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ITLA chief seeks bridge between young and veteran lawyers

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Fresh out of high school, Mark Scott landed a job in a law firm. His primary task was to sift through all of the files – dating back to the 1940s – housed in the upstairs storeroom.

“As you can imagine, it wasn’t exactly scintillating work, so I decided I’d read everything. I read everything, and I was just enthralled,” Scott said. “I was just a gopher there, making $4.25 an hour, and I’d spend sometimes a day at a copy machine making copies, pulling vines off a building. I’ve done every job in a law firm, from mopping the floors to running a firm,” he said.

scott Scott

Scott has come a long way since then. In May, the Kokomo personal injury attorney began his tenure as president of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association.

His agenda

Scott said one of his initiatives as president will be to bridge the gap between the established, veteran members of the ITLA and young lawyers.

“We’ve been really blessed with an active young lawyers section, and obviously young lawyers are our future for the ITLA and for the bar association as a whole, so we want to continue to reach out to young lawyers … and identify those people who are qualified for leadership positions,” he said.

Scott, at age 46, might be the youngest president of ITLA. Micki Wilson, ITLA executive director, said he’s the youngest president since she took the helm in 1978. Scott remembers feeling a bit intimidated in the presence of seasoned lawyers when he was new to the profession, and he thinks veteran lawyers have a lot to offer young attorneys.

“We don’t graduate from law school and become successful trial lawyers; it’s a process that happens over the course of many years, and like everything else, it’s a trial-and-error experience,” he said. “As senior members, we’ve already been down that road; our ability to reach out and help young lawyers avoid some of those pitfalls is critical to their success.”

Another priority for Scott is striving for diversity in the ITLA and becoming a regional go-to source for continuing legal education seminars like the one ITLA hosted last year.

“Last summer, we were the first sponsor of a regional CLE for trial lawyers here in the Midwest and contiguous states,” Scott said. The ITLA worked with other trial lawyers’ associations to bring nationally known trial lawyer and author Rick Friedman to Indiana for a two-day seminar.

Scott also wants to look at the technological infrastructure of the ITLA and make sure that it has the equipment and capabilities to perform tasks efficiently. Along those lines, he’d like to identify ways for the website to be more interactive, allowing for online dues and CLE payment.

Lessons learned

Asked what he has learned from past ITLA presidents, Scott laughed heartily and said, “The goals a president sets for himself at the beginning of his or her term often go quickly awry.”

He explained that any number of unexpected developments can derail plans.

“It is a fluid process, and we don’t know what’s coming down the pike in the General Assembly, a decision from the (Indiana) Court of Appeals or Supreme Court … obviously when a decision like Stanley v. Walker comes down, that has a wide impact on our members and the people we represent,” he said. Scott, who was chair of the ITLA’s Amicus Curiae Committee from 2005 until January 2012, wrote amicus briefs in Stanley v. Walker. In that case, the injured party – Danny Walker – had introduced his original medical bills totaling $11,570, but as a result of negotiations between Walker’s health insurance company and medical insurance providers, the total was reduced by $4,750. While the trial court held that Walker did not have to show the discounted amount, the Indiana Supreme Court remanded for a reduction of Walker’s damages, in the amount of $4,750.

Lonnie Johnson, president of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana, sees a promising young leader in Scott.

“ITLA has a long tradition of selecting presidents respected by all members of the bar and dedicated to civility and maintaining the integrity of our shared legal system, and consistent with this tradition, Mark Scott is well known and respected by all members of the bar,” Johnson said.

Scott is an avid fisherman who enjoys writing poetry and playing drums. “I am the poster child for a liberal arts education,” he said.

He earned his law degree at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law after graduating from Wabash College.

Scott said neither of his parents attended college, nor could they afford to send him to Wabash. So he applied for and received a Lilly Scholarship – an award that covers tuition and room and board for four years at Wabash – and this year it is estimated to have a value of $170,000. Because of the opportunities that scholarship created for him, Scott said he has enjoyed helping to review applications for the Lilly award. “It’s a tremendously uplifting experience,” he said.•

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