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Chinn: Back to School

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iba-chinn-scottDoes it feel like it is the end of summer already? Not to me. We’re still so close to the stretch of 90-plus degree days that is making this the hottest summer on record. And even though the Brickyard, the Olympics, and the Indiana State Fair are behind us – I don’t feel ready for fall.

Alas, I have already seen and heard the hustle and bustle of yellow school buses on the move and parents carting their children off to another semester at college. At the law school level, I have already taken part in back-to-school activities. I met some 2L students at a reception at the Maurer School the other evening hosted by my law firm. And on behalf of the IndyBar, I spoke briefly to the incoming 1L class at the McKinney School at orientation weekend.

As much as I try to not waste an opportunity to engage audiences – especially ones made up of impressionable young people – I am quite conscious that what I said to the new students at the McKinney School was ephemeral. Here are my excuses: First, I followed Dean Gary Roberts, Judge Jose Salinas, and Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson. They are impressive people against whom I was going to pale in comparison in any event. Second, my role was necessarily and appropriately limited – to give a welcome to law school on behalf of the profession and, thereby, to introduce them to the IndyBar.

If I had had more time, I would have made slightly headier points. If only I had a forum to do that now, I would … Oh, right. Okay, here goes. Let’s pretend I turned serious in mid-speech:

“… And that’s why the first law school text books were covered in goat skin!

Now, let me give you a few substantive thoughts – three things to keep in the back of your mind as you get acquainted with the elements of torts and contracts. First, you are undoubtedly hearing a lot about how tough the job market is right now, and that coupled with tight hiring are significant changes in the profession that make the future of law practice cloudy. Well, it’s true. The days of plentiful law jobs for new lawyers seem gone for the near future. And no one exactly knows what the long-term holds. But this adversity does give you an opportunity – the opportunity to hone in on what you really want to do. I have long said that key to a long and hopefully happy career in the law is to do something you really are interested in and enjoy. So, every now and then during your law school career, ask yourself what courses you genuinely like the most. Think about how your other intellectual and social interests relate. But you also might end up feeling passionate about a specific legal pursuit, and when you do, for Pete’s sake go for it!

Second, don’t forget that one of the most important parts about being a lawyer – helping people. You are going to help a lot of people who ask for your help (whether or not you get paid for the privilege of your assistance). Lawyers solve problems, they promote peace, and they help lead the direction of institutions – both maintaining them and reforming them. Don’t shrink from these tasks (read: “obligations”), they are what you are trained for.

Finally, become part of the profession. And start that by finding out what we mean by “profession.” It’s the opportunity to engage your fellow lawyers to learn, grow, help, recreate, think, and lead. I’m not asking you to put down the Facebook and the Twitter accounts. Use those avenues to network and use some older ones too – like meeting people for coffee or a beer. I promise you this, even in these economically tough times, the benefits of honest, thoughtful networking – the kind on which real relationships are built – accrue geometrically. We’re trying our damnedest at the IndyBar to support your efforts, because we can’t wait to be your colleagues.

Best wishes on a great year as you start your legal career.”•

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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