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As season ends, lawyers look to revive interest in softball league

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It is time to hang up the cleats for another season.

On Sept. 29, the Indianapolis Lawyers’ Softball League played its final game of 2011. The Mudsharks, coached by Schultz & Pogue attorney J. Kirk LeBlanc, won the championship, defeating the team from Riley Bennett & Egloff, 23-11 in five innings.

Eight teams participated in the annual softball league this year, but diehard players say that they’d like to see more teams next season.

Donald Smith of Riley Bennett & Egloff has played 31 consecutive seasons with the league. At its high point in the 1980s, he said the league had 33 member teams, with some of the larger firms fielding multiple teams.
 

softball-15col.jpg Robert Brandt, attorney at Riley Bennett & Egloff, is the pitcher for the firm’s softball team. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

“In the 2000s, teams began to drop out, and rarely do the big firms even field a team anymore,” Smith said. “It’s just one old-timer’s opinion, but it seems that as starting salaries skyrocketed, the newer attorneys – and more athletic ones – were required to bill more time. In turn, the newer attorneys were not as interested in spending Thursday nights on the softball diamonds, and the social aspects of the game seemed less important.”

These new attorneys may be missing out on a valuable networking opportunity, LeBlanc said, by not making time to participate.

“I think that’s one thing the younger generation needs to think about … they’re still wrapped up in the billable hour, but they need to realize you can have fun, too.”

Who plays, and why

Robert Brandt, pitcher for the Riley Bennett & Egloff team, said that in a profession that can sometimes create adversarial relationships, softball offers a chance for attorneys to get to know each other.

“It really is a good time, and it’s a good way to unwind a little bit,” Brandt said.

Today, LeBlanc plays because he loves the game. But that’s not how he started out.

“I started in 1998 when I was a law clerk, and really, when I was a law clerk, the partner I worked with just told me I had to play,” LeBlanc recalled.

At its heyday, requirements for tournament play were more rigid than they are today. Smith said that the league used to require that any member of a team playing in a tournament had to have taken the bar exam. But rules regarding team structure have been relaxed in an attempt to get more people to play.

Brandt said that nowadays, teams need to field only five lawyers or law students. And teams may be comprised of players from multiple firms. LeBlanc’s 14 players come from five or six different firms, he said.


leBlanc-kirk-mug.jpg LeBlanc

“I think there are attorneys out there that would love to play, but their feeling is that if they can’t put a team together, they can’t play,” LeBlanc said. But both he and Brandt said they would welcome inquires from anyone who wants to play. “We’ll plug them in, we’ll make the teams,” LeBlanc said.

There’s always next year

Asked if teams do any training or preparation in the off-season, Brandt chuckled.

“It really is kind of loosely organized, not in a bad sense, but the goal is to really just go out there and have some fun,” he said.

Indy Parks sets the regular-season and tournament schedules, Brandt explained, with games generally beginning in mid-May and continuing through August. This year, because of an early-season storm that knocked out the lights at the Chuck Klein Softball Complex, the league was not able to play past dark, which caused its season to run a bit longer than normal. Games typically begin at the three-diamond complex at 6:30 p.m., with the last game beginning at 8:40 p.m.

Relaxed as its structure may be, the league still follows standards created by the National Softball Association.

“We kind of play a hybrid of the NSA rules, and (Indy Parks) allows us to do that because it’s a lawyers’ league and it’s the way it’s been done for 30 years,” Brandt said.

Both Brandt and LeBlanc said they hope more lawyers join them on the field next season. For more information about the Indianapolis Lawyers’ Softball League, contact LeBlanc at 317-262-1000 or at kleblanc@schultzpoguelaw.com, or Brandt at 317-636-8000 or at rbrandt@rbelaw.com.•
 

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