Millennial on the Move: Ellis H. Pretlow

by CoVaBizMag

Ellis H. Pretlow
30, Associate Attorney at Kaufman & Canoles, P.C., Norfolk


Contributions to the business community:

LEAD Hampton Roads, Class of 2018; Downtown 100 Steering Committee and Projects Committee; Hampton Roads Estate Planning Council; Virginia Bar Association; Norfolk-Portsmouth Bar Association; tHRive

Civic contributions:

Girl Scouts Colonial Coast Council Board of Directors; Hampton Roads Gift Planning Council Board of Directors; Hampton Roads Community Foundation Professional Advisory Committee; ACCESS College Foundation Professional Advisory Committee; Community Tax Law Project Volunteer Attorney; Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia Philanthropy Committee; United Way Women’s United; King’s Daughters Lafayette River Circle; Downtown Norfolk Council Complete the Streets Committee

How do you define success?

For me, success is loving what you do at work and loving the people (and animals) you spend your time with outside of work.

What person or experience has made the biggest impact on your life?

Both of my parents have been amazing role models for me and have made my entire professional and personal life possible through all that they have provided for me. My mother taught me the importance of love, compassion, education and the arts, and my father, also an attorney, showed me the significance of hard work, dedication, community involvement and justice through his actions. I feel so fortunate to have grown up with parents who made an amazing education possible for me, and I am forever indebted to them for their constant support.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment was graduating from law school at Washington & Lee University. It was the culmination of 20 consecutive years of education and something I had been working toward since my kindergarten career day when I dressed up as a lawyer.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received from a colleague or manager?

I work with an attorney who touts me as her “retirement plan.” She has worked with some families for multiple generations, and the fact that she has the confidence in me to pass on her clients to me is the greatest compliment I could ask for as a young attorney.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An attorney!

Name a book that has inspired you professionally.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

I realize this sounds like an odd choice for a book that inspires me professionally, but my favorite aspect of my practice as a Trusts and Estates attorney is that I spend a lot of my time learning about family and generational dynamics and bobbing and weaving through sometimes complex and emotional family situations. Because of that, I always come back to Anna Karenina’s opening line, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” for daily inspiration about understanding families, which always proves to be difficult and, at the same time, very rewarding.

What is your best time management hack?

I make a to-do list for everything at work and in my personal life. Simply, I write everything down. That way, I’m able to get those small nagging thoughts like, “I need to buy a birthday gift,” or “I need to write this email” out of my head and down on paper and make room in my brain for more important thoughts.

What’s your favorite restaurant for a lunch meeting in Coastal Virginia, and what do you order when you go there?

Greenhouse Kitchen in Downtown Norfolk; Thai Me Up salad.

Is there anything that you would change about your generation as a whole? If so, what?

Absolutely not—I think every generation has its own personality and its own unique set of quirks, for better or worse. We must constantly change, grow and adapt, and part of that is learning from the generations that come before and after us.

What do you think is Coastal Virginia’s biggest challenge?

I think that public transportation is one of Coastal Virginia’s biggest challenges. With such a large geographic area and a region that is striving to be unified as one, many of our residents do not have a way to connect with opportunities that may exist for them in other cities or even other neighborhoods within their cities. A better public transportation system, whether it be through light rail, better and more consistent bus routes, or some other option, could help to connect our region. Improved public transportation also has the ability to attract economic development to our region. Larger businesses consistency cite public transportation as a priority for their employees, and the millennial workforce is positioning itself in cities and regions that have thriving public transit systems.

How can Coastal Virginia better retain its younger population?

Younger people are drawn to places with a vibrant culture and a distinct sense of place. Coastal Virginia has done a lot in the past few years to try to bring attention to some of the great culture that is already here. A prime example is the revitalization of the Elizabeth River Trail in Norfolk—that is a tangible example of the kind of place-making that needs to be happening across Coastal Virginia.

From her nomination:

“Ellis is one of very few “millennial” trusts and estates attorneys in Hampton Roads who exclusively focuses her practice on estate planning, estate and trust administration and the complex dynamics of family wealth and tax planning. In a field that is dominated by an older generation, Ellis stands out to her colleagues as an intelligent, thoughtful and extremely conscientious attorney.”
—Kirkland Kelley, mentor and colleague

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