No dramatic bolt from out of the blue, or a long-harbored childhood dream brought Shaun Young, a partner at Keis George LLP, to a career in law. However, the decision did come unexpectedly. Completing his undergraduate studies in political science at Baldwin Wallace University, Young was poised to begin the process of applying to teacher’s colleges for his graduate work.
“I had always planned on becoming a teacher, like my dad, wife and mother-in- law,” he says proudly. “But, to be honest, in some recessed part of my mind, I also played with the idea of becoming a lawyer. As I was preparing to apply to teacher’s colleges, my father mentioned the LSAT.”
He scored well and promptly applied to the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. For Young, who had been a proficient athlete throughout his life, competition was a motivating factor in his every endeavor. Even so, he found law school to be rather different then what he imagined.
“It was a real wake-up call,” Young acknowledges. “Admittedly, because I had always assumed I would be teaching, I really didn’t know what to expect. It was the most consistent environment with some of the most hardworking and dedicated people I’d encountered. One of the things that really stuck with me was receiving what I considered an unacceptable grade on my first exam. I wanted to become the best lawyer I could be, so I buckled down. I knew I had to work even harder and develop an unwavering amount of patience, to be prepared for challenges after graduation. That was the last time I performed below anyone’s expectations.”
His commitment was genuine, his reputation was stellar, and by his third year, Young had clerked for a few different firms. In 2005, he was clerking for Keis George, where after passing the bar, he was invited to stay.
Still a Teacher at Heart
They say it takes a special combination of commitment, compassion and intuition to be a teacher, and these traits remained at the forefront of Young’s principles. Even though he’d diverted from his lifelong career goals, the soon-to-be-lawyer still had a strong desire to serve others and a seemingly innate knack for teaching.
“I was drawn to law in the first place because of my desire to help people,” he says. “Civil litigation was a perfect fit, and Keis George offered me that opportunity. I have a very strong sense of right and wrong, and respect how the practicality of subrogation balances insurance defense. I have clients on the other side of the coin in personal injury. Many of those I defend are being sued for the first time. They are naturally, very uncertain and unsure of what to expect. Often, they are scared.”
“I guess you might say I draw upon my teaching skills a bit,” he continues. “The law can be intimidating and confusing. It’s my job to make sure clients understand exactly what to expect, and to explain their options in a way they understand. Being able to be by their side, and walk them through is very gratifying. They in turn, are greatly relieved to have someone they trust, advocating on their behalf.”
Young’s practice concentrates on subrogation and defense litigation. Subrogation focuses on cases such as large loss fire and product liability, while his defense practice deals primarily with bodily injury and bad faith claims. While his stellar skills in and out of the courtroom have earned him numerous accolades as well as a full partnership at Keis George, he still finds more direct avenues to explore his deep-seated teaching instincts.
Frequently invited to present at conferences, Young is also a regular speaker at many professional events throughout Ohio speaking on the issues of metallurgical failures, defense of first-party bad faith claims and utilization of expert witnesses to name a few. He is a member of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, the Lakewood/Rocky River Rotary Club, and the East Palestine Community Foundation.
“Shaun is a coach in every sense,” says a colleague. “That’s one of the things that makes him so special. He is a combination of fierce competitor and intuitive tamer, with a profound understanding of the law. He has a very ‘velvet approach’ to a very difficult situation.”
Practicing law for more than a decade, Young has prosecuted numerous high-profile cases and has accrued extensive experience in all phases of complex and large loss litigation.
“Like so many things in life, building a successful practice depends heavily on building strong relationships,” he says. “I’m proud of the strong relationships I’ve developed with clients, fellow attorneys and judges.
“While I do believe that close relationships with clients contributes to favorable outcomes, that is not my only reason for doing so,” Young continues. “I can’t help but become close with my clients, particularly those I represent in personal injury cases. Becoming emotionally involved is inevitable because you tend to get to know your client and their family. This only serves to push me that much harder.
Striking a Balance
Though successful and respected, Young admits there are still challenges to be faced every day. He points to the plethora of new and changing case law and legislative updates that some may interpret and use differently.
“There is a lot to understand and draw from,” he says. “If you think about it, there are cases proceeding every day that may impact a case you are currently working. It’s for that reason, whether I’m in negotiation or a hearing, I need to have as much information and be prepared for my client. The more ammunition you have, the better your odds of a favorable result.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge of his career, however, was finding the right balance between career and personal life. Like all new attorneys, Young admits when he first started out his workdays consumed 80 to 90 percent of his time. With a growing family, he realized it was important to strive for an even balance.
During his first year in practice, a colleague offered some advice: “The work will be here tomorrow when you come back.”
Simple words, but that advice along with his own observations, really resonated with Young that family must come first.
“It’s one of those things that takes time to learn,” he says. “It’s taken me some time to find that harmonious balance. Like all good habits, it’s not something you can force. It’s a natural understanding that takes intense commitment along with a little experimentation. Over time, you seem to fall into a rhythm and find a balance that works for you. Of course, because my family is so close, that balance just happens. At this point in my career, as much as I love what I do, family does come first.”
A strong, reliable support team at the office helps too. Young expresses how much he appreciates paralegals Katie Andrysek and Molly Martin.
“I’m so fortunate to have them,” he says. “They definitely are the power behind the scenes.” Early on, Young navigated his career with little help. However, he soon realized law school taught him the importance of teamwork. “As time passed,” Young reflects, “You learn to build that trust and teamwork becomes natural. They taught me a lot and I taught them a lot. Without them I simply could not do what I do.”
Now married for 10 years, Young and his wife, Tara, have actually known one another for twice that long. Growing up in Youngstown, he met Tara a couple times while in high school. When they ended up at the same college, love bloomed and they married as soon as he graduated law school.
They have two children, their son, Trey, who turns 8 in December, and daughter, Elle, who is 5. Tara teaches elementary school, which is a great source of pride for Young. In fact, he says, “I’m most proud of my family. I love watching the children grow and develop their own personalities.”
Still, Young has a second family, those people he works side-by-side with every day at Keis George.
“My wife and I love Cleveland,” he says, “and I love my firm. I definitely plan to stay here at Keis George because where we want to be as a firm fit my own goals. We work very closely together, and everyone is extremely supportive and critical of the work we do. It’s kind of a ‘home grown’ firm; most of the attorneys have been here for 20-plus years. We couldn’t be happier and more prepared for what’s next.”
As we have come to learn, Young’s session is far from adjourned.