In an interview with Steve Enis, Family Lawyer Magazine CEO explores his thoughts about what he has done to help himself achieve a good work-life balance.
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Dan Couvrette: Steve Enis of Tonneman, Vuotto & Enis, LLC, is a well-respected New Jersey family lawyer. I invited Steve to share his thoughts about what he has done to help himself achieve a good work life balance, because I know he’s been successful at it. He’s juggling a family, he has two children, he is an athlete, and he is a partner in a busy law firm. I want to find out what his secrets are and I know he’s very glad to share them with our listeners, so thank you Steve for taking the time to speak with me today.
Steve Enis: Well thank you Dan for having me, it’s absolutely my pleasure.
Dan Couvrette: Steve, when you hear the saying work life balance, what does it mean to you?
Steve Enis: It means being able to establish yourself within your career, build the necessary reputation that one needs in order to be successful, not only for your existing clients, but also for future clients. And in the same light, being able to balance that with what is important to you. What is most important to me are my wife and my children and my family life, and being able to strike that appropriate balance between being successful within my career, and being the kind of father, and the kind of husband that I want, or more importantly need to be.
Dan Couvrette: I know that you feel that you have, because I have spoken to you about this subject before. You feel like you have attained a pretty good work life balance, so what did you do to achieve that and how did you make that happen? Does it happen by accident?
Steve Enis: No it definitely doesn’t. I started my career at Wilentz Goldman and Spitzer working for Dave Wilentz and the family law team there. During the first few years of my career, everything in my mind was about achieving partnership and achieving the respect of my peers and my firm, and being profitable for the firm. And thankfully I was given the opportunity by David and the managing partners at Wilentz to achieve that, and was made partner at a very young age, but then something sort of changed in my life. First I got married, and then I had my first son, Jayden, and ever since that time my priorities just all of a sudden changed. Not that my career wasn’t important, because as I sit and talk to you now, it’s extremely important. It is one of the bloodlines that I live my everyday life by, it’s very important to me.
And I would hope that any of my clients would be able to attest to that. But I took a look round me and I looked at all the achievements that everybody had achieved on their own, in their own lives, and the sacrifices that they made to make themselves pillars in the professional community — and I did an introspective. What I came to the conclusion was that although laudable what they had done, and what they had achieved, is was not the way I wanted the next chapter of my career to go. I had always dreamed as a child — and when I would talk about my future —finding that wife and having kids of my own. I wanted to be the dad that was on the field, I wanted to be the dad that coached the sports, or the band, or whatever my kids would be interested in.
I wanted to be the dad who showed up at school and was a class dad, and didn’t make excuses every time there was a play or something for their children. I knew that I wouldn’t ultimately be happy. And my father taught me as a young adult, that you have the right to forge whatever path you want to forge but you don’t have the right to go into someone else’s arena and tell them how to run their shop, and that’s essentially what I found myself doing, as I grew at length, there were responsibilities that were well beyond just being a lawyer, and they had every right to make those demands upon me, and I had no right to challenge it, but I did have a right to say you know what, this course is not for me, and I need to step more to my own path and so that’s what I did. And with [Nowell Conerman], and Chuck Vader who were both shareholders at Wilentz as well; we left the firm and formed our own firm.
Dan Couvrette: I am going to go back to the introspection, I think that a lot of us from time to time and I guess it often happens around New Years, we reflect on our life and think that we’re going to make changes, but many of us find that we’re not actually able to make the changes. There’s something about discipline and I know as an athlete you have discipline. Where did that come from, and is that what you think enables you to make those changes, is that you are disciplined, how do you know how to stay on track?
Steve Enis: Yeah I definitely do. I will tell you a little bit about my personal life. I race ironman, and I get up at virtually four am every morning, I train 20 to 25 hours a week to be successful within my passion, my sport of ironman triathlon. That discipline that I have I think applies to every facet of my life. It applies to if I were to represent you in your divorce, it applies to my person relationship with my friends, it applies to my relationship with my children, and certainly my relationship with my wife.
I don’t think that there’s anything that I do that I do half speed, once I set my mind to something I just make it happen, it doesn’t matter what it is. What I really had to do was sit down and figure out how I can do everything that I want to do and be happy in life. I did not want to be one of those people who woke up at age whatever, and said I have regrets about things that I could have done or should have done, or whatnot. I had set a goal for myself, both personally and professionally, and I work as hard as I can to achieve it — and those goals are pretty simple.
I try to be the most supportive husband I can possibly be of my wife in her career. I love being a role model to my children and coaching their baseball teams, basketball teams, and their soccer teams. I train both my kids in triathlon; even at age four and seven they race themselves. And I myself am an avid triathlete; I race in multiple races a year. I’m doing three ironman races this year, one in two weeks from today, from tomorrow. And I find a way to make it work. What I do is I cut out pretty much anything that’s “frivolity”— I will use the word, in my life.
I get up very early, I do my training, and then it’s time for me to be the career man, and then it’s time for me to be the dad throwing the baseball on the front lawn after school, and then it’s time for me to be the husband and then it’s time for me to go to sleep. I get about five to six hours sleep on average a night, maybe some days six, six and a half, but I find a way to make it work. And that’s what makes me happy, you know finding that balance. And it’s taken a lot of time to really find that balance. But I can honestly say, I’m 42 years old and I really feel like I have the perfect balance of doing things that I need to do to make myself happy, being the kind of father I want to be, being the kind of husband I want to be and certainly being the kind of professional that I want to be to all of my divorce clients.
Dan Couvrette: Are there any changes that you want to make in your life, or anything you see doing or changing in the future? Or do you think you’ve got the best plan that you could possibly have and you’re just going to keep on going forward?
Steve Enis: For right now I really feel like I’ve struck a good balance, but complacency is not a word that really has anything to do with my life so I can’t say that I am just satisfied — I can’t say that I’m done in any way, shape or form, I strive every day to be better in every facet of my life, and learn from the day that preceded me. I liked to grow my business, I would like to continue to be the kind of father I want to be, and husband I want to be, and even personally I would like to compete at the ironman world championships one day in Kona. Although, at that this stage in my life, I am very happy, I’m very satisfied in every facet. I wouldn’t say that I’m done striving to get better, I’m done striving to succeed, I would like for everything to continue to as it has and as it is, except just trying every day make it a little better.
Dan Couvrette: So Steve I know that people rely on you because of your technological knowledge and you’re knowledge of evidence and social media. I am wondering if technology for you is something that supports you and helps you. Or is it, you know are you at the baseball diamond answering the phone calls and doing the e-mails to your clients, and that sort of thing? Do you control it?
Steve Enis: Good question, I am an iPod…what do you call it, iPad, I have one of those on me pretty much at all times, I have my smartphone, but when I am on that baseball diamond it is in the car, when I am having a catch, teaching my kids how to field grounders, or how to stay steady on their bike outside, that’s inside, that’s not with me.
I do not allow the two facets to cross, I don’t want my children to see me on the phone and the iPad, work time is work time, and being there to support them is being there to support. And technology has really helped me because I have remote desktop, I don’t have to be in my office to be in my office. Generally my schedule is I wake real early, I get anywhere from, on long days eight or nine hour training days in, some days three or four hours, some days two. I get my training done, I drive my older son to school because he loves that I have that daddy and son alone time.
My wife takes my other child because she takes him there earlier. I go to work, I’m a quintessential professional, when that’s done, I come home and it doesn’t cross over. I’m with my kids, if it’s five o’clock, five thirty, whatever the time is, I’m home. We eat dinner together as a family, we play together as a family, my children go to bed, and then I can go back into my home office, and lock back in, link back in with my clients. Whether it’s answer some e-mails, return a phone call or what have you.
I try not to allow my children to see my phone and my iPad for work purposes, interfere with my relationship with them, and so far I have been able to do it, but technology really allows that, when I was a younger associate at Wilentz there was no such thing as these smartphones and remote desktop, I had to bring physical files home with me, I had to be in the office. I don’t know that I would be able to achieve what I’ve been able to achieve now, back then. But thankfully with technology I’ve really been able to, it’s really helped me strike that balance that I strive for.
Dan Couvrette: So Steve I’m going to ask you one last question; and it’s a little bit of a theoretical question, but if you could change just one thing on this planet, what would it be that you would want to change?
Steve Enis: I would probably want to get rid of all infectious diseases. I have a friend who is also an ironman triathlete, his name is Seth [Goumett], he had developed a charity called Stomp the Monster. Unfortunately he has been inflicted with Cancer, and is struggling and fighting as hard as he possibly can to beat it, and he developed a charitable foundation called Stomp the Monster, and watching him and the courage that it takes for him to get up every day and fight this beast, and how it affects friends and family, and you know everyone has been inflicted in one shape or another…
Whether it’s Cancer, or whether it’s ALS or whether it’s Huntington’s Disease, or anything along those lines, if I could, I think if I had one ability to change, I don’t know the right way to answer it, either I’d create an antidote to eliminate, eradicate, kill all of these diseases, or if I really had the God like power, I would just eliminate them. It’s just something that I see every day, whether it’s in my personal life, with my friends or family unfortunately, my wife had Thyroid Cancer, thankfully she is clean and clean bill of health and everything is great, but I just…I don’t understand it, maybe it’s something I don’t want to understand, but it’s something that if I had the ability to eliminate I really think that that would be on the top of my list.
Dan Couvrette: Sounds fantastic Steve. I want to thank you for taking the time to speak with us. For those people who are listening in, you can hear other interviews with top family lawyers like Steve on FamilyLawyerMagazine.com. Thank you again, Steve and all the best.
Steve Enis: Oh my pleasure, thank you, Dan.