From corporate attorney to interior designer: how a UM Law grad found her creative calling and a new career

Three years after joining a major international law firm, Summer Schamy signed up for a certificate program in interior design through the University’s Division of Continuing and International Education.
Summer Schamy in home she designed
Summer Schamy, J.D.'18, poses in a room she designed.

As a young girl, Summer Schamy remembers tagging along with her parents to the tile or paint store on weekends for home improvement projects. From the backseat, she would beg them to stop for every open house they passed so she could peek inside.

At home, she’d watch hours of HGTV and constantly redecorate her bedroom. She loved to play with different patterns, textures, and decorative paper.

“I’ve always been a creative person who loves to paint and draw,’’ she said. “I love beauty and making pretty things.”

So how did she end up No. 3 in her class at UM Law and, eventually, working at the global law firm DLA Piper, in the Miami office, handling healthcare mergers and acquisitions?

“I was really good at it,” said Schamy, J.D.'18. “And I liked it a lot. It was a great position. But I think I was always meant to be on a creative path.”

After a little soul searching, conversations with her parents and others, and three years working as a lawyer—Schamy said she finally decided to “listen to the little voice” in her head that told her she belonged in interior design.

She searched for programs online and found the University of Miami’s Interior Design Certificate Program, offered through the Division of Continuing and International Education (DCIE) and its Office of Professional Advancement (OPA).

“I didn’t want to go back the undergraduate route, but I wanted to learn as much as I could about the fundamentals of design, as well as the technical and business aspects of the discipline,” she said.

“The certificate program was a perfect fit. The cost, the timeline, and the curriculum—it hit all the points I was looking for. Having already been a UM alumna, I knew the program would be great. I didn’t hesitate to sign up.”

Schamy took classes online every Saturday for 24 weeks and graduated in April 2021. Just a few months later, she opened her firm, Summer Schamy Studio, with little more than an Instagram account packed with her ideas and inspirations.

“I started slowly by actively posting on social media to gain a bit of an Internet presence,’’ she said. “It helped that I grew up in Miami and have a network here. Clients began to pour in soon after. I haven’t done any advertising. It’s all been through Instagram and word of mouth.”

Schamy said her experience at UM Law has helped in her design career.

"Having a law degree and experience working as a corporate attorney was very helpful in starting my own business,’’ she said. “I did not need to hire a lawyer to form my LLC or draft my company's operating agreement and services agreements I enter into with my clients."

Schamy describes her design approach as “curated, unique and one of a kind.” She gets to know her clients, their lifestyles and needs, and works with them to make sure the space feels authentically theirs and suits their tastes.

“I want them to feel totally comfortable and at home in their space, not like it is overly designed or formulaic,’’ she explained.

She also wants every home she designs to feel lived in and said she never asks a client to sacrifice style or design for fear that something might be spilled on a new cream-colored carpet.

“It’s a home, not a showroom,’’ she said. “And these days, there are so many performance fabrics or materials that are man-made and very durable. You’ve got to enjoy your life and live in your home.”

She said the University’s design certificate program gave her the knowledge she needed to feel confident making such a substantial career change.

She learned the history of design, designers and their styles, as well as the mechanics of freehand drafting, computer drafting, and selecting materials.

Because the courses are taught by industry professionals, she also learned a good deal about the business side of design.

“Not only did the program teach me the technical skills I needed to be successful, but it also gave me the qualifications and confidence I needed to start my business and begin taking on clients,’’ said Schamy, who said she has recommended the program to friends. “It’s perfect for a working person or a stay-at-home mom who needs to take balance classes with other things.”

The most critical advice she offers to aspiring designers is to explore the world of design from wherever they are, well before they set foot in a classroom or take a class online.

“Between keeping up with design publications, visiting your city's showrooms, following amazing accounts on Instagram and Pinterest, and having conversations with other design professionals, there are endless ways to see, learn, and touch,’’ she said.

“Ask as many questions as you can. That way not only will you gain knowledge and train your eye, but you'll also build relationships with vendors, learn about furniture, lighting, or textile designers, and start building a great sample library to refer to in future projects.”

Registration is now open for the Interior Design Certificate Program, which begins in February 2024. Use code HOLIDAY to save $300 on tuition before Jan. 2, 2024. Visit Summer Schamy Studio on Instagram.