A general practice attorney in the town of Galion, Stephen Tilson is known as a family man. “I have the great opportunity to work with my wife, daughter, father-in-law, brother-in-law and great friend,” he said. His law practice isn’t the only place he works with his family, however. With his son, Eric, a Spanish teacher, he also plays in a band called The Crazy Gringos, which covers everything from 70s rock to blues and jazz.
Tilson and his son have been playing together since Eric was four months old – “old enough to beat on a drum,” Tilson said, and recalled his own memories of being introduced to music at an early age. “From age four,” he said, “my mom had me taking piano lessons, then cello, then music theory.” Until the age of 11, while living in Tennessee, Tilson played classical, pop and Broadway show music. As he grew up, he began to love country, bluegrass, rock and roll and folk music. When asked to identify his favorite genre, Tilson said, “I guess I have to say I love it all and have no favorite, except that there’s nothing quite like playing guitar solos on slow blues tunes.”
Tilson’s band, The Crazy Gringos, has had a slight lineup change in the past year. Originally, Tilson and his son were accompanied by another father-son duo, Steven J. Erlsten, a fellow lawyer, and John Erlsten, a middle school reading teacher. “That was kind of cool—two lawyer fathers and their teacher sons.” Tilson said. Since the elder Erlsten’s retirement from the band last year, Roger Mayes of Delaware, has become the band’s drummer.
The Crazy Gringos perform mostly at public events that are open to anyone who would like to attend. According to Tilson, music has brought his family closer together. He said, “My four-year-old grandsons love to dance to our music, and it’s a blast to look out into the crowd and see them boogie!”
The band members’ age differences may be unusual, but age disparity is a fact of life in the practice of law. Tilson reflected that the mix of more practiced lawyers and those fresh out of law school is changing the legal field today. He noted, “I’ve heard a lot from younger lawyers about how the legal arena affects them. That makes me a lot more aware of how the profession is evolving than otherwise would’ve been the case.”
Tilson has found that performing with his son and for a younger audience has indirectly affected the way that he works in his legal practice. He said, “People aren’t naturally inclined to be listening to what’s current on the radio…but, because of the fact that we both include and perform for a wide age group, I need to be aware of the ever-changing music scene, and I strive to stay up to date. When I’m making small talk with younger lawyers, I have their music in common with them, which is something most 66-year-old barristers don’t.” From these conversations, Tilson finds it easier to keep up with the evolution of the practice of law that these younger lawyers bring with them to the profession.
Tilson received his law degree with honors from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. He began practicing in Columbus in 1974, and joined his current firm in 1975. Tilson’s law firm, Hottenroth, Garverick, Tilson & Garverick Co., L.P.A., works closely with the people in the community of Galion. He says that maintaining a small-town practice has helped him establish great relationships with people in the community, and the fact that his practice is general allows him to work on a variety of issues. He said, “I enjoy helping others and collaborating with colleagues to fashion results for different problems. A general practice brings interesting new issues in the door every day.”
Tilson also enjoys dealing with professional matters through his bar association work. An active member of the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA), he has served on the OSBA’s Board of Governors. He is also the immediate past- president of the Ohio State Bar Foundation, and assists the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education as a volunteer for several of its student programs: Ohio Mock Trial, We the People and Youth for Justice. He is also an active member of the Crawford County Bar Association. He noted, “Working with the organized bar has been one of the high points of my life.”
Tilson believes that bar association membership is still relevant for lawyers, even in the digital age. He offered, “The big thing a bar association does is to foster face-to-face networking, and it will always be the backbone of the profession.” According to Tilson, bar associations help connect lawyers with others in the same profession so they can share legal questions and ideas. He asserts that younger lawyers need these connections even more than older lawyers and comments, “I’m in my sixties, yet hardly a day goes by when I don’t bounce something off a lawyer I met through an association. The bar association listens to younger lawyers and is ready, willing, and able to take up their flag on the issues that are important to them.”
The Ohio State Bar Association, founded in 1880, is a voluntary association representing approximately 25,000 members of the bench and bar of Ohio as well as nearly 4,000 legal assistants and law students. Through its activities and the activities of its related organizations, the OSBA serves both its members and the public by promoting the highest standards in the practice of law and the administration of justice.