North East woman ful­fills dream of be­com­ing lawyer

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By CARL HAMIL­TON

ca­hamil­ton@ ce­cil­whig. com

— Emily Gil­lis is now an at­tor­ney and she has opened her own law of­fice, Gil­lis Law Group, on Main Street in North East.

“Con­sid­er­ing I’ve only been opened about a month, I al­ready have a lot of cases. There’s been a lot of word of mouth. I prac­tice all law ex­cept ti­tle work,” Gil­lis said, not­ing that a ti­tle work com­pany al­ready is es­tab­lished in that town.

Gil­lis, 30, of Elk Neck,

NORTH EAST

was last fea­tured in the Ce­cil Whig in June 2015 be­cause she had grad­u­ated from Suf­folk Univer­sity Law School in Bos­ton — af­ter re­ceiv­ing daily lo­gis­ti­cal as­sis­tance from her father, Joe, who lived up there with his daugh­ter for all three years to make sure she could get around.

That’s be­cause Gil­lis was born with spas­tic quadriple­gia, a form of cere­bral palsy that al­lows her lim­ited use of her arms and legs. Be­cause of her med­i­cal con­di­tion, Gil­lis uses a mo­tor­ized wheel­chair to get around and doesn’t drive.

Suf­folk Univer­sity Law School does not have dorms and a cam­pus per se, only a seven- story build­ing of class­rooms in cen­ter- city Bos­ton, and those con­di­tions had dashed Emily’s hopes of ever at­tend­ing there — un­til her father had an idea.

Joe, a re­tired postal worker, got an apart­ment with Gil­lis out­side Bos­ton and drove her to and from law school ev­ery day and, floor by floor, class­room

by class­room, made sure his daugh­ter got to where she needed to be.

He em­barked on the three- year en­deavor with bless­ing of his wife, Mary.

“There are no words to de­scribe what my dad has done for me. His over­all com­mit­ment has been amaz­ing,” Gil­lis said shortly af­ter her June 2015 grad­u­a­tion.

And from there, af­ter hang­ing her hard- earned law de­gree promi­nently, Gil­lis de­voted her­self to study­ing for the Mary­land State Bar exam, which in­volved eight hours of test­ing over two days.

Gil­lis took the bar exam in Fe­bru­ary, along with hun­dreds of other hope­ful law school grad­u­ates, but she and the rest could not view their re­sults un­til 4 p. m. May 5 — a day that Gil­lis al­ways will re­mem­ber.

She was torn when that ap­pointed time and date ar­rived be­cause Gil­lis hap­pened to be ac­com­pa­ny­ing her fam­ily as they drove her sis­ter, Kim, 27, to the Philadelphia In­ter­na­tional Air­port. Kim was tak­ing a flight to Ten­nessee to visit cousins and the Gil­lis fam­ily was see­ing her off.

“I felt guilty,” Gil­lis re­called Mon­day while seated be­hind her desk in­side her law of­fice, which shares a build­ing with a hair salon, Un­tamed Hair Stu­dio. “I tried to tune it out, but I was think­ing about it. I was worr ying.”

As it turns out, ev­ery­one in that van was anx­ious to know, too.

They re­mained in the van af­ter park­ing at the air­port and Gil­lis gave her bar exam ID num­ber to Kim, who then got on her cell­phone and vis­ited the test re­sults site. Emily couldn’t bear to look for her­self, al­though she did spy from a few feet away.

Kim scrolled through 21 pages of re­sults un­til reach­ing her sis­ter’s ID num­ber — the very last one — and her mo­ment of truth.

“She reached back and grabbed my leg and said, ‘You passed!’” I told her to make sure it was my ID num­ber, she zoomed in and put the phone real close to my face. It was my num­ber, and I passed,” Gil­lis said.

All of the Gil­lis fam­ily mem­bers in­side that van were smil­ing and laugh­ing, in­clud­ing Joe, who had been closely in­volved dur­ing his daugh­ter’s three years of law school — al­though he didn’t ac­tu­ally at­tend classes, take notes dur­ing lec­tures, study or take ex­ams.

Gil­lis did all of that, of course, while Joe toured the city or hung out at cer­tain spots in the law school build­ing, read­ing, watch­ing movies and shows on his lap­top and charm­ing his daugh­ter’s class­mates, who talked and joked with him.

Gil­lis’ pass­ing brought tears, too.

“It was all pent-up in­side of me. There was this ner­vous en­ergy and stress,” she ex­plained. “I was so ex­cited and so happy.”

Gil­lis was sworn into the Mary­land Bar As­so­ci­a­tion on June 21.

By then, she al­ready had started look­ing for a place to hang her shin­gle. But the avail­able spa­ces on and around Main Street in Elk­ton — where al­most all the lawyers in Ce­cil County are based — were ei­ther too ex­pen­sive or did not pro­vide Emily proper wheel­chair ac­cess.

Then she learned about a va­cant of­fice space for rent at 22 N. Main St. in North East, and Gil­lis, who is a 2003 North East High School grad­u­ate, fell in love with the space — from the minute she saw the in­te­rior paned-glass door that now leads into her of­fice.

“As soon as I saw the door, there was so much his­toric charm,” she said, adding, “And the girls across the hall at the Un­tamed Hair Salon are so nice.”

The law of­fice is close to score her home, which is a bonus, and it’s only a 10-minute drive away from the Elk­ton court­houses, Gil­lis ex­plained.

Gil­lis ac­knowl­edges that she is some­what of an anom­aly, a Ce­cil County lawyer based some­where other than Elk­ton, where the court­house are. But that’s OK. “I would have got­ten swal­lowed up in Elk­ton with all those lawyers,” Gil­lis said. “I think you are meant to be where you are for a rea­son.”

It is called Gil­lis Law Group be­cause, in part, her mother and friends help Gil­lis at times as she han­dles the lawyer­ing.

Gil­lis is cur­rently “shad­ow­ing” Michael J. Hal­ter, an Elk­ton-based lawyer who does panel crim­i­nal de­fense work, and she plans to start shad­ow­ing an­other lawyer as well. The en­deavor should lead to panel crim­i­nal de­fense work for Gil­lis.

In ad­di­tion, along with the cases in­volv­ing her own clients, Gil­lis is tak­ing on some pro bono work.

“It’s a good way to learn and help the com­mu­nity,” Gil­lis said.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY CARL HAMIL­TON

New at­tor­ney Emily Gil­lis smiles in front of her Gil­lis Law Group of­fice, which she re­cently opened on Main Street in North East.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY CARL HAMIL­TON

Emily Gil­lis sits be­hind her desk in her new law of­fice.

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