Leadership in Law 2014: John C. Render

Shareholder, Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman P.C., Indianapolis • Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, 1971

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15col-Render.jpg John C. Render (Submitted photo)

If asked to name Indiana’s premiere health care attorneys, the name John C. Render is among those that top the list. John has been instrumental not only in the growth of the law firm that bears his name, but also in the development of local health care law and regulations. He spent 32 years as general counsel to the Indiana Hospital Association and was an adjunct instructor at Indiana University for more than two decades in its graduate program in health care administration. Students remember him as an influential instructor who was funny, had great stories and taught them a lot about the law. In fact, current Hall Render chairman William H. Thompson, a former student of John’s, was so influenced by him that he went to law school specifically to practice health care law.

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

I probably would have taught. I started life as a high school English teacher and went to law school at night.

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

I worked in the steel mills in Lake County for a time between a couple semesters of college. It reinforced in my mind that I didn’t want to do manual labor for the rest of my life. I wanted to earn a living with my mind and not my back.

Why do you practice in the area of law that you do?

Happenstance. I was in law school and I was teaching. One summer a friend went to work for the Indiana Hospital Association, called me up and said, “We are looking for someone.” They hired me for the summer. The next summer they called me back. I met their general counsel, and we got to know each other the second year. The president of the association and Mr. William Hall said, “We’d like you to stay here, and if you stay you can work for the Hospital Association and work with Mr. Hall in a clerkship situation.” I thought about it for five seconds, so I resigned from teaching and started working for the Hospital Association. When I graduated and passed the bar we started Hall Render in 1971.

How has health care law changed since you started?

It’s become an enormous industry. When I started it was a lot of hospitals, but it’s become such a multibillion-dollar industry in terms of both organizational aspects and demand for service. As more people are covered by insurance and public programs, demand has escalated. That, in turn, has grown our clients enormously, and as they have grown, we have grown, too.

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

One of the bigger changes is the proliferation of advertising with regard to trying to get clients. I am not convinced that it’s the right way to choose legal counsel or choose a cardiovascular surgeon because he has a billboard on (Interstate) 465. Law, medicine, all professions need to do a better job of informing the public about the people who are available to do work and provide services, their professional qualifications, etc. But I don’t think the professionals themselves are the best to provide that information. We all have a tendency to overstate our qualifications and talents. Me advertising on Lucas Oil Stadium does not make me the right lawyer to solve a problem.

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

It’s changed. I’m not sure if it’s a product of the profession or byproduct of society. I really think advertising has contributed to this. It has demeaned the profession in my mind, made us look like hucksters. There was a time when law and medicine were looked at as upstanding ethical professions. I think we still have those standards, but societal and other changes in the bar have caused a reduction in both civility and collegiality. I’m a believer that you can be collegial and can work with opponents and still zealously represent your clients. One thing I’ve learned and most lawyers will tell this, if you treat your opponents and their clients with courtesy and respect and still do the job vigorously, that client sometimes down the line will hire you. If answer is too long for print, cut highlighted section.

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

One of the major reasons is people come to lawyers mostly in situations of great trauma – personal or business distress, divorce, being sued, having criminal charge. If it doesn’t go right or they don’t get the right result, or think the lawyer charged too much or did too little, there can be a lot of negative feelings about that. You’ve got to be very effective and empathetic in dealing with people when they have legal problems. You may have seen this problem 50 times before, but it’s the most important thing in their life.

What’s something about you not many people know?

I like to occasionally bake things, mostly pies. One of my grandmothers, in an attempt to have me spend time with her as a little kid, taught me to bake pies.

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

Whatever time you spend at the office, when you leave the office, don’t take it with you. I think when you leave, leave; and when you come back, do your work there. Whatever number of hours you put into the practice of law, you can fill. There is always something to do. If you want to put in 18 hours, there’s something to do.

What civic cause is the most important to you?

I admire certain charities a great deal like Salvation Army and St. Vincent DePaul and charities that minister to the poor.

Who is your favorite fictional lawyer?

Jake Brigance in “A Time to Kill.”

You’ve written many law review articles and contributed to papers on medical-legal subjects. What do you enjoy about writing?

I think it’s the component of teaching and scholarship. I’ve always enjoyed that kind of thing.

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

I would tell my younger self in high school and early college to be much more focused on academics and so forth. I was a good student, but I was just fortunate to be smart enough.

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

Trust and estates and future interests. I never enjoyed that.

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

I’ve really enjoyed health law. I tell young people if you can find something to do that you really enjoy and make a living out of it, like I’ve been fortunate to do, your life is going to largely be very happy. I kind of wish I had been academically more focused early one, both college and law school, and been able to concentrate more on my studies. I, like a lot of people in both college and law school, had to work, so I never really felt like I had the full college experience, so to speak.



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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues