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Stephen Ellis Offers Seven Simple Suggestions for Success and Happiness in the Law

Who says lawyers can't be happy?  Certainly not Stephen Ellis, a partner at the Cleveland office of Tucker, Ellis & West, a 150-lawyer full-service firm.  A happy--and successful--lawyer who has spent 36 years in the profession, Ellis challenges the ideas that the number of hours billed determines a lawyer's worth, and that making more money makes lawyers more happy.

In a time when there are many news reports about lawyers' unhappiness, depression, lack of civility, and poor work-life balance, Ellis offers a refreshing viewpoint.  While he doesn't ignore the problems lawyers face, he focuses on the positive aspects of the practice of law.  He observes that when we lawyers move away from an emphasis on billable hours as the basis of generating revenue and, even more problematically, our own worth, we can turn our attention to helping clients solve problems and even rediscover what he calls "the endlessly fascinating puzzles that make being a lawyer fulfilling."

What's Stephen Ellis' secret to a happiness and success in a lawyer's life?  He recently shared seven of them at the May 2008 commencement ceremony at Case Western Reserve University's School of Law.

  • Be there for your clients when they need you.
  • Don't be obnoxious.  Do a good job on the law, facts, and strategy, but don't make it personal.
  • Be enthusiastic about your clients' matters; ask how something can be done rather than rattling off reasons why it can't.
  • Believe in your brain--some things people tell you really might not make sense.
  • Stay focused and stay with it--renew daily your commitment to good work and reliability.
  • Get "outside" yourself and participate in community events.  Such involvement is a great way to meet more people and broaden your appreciation for your community; plus, you have a lot to offer, and you'll have fun.
  • Be nice.  In Ellis' own words, "Cliche it may be, but being pleasant and friendly makes the day's good spots better and the rough spots smoother. And that makes everyone's life better--for sure yours."

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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