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IBA: I Wouldn't Practice Law Without...

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By Julie Armstrong

When was the last time you thought about how you practice law. I don’t mean a personal ethics review or an evaluation of your business plan. Instead, when was the last time you gave thought to what makes the practice more enjoyable, easier, or even possible for you. I recently asked a diverse group of Indybar members how they would complete the phrase, “I wouldn’t practice law without…. The responses I received were as varied as the lawyers who replied.

Some responses were practical:

Steven Peters, partner/litigator, Harrison & Moberly: ...my form file. I have developed this over 30 years. It consists of forms on the computer and in three file cabinets in my office. It has some of my “greatest (legal) hits” including complaints, answers, motions, briefs, jury instructions, depo outlines and the like. It also has a list of all my published cases and appellate briefs from over 100 appeals in Indiana and other jurisdictions. It is a handy reference and is usually my starting point when working on a project. My partners and friends know I have good forms and it is a quick starting point for their projects. Recently, a partner needed to quickly draft and file a federal interpleaded complaint with related motions, and I had those in my forms file from a case I handled 10 years ago. A word of caution about forms: always make sure that they are updated as needed to comply with substantive and procedural rules.

Aaron Freeman, criminal defense attorney, Ladd Thomas Sallee Adams & Freeman: I would not practice law without my…..cell phone. I have no idea how lawyers used to do it.  I use my cell phone for everything.  My calendar, my contacts list, sending e-mail, sending texts, and making calls.  My cell phone allows me to stay in touch with the office, despite where I may be.  I could not imagine trying to practice without it.

Joel Nagle, associate/litigator, Tabbert Hahn Earnest & Weddle: I’m sure this isn’t the most exhilarating response, but I would say West’s Indiana Digest.

Some responses were notes of gratitude:

Vanessa Villegas Lopez, solo practitioner. I wouldn’t practice law without my paralegal Laura. The day she finishes her PHD I’m in big trouble. A lawyer is only as good as his or her staff. I have been blessed with an articulate self motivated dedicated paralegal. As a solo practitioner a strong staff is they key to success in this profession. I have learned that Spa days are always appreciated and no matter what you have to find a way even in this hard economy to give good raises.

Tom Ruge, partner/immigration & international law, Lewis & Kappes: …being in a firm with colleagues who have the enormous professional pride our attorneys have, and with support staff who are consistently considerate of client’s needs and who are tolerant of my many faults and idiosyncrasies.   

Tammy Meyer: partner/litigator, MillerMeyer. A good legal secretary and paralegal. the good mentors I have had; a sense of humor; my best partner ever - Gary Miller.

Jeffrey Abrams. partner/transactional attorney, Benesch/Dann Pecar. I wouldn’t practice law without a top notch assistant.  One assistant who was with me for over 15 years before she retired got mad if I called her anything but a secretary.  Old school way of thinking, but she was outstanding.  I have had other great assistants during my career and they are my partner in providing quality service to our clients.

Jana Matthews, solo practitioner. J. Matthews Legal Group. I wouldn’t practice law without helpful experienced attorneys who have been/are willing to help solo practitioners like me maneuver through real life lawyering. Anytime I have a new case there have been attorneys willing to help me get started or serve as confirmation that I am on the right track. Their willingness to assist has been awesome.

Some responses were surprisingly similar:

Jeffrey Dible, partner/estate planning & tax, Frost Brown Todd: I wouldn’t practice law without a sense of humor. Not necessarily my sense of humor, which misses as often as it hits. But we lawyers, as trained communicators, can and do use humor to illustrate points succinctly, to dispel some of the tensions and pretensions in messy situations, and to show that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. It’s no accident that most of my favorite quotations about the law are both funny and true, such as Frank Zappa’s “The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.”

Melissa Avery, partner/family law, Avery & Cheerva: having great lawyers around me that have a good sense of humor. Whether it is the other lawyers in my office or my comrades working on bar association projects, it is the people I work with that make practicing law fun and help me get a much needed laugh when things get stressful. That is what makes it all worthwhile!

Eric Schmadke, staff attorney, Marion County Prosecutor’s Office: I wouldn’t practice law without a sense of humor. “Ridentum dicere verum quid vetat?”   I agree with Horace when he opined, “What prevents me from speaking the truth with a smile?”  If you let the seriousness of the issues soak so deep into your soul that you can’t remember the last time you really enjoyed your work – then it’s time to leave the practice of law.  I also wouldn’t practice law without a tie, great colleagues, a jury of my peers, enigmatic Latin phraseology, or a Westlaw password. 

Others were simply touching:

Mark Owens, partner/bankruptcy law, Barnes & Thornburg: I wouldn’t practice law without a supportive family who understands the pressures and time commitments of the practice of law.

Kathy Osborn, partner/appellate litigator, Baker & Daniels: . . . the support of my sister, mom and mother-in-law who lovingly and skillfully care for my kids when my husband (also an attorney) and I have to work late or attend events.  My kids get to have the individualized alone time with their aunt and grandmothers I want them to have in any event.  And the icing on the cake is that my sister is an elementary school teacher and media specialist, my mother-in-law is the librarian at the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, and my mom is an avid reader, so there always is an educational component to their oversight!   

John Hoover, partner/litigator, Hoover Hull: I wouldn’t practice law without a picture of my mom to look at on my desk.  She demanded excellence in all endeavors, and she imbued in me manners, hard work, and a batch of southern colloquialisms, all of which I try to embrace on a daily basis in my law practice.

Take a moment to ponder the phrase, “I wouldn’t practice law without.... It might change your whole day or someone else’s.•

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  1. Call it unauthorized law if you must, a regulatory wrong, but it was fraud and theft well beyond that, a seeming crime! "In three specific cases, the hearing officer found that Westerfield did little to no work for her clients but only issued a partial refund or no refund at all." That is theft by deception, folks. "In its decision to suspend Westerfield, the Supreme Court noted that she already had a long disciplinary history dating back to 1996 and had previously been suspended in 2004 and indefinitely suspended in 2005. She was reinstated in 2009 after finally giving the commission a response to the grievance for which she was suspended in 2004." WOW -- was the Indiana Supreme Court complicit in her fraud? Talk about being on notice of a real bad actor .... "Further, the justices noted that during her testimony, Westerfield was “disingenuous and evasive” about her relationship with Tope and attempted to distance herself from him. They also wrote that other aggravating factors existed in Westerfield’s case, such as her lack of remorse." WOW, and yet she only got 18 months on the bench, and if she shows up and cries for them in a year and a half, and pays money to JLAP for group therapy ... back in to ride roughshod over hapless clients (or are they "marks") once again! Aint Hoosier lawyering a great money making adventure!!! Just live for the bucks, even if filthy lucre, and come out a-ok. ME on the other hand??? Lifetime banishment for blowing the whistle on unconstitutional governance. Yes, had I ripped off clients or had ANY disciplinary history for doing that I would have fared better, most likely, as that it would have revealed me motivated by Mammon and not Faith. Check it out if you doubt my reading of this, compare and contrast the above 18 months with my lifetime banishment from court, see appendix for Bar Examiners report which the ISC adopted without substantive review: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS

  2. Wow, over a quarter million dollars? That is a a lot of commissary money! Over what time frame? Years I would guess. Anyone ever try to blow the whistle? Probably not, since most Hoosiers who take notice of such things realize that Hoosier whistleblowers are almost always pilloried. If someone did blow the whistle, they were likely fired. The persecution of whistleblowers is a sure sign of far too much government corruption. Details of my own personal experience at the top of Hoosier governance available upon request ... maybe a "fake news" media outlet will have the courage to tell the stories of Hoosier whistleblowers that the "real" Hoosier media (cough) will not deign to touch. (They are part of the problem.)

  3. So if I am reading it right, only if and when African American college students agree to receive checks labeling them as "Negroes" do they receive aid from the UNCF or the Quaker's Educational Fund? In other words, to borrow from the Indiana Appellate Court, "the [nonprofit] supposed to be [their] advocate, refers to [students] in a racially offensive manner. While there is no evidence that [the nonprofits] intended harm to [African American students], the harm was nonetheless inflicted. [Black students are] presented to [academia and future employers] in a racially offensive manner. For these reasons, [such] performance [is] deficient and also prejudice[ial]." Maybe even DEPLORABLE???

  4. I'm the poor soul who spent over 10 years in prison with many many other prisoners trying to kill me for being charged with a sex offense THAT I DID NOT COMMIT i was in jail for a battery charge for helping a friend leave a boyfriend who beat her I've been saying for over 28 years that i did not and would never hurt a child like that mine or anybody's child but NOBODY wants to believe that i might not be guilty of this horrible crime or think that when i say that ALL the paperwork concerning my conviction has strangely DISAPPEARED or even when the long beach judge re-sentenced me over 14 months on a already filed plea bargain out of another districts court then had it filed under a fake name so i could not find while trying to fight my conviction on appeal in a nut shell people are ALWAYS quick to believe the worst about some one well I DID NOT HURT ANY CHILD EVER IN MY LIFE AND HAVE SAID THIS FOR ALMOST 30 YEARS please if anybody can me get some kind of justice it would be greatly appreciated respectfully written wrongly accused Brian Valenti

  5. A high ranking Indiana supreme Court operative caught red handed leading a group using the uber offensive N word! She must denounce or be denounced! (Or not since she is an insider ... rules do not apply to them). Evidence here: http://m.indianacompanies.us/friends-educational-fund-for-negroes.364110.company.v2#top_info

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