me to grow, it makes me a better mom and a better person overall,” Flora says with great conviction.

Flora hopes her children will be able to do work they love and be able to afford the cost of living in a city like Seattle, which is becoming increasingly more expensive to live in.

“It’s really hard to find a balance between work that you love and being able to afford living in a city like Seattle. I worry a lot about whether they will be able to in the future. I just hope my kids are able to keep an open mind but also do something that allows them to support themselves,” she says in a serious tone.

Balancing her work and family life balance, Courtney shares that she is proud of her work and to be able to leave a little bit of legacy in her adopted city of Seattle for her children.

“I worked on the Ferris wheel downtown,” she says pointing through her office window. “And my kids always say ‘Oh, that’s the Ferris wheel Mom built,’ but of course, that's not true,” she chuckles. “I just got some of the permits for it.