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Counsel reenergizes section

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In-House Counsel

Even though the Corporate Counsel Section of the Indiana State Bar Association can boast a membership of 431 statewide, it was a relatively inactive group until the immediate past chair took over in 2009.

Prior to that, there had been some activity on a members-only listserv, including information about relevant continuing legal education opportunities from ISBA staff liaison Maryann Williams, and conversations about issues specific to general counsels. However, Williams credited the section’s leadership in recent years with working hard to get more recognition and to offer more opportunities for its membership to become engaged in ISBA efforts.

The immediate past chair of the section, Stephen Landrum Due, is one member of the leadership team who made a push to make the section more active.
 

due-stephen Stephen Due, assistant general counsel at American United Life Insurance, helped reenergize the ISBA Corporate Counsel Section. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Due is an assistant general counsel in the nine-member legal department of American United Life Insurance Company, a OneAmerica company in Indianapolis. He joined the ISBA Corporate Counsel Section when he joined AUL in 2007. Due began his legal career as a member of Bingham McHale’s labor and employment practice group after passing the bar in 2002.

He became chair of the Corporate Counsel Section in 2009. He served until the ISBA 2010 Annual Meeting in mid-October, when he was succeeded by Deborah Edwards of Heritage Environmental Services in Indianapolis.

Due didn’t blame past leadership – or anyone for that matter – for the section’s previous inactivity. Instead, he said it was likely due to the nature of an in-house counsel’s job and how little time this group of lawyers has for involvement in professional organizations compared to attorneys in private practice.

“When I come into the office, I might have a ‘to do’ list of three things. By 9 a.m., I realize there are other things I need to take care of instead,” he said. “Our days are never our own.”

That is not a negative aspect of the job, Due added. The reality is that an in-house counsel is an integral part of the company, he continued, unlike an attorney at a firm who might have more flexibility and independence when it comes to working directly with clients.

Another reason the membership may have been less active in previous years, he said, could be that corporate counsel attorneys don’t tend to be as concerned as their counterparts at law firms when it comes to networking and business development. Therefore, being active in the ISBA may be less of a priority.

Business development may not be viewed as vital by corporate counsel, the way it often is for private practice lawyers, because each corporate counsel answers only to one client. If in-house lawyers plan to stay with their companies for a long time, which many tend to want to do, the perceived value of networking drops.

However, Due said he hopes in-house lawyers see the bigger picture and understand the benefits of networking with other attorneys – both in-house counsel and private attorneys. For some, it might mean a new relationship that could lead to the identification of new outside counsel for work not handled in house. For others, it may be a peer to talk to who works for a similar type of company and might deal with similar issues.

He added that when an in-house lawyer works in a small legal department or is the only in-house attorney for a company, there might be even more of a need to meet with other general counsel to get their perspective on issues faced.

Personally, Due has been able to make new friends through his involvement in the section. He has met many attorneys he might not otherwise have met.

To encourage more corporate counsel to take advantage of networking opportunities, listserv members were sent survey questions. Due wanted to know if the members wanted CLE opportunities, social events, to receive resources from the section that could help their practices, or if there was something else the section members would want.

He also asked for volunteers to join the organization’s leadership to ensure the group’s sustainability.

Of the fewer than a dozen responses the ISBA received, Due was encouraged that some shared an interest in leadership positions. Several of those responding were named to the section’s council. Due added that in the spirit of ISBA past president Roderick Morgan’s diversity initiative, he sought a diverse group of attorneys for the council.

Due and other council members have since started working on different opportunities. Those included a CLE at the ISBA annual meeting, “Best Practices for Drafting Arbitration Clauses,” which was co-sponsored by the Corporate Counsel, ADR, and Business Law sections.

For now, Due said co-sponsoring CLEs will likely make the most sense for the Corporate Counsel Section because finding a CLE that is helpful to generalists, as many in-house attorneys are, can be difficult. While some in-house attorneys have specialties specific to the type of company they serve, the type of CLE that would benefit them is likely too specific and would not appeal to a broad enough audience.

Due added that for his area of practice, which includes reinsurance and retirement services, he will often travel out of state for CLE.

Section leaders are also working with ISBA staff to look at the group’s budget and where its dues can be most effectively used. As a relatively inactive section with a relatively large membership, the budget was financially sound when he took over, Due said.

The section helped sponsor the We the People program earlier this year as well as a table at an event hosted by the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute, a non-partisan organization that studies policies on taxes and government spending.

He said the section also helped the Indiana Attorney General’s Office get the word out to members of the section about an unclaimed property amnesty program for companies that had not reported unclaimed pay checks within the specified amount of time.

Going forward, Due said he hopes more members will want to get involved in leadership or other aspects of the section.

Edwards said because she didn’t plan to become chair this year – when she was vice chair, the previous chair elect left a job as corporate counsel to go into private practice – she couldn’t yet discuss specific future events. She planned to meet with Williams in late 2010 to discuss the possibilities.

Edwards said she would like for the section to continue to offer ways for members to be more active, something she said could be especially beneficial for in-house counsel like her.

“I’m not surrounded by lawyers all day long,” she said, describing her situation as a legal department of one. “I think this is a great opportunity to bring together people who are in similar situations. … I want to do something to keep the revitalization going. Maybe we can do CLE or more networking.”

Edwards said interested lawyers could contact her directly at debi.edwards@heritage-enviro.com or (317) 486-2892•

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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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