Leadership in Law 2014: Crystal Spivey Wildeman

Associate, Kahn Dees Donovan & Kahn LLP, Evansville • DePaul University College of Law, 2006

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15col-Wildeman.jpg Crystal Spivey Wildeman(Photo Submitted)

Crystal Spivey Wildeman enhances her community and firm every day with her positive, can-do attitude. She inspires others to do and be their very best and seems unable to give any less than 100 percent to the task at hand. While confident in her own ability, this up-and-coming litigator is eager to soak up the wisdom offered from more experienced attorneys. Crystal has extensive trial experience in Indiana and Illinois and often handles matters involving products liability, landlord-tenant, and employment litigation.

You’re licensed to practice in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. Which of the three bar exams was the most difficult?

I’d have to say that the Illinois bar exam was the most difficult. I recall the issues that were covered in the essay questions that particular year seemed more unexpected and obscure than those on the Indiana and Kentucky exams. Also, Illinois procedure can be complicated. There are not just civil rules of practice but also Supreme Court rules, local rules, and statutes that might all be relevant to any one issue.

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

The most memorable job I had was working as a juvenile field probation officer for an Indiana criminal justice pilot program in Monroe County while in college. My job was to randomly check on the offenders ... and then report to the court on their compliance. Most of the kids in the program were from majorly dysfunctional homes. Now, more than a decade later, I still think about some of those kids, which motivates me to dedicate myself to at-risk youth causes.

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

I’m still figuring it out! But, advice I once heard that I have found definitely rings true is that the most important career decision you’ll ever make is whom you choose to marry. I think in order to have balance in our profession, you have to have a spouse who is 100 percent on board with both your family and career goals. I’m very blessed to have that.

What’s something about you not many people know?

I’m an NRA lifetime member.

Why practice in the area of law that you do?

I love to be challenged and I love to learn, which makes practicing civil litigation a natural fit. Every new project and each new person brings both the challenge and the opportunity to learn. I enjoy taking a unique set of circumstances and applying my experience and the law to achieve our goal. As a bonus, I learn something new each time.

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

I attended law school in Chicago. The class that required me to wait for the el for what seemed like an eternity in the frigid, whipping winds in the winter months at 6:00 a.m. … yes, that class, I would’ve been glad to skip!

What is the most important lesson you learned from your mentor?

It isn’t a “client,” or a “case,” or a “matter.” They’re people. If you care, listen well, take their problems on as your own and do good work, you’ll never have to worry about having “clients.” Instead, you’ll always be busy and have long-term friends that happen to call you their lawyer.

What civic cause is the most important to you?

I am most passionate about civic causes that focus on youth and the family, such as Youth First Inc., of which I am a board member. The family is the most basic unit of society, which means it is the first defense against most of society’s struggles. Investing in causes that emphasize, promote and strengthen the family and, by extension, the children within that family, leads to stronger communities which, in turn, effect change in society as a whole.

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

A novelist because I love storytelling, or possibly, an event planner because I love to plan and host parties for my friends and children.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I don’t know if it would be considered a “guilty pleasure,” but I don’t think anything makes me happier than reading stories to my daughters. I also love going to antique stores, flea markets, rummage sales and consignment shops to find discarded old things I can change into something else. I call it “treasure hunting.”

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

According to my experience, the overwhelming majority of attorneys are admirable, ethical and professional. They’re leaders in their community and do impressive work inside and outside of the office. However, there is a slim minority of attorneys who, in their quest to win and to be the best, have gone too far. I believe that the poor decision making of these few has led to negative stereotypes about the profession as a whole.

If you could meet and spend the day with one lawyer from history, who would it be and why?

Abe Lincoln, because I find his writing and reasoning to be so simple yet brilliant. I have three of his quotes posted in my office, including my favorite: “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.”

Who is your favorite fictional lawyer?

Jack Brigance in “A Time to Kill” because of the compelling closing argument he delivered to the jury. I haven’t had a chance to read “Sycamore Row,” the sequel.



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  1. I commend Joe for standing up to this tyrant attorney! You ask why? Well I’m one of David Steele victims. I was in desperate need of legal help to protect my child, David saw an opportunity, and he demanded I pay him $3000. Cash. As I received motions and orders from court he did nothing! After weeks of emails asking him to address the legal issues, he responded by saying he was “on vacation “and I should be so lucky to have “my attorney” reply. Finally after lie on top of lie I asked for a full refund, which he refused. He then sent me “bills” for things he never did, such as, his appearance in the case and later claimed he withdrew. He never filed one document / motion for my case! When I finally demanded he refund my money he then turn to threats which scared my family for our lives. It seem unreal we couldn’t believe this guy. I am now over $100,000 in debt digging out of the legal mess he caused my family. Later I was finally able to hire another law office. I met Joe and we worked diligently on my case. I soon learn Joe had a passion for helping people. As anyone who has been through a legal battle it is exhausting. Joe was always more than happy to help or address an issue. Joe was knowledgeable about all my concerns at the same time he was able to reduce the stress and anxieties of my case. He would stay late and come in early, he always went the extra mile to help in any way he could. I can only imagine what Joe and his family has been through, my prayers go out to him and all the victims.

  2. Steele did more than what is listed too. He purposely sought out to ruin me, calling potential employers and then lied about me alleging all kinds of things including kidnapping. None of his allegations were true. If you are in need of an ethical and very knowledgeable family law paralegal, perhaps someone could post their contact information. Ethics cannot be purchased, either your paralegal has them or they do not.

  3. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  4. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  5. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise