Best legal city game snubs Indy

March 18, 2010
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Yes, it’s just an entertaining way to put a legal spin on the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament, but I can’t help but be a little surprised and offended that Indianapolis didn’t make the cut in the Above the Law blog’s “best city to practice law” brackets.

When writing this blog post, ATL hadn’t yet broken down the Midwest “matchups” as it had for the South and East, so I’m not sure what they were thinking when they picked other cities over Indianapolis.

Representing the Midwest are Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City/St. Louis, and Cleveland. I get that Chicago would be the No. 1 seed in this bracket – it’s the biggest legal market in the Midwest and it’s a big city. But I don’t know how sold I am on the other three (well, actually four cities) making the list before Indianapolis.

First of all, make up your mind. You can’t put both Kansas City and St. Louis. Those cities are on opposite sides of Missouri. I’d understand Kansas City Mo./Kansas City, Kan., but there are hundreds of miles between Kansas City and St. Louis. If they are so similar, just pick one.

Secondly, Indianapolis has a lot going for it. Affordability, a good quality of life, and it’s a sports mecca. Indy got so much going for it, the NCAA relocated here from Kansas more than 10 years ago.

Phil Isenbarger, partner at Bingham McHale in Indianapolis, says it’s the same things that made Indianapolis attractive to the NCAA headquarters that make it attractive to attorneys. It’s got good restaurants, many events happening, tons of sports – amateur and professional, it’s easy to get around downtown, and people are just friendly here.

In fact, our Hoosier hospitality spills over into the legal community and is one of the reasons practicing in Indy is great. Isenbarger has worked with attorneys from outside of Indiana, and all have consistently said our lawyers are friendly.

“Never in 26 years of practicing has anyone said anything other than that when visiting,” he said.

While that’s a quality many Midwesterners have, Isenbarger said Indianapolis is more friendly than some of the other cities listed in ATL’s Midwest bracket.

“The great thing about Indianapolis is the lawyers here understand that you can advocate for your client without being a jerk to the lawyer on the other side,” he said.

The civility Indianapolis attorneys display is in part thanks to the efforts of the Indianapolis Bar Association in making sure new lawyers understand that is an important quality, he said.

Isenbarger, whom I should mention is an NCAA Champion from the 1981 Indiana University basketball team, also pointed out that Chicago may be bigger but it doesn’t mean their legal issues are bigger or better than the ones Indianapolis attorneys deal with. They just have more of them because of the number of people living there. Being bigger doesn’t improve the quality of practice, Isenbarger said.

Finally, if Indianapolis isn’t a best place to practice, then why do so many firms from outside of the state want to merge with firms here? In the last year or so, three Indy firms have merged with firms from Ohio. There have also been rumors of other out-of-state firms trying to merge with Indianapolis firms. They see the potential to set up shop here, the quality of lawyers, and value of the established legal practices Indy firms have to offer.

Other states value Indianapolis, why don’t you ATL?
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