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Leadership in Law 2014: Alan A. Levin

Managing partner, Barnes & Thornburg LLP, Indianapolis • Indiana University Maurer School of Law, 1982

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15col-Levin.jpg Alan A. Levin (IL photo/Eric Learned)

In the 16 years Alan A. Levin has served as Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s managing partner, he has guided the law firm’s transformation from primarily an Indiana firm to a national one. The firm has expanded from six to 12 offices throughout the country, and gross revenue has jumped by more than 400 percent during his tenure. Alan’s management style focuses on building consensus and maintaining a collegial atmosphere within the law firm. He is also known as one of the state’s premiere employee benefits lawyers.

Barnes & Thornburg has continued to expand in tough economic times. What are some key factors that drive growth?

In order to achieve growth in tough times, it is necessary for the firm to stay entrepreneurial and look for opportunities in our current markets as well as new markets. In addition, conservative fiscal management provides the resources that are necessary for such expansion.

How has employee benefits law changed since you started practicing?

Employee benefits laws have changed substantially since I started practicing. Congress continues to tinker with the rules, creating opportunities for lawyers, but it also makes these programs less cost effective for the employers/sponsors.

Who is your favorite fictional lawyer?

Saul Goodman from “Breaking Bad.” Saul is my favorite fictional lawyer for entertainment value purposes only. He could also be used as a reason for someone not to join the profession.

What was the worst or most memorable job you had prior to becoming an attorney?

Before I attended law school, I was a teaching tennis professional and managed tennis clubs. While substantially divergent from the practice of law, there are similarities in developing communication skills and creating comfort with students and/or clients.

What’s something you’ve learned over the years that you wish you could go back in time and tell your younger self?

In order to be successful at whatever you do, it is important that you always be a good listener and show a great deal of patience. In my earlier life, I probably could have benefited from slowing down to make sure I fully captured all the issues and considerations around me before making decisions.

What are some tips for achieving a work/life balance?

The key for a work/life balance is time management and discipline. This balance only occurs if you plan ahead and stick to the time that you are going to make yourself available for family, work and other activities.

Why do you think people often have negative stereotypes about lawyers?

The lawyers are viewed negatively by the public because they are viewed as creating barriers and additional complexity in solving problems. Hence, it is my view that a lawyer will only be successful if the lawyer is viewed as a problem solver or a guide in helping the client achieve his or her objectives.

What civic cause is the most important to you?

There are really two civic causes that are very important to me. I have been very involved in the Christel House Academies from their inception. I also have received a great deal of gratification from the work that is done by The Indianapolis Foundation and the Central Indiana Community Foundation, for which I have been fortunate enough to be a trustee for the last nine years.

What’s been the biggest change in the practice of law you’ve seen?

Obviously, the biggest change in the practice of law since I started is the technology. While technology makes it easier to practice law, it also requires the practice of law to be at a much faster pace which, in turn, requires greater focus and concentration.

Is there a moment in your career you wish you could do over?

I have been very fortunate in my legal career and there are not many things that I would desire to do over. However, I remember clearly a client meeting that I was scheduled to attend 30 years ago in which I jotted down the wrong address and showed up to meet with a disgruntled client an hour and 15 minutes late.

What class do you wish you could have skipped in law school?

Secured transactions was probably the class I wish I could have skipped in law school. The class just was not as interesting as the cases that were read for constitutional law and criminal procedure.

What’s something about you not many people know?

I do not think many people know that my father was also a lawyer and ultimately became a judge. He was my role model which led me to choose the profession.

We hear a lot about civility. Have you noticed a change in how attorneys treat each other since you began practicing?

With few exceptions, I have been fortunate that the lawyers that I have had relationships with have been good. Perhaps, my answer would be different if I was a litigator.

If you couldn’t be a lawyer, what would you do for a living?

If I was not a lawyer, I would probably find myself as a teacher or a professor. Due to my love of sports, there could be some coaching involved as well.
 

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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