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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.

ossOss

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. Welcome to Hendricks County where local and state statutes (especially Indiana Class C misdemeanors) are given a higher consideration than Federal statues and active duty military call-ups.

  2. If real money was spent on this study, what a shame. And if some air-head professor tries to use this to advance a career, pity the poor student. I am approaching a time that i (and others around me) should be vigilant. I don't think I'm anywhere near there yet, but seeing the subject I was looking forward to something I might use to look for some benchmarks. When finally finding my way to the hidden questionnaire all I could say to myself was...what a joke. Those are open and obvious signs of any impaired lawyer (or non-lawyer, for that matter), And if one needs a checklist to discern those tell-tale signs of impairment at any age, one shouldn't be practicing law. Another reason I don't regret dropping my ABA membership some number of years ago.

  3. The case should have been spiked. Give the kid a break. He can serve and maybe die for Uncle Sam and can't have a drink? Wow. And they won't even let him defend himself. What a gross lack of prosecutorial oversight and judgment. WOW

  4. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  5. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

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