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General counsel enjoys job for communications provider

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In-House Counsel

An attorney who works for a telecommunications cooperative in Hancock County has seen many changes since he was admitted to the Indiana Bar in June 1988.
 

Michael Burrow InHouse Michael R. Burrow of Hancock Telecom enjoys the various aspects of his post, including overseeing a contract for licensing rights for company spokescat, Garfield. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

After graduating from Ball State University and Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis, Michael R. Burrow clerked for a federal magistrate in Indianapolis. He turned down offers at large firms in the city to work at a small firm – named Wolf & Burrow after he joined – in his hometown of Greenfield. But more than a decade ago his client, now known as Hancock Telecom, hired him to work full time for the company as counsel and in a management role.
  It wasn’t an easy sell to leave private practice. He’d enjoyed taking on appellate cases and representing clients other than Hancock Telecom and knew he’d take a pay cut to leave. But part of the deal was he would bring with him his legal assistant, Kim Gerard, and that the company president at the time would agree to stay for at least five years, he said.

While Gerard is still a member of the legal department for Hancock Telecom and is also the benefits administrator, the president who hired Burrow in early 1999 left in September 2000.

However, Burrow said, Tim Hills, who has been president and CEO of Hancock Telecom and its subsidiaries since Jan. 29, 2001, has been an “incredible match” for him and the company.

Burrow, who served as interim president before Hills’s arrival, was eventually named the company’s vice president – a role he continues to have in addition to general counsel.

Since he started at Hancock Telecom in 1999, Burrow has witnessed changes in the telecommunications field. While wires for telephone service used to take up entire rooms at the company’s facilities, those rooms now house wires that provide access to high-speed Internet connections, receivers for satellite television feeds, and data storage components that contain important back up information for businesses – including law firms and hospitals – that were virtually unimaginable until recent years.

The company also serves businesses and residences outside of Hancock County from its Greenfield headquarters through the Indiana Fiber Network, which consists of 20 companies and more than 1,700 miles of fiber-optic cable, and Indiana Video Network, a partnership with other telephone companies that provide satellite television service to customers.

On a tour of the plant, it is easy to see Burrow’s interest and excitement for how much things have changed in the industry.

A tour also reveals to visitors the company has an internationally known spokescat: Garfield.

Burrow oversaw a contract for licensing rights for Hancock Telecom to use Garfield in company marketing when the company was struggling with its identity. Everyone recognized a blue stripe under the company’s name on logos, but the company realized it was growing and wanted something more marketable.

While working with marketing consultant Jill Snyder, who lives in Cumberland and has represented a number of Indianapolis-based technology firms, she suggested Garfield after she saw an original illustration of a cartoon telephone.

During the meeting with Garfield’s creator Jim Davis at his studio in Albany, about 15 miles outside of Muncie, Davis sketched a prototype of Garfield answering a phone. That prototype and countless other images of Garfield decorate Hancock Telecom’s offices, service vehicles, and even signs in the visitor parking lot.

“When we met with Jim Davis, he embraced the idea,” Burrow said, adding Davis understood the concept of a rural co-op telecommunications community because he grew up in a rural community himself.

“When we got a proposal a couple weeks later, it was very affordable,” Burrow added.

The company’s second three-year contract with Davis’ company, Paws, is about to expire, but Burrow said he expects it to be renewed as the current three-year contract didn’t have many changes from the first contract.

Another more recent change he is involved with is an ongoing merger between Hancock Telecom and the local electricity utility, also a cooperative, Central Indiana Power.
 

Larry Wallace mug Cut line goes here.

Because there was no existing statute regarding whether a rural co-op electrical utility could merge with a rural co-op telecommunications company, Burrows and attorney Larry Wallace of Parr Richey Obremskey Frandsen & Patterson in Indianapolis considered the issue. The two attorneys have worked together for 20 years on regulatory issues for Hancock Telecom.

“One of the very valuable things an in-house attorney brings to a business, and especially a fast growing business in a highly competitive and complex environment like telecommunications, is the early identification of potential legal issues that might not otherwise have been recognized soon enough by operations management,” Wallace said via e-mail. “My impression is (he) has been especially valuable to Hancock Telecom in this regard.”

Burrow added Douglas M. Kinser of Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman in Indianapolis helped to shepherd Senate Enrolled Act 126 through the legislature. SEA 126 goes into effect July 1, allowing the merger to happen.

Burrow said the merger would not eliminate jobs because the two co-ops provide different services. If anything, it will help the community because the electricity co-op has been using a customer service phone-line provider that’s based in another Midwestern state, while Hancock Telecom can offer the same service while keeping those payments in Greenfield. He said the companies plan to cross-train employees following the merger.

Because he is from Greenfield, on this merger and on other contracts he has worked, Burrow said he knows what others in the community want.
  “Some lawyers might do a 50-page, bullet-proof contract, but knowing Hancock County, I know they would want everything to be simple, straightforward, and no more than two pages,” he said.

He said the company has never been sued over a contract that he’s aware of.

As for taking the general counsel job and giving up work in a firm, Burrow said, “It’s been rewarding beyond my expectations. That’s not to say there aren’t days that are stressful, but I still enjoy it.”

He also said he enjoys contributing to the company’s growth, which is part of a “virtuous circle” for the company and the community he calls home. As the company grows and provides more jobs, more people will move to Greenfield and the town will also grow.

“I like to think that a rising tide carries all ships,” he said.

Burrow said he’s also proud of a grant his client recently received to connect rural hospitals to fiber-optic data services, making it possible for rural hospitals to communicate better with other hospitals.

Wallace also acknowledged Burrow’s contributions to Hancock Telecom.

“Perhaps some ‘outside’ counsel feel threatened when a client brings another attorney in-house, but my experience, especially in working with Mike, is that needn’t be the case,” Wallace said. “… Mike has shown me that smaller businesses and the outside counsel they still rely on for many matters can benefit from having in-house counsel as much, and in many ways even more than large companies.”•

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  1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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