When one lawyer bloodies the nose of a fellow lawyer, and both happen to be personal injury lawyers, watch out! Legal mayhem is sure to break out. But such was not the case when Paul McEllistrem’s battle-hardened nose collided against the head-long thrust of a fellow attorney some few futbol seasons back.
Fortunately, both lawyers worked for the same law firm. They also played for the same soccer team. Even as the blood gushed forth in gasp-inducing quantities, McEllistrem maintained his cool. “The people around me wanted to call an ambulance,” he says. He just wanted to go home and rest his battered nose.
There is no bawling in soccer.
And there’s no place McEllistrem would rather be than on a soccer field.
“Finally, after 25 years, somebody wants to talk to me about what I really like to do!” McEllistrem exclaimed when first contacted for this story about his soccer side.
He jokes, of course. He enjoys practicing law, as evidenced by the enthusiasm he exudes in speaking of the virtues and values of his Bloomington-based personal injury law firm, McEllistrem, Fargione, Landy, Rorvig and Eken. He loves to golf, and seems quite happy as a family man too.
All that said, the fact remains: He has soccer on the brain. And it seems to be contagious: The family’s four children all play the sport, with varying degrees of intensity. And that’s good thing for Paul, since he’s now of an age when his ardor for the sport translates more readily into coaching others to play the game. “My hips are going bad,” he explains.
He still squeezes in an occasional turn on the field with the firm’s adult-league team, but most of his soccer time today is spent on the sidelines. With four kids playing in four different soccer leagues, he lacks no opportunities for coaching. Four nights a week, plus one weekend day, that’s how much time this model soccer dad devotes to coaching youth soccer. The season never ends. Summer may be the high season for Minnesota soccer, but when the snow flies, the game simply moves indoors. “Soccer is now pretty much a year-round sport,” says McEllistrem.
Youth interest in soccer has soared in recent years, and not just in the McEllistrem household. Demand for field time outstrips the available supply, even though the number of soccer-hosting facilities has grown hugely.
“Soccer is pretty much on a record growth track,” he says. Scheduling field time is difficult, and the cost to play “is incredibly expensive,” he says. “We need to get more fields.” And tamp down on the costs, which now average about $30 per kid per hour of field time in the metro area, by his estimation.
Playing soccer in the backyard seems like a bad idea, akin to shooting off fireworks in the middle of a drought-stricken forest or putting on a power-hitting baseball clinic next door to a window store. Errantly guided soccer balls respect neither windows nor neighborly boundaries, the shattering of either of which can produce hard feelings and costly repair jobs. If the next-door lot is vacant, however, that’s another story — and the McEllistrem homestead abuts just such a property. Nature hates a vacuum; soccer dads hate unusable open space within shouting distance of the house. McEllistrem ordered up a bulldozer, flattened over the rough spots, sodded it, and put it into productive use as a family/neighborhood soccer field.
The McEllistrem household includes the aforementioned four soccer-mad children, aged 11, 13, 15 and 17. The two oldest, both boys, play on high school teams. McEllistrem himself played high school soccer at Archbishop Brady High School in West St. Paul, when the school was a member of the old Catholic-school-based Don Bosco League. “I also played golf, ran track, and played one tennis match in high school,” he says. His penchant for swearing while swinging a tennis racquet made for a premature end to his varsity tennis hopes. “They didn’t like that,” he notes.
He was sworn in as a member of the Minnesota Bar in 1984, following his graduation from William Mitchell College of Law (now Mitchell Hamline School of Law). He went to work for the same firm he works for today, breaking a company rule along the way. “I started law school thinking I would be a business lawyer,” he says. “Then I got a clerk job (while in law school) at this firm. They said, ‘You can clerk here, but you will never work here.’”
The firm happily kicked its own hiring rule to the curb to hire McEllistrem fresh out of law school. Working in the personal injury field fits his personality, says McEllistrem, who now splits his office time between litigation and mediation. “It’s about 50-50 personal injury work and mediation,” he says.
A self-described “people person,” McEllistrem says that’s what he likes about the firm too – it’s personal approach. “I was a third-year law student when I met this firm,” he says. “It’s a phenomenal place. All they care about here is taking care of clients.”
He’s had a hand in some high-profile litigation of late, including the $5.6 million verdict that he and co-counsel Andrew Rorvig won on behalf of an elderly Minnesota woman who was attacked, robbed and left for dead by a day laborer that she hired through a temporary labor agency. The jury penalized the agency for negligent hiring and supervision practices. That case earned McEllistrem and Rorvig a 2016 Attorney of the Year award from Minnesota Lawyer.
Sexual abuse cases often come the firm’s way, McEllistrem says. He’s working on one now involving the Union Gospel Mission in St. Paul, which allegedly “put a known pedophile in with some young boys — and sexual abuse took place,” he says.
“We do big-time cases, and we’re not afraid of the ‘little cases’ either,” he says. “We know how to move them (the ‘little cases’) quickly.”
In law as in soccer, speed to the goal counts. “It’s fun to chase down someone who’s lying” in the courtroom, he says. He might even say it’s a close second to seeing any of his various youth soccer teams chasing down a soccer field, looking to put finish on a goal of their own.