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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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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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