Former ABA Journal Editor Who Inspired Lawyers with 'Transforming Practices' Dies at Age 56

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A former ABA Journal editor who inspired many lawyers with his advice on career fulfillment has died at the age of 56.

Steven Keeva wrote a monthly column for the ABA Journal on life and law practice. He was also author of the book, Transforming Practices: Finding Joy and Satisfaction in the Legal Life, republished in a 10-year anniversary edition in 2009. The book helped its readers find new ways to achieve personal and professional happiness, according to J. Kim Wright, creator of the Cutting Edge Law website.

“Dozens of people have told me that Steve saved their lives,” Wright tells the ABA Journal. “That they were really all alone and hopeless, and they found his book or they found his column, and literally it saved their lives. He made that huge a difference, and left the planet so early.”

Keeva’s book profiled lawyers who transformed their legal practices by emphasizing the emotional and spiritual needs of their clients and themselves. Transforming Practices demonstrates how integrating values, passion and sense of purpose in legal practice can lead to increased satisfaction, according to a book review (PDF) for the Oakland County Bar Association.

Keeva had younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and it was the apparent cause of death. In 2008, he had told Wright about his struggle with neurological issues, including short-term memory problems and difficulty putting his thoughts into words. He is survived by his wife, Jan, and two children, Aidan, 20, and Anna, 17.

A well-liked member of the ABA Journal staff, Keeva was well-versed on a wide variety of topics, from books to movies to philosophy. He began work at the magazine as a reporter in January 1991 and stayed about 16 years, advancing to assistant managing editor. He inspired loyalty among his colleagues, who supported his devotion to his work and admired his role in sparking the holistic lawyer movement.

ABA Journal Editor and Publisher Allen Pusey called Keeva “a pioneering figure in a movement to help lawyers merge their legal practice with a genuine quality of life.

“He believed that lawyers could be real people and advocates for understanding,” Pusey said of Keeva. “He will be both remembered and missed.”

Keeva received the inaugural Transforming Practices Award from the International Association of Holistic Lawyers at a dinner held in his honor in 2009. Wright highlighted Keeva’s influence in a blog post about the dinner. His book “opened up possibilities in law that few had ever conceived,” she wrote. “He told many stories that connected with the heart and soul of law and comforted and inspired many.”

Lawyers told how Keeva inspired them in a video tribute made for the dinner, posted at Wright’s website. Among them was Philip Daunt, who said Keeva’s book had been the catalyst for many disillusioned lawyers to reignite their interest in practicing. “But for Steven having written that book, many of us might not have rediscovered our purpose in life,” Daunt said.

In a February 2005 column for the ABA Journal, Keeva spoke of the importance of gratitude, and its connection to meaning in life. He told of gratitude for his wife, his children and friends, and even for unexpected things.

“I’ve come to realize, for example, that I’m grateful for the house I live in—but in a deeper way than I had realized before I tried really focusing on the feeling of gratitude,” he wrote. “Once I did, I realized that I feel embraced not only by the structure itself, but also by the latticework of feelings and memories it evokes. I’ve come to see our Chicago-style bungalow as an ideal venue for the comedies and dramas that continue to animate my family’s life together.

“And not only that. There are the particular textures and aromas; there’s the olive-colored overstuffed chair in the living room, where my gratitude for the feeling of such encompassing comfort only gives rise to other pleasant feelings and the opportunity to share them with family and friends.”

The family is holding a small memorial Friday. Donations in Keeva’s name can be sent to the Alzheimer’s Association.

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