IndyBar: Interrogatories

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Joel M. Schumm

Clinical Professor of Law, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

He is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, the University of Cincinnati, and the Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He served as a law clerk to Justice Theodore Boehm of the Indiana Supreme Court and Judge Paul Mathias of the Indiana Court of Appeals before joining the faculty at the McKinney School of Law. An award-winning scholar, he is Joel M. Schumm, and he has been served with interrogatories.

Q You’re an accomplished appellate advocate, but you were also an appellate litigant in the now-famous traffic infraction case of Schumm v. State. If you hadn’t represented yourself, who would have been on your short list to represent you?

A Indiana has many incredibly talented appellate lawyers, and I would have been lucky to have any one of them. Because I was appealing a $206.50 judgment, though, I would have chosen someone who would not have (1) told me I was completely nuts for pursuing an appeal or (2) caused me to take out a second mortgage on my house.

Q What advice do you give your students for navigating this incredibly difficult legal job market?

A Develop some connections by proving yourself though an externship or part-time job. Even in this tough market, I know many students who have landed permanent job through this route. That said, good (or at least respectable) grades, especially in legal writing, still matter for many jobs.

Q If you could change one thing about Indiana appellate procedure, what would it be?

A Electronic filing of briefs. My students have uploaded their writing assignments to an electronic dropbox for the past decade; I never touch a piece of paper in critiquing and returning them. I welcome the day I will not have to take each appellate brief to the printer, pick up the bound copies a few hours later, and then drop them off or mail them to the clerk’s office.

Q You’re a prolific author of appellate briefs, having participated in more than 100 Indiana appellate cases. Describe your writing process.

A I’ll briefly describe the process for briefs I write alone and then the process for cases in which I supervise students through the Appellate Clinic at the law school.

I read the record right away, make some notes, and ruminate about potential issues for at least a few days (sometimes during the morning run) before drafting anything. Some records present one or more strong issues; others require more rumination and ultimately some creativity. As I work through potential issues, I will do some legal research while drafting an argument. I always begin with the argument section but in cases with particularly helpful or important facts will draft the fact section fairly early in the process. The remaining sections are then pretty easy to draft. Before any brief is filed, I have someone proofread not just for typographical errors but also flow, clarity, and substance.

The process for cases in which I supervise students in the Appellate Clinic is a little different. Every student reads the record in every case and is instructed not to do any research. We meet as a group to brainstorm potential issues, and each student is then assigned his or her own case. Issues are winnowed based on research and further thought, and we usually go through at least a couple drafts before discussing a near-final draft as a class, which includes input from experienced appellate practitioners.

Q Which Indiana appellate judge would you most like to have a beer with and why?

A We are fortunate to have such an accessible group of appellate judges in Indiana. Lawyers are able to interact with them regularly at CLEs and bar association functions. Some of the most interesting discussion can be found over drinks the night before the Indiana Public Defender Council’s annual appellate CLE in May, which always includes at least one appellate judge as a speaker.

Q You were instrumental in the creation of the Indiana Appellate Institute, an IndyBar program modeled after Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute that conducts moot arguments for advocates set to appear before Indiana appellate courts. What do you see as the future for the institute?

A I hope more advocates, especially those doing their first appellate argument, will take advantage of the Institute. We have a wonderful group of volunteer “judges” who spend time preparing for the argument, ask great questions likely to come up in the actual argument, and provide invaluable, constructive feedback. Professor Eugene Volokh, who mooted his Brewington argument before a panel that included Professor/Justice Sullivan, found the experience “tremendously useful.”

Q You are a guest-blogger at the Indiana Law Blog. If Professor Volokh invited you to also become a guest-blogger at the Volokh Conpsiracy, would you accept?

A That would be an incredibly flattering offer, which would be difficult to decline. I am somewhat spoiled in offering commentary for the ILB, though, because Marcia Oddi offers great feedback, editing, and (at times) filtering before anything I write is posted. (Related side note: I do not have a Twitter account. Some topics or phrases that seem like a good idea at first blush are best kept to oneself or a small group of friends.)

Q Is it easy for you to recognize the students who will be the most successful after graduation?

A Occasionally I am surprised. I view success in terms of professional satisfaction, though. A license to practice law offers enormous potential, and people take different paths in pursuing that potential. Depending on the individual, success might come through making partner at a big firm, landing an important political job, or making a difference in the lives of others through non-profit or governmental work.

Q What’s on your iPod?

A I use my iPod when running, so it has a variety of upbeat (no country) music spanning the last few decades.

Q How do you pronounce your last name? I have heard at least a couple variations.

A Rhymes with room—not rum. But I’ll answer to anything except scum.•


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