Ellen Ball practices family law. She is chair of the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association Awards Committee and is a member of the Junior League of Jacksonville and The Jacksonville Bar Association Young Lawyers Section.
Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer?
My father and grandfather inspired me to pursue being a lawyer. I am a third-generation Florida Bar attorney and I grew up helping in the family firm and seeing firsthand how important it is to have objective advice in difficult and often emotional situations.
How do you relate your undergraduate degree to your practice of law?
I have a bachelor’s in international affairs, which really helps me understand the history and evolution of the practice of law. I also have a master’s in sport and culture, which is a specialty in sociology that helps me understand why people act a certain way and what factors likely influence their decisions.
How did you decide your practice area? And why have you chosen that?
I decided to focus my practice on family law after spending the first few years of my practice on various areas of real estate and contract law. Family law allows me to help solve problems that affect everyone in society. It is also an area of law that touches a variety of different legal specialties, such as real estate, criminal law or contract law.
What has been the biggest change in your practice area since you passed the Bar?
Over the past several years, we’ve seen family law becoming more gender neutral and doing away with “traditional gender roles.” Also, with the passage of marriage equality in the last few years, we have seen a different set of issues present in same-sex divorces. In most cases, the parties have been together for years without the opportunity to marry, but we have had to figure out how to dissolve those long-term relationships with a shorter term marriage.
What do you think will be the next biggest change in your area of law?
I think our next big change will be in seeing how Dreamers and DACA legislation affects families and divorces. Divorces are governed by statutes that can be slow to respond to societal changes and hot-button issues, such as the secondary impact of immigration legislation.
If I could change anything in the legal system, I would ...
Expand on the “problem-solving courts,” such as Veterans Court, Mental Health Court and Drug Court. I think they serve such a vital need in so many communities and are almost always under-funded and underutilized.
What community service have you pursued and why that?
Through various organizations, including the Junior League of Jacksonville and Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association, I try to find activities that have a local impact and have deep ties to the Jacksonville community. Recently, I have helped plant fruits and vegetables at the Clara White Mission’s White Harvest Farms. I love their message of trying to introduce healthier choices to food deserts in our area.
What’s your advice for new lawyers?
I would encourage them to stay true to who they are, to get involved in their local community and to surround themselves with people who both challenge and inspire them to become successful. Also, never underestimate the value of your local voluntary Bar associations.