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Law firms mark the season with festive in-house traditions

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English author Charles Dickens never specified what Ebenezer Scrooge did for a living, but some have speculated the main character in “A Christmas Carol” was a lawyer.
 

festivities-campbell-dave-15col.jpg David Campbell, partner at Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP, relaxes by the fireplace that has inspired the litigation practice’s annual Christmas party. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

That’s hard to believe, especially considering the traditions and festivities law firms engage in during the holidays. The fun things they do to celebrate the season show attorneys are not likely to greet this time of love and charity with a “bah, humbug.”

Around the yule log

Christmas stories and holiday memories often involve the description of a crackling fire. The glow, the warmth and the cozy feel make a fire a natural fit for the season.

So it is not surprising that a fireplace, garnered as part of a settlement, ignited a Christmas tradition in the litigation practice at Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP. What began as a simple gathering of a few lawyers around the yule log has morphed into a

practice-wide party that includes attorneys, paralegals and secretaries taking up about a quarter of the 28th floor and enjoying a spread of food, beer and camaraderie from late afternoon until the last person leaves.

“It’s one way to celebrate the holidays and one way to celebrate the end of the year,” said David Campbell, partner. “It brings people together in an extremely relaxed and friendly atmosphere.”

Campbell got the contraption when he represented a client against a fireplace maker. When the defendant advanced a settlement offer, it made his client whole but not a lot was left over to cover the attorney fees. So Campbell asked for something to sweeten the deal – one of those fireplaces.

Retired U.S. Magistrate Judge V. Sue Shields, who was running the negotiations, heard Campbell’s request and left the room to discuss it with the opposing counsel. Twenty-five minutes later, she returned and told Campbell he got his wish.

A few days later, workers arrived at his office and assembled the fireplace. It is made of walnut with a heater inserted and an array of lights and mirrors to create the appearance of flickering flames.

“This thing is beautiful,” Campbell said.

A few working days before Christmas, the fireplace becomes the centerpiece of the litigation practice bash. While the imitation crackling fire started the tradition, the staff has expanded the festivities by phoning the firm’s litigation attorneys who do not attend the party and singing Christmas carols into their voicemails.

The fireplace inspires a bit of lighthearted fun, but not everything secured in a settlement agreement is welcomed at the holiday party.

“One partner got a shotgun,” Campbell said, “but we didn’t think it would go well with the fireplace.”

A Christmas smile

After the Thanksgiving turkey has been served and while the football games are still going, a handful of individuals from Cline Farrell Christie & Lee begin decorating their office for the holidays.


festivities01-15col.jpg Law partners Kathy Lee and Kevin Farrell, from Cline Farrell Christie & Lee. Their building on North Delaware St. is decorated for the holidays. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Piece by piece, over the next three days, the house-turned-law-office gets a makeover. Nineteen trees are dressed with lights and ornaments, five mantels are decorated, 21 wreaths are placed, and more than 400 feet of garland is strung.


“When the building has its Christmas outfit on, with the trees and lights, it just smiles,” said Kathy Lee, partner at the Indianapolis law firm.

When the firm was first shown the nearly 150-year-old building on North Delaware Street as a potential office, Lee immediately began imagining the space decorated for the holidays. Move-in day came in September 2001 and ornaments were hung that first Christmas.

festivities03-15col.jpg(IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

No inflatable Santas allowed. Items for the Christmas display must be tasteful and fit the appearance of the house. Collected all year long, the decorations generally reflect the central motifs of earth, music, angels and, of course, lots of gold.

Visitors who come into the building are awestruck and children find they cannot quit looking at the main tree. Indeed, for the two partners who do mediation, December is a busy month because clients and other attorneys schedule meetings there so they can see the decorations.

 

festivities04-15col.jpg (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

The Cline firm wants people to come in and share the holiday experience, Lee said. This season, the office will get to show-off the sparkles and meet new friends as it participates for the first time in the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site Candlelight Evening on Delaware Street on Dec. 28.

If being in the building does not put people in the Christmas spirit, Lee said, then nothing will.

Walking to Valentine’s Day

Attorneys and staff members of Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP law firm have started an in-house competition that is helping them get a head start on the most common resolution that is made after the holidays.

For the first time, the firm has organized an informal contest across all its locations for teams to walk the equivalent distance roundtrip from Calgary, Canada to the North Pole. It is a wellness initiative that was started to help employees keep the extra pounds at bay while they indulged in holiday eating and be heart healthy by Valentine’s Day.

Roughly a month into the competition, Jeffrey Abrams’ team has taken about 1.5 million steps but is near the bottom of the rankings. The partner-in-charge of the Indianapolis office has already sent an email, telling his troops to get moving.

To reach the North Pole and return to Calgary, the teams will have to trek 5,380 miles (or nearly 11 million steps).

The current first place team, hailing from Indianapolis and dubbed “Lost in Place,” has logged a little more than 2 million steps. However, Abrams noted, that group successfully recruited the office runner who regularly racks up 20,000 steps daily, delivering documents all over the city.

Recently, the teams have passed Fort Nelson where now the day time highs are below zero and the sun only shines 6 hours a day.

The competition is inspiring the Benesch employees to exercise. Abrams usually works out in the mornings but when an early meeting interrupts his routine, the contest motivates him to spend an hour on the treadmill when he returns home at night to make his quota of steps.

He has been inspired by the program, which may lead to Indianapolis lawyers not associated with Benesch getting a chance to participate in a similar effort. Abrams will be president of the Indianapolis Bar Association in 2014, and he wants to hold a similar competition during his tenure involving local law firms.

To boost his team’s total, one member has suggested they do a bar crawl late one afternoon. But Abrams has an alternate plan. If the stats do not improve, he is prepared to remind the many associates on his team that the partners may view their walking performance as an indicator of their partnership potential.

While he does not know what the winning Benesch team will get, Abrams is confident what is in store if his team loses.

“I’ll get abused, I’m sure,” he said.•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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