Monday Profile- Jacalen J. Garris

By Jo Mathis

Legal News

Jacalen Garris was born and raised in Ann Arbor, the daughter of Jack and Helen Garris. (Hence the unusual spelling of her first name: "Jac" for Jack, "a" for and, and "len" for Helen.

She graduated from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School in 1981 with the prestigious title of class clown, received her bachelor's degree in criminal justice in 1986 from what she calls "an unnamed school to the northwest of here," and her J.D. from The Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 1989 - back when it was the only Thomas M. Cooley Law School. She is a member of both the Florida and Michigan Bar.

She has been a partner in the firm Garris, Garris, Garris & Garris, P.C. in downtown Ann Arbor since 1990. She focuses on family related issues and also handles Chapter 7 bankruptcies, drunk driving and license restorations, landlord tenant matters, and guardianships.

Residence: Ann Arbor. On a golf course, of course.

Which Garris, Garris, Garris & Garris are you?

My dad was the first Garris on the shingle. Then along came my brothers Steve in 1976, and then Mike in 1979. So by default, I bring up the rear, for now....

Is it difficult working with family?

You have no idea! I am the youngest child and the only girl. I could file many a complaint to the EEOC, but instead, I just complain to my mom who, by the way, is our office manager. She usually sets them straight, but she can only do so much.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? I love doing so many different things, but I would have to say that I would be perfectly happy on the top of a mountain looking at all the fresh powder on the ground, and either skiing or snowboarding to my heart's content. It wouldn't be a bad thing if my brothers and their kids were there either. That way, I can show them all how awesome I am.

What is your greatest fear? Death. Enough said.

Which living person do you most admire? Another easy question, and this will score points when she reads mom. She was born to Greek immigrants right here in Ann Arbor in 1925. (Yes, she's that old.) She was poor but determined to make something of herself and went to the University of Michigan, obtained her BA in Journalism, and went off to Washington, DC to write travelogues for AAA. She was married to my dad when he was in law school and most likely wrote a lot of his papers. Later on in life, she wanted to go to law school herself, but made the unselfish decision instead to have a daughter. (That would be me). So I am really her law degree. I told this story at my law school graduation party and made everyone cry.

What is the trait you hate most in yourself?

I may be a little short-tempered impatient, or a procrastinator. Ask my brothers and I am sure they will have a few more to add.

What is the trait you hate most in others?

It's hard to pick just one, but arrogance, dishonesty and rudeness top my list today. Oh, and laziness is a huge one. Stop blaming others, and take some responsibility.

If you could take back one thing you did ... Just one thing?

I will await reaction to this Monday Profile, as this may be it.

What is your most treasured possession?

The right answer would be something like my health, my God-given talents, my family... but I am going to be materialistic and say that I have a really, really nice bicycle hand-made in Italy. It's around 14 pounds, and it is super fast.

If you could do one thing professionally? I would probably be a snowboard and/or ski instructor out in Aspen/Snowmass. Or, more realistically, I would be a brilliant comedic actor and also have my own talk show, as I am funnier than Ellen (in my opinion).

What are your favorite websites?, MGoBlue .com, snowreport. com,,,

Your proudest moment as a lawyer? This one is easy. I took the bar exam in February 1990 and for months was anxiously awaiting the results. I was still living at my parents' home and was mowing the lawn one day when the mailman made his delivery. There, when I least expected it, was an envelope from the State Bar Examiners. When I saw that I passed, I immediately called my dad at his office. I had barely hung up the phone when I saw him walk through the door. He couldn't say anything, he was so choked up with joy (not shock) that his little girl had passed the bar exam. My dad was always telling all us how proud he was of having all his kids practicing law with him.

Introvert or extrovert? It depends. I am normally a shy person. I know that the people who know me are rolling their eyes, but I really am shy. No, really!

When and where were you happiest?

This question implies that it has already happened. If that is the case, then it would be in 1999 when my parents took me, my brothers, their wives, and all the grandkids to Greece to celebrate our Greek heritage and their 50th wedding anniversary. I could just see how proud (there's that word again) my dad was having the whole family there in our native land.

What's your greatest achievement?

I feel that any answer I personally have for this question would be shallow, given that people who have overcome enormous obstacles to have what they have, or be the person they have become. That being said, I don't believe my greatest personal achievement has happened yet. I have not completed an Ironman triathlon yet, in contrast to my brother Steve, who finished the prestigious Hawaiian Ironman several times, as well as many others around the world. When I finish an Ironman, then I will consider that a pretty great personal achievement.

What would be your ideal job? If it still involves the law, I would love to be a sports or celebrity agent. If not, then I would love to work on a real nice golf course in Arizona as a starter in the morning, and then golf for free in the afternoon. Or, as a Mountain Ambassador at a Colorado Ski resort, getting in as many runs as possible while pretending to actually have a job. Or, again, a comedic actress with my own talk show, and then I could golf or ski anytime and anywhere with my private jet.

What one thing do you wish people knew about your work? That it is not like LA Law, The Good Wife, or those other unrealistic TV law shows. Practicing law is not as glamorous as people think, but it's not boring either. And we are not all "sharks" or "bottom feeders" either. I think that attorneys as a whole get a sullied reputation from a few really bad apples. It is like that in every profession, but we seem to really take a beating in the public eye.

What one habit do you wish you could break? My self-diagnosed attention deficit disorder.

If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be? It is hard to narrow it down to just three people, but my first thought would be Jesus Christ, my dad, and my mom's dad.

Favorite words: "It's really dumping out there."

Favorite movie: I love comedies, but I mean stupid comedies, like Airplane, Anchorman, or Bride Wars. But I also like meaningful movies like Shawshank Redemption.

What's one thing you can do now that you couldn't do 20 years ago?Appreciate life and the people around me more. I think it's called maturity.

Favorite place to spend money: REI, M Den, any Colorado Rocky Mountain ski resort. But not a really nice golf course. It never fails, the more I spend, the worse I play.

What is your motto? I really don't have a motto, but I do have a lot of fun sayings, mostly quoting movies that I watch. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be from Air Force One, just before Harrison Ford kicked the evil guy out of the plane. "Get off my plane!" That can be used in so many situations, I just love it.

Where would you like to be when you're 90? Alive, breathing on my own, with all my physical and mental faculties, and able to still swing a club and ski down the mountain. Maybe even be the oldest Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon Finisher.

Published: Thu, Oct 25, 2012


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