It’s Women’s History Month. Partner Cherie Song sat down with Ellen Cirangle, former managing partner and litigation department chair at LON to ask about how she got started in law, the biggest influences on her career and her advice to younger attorneys.
- What is the most important lesson you’ve learned over your career?
Not to let your ego interfere with the process. Litigation is a team sport, and the client will always be better represented through a team effort, as different individuals bring different perspectives and ideas to issues. Being able to recognize and accept that someone else has a better approach than you to a problem is key to providing clients with the best representation.
- What’s the most important personality trait someone would need to be successful in law/litigation?
To care about the client, the case, the result. If you do not love the law and what you are doing, you will not be a successful litigator.
- Can you talk about a mentor or someone who has played a significant role in your legal career?
In my first law firm job I was able to participate as part of a team of lawyers in several significant trials. There were two senior partners – Fred Bartlit and Don Scott – one an amazing writer, and one a renowned trial lawyer. They both spent significant amounts of time teaching me to advocate through writing and how to prepare for trial and how to win. I have taken those lessons with me throughout my career, and they have had a tremendous impact on my abilities, and I will always be grateful for the time they took to mentor me.
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, and how has it influenced you?
Law is a service business. We are here to serve the clients, and we need to understand what drives them and what a “win” looks like to them, rather than litigating in a vacuum without that understanding and goal. I try with all my clients to understand their needs, and to keep communication flowing so that we are working for the same goals.
- What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone starting out in law?
Litigation is an incredibly rewarding job – it’s mentally challenging and stimulating, and you get a chance to interact with interesting people and situations, and to help people navigate their legal issues. If you enjoy being a litigator, it’s a great and rewarding career. Seek out mentors early on who can help you grow your skill set.
- What was your first legal job?
I was a law clerk for the Honorable Ann Aldrich in the United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland. Being able to see court in action for a year before starting in private practice gave me tremendous confidence that I could be a successful trial attorney.
- What’s been the most memorable moment of your career so far?
There have been so many! I have been lucky to have a lot of interesting cases and clients and high-profile cases. But one case I think of often was when I was practicing in Denver, I heard on the news that a local animal rescue group was being evicted immediately and they had no place for the dogs to go. I stopped by their property, introduced myself and offered to help. I was able to get an injunction stopping their eviction for several months and negotiate a time frame for them to get the animals new shelter. Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge dog lover so the fact I was able to help has always stuck with me.
I have also been very proud of the successes our team has had going against large firms with vast resources and obtaining victories against market manipulators.
- Who did you look up to growing up?
My mom. She worked full time as a nurse while raising three of us. At the age of 40 after my parents divorced she went back to school to obtain her Registered Nursing degree so she could better herself and her earning potential to support our family.