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Bicycling barristers

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For the past three years, Brett Miller has been riding his bicycle to and from work – a round trip of 44 miles. “At first, it was just to see if I could do it,” he said.

Miller, a partner at Bingham McHale in Indianapolis, generally leaves his house around 5:15 a.m. From his Geist neighborhood northeast of Indianapolis, he winds his way down paths and roads to his downtown office in about an hour. After handing off his bike to the parking garage valet, he hits the showers, exchanging bike clothes for work clothes before the workday begins.

biking Indianapolis attorney Howard Cohen leads a 21-mile group ride on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Cohen, 58, calls his Cervélo bicycle a “pretty heavy-duty serious bike for an old guy like me.” (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Miller, 52, is among a growing number of attorneys who are leaving their cars at home and biking to their daily destinations. Some are new to cycling, and some have been riding for decades. But what they all have in common is a desire to stay in shape.

Fitness and fresh air

Miller said he used to run regularly for exercise, but over time, his knees began to deteriorate.

“Guys that were like me, that ran, are getting old,” Miller said. He said that cycling allows him to get a great workout without doing further damage to his knees. “I run maybe once a quarter now.”

Goshen attorney Joseph Lehman ran competitively when he was younger. He ran in the first Honolulu Marathon in 1974 and has competed in the Boston, New York and Chicago marathons. Lehman, 61, still jogs about seven miles every morning before he hops on his bike for his 10-minute commute to work.

Lehman bikes at a leisurely pace along the Mill Race Trail to get to his solo office. He calls the trail and its view of the canal “the best part of Goshen.”

“I think it’s so important to get out of cars and outside,” Lehman said.

Greenwood attorney Tim Riffle used to get his outdoor time as a coach for his son’s Little League Baseball team. But once his son started middle school and gave up Little League, “I found I had 15 to 20 hours a week I wasn’t spending on extracurricular sports,” he said. So Riffle decided that he would stay active by riding to his downtown office – a round trip of about 28 miles.

Fort Wayne attorney Charles Bash, 61, said he covers about 20 to 25 miles during an average warm-weather ride. His first 100-mile ride – or “century,” in bicycle terminology – was in 1976. “I did at least one century a year for 33 years after that,” he said.

Bash had heart surgery in 2009 and said he noticed he lost a lot of strength after the operation. Even so, he logged 5,217 total miles outdoors in 2010, and he plans to ride another century sometime this year.

Joining the bike-to-work movement, Hans Steck began riding to work about three or four years ago as part of a long-term overall fitness plan.

“It’s great for two reasons: you get a good deal of exercise commuting back and forth, and it helps me lower the carbon footprint that I’m putting out there.”

Steck, a partner at Bingham McHale in Indianapolis, said since he began exercising regularly eight years ago, he’s lost between 85 and 90 pounds. Cycling, he explained, is one component of his overall fitness plan.

Logistics

Riffle, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg’s Indianapolis office, said the firm provides lockers and shower facilities in the building’s workout room. He keeps a couple of changes of clothes downtown and swaps his briefcase for a backpack on days he rides.

Bingham McHale also offers showers along with secure valet parking for bicycles. That has made the decision to commute to the downtown office via bicycle more convenient for at least 10 of the firm’s attorneys.

Miller rides almost year-round, unless snow and ice make commuting impossible. Typically, he doesn’t ride to work if the temperature drops below 20 degrees, but he said the technological advances in cycling gear can make cold temperatures bearable. “In other words, buy a good jacket,” he said.

Miller said if he rides his bike to work and needs to leave the office midday to meet with a client, he may ask to borrow a car from a colleague. But, he said, his clients tend to appreciate his commitment to cycling, and if they know he rode to work, they may offer to come to his office.

Lehman, however, can often be seen pedaling through the streets of Goshen during the workday.

“I’ll go out in my work clothes during the day, in my long pants,” Lehman said. “For an office person, it’s great to get away from the office during the workday.”

Networking

biking Bryan Collins (left) and Brett Miller (right), partners at Bingham McHale, make use of the building’s valet bicycle parking. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Howard Cohen, member attorney at Frost Brown Todd’s Indianapolis office, leads a 21-mile group ride on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. He lives in downtown Indianapolis and thought he’d enjoy getting a group together that would ride from downtown, to the northeast side, and back to the starting point. “I also do it to force myself to ride,” he said.

Other attorneys sometimes join Cohen’s group – Miller may ride along with them on his way home. Although, Miller explained that he typically combines a little business with pleasure – riding to work with one client and home with another.

Cohen observed that cycling gives lawyers a chance to interact with their clients in a new way.

“Obviously, when we were younger, the thing that people did was play golf with clients … and I think some of us have done that with cycling,” Cohen said. “Both have a little social aspect to it.”

He said that once a year, he goes on an out-of-state bike retreat with business associates. “It’s the kind of thing that people used to do only with golf,” he said.

Miller has ridden with many different groups throughout Indianapolis and in doing so has broadened his network of social and business contacts.

“There’s a lot of collegiality to riding,” Miller said.

The big rides

Many serious cyclists in Indiana have participated in some of the state’s large annual rides like the Hilly Hundred and Ride across Indiana (RAIN). RAIN cyclists start the day in Terre Haute and ride 160 miles to Richmond. In 2007, Miller finished the RAIN in 7 hours and 43 minutes – the 97th finisher in a field of 1,002.

Riffle said he has ridden the Hilly Hundred. “But generally, I’m a solo kind of guy,” he said.

Bash used to participate in the Hilly Hundred, but he stopped years ago, due to safety concerns.

“It’s not that tough,” Bash said about the three-day ride. But he said inexperienced cyclists often rode recklessly, with little regard for the possibility of car traffic on the roads. “They go down there and pretend to be Lance Armstrong without knowing what they’re doing.”

He said he and his wife participate in the PALM (Pedal across Lower Michigan) event, which covers about 280 miles in six days. They also ride in Michigan’s annual Shoreline West Bicycle Tour, which offers riders the option of covering 500 miles in nine days, 343 miles in six days, or 160 miles in three days. Bash rides the nine-day course, and his wife joins him to ride the last three days.

For those interested, Bash added, tours in varying price ranges exist.

Extreme biking

This June, Steck plans to participate in his second consecutive The Denver Post Ride the Rockies tour. Riders cover 412 miles and 22,000 feet of vertical ascent over six days as they weave through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, from Crested Butte to Georgetown.

Miller has been on a similar adventure, riding in seven days from Durango, Colo., to Moab, Utah. The rugged trail covers 215 miles of secondary dirt roads. Steep ascents and rapid changes in temperature challenge riders, who camp each night in modular units installed by San Juan Hut Systems. The company offers similarly remote and challenging adventures for hikers, skiers, horseback riders, and hunters.

“I’ve done rides just about everywhere,” Miller said. He plans to take his GT mountain bike back to Crested Butte in August for another seven-day trip.

Closer to home, Riffle routinely rides his bike from Greenwood to Bloomington on weekends – about a three-hour trip, he said. And it was there last year that Riffle discovered a city street can be just as deadly as a slippery mountain pass.

At about 9 a.m. on May 19, 2010, Riffle said he “had an unfortunate incident with a pickup driver.” An inattentive truck driver veered off the road and struck Riffle on his bicycle. The accident was the same day as the Ride of Silence, when cyclists around the country ride in memory of those who have been killed or injured while riding.

“I wound up missing 12 days of work – I had a crushed vertebrae in my spine,” he said. Doctors put 14 screws in his back to repair the damage.

But two months later, he bought a new bike, climbed back on, and he still rides regularly.

“I guess I would say be careful, and it would be nice if we had any painted bike lines south of Washington Street,” he added.

And it looks like Riffle may get his wish. On April 18, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard announced that in May, construction will begin on 35.52 miles of new bike lanes, which his office says will extend from “county line to county line.”•

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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.

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  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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