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Leadership in Law 2014: Alan A. Levin

Managing partner, Barnes & Thornburg LLP, Indianapolis • Indiana University Maurer School of Law, 1982

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15col-Levin.jpg Alan A. Levin (IL photo/Eric Learned)

In the 16 years Alan A. Levin has served as Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s managing partner, he has guided the law firm’s transformation from primarily an Indiana firm to a national one. The firm has expanded from six to 12 offices throughout the country, and gross revenue has jumped by more than 400 percent during his tenure. Alan’s management style focuses on building consensus and maintaining a collegial atmosphere within the law firm. He is also known as one of the state’s premiere employee benefits lawyers.

Barnes & Thornburg has continued to expand in tough economic times. What are some key factors that drive growth?

In order to achieve growth in tough times, it is necessary for the firm to stay entrepreneurial and look for opportunities in our current markets as well as new markets. In addition, conservative fiscal management provides the resources that are necessary for such expansion.

How has employee benefits law changed since you started practicing?

Employee benefits laws have changed substantially since I started practicing. Congress continues to tinker with the rules, creating opportunities for lawyers, but it also makes these programs less cost effective for the employers/sponsors.

Who is your favorite fictional lawyer?

Saul Goodman from “Breaking Bad.” Saul is my favorite fictional lawyer for entertainment value purposes only. He could also be used as a reason for someone not to join the profession.

What was the worst or most memorable job you had prior to becoming an attorney?

Before I attended law school, I was a teaching tennis professional and managed tennis clubs. While substantially divergent from the practice of law, there are similarities in developing communication skills and creating comfort with students and/or clients.

What’s something you’ve learned over the years that you wish you could go back in time and tell your younger self?

In order to be successful at whatever you do, it is important that you always be a good listener and show a great deal of patience. In my earlier life, I probably could have benefited from slowing down to make sure I fully captured all the issues and considerations around me before making decisions.

What are some tips for achieving a work/life balance?

The key for a work/life balance is time management and discipline. This balance only occurs if you plan ahead and stick to the time that you are going to make yourself available for family, work and other activities.

Why do you think people often have negative stereotypes about lawyers?

The lawyers are viewed negatively by the public because they are viewed as creating barriers and additional complexity in solving problems. Hence, it is my view that a lawyer will only be successful if the lawyer is viewed as a problem solver or a guide in helping the client achieve his or her objectives.

What civic cause is the most important to you?

There are really two civic causes that are very important to me. I have been very involved in the Christel House Academies from their inception. I also have received a great deal of gratification from the work that is done by The Indianapolis Foundation and the Central Indiana Community Foundation, for which I have been fortunate enough to be a trustee for the last nine years.

What’s been the biggest change in the practice of law you’ve seen?

Obviously, the biggest change in the practice of law since I started is the technology. While technology makes it easier to practice law, it also requires the practice of law to be at a much faster pace which, in turn, requires greater focus and concentration.

Is there a moment in your career you wish you could do over?

I have been very fortunate in my legal career and there are not many things that I would desire to do over. However, I remember clearly a client meeting that I was scheduled to attend 30 years ago in which I jotted down the wrong address and showed up to meet with a disgruntled client an hour and 15 minutes late.

What class do you wish you could have skipped in law school?

Secured transactions was probably the class I wish I could have skipped in law school. The class just was not as interesting as the cases that were read for constitutional law and criminal procedure.

What’s something about you not many people know?

I do not think many people know that my father was also a lawyer and ultimately became a judge. He was my role model which led me to choose the profession.

We hear a lot about civility. Have you noticed a change in how attorneys treat each other since you began practicing?

With few exceptions, I have been fortunate that the lawyers that I have had relationships with have been good. Perhaps, my answer would be different if I was a litigator.

If you couldn’t be a lawyer, what would you do for a living?

If I was not a lawyer, I would probably find myself as a teacher or a professor. Due to my love of sports, there could be some coaching involved as well.
 

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  1. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

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  3. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  4. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

  5. From the article's fourth paragraph: "Her work underscores the blurry lines in Russia between the government and businesses . . ." Obviously, the author of this piece doesn't pay much attention to the "blurry lines" between government and businesses that exist in the United States. And I'm not talking only about Trump's alleged conflicts of interest. When lobbyists for major industries (pharmaceutical, petroleum, insurance, etc) have greater access to this country's elected representatives than do everyday individuals (i.e., voters), then I would say that the lines between government and business in the United States are just as blurry, if not more so, than in Russia.

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