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Hickey: Those People

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To say that we got where we are without the help of others would be a lie, no matter who you are. Whether it was a teacher, friend, family or an unexpected lesson learned from someone whose path you never crossed again, there is some part of us all that is the product of the people around us.

Law school teaches us that we learn from others: other cases, other courts, other legal arguments. Precedent provides guidance; lawyers and judges pave the way for future law and litigants. As a law student, your professors prepare you for understanding substantive law and mastering the art of critical thinking. What you aren’t taught is what it’s like to be a lawyer or how to earn respect in your profession. You aren’t taught what is appropriate at judicial receptions, how to speak in public, or how to properly handle the difficult client or contentious opponent. Instead, you watch and learn from those around you. There is no doubt that whether you are fresh to the profession or celebrating the end of a successful career, you have someone to thank.

On September 30th, the Bar will recognize attorneys who have been one of “those people.” “Those people” are the ones who showed you how to act in court, how to lose with grace, and how to befriend the bailiff. They gave the wise counsel of showing up on time, being prepared, and thanking the judge for an adverse ruling. They are the people who looked up from their work to talk to you about your case and not only listened to your argument but provided constructive criticism. They answered your questions after careful thought and didn’t make you feel as if you were wasting their time.

For me, “those people” were many. Some were nameless opposing counsel whose style and abilities I admired and strived to adopt in my practice. Some were attorneys in specialized fields who answered a call to talk about a strange set of facts. Some were attorneys in my office who explained how to argue to win and how to funnel young-lawyer energy into good legal argument. Some were the attorneys who were held up by this Bar as leaders, who set an example of how to lead positively and with passion. As I look back over the years, I realize how many different people helped to shape how I practice and who I am. For many, they don’t even know that they were one of “those people.” However, at least one made a conscious decision and for that I thank him.

It is not that he gave me answers, but rather that he explained why. It was the counseled critique of a letter, a speech, a conversation; always focused on detail and ways to improve. It was trusting a young lawyer to meet with clients, and not allowing the waiter to take his plate until I was finished, ever the gentleman. It was the gentle urging that I could do whatever I wanted, and knowing that he truly believed that, always. It was the sharing of stories from his years in practice and service as a state senator, a wealth of information that he offered freely and that had nuggets of life lessons woven in them. It was his work ethic and his commitment to excellence. Perhaps more than anything, however, it was twenty-two years of praise and reinforcement that I was headed down the right path and that I was doing a good job. “That person” for me is George Rubin and I dedicate this article to him.

As we prepare for the Mentors Who Matter luncheon, I hope that you will honor those people who have made a difference in your life. Invite them to lunch; write a special thank you. Just as important, make a conscious decision to be one of “those people” for someone else.



MENTOR

Making time for questions; Explaining why even when the person doesn’t know enough to ask the question; Never losing sight of the big picture, you were there once; Teaching demeanor, persistence, patience, and all of the other things that don’t come in a book; Offering guidance but not insisting; Remembering, above all else, that you can make a difference.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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