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ITLA Institute hits a big milestone

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Indiana Lawyer Focus

What can a comedian teach an attorney?

Plenty, said Wabash attorney Emily Guenin-Hodson. Comedians have to think on their feet, improvise through unexpected occurrences that can happen while on stage, and always keep the audience focused on the matter at hand.

So it made sense when she was planning the agenda for the Indiana Trial Lawyer Association’s conference in November to include a stand-up comic who also happens to be an attorney, Joseph Novick.

He is “one of the more unusual speakers,” Guenin-Hodson conceded, but she is confident his presentation will rejuvenate and refresh the Hoosier attorneys.

guenin-hodson-emily.jpg Guenin-Hodson

Guenin-Hodson is the chairperson for the 50th annual ITLA Institute. The two-day conference in Indianapolis will bring nationally known speakers from inside and outside the legal profession to offer new ideas and spark inspiration. An estimated 300 trial lawyers are expected to attend.

For the milestone anniversary, Guenin-Hodson wanted the institute to remind plaintiffs’ attorneys why they should be proud of their profession. She has attended the yearly conferences for 10 years and always leaves inspired.

“When I walk away, I’m excited about being a plaintiff’s attorney,” Guenin-Hodson said. “I wanted to have people leaving feeling like ‘I’m glad I do what I do.’”

The institute provides the opportunity to connect with other trial lawyers from across the state to share stories, swap strategies and get their batteries recharged. Many plaintiff attorneys are solo practitioners or work for very small firms, so the chance to socialize with like-minded professionals is particularly welcomed.

ladendorf Ladendorf

Most important, the institute offers seminars on topics vital for trial lawyers. Institutes in the past have sometimes focused on specific practice areas like medical malpractice or construction law. But for the 50th event, Guenin-Hodson wanted to cover a broader range of subject matter that all plaintiff litigators deal with when going to trial.

Seminar topics for this year’s institute will include changes in state law and advances in technology as well as nuts-and-bolts courtroom techniques. Speakers include Kevin McGoff of Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP who will present on ethics, and Richard Ebbinghouse of Ebbinghouse Law Group who will discuss tax issues that trial lawyers face.

Education is important because the law is not static, said Kokomo attorney Mark Scott. He has been a member of ITLA for 21 years and recently completed a decade of serving in leadership positions, which culminated in 2012 with the presidency.

Ladendorf Scott believes trial lawyers in particular have to constantly examine the way they practice because tort law is one of the most dynamic areas of legal practice. Keeping abreast of new practice methods and technology is critical.

Echoing Scott, Guenin-Hodson said even though trial lawyers take depositions, make arguments and examine witnesses as a regular part of their job, getting a refresher course is beneficial. From the opening statement to the closing argument, trial lawyers are telling their client’s story and lawyers can improve their skills by being reminded of best practices or introduced to new techniques.

In addition to focusing on traditional lawyering skills, the 50th Annual Institute will take a look at visual and demonstrative aides. Guenin-Hodson noted although attorneys rely on words to convey their point, a picture can instantly give the same message to a jury. The seminar will examine the technology that is available and how it can be used.

Learning happens not just during the seminars but also between sessions while talking to colleagues. Both Guenin-Hodson and Mark Ladendorf, past ILTA president, pointed out they can get practice tips and advice just through casual conversations with other trial lawyers.

“There’s always something that comes up where you say, ‘Wow, I didn’t think of that,” Ladendorf said.

The first seminar kicking off the institute will focus on Guenin-Hodson’s theme: why trial lawyers should be proud of their profession.

Guenin-Hodson became a trial lawyer because of her father, attorney Mark Guenin, and is now in private practice with him.

“He’s a role model for me,” she said. “I really admire the work he does. Growing up seeing the difference he made in people’s lives, that’s what I wanted to do.”

scott-mark1.jpg Scott

Being a plaintiff attorney, she explained, can be sad work because every client has been harmed in some way. Advocating for individuals who have been hurt or lost a family member to negligence can wear on trial lawyers.

The attorneys, she continued, want to fix the situation but they can only do so much. Still, Guenin-Hodson wants her colleagues to be proud of their work and the things they do to make their clients’ lives better.

Many attorneys see the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association as a key player in helping them represent their clients. Along with providing seminars, the association gives trial lawyers a voice to speak out on issues as well as proposed legislation in the Statehouse.

The association’s main role, said Ladendorf, is to make sure the jury system continues.

“ITLA’s mission is to safeguard the right to trial by jury and protect the rights of the citizens of Indiana,” Ladendorf said. “Our purpose and challenge is to ensure that injured individuals have redress in Indiana courts and that wealth and power do not determine one’s access to civil justice. Our fight continues at every level of government and through education of the citizens at large.”

Scott sees that purpose woven into the fabric of ITLA, noting that some of the attorneys who have led the association have been champions of the civil justice system in Indiana. The association’s annual institutes began in 1965 in the moot court room of the Indiana University Maurer School of Law and as the conferences continue to be held, Scott said he will be a part of history in a small way.

“The 50th Annual Institute to me,” he said, “is an opportunity to reflect on being part of something bigger than myself.”•

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  1. It appears the police and prosecutors are allowed to change the rules halfway through the game to suit themselves. I am surprised that the congress has not yet eliminated the right to a trial in cases involving any type of forensic evidence. That would suit their foolish law and order police state views. I say we eliminate the statute of limitations for crimes committed by members of congress and other government employees. Of course they would never do that. They are all corrupt cowards!!!

  2. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  3. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  4. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  5. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

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