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 think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.