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DTCI: Practicing law can be gratifying, even in summertime

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DTCI-Misha-Rabinowitch-sigRecently, in a moment of self-reflection, I found myself thinking about what I find gratifying about practicing law. I was distracted in my quest for an answer by sunshine and daydreams of what it would be like to be Gordon Hayward, to kick the winning goal in a World Cup game, to play a match at Wimbledon, or, humbly, just to play catch in the yard with my son. So, rather than let the fleeting moment pass, I decided to put pen to paper in the event that during these beautiful summer days others might need the same reminder.

They don’t call it fun; they call it work. So, finding gratification in what we do is sometimes difficult. After all, as litigators, we are charged with the responsibility to solve problems that our clients are unable to solve on their own. If it were an option, especially in difficult economic times, most clients would gladly avoid paying their attorneys to solve their problems.

Yet for me, nothing is more professionally satisfying than working extremely hard on a case and achieving a result that is meaningful to the client and justifies the expense. I find that one of the most difficult aspects of being an attorney is explaining to a client at the outset why litigation will be expensive. But when the hard work is done and a favorable result is achieved, the client more often than not recognizes that you served as a trusted soldier in the trenches during difficult times – sometimes after they have been abandoned by nearly everyone else. That is when I truly realize the rewards of practicing law.

I am convinced that law remains a profession that most people respect. My thought in this regard is perhaps best illustrated in the following way. When in conversation someone might say to me, “You’re an attorney so you know more about this than I do.” I return a blank stare as the person questions me about a topic about which I know nothing. The assumption is that because we are attorneys, we know everything about the law, which, at least in my case, could not be further from the truth. I know about the areas of law in which I practice and relatively little about most others, but I don’t mind that people assume that I know much more than I do.

Moreover, although research and writing are not the most glamorous aspects of law, I find it satisfying to fight through hours of wheel-spinning research, argument crafting, and revision of countless drafts to complete a document that I can be proud to present to a judge in court. Not akin to what Landon Donovan must have felt as he kicked the winning goal against Algeria, but gratifying nonetheless.

I enjoy the teaching aspects of law: the idea that we learn and analyze through precedent and we pass on to those who come after us the skills that were passed to us by the lawyers who taught us. I am lucky to have learned from hard-working, ethical lawyers who taught me to strive to practice law the same way that they do. It is also the case that often I learn just as much from opposing counsel as from the lawyers working on my side.

This brings me to question the distinction often made between lawyers who represent plaintiffs and those who represent defendants. Don’t all of us share the same objective: to advocate our client’s position as compellingly as possible within the confines of law and ethics? If that is so, then there really is no distinction. That is something else that I find gratifying about practicing law.•

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Misha Rabinowitch is a partner in the Indianapolis firm of Wooden & McLaughlin and serves on the board of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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