I was 25-years-old, fresh out of law school and I knew nothing about how to be a lawyer. I sent an unsolicited resume to a prestigious boutique business law firm. The firm agreed to meet with me and I had an interview with the two partners of the firm. I recall walking out to my car thinking, this is the place where I am going to work. I did not know that this was the place that was going to meet my mentors at and also the place that would mold me into a professional.
At the time, I met with James C. Mahan (now a United States District Court Judge) and Frank A. Ellis III. The partners of Mahan & Ellis, Chtd. They were, at the time, two lawyers who were at the top of their game; smart; experienced and well-respected within the business and legal community. Amazingly, they took a chance on me and they became my mentors.
These two men taught, encouraged and nurtured me through my transition from law student to lawyer. Under their tutelage, I learned much more than law. I learned what it meant to be a true professional. I learned how to advocate for clients and respectfully interact with opposing counsel. They taught me to be simultaneously aggressive and gracious.
They enabled me to meet with their existing clients from my first day on the job. I was arguing in court within days of being licensed in Nevada and I appeared before the Nevada Supreme Court before my 27th birthday. These opportunities are extraordinarily rare for young attorneys. Most newly-minted lawyers spend their days (and often nights) hidden away doing research. If they go to court at all, it is simply to observe more senior lawyers. From the beginning, I went to court alone…essentially flying without a net.
Beyond being exceptional professionals, my mentors are dedicated and devoted to their families. From them I also learned that while you may win cases, none of it matters if you don’t take care of your family. After Jim became a judge, Frank and I became partners (Ellis & Gordon 2000-2015). Shortly after our partnership formed, I discovered I was pregnant. I was anxious over how I would balance motherhood with the practice of law. I recall telling Frank that “nothing would change…I would remain devoted to our law practice.” Without even pausing, Frank said, “everything will change and it will be better….you should bring the baby to work.” I did exactly that with all three of my children. We built out space for them in our building and they came with me from infancy through their respective first days of kindergarten.
Now, decades later, I know that I am the lawyer; business-owner; and proud advocate of our community because of these two gentlemen. My gratitude to them and my respect for them is unyielding.