Leaders beyond the office

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A group of 25 young lawyers is learning about the importance of leadership skills in the legal profession and why those skills matter beyond the office. As members of the Indiana State Bar Association’s first Leadership Development Academy, the group will travel around the state through May to attend monthly two-day sessions on topics including diversity, education and law enforcement.

leadership Members of the Indiana State Bar Association’s Leadership Development Academy visited the Statehouse and Indiana Supreme Court in February. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

The state bar hopes the academy will foster leadership skills that lawyers can use not only in their practice, but in governmental and community roles, too. And developing those skills may lead to more professional opportunities.

Lawyer leaders

Marisol Sanchez, general counsel for Endress + Hauser, was on the planning committee for the LDA.

“I wanted to use what I’ve learned to help mold the Indiana State Bar Association’s LDA … because of all the things that I’ve done, and because I want to help people who are starting out in their careers,” she said.

In her role as general counsel, Sanchez said she relies on her leadership skills daily.

“Leadership skills come in very handy in being able to communicate effectively, work with people and also bridging gaps between one department and another,” she said.

Mike Biberstine, who focuses on mass transit and government reform as director of public policy for the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, regularly uses leadership skills while interacting with the City-County Council and Mayor Greg Ballard’s office. But he didn’t have the benefit of participating in a leadership program before landing in his current role.

“I’m still learning,” he said. “I’ve always been a very good observer, so I’ve been very cognizant of the folks around me and tried to pay attention to the way they dealt with issues.”

The state bar’s LDA curriculum allows participants to receive advice directly from people in key leadership roles. The group learned about leadership in the judiciary and government Feb. 13 and 14, traveling to the Statehouse on Valentine’s Day to meet with some of Indiana’s most influential lawyers.

“One of the things that all of us were impacted by is the genuineness and authenticity of the people – particularly the Supreme Court justices. They’re down-to-earth, normal people,” said Jaime Oss, a participant in the academy.

Setting examples

Sanchez formerly clerked for Indiana Supreme Court Justice Randall Shepard.

“Chief Justice Shepard was truly a role model. He exemplifies leadership in its totality, so to speak. Just being a part of his day-to-day activity and seeing the impact that he has had not only on the legal profession, but on the community as a whole – and nationally he is recognized for all he has done in the judiciary,” she said. “It really set an example as to what a leader really looks like and how I wanted to mimic that in my professional career.”

Oss works alongside her role model in Michigan City.

“My dad is probably the person I look up to – he is the Huelat in Huelat Mack & Kreppein,” she said. “He’s very active in the legal community; he’s very active with the Defense Trial Counsel, Defense Research Institute. I guess I’m following – or trying to at least – in his footsteps.”

Whitney Mosby, an attorney with Bingham Greenebaum Doll, learned about leading by example when she participated in the Indianapolis Bar Association’s Bar Leader Series in 2005-2006. That program – established nine years ago – also selects 25 attorneys, with three to 10 years of experience, who attend leadership sessions in Indianapolis and complete a community service team project.

She learned in the Bar Leader Series that good leaders need to be able to create “buy-in” from the group they’re leading – and that’s mostly done by being a good example.

“If you are not excited and passionate and involved in the group, then the team members aren’t going to buy into the ultimate goal of the group either,” she said. “People are inspired if you are inspired.”

Basic applications of leadership

Scott Chinn, president of the Indianapolis Bar Association and past president of the Indiana Municipal Lawyers Association, has held many leadership positions in his career. And he said leadership skills are necessary in daily life, too.

Lawyers find themselves thrust into many types of leadership positions, “even if they don’t want to be,” Chinn reflected. “Lawyers get called on all the time to resolve disputes.”

leadership Shontrai Irving, Gary, left, and Terry Tolliver, Indianapolis, listen during their visit to the Statehouse as part of the state bar’s Leadership Development Academy. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Chinn suspects lawyers routinely use their leadership abilities informally – in their churches, their neighborhoods or other settings where people turn to them for guidance.

He said leadership begins with the ability to understand people’s concerns and aspirations. Oss – through her participation in the LDA – has picked up on those fundamentals.

LDA participants took a personality test and shared the results with the group. The results helped them understand which members were reflective, which were pragmatic, and how to interact with people of different dispositions.

Oss is involved in groups at her son’s school, and she sees how lessons she’s learning through the LDA may explain why groups aren’t necessarily as productive as they could be.

“You’re thinking more about your own goals and reason for being there, and sometimes you forget there are other people, and things that they’re looking to accomplish, and sometimes that gets in the way of consensus,” she said.

Branching out

LDA participant Shontrai Irving, a litigator for State Farm Insurance, said he appreciates that the LDA scheduled sessions in varying and diverse locations. And that’s one of the reasons he made time in his busy schedule to participate.

“We all have work to do, but I wanted a greater awareness of what was going on around the state,” he said.


Sanchez explained that taking steps to grow professionally, as the LDA participants are, is a wise move.

“If you show the interest, and you show that you try to make your mark in this world – personally or professionally – it pays off,” she said.

Mosby has held several leadership roles since her time in the IndyBar Leader Series. She served on the board of directors for the Indiana Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and was chair of the IBA’s Young Lawyers Division. She said the personal connections she made from the Bar Leader Series caused her to seek out roles where she could be around other lawyers she might not interact with regularly. Specifically, she mentioned that as a current board member for the Indianapolis Bar Foundation, she enjoys “just being around a fun group of people.”

Public image

Lawyers increasingly find themselves adapting to changes in the profession, like finding ways to be competitive with online legal services, Chinn said.

“I think one thing that can really help lawyers stand out is to be leaders – to show in demonstrable ways that we’re adding judgment that you can’t just get from the Internet,” he added.

Oss thinks that by being more engaged in their communities, lawyers may be performing a service to the profession.

“The opinion that people hold of lawyers isn’t that great. We as a group would like to change that attitude, and I think that being out there and being leaders in our communities and leading by example can hopefully change that attitude that people have toward lawyers, in general,” she said.•


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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.