By Rick Baraff | Photos by Rick Baraff
Sometimes we’re reminded that there are real life angels out there. Unless you’re sitting across from her in a litigation room, you’d know that Denise Paulson, a fourth generation San Franciscan, is one of the city’s savviest and most unique live winged wonders. From her perch high above downtown, with views from bridge to bridge (Golden Gate to Bay), she runs a litigation support consultancy for the likes of the attorneys who represent Google and Apple. She also operates a private real estate practice for high net worth individuals, providing portfolio management.
Although she exhibits a natural inclination towards helping others through her support and protection of numerous clients day in and day out, it became particularly evident nearly 30 years ago, when she became a mother literally overnight after adopting her two-year-old niece, Sophia.
During the late 1980s, while embarking on a life of good times and travel amidst a career as a litigation paralegal, Denise adopted Sophia as the result of a family crisis. Going from self-proclaimed out-on-the-towner to buttoned-down churchgoer almost instantaneously focused Denise’s resolve even further until the successes began piling up.
Recognizing the Bay Area as a burgeoning tech mecca during the late 1990s, Denise jumped in on the start-up wave, not with an idea for an app or web browser, but to take care of newly minted internet moguls by offering deluxe concierge services. She parlayed that into a real estate business and juggled–with aplomb–three incredibly high-powered gigs all while finding time to devote to single-mothering Sophia.
Denise believes much of her success is due to the karma of caring for Sophia. Others, though, who recognize her meticulous approach to work, her tendency to nurture and mentor employees and colleagues, and understand her mind, which is always a step ahead of everyone else in the room, can see that it’s as much about determination and foresight as it is about her innate street smarts.
This has all rubbed off onto Sophia, who continues to rack up degrees in everything from nursing to real estate and business. However, it’s more than an arms-length “family situation.” This is a true mother-daughter team with as much love, respect, and arguing as any.
Denise still gets choked up recalling her formative years with Sophia. “It was a wonderful and wild experience being a mother overnight. I never thought twice about it. Sophia was a beautiful child with a head full of curly hair and a sweet disposition. She made it easy, learned how to eat sushi with chopsticks at age three, and was a delightful child, always full of wonder,” fawns Denise.
While they’ll both admit to Denise’s early “my way or the highway” parenting, Denise realized the need for a teenage Sophia to start spreading her own wings. The adage “if you love something, set it free” absolutely applies, and after a stint in Hawaii to seek some personal growth and a trial period with her parents, Sophia flew back into Denise’s wings as a full-fledged adult.
But don’t let her mild-mannered exterior fool you. Sophia is a chip off the old block, poised to follow in mom’s self-made footsteps if she wants. A traveling nurse sounds pretty appealing, at least for a few years. Just knowing that Sophia has a chance to become anything she wants and has the love every child deserves is enough for Denise.