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ITLA Institute hits a big milestone

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Indiana Lawyer Focus

What can a comedian teach an attorney?

Plenty, said Wabash attorney Emily Guenin-Hodson. Comedians have to think on their feet, improvise through unexpected occurrences that can happen while on stage, and always keep the audience focused on the matter at hand.

So it made sense when she was planning the agenda for the Indiana Trial Lawyer Association’s conference in November to include a stand-up comic who also happens to be an attorney, Joseph Novick.

He is “one of the more unusual speakers,” Guenin-Hodson conceded, but she is confident his presentation will rejuvenate and refresh the Hoosier attorneys.

guenin-hodson-emily.jpg Guenin-Hodson

Guenin-Hodson is the chairperson for the 50th annual ITLA Institute. The two-day conference in Indianapolis will bring nationally known speakers from inside and outside the legal profession to offer new ideas and spark inspiration. An estimated 300 trial lawyers are expected to attend.

For the milestone anniversary, Guenin-Hodson wanted the institute to remind plaintiffs’ attorneys why they should be proud of their profession. She has attended the yearly conferences for 10 years and always leaves inspired.

“When I walk away, I’m excited about being a plaintiff’s attorney,” Guenin-Hodson said. “I wanted to have people leaving feeling like ‘I’m glad I do what I do.’”

The institute provides the opportunity to connect with other trial lawyers from across the state to share stories, swap strategies and get their batteries recharged. Many plaintiff attorneys are solo practitioners or work for very small firms, so the chance to socialize with like-minded professionals is particularly welcomed.

ladendorf Ladendorf

Most important, the institute offers seminars on topics vital for trial lawyers. Institutes in the past have sometimes focused on specific practice areas like medical malpractice or construction law. But for the 50th event, Guenin-Hodson wanted to cover a broader range of subject matter that all plaintiff litigators deal with when going to trial.

Seminar topics for this year’s institute will include changes in state law and advances in technology as well as nuts-and-bolts courtroom techniques. Speakers include Kevin McGoff of Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP who will present on ethics, and Richard Ebbinghouse of Ebbinghouse Law Group who will discuss tax issues that trial lawyers face.

Education is important because the law is not static, said Kokomo attorney Mark Scott. He has been a member of ITLA for 21 years and recently completed a decade of serving in leadership positions, which culminated in 2012 with the presidency.

Ladendorf Scott believes trial lawyers in particular have to constantly examine the way they practice because tort law is one of the most dynamic areas of legal practice. Keeping abreast of new practice methods and technology is critical.

Echoing Scott, Guenin-Hodson said even though trial lawyers take depositions, make arguments and examine witnesses as a regular part of their job, getting a refresher course is beneficial. From the opening statement to the closing argument, trial lawyers are telling their client’s story and lawyers can improve their skills by being reminded of best practices or introduced to new techniques.

In addition to focusing on traditional lawyering skills, the 50th Annual Institute will take a look at visual and demonstrative aides. Guenin-Hodson noted although attorneys rely on words to convey their point, a picture can instantly give the same message to a jury. The seminar will examine the technology that is available and how it can be used.

Learning happens not just during the seminars but also between sessions while talking to colleagues. Both Guenin-Hodson and Mark Ladendorf, past ILTA president, pointed out they can get practice tips and advice just through casual conversations with other trial lawyers.

“There’s always something that comes up where you say, ‘Wow, I didn’t think of that,” Ladendorf said.

The first seminar kicking off the institute will focus on Guenin-Hodson’s theme: why trial lawyers should be proud of their profession.

Guenin-Hodson became a trial lawyer because of her father, attorney Mark Guenin, and is now in private practice with him.

“He’s a role model for me,” she said. “I really admire the work he does. Growing up seeing the difference he made in people’s lives, that’s what I wanted to do.”

scott-mark1.jpg Scott

Being a plaintiff attorney, she explained, can be sad work because every client has been harmed in some way. Advocating for individuals who have been hurt or lost a family member to negligence can wear on trial lawyers.

The attorneys, she continued, want to fix the situation but they can only do so much. Still, Guenin-Hodson wants her colleagues to be proud of their work and the things they do to make their clients’ lives better.

Many attorneys see the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association as a key player in helping them represent their clients. Along with providing seminars, the association gives trial lawyers a voice to speak out on issues as well as proposed legislation in the Statehouse.

The association’s main role, said Ladendorf, is to make sure the jury system continues.

“ITLA’s mission is to safeguard the right to trial by jury and protect the rights of the citizens of Indiana,” Ladendorf said. “Our purpose and challenge is to ensure that injured individuals have redress in Indiana courts and that wealth and power do not determine one’s access to civil justice. Our fight continues at every level of government and through education of the citizens at large.”

Scott sees that purpose woven into the fabric of ITLA, noting that some of the attorneys who have led the association have been champions of the civil justice system in Indiana. The association’s annual institutes began in 1965 in the moot court room of the Indiana University Maurer School of Law and as the conferences continue to be held, Scott said he will be a part of history in a small way.

“The 50th Annual Institute to me,” he said, “is an opportunity to reflect on being part of something bigger than myself.”•

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  1. This is the dissent discussed in the comment below. See comments on that story for an amazing discussion of likely judicial corruption of some kind, the rejection of the rule of law at the very least. http://www.theindianalawyer.com/justices-deny-transfer-to-child-custody-case/PARAMS/article/42774#comment

  2. That means much to me, thank you. My own communion, to which I came in my 30's from a protestant evangelical background, refuses to so affirm me, the Bishop's courtiers all saying, when it matters, that they defer to the state, and trust that the state would not be wrong as to me. (LIttle did I know that is the most common modernist catholic position on the state -- at least when the state acts consistent with the philosophy of the democrat party). I asked my RCC pastor to stand with me before the Examiners after they demanded that I disavow God's law on the record .... he refused, saying the Bishop would not allow it. I filed all of my file in the open in federal court so the Bishop's men could see what had been done ... they refused to look. (But the 7th Cir and federal judge Theresa Springmann gave me the honor of admission after so reading, even though ISC had denied me, rendering me a very rare bird). Such affirmation from a fellow believer as you have done here has been rare for me, and that dearth of solidarity, and the economic pain visited upon my wife and five children, have been the hardest part of the struggle. They did indeed banish me, for life, and so, in substance did the the Diocese, which treated me like a pariah, but thanks to this ezine ... and this is simply amazing to me .... because of this ezine I am not silenced. This ezine allowing us to speak to the corruption that the former chief "justice" left behind, yet embedded in his systems when he retired ... the openness to discuss that corruption (like that revealed in the recent whistleblowing dissent by courageous Justice David and fresh breath of air Chief Justice Rush,) is a great example of the First Amendment at work. I will not be silenced as long as this tree falling in the wood can be heard. The Hoosier Judiciary has deep seated problems, generational corruption, ideological corruption. Many cases demonstrate this. It must be spotlighted. The corrupted system has no hold on me now, none. I have survived their best shots. It is now my time to not be silent. To the Glory of God, and for the good of man's law. (It almost always works that way as to the true law, as I explained the bar examiners -- who refused to follow even their own statutory law and violated core organic law when banishing me for life -- actually revealing themselves to be lawless.)

  3. to answer your questions, you would still be practicing law and its very sad because we need lawyers like you to stand up for the little guy who have no voice. You probably were a threat to them and they didnt know how to handle the truth and did not want anyone to "rock the boat" so instead of allowing you to keep praticing they banished you, silenced you , the cowards that they are.

  4. His brother was a former prosecuting attorney for Crawford County, disiplined for stealing law books after his term, and embezzeling funds from family and clients. Highly functional family great morals and values...

  5. Wondering if the father was a Lodge member?

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