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Leadership in Law 2013: James D. Johnson

Partner, Rudolph Fine Porter & Johnson LLP, Evansville Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

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johnson-james2-15col.jpg (IL Photo/DIA Photography, David Greene)

James D. Johnson is an outstanding business partner who has contributed to the firm’s success and growth from its four original founding partners to 21 attorneys today. He’s established a trusted, reliable reputation in the Evansville legal community and beyond. Jim is an accomplished litigator who has a “take charge” personality yet listens and shows empathy and concern. He is actively involved with the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana, serving as president elect. He served as DTCI’s amicus chair for more than 10 years, filing many cases on behalf of the organization. Jim serves on many nonprofit boards and as a community volunteer, including his regular stint as a Ronald McDonald House front desk host, making new guests feel welcome.

If you could take a sabbatical from the law for a year to work your fantasy job, what job would you choose?
A bartender at a tiki bar in the Caribbean. Pleasant surroundings and meet people when they are relaxed.

If you could meet and spend a day with one lawyer from history, who would it be and why?
Clarence Darrow. His practice covered the gambit of the law for his era, e.g. labor, railroad and individual rights. He would be a good person to have a drink (or two) with.

What civic cause is the most important to you?
Ronald McDonald House. It is there for people when they are at their most vulnerable – a sick child.

What is your best stress reliever?
Exercise. I am one person before I exercise and another person afterward.

In life or law, what bugs you?
People who treat children badly. All it does is create bad behavior in the child. If we could somehow teach kindness to the public, we could stop the cycle of rudeness, ignorance and stupidity.

What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
I would first encourage him. I would say the dedication and work he is putting in will pay off in ways he couldn’t imagine. I would then try to give him some pause and say his profession is important, but it isn’t everything.

Would a world without 24/7 technology be a good or bad thing?
A bad thing. The opportunity to know what is going on is a positive. It allows us to work remotely and incorporate more of our lives into our work time. It is up to the individual if he/she wants to stay in constant touch.

What do you find scary?
Not being able to have an impact on the lives of the people I care about.

Numerous TV shows center around lawyers and their practices. Are any of them close to realistic?
No. I haven’t seen a show yet that shows a lawyer sitting at his/her desk answering discovery.

What class in law school did you find the most difficult?
Constitution law. It always seemed like a moving target.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The power to transport. So when I am in a boring meeting, I could instantly leave.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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