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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. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  2. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  3. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  4. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  5. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

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