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Leadership in Law 2014: Samantha E. DeWester

City prosecutor, public access counselor, deputy corporation counsel, City of Indianapolis • Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, 2007

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15col-DeWester.jpg Samantha DeWester (IL Photo/ Eric Learned)

Although Samantha DeWester has been a practicing attorney for just six years, her legal career began 20 years ago. She’s held management positions in the legal department at Bank One and at Feiwell & Hannoy P.C., working full time while attending law school at night. Now she holds three high-level jobs for the city of Indianapolis. She is not afraid of long hours or a daunting task; she views those as a challenge.

Active in bar associations and committees, Samantha is a sounding board for friends and associates. She is an advocate for programs that help lawyers strive to be better lawyers, and her personal and professional style is viewed as a refreshing example of civility in the legal profession.

You worked in management in the legal departments at several companies before becoming a lawyer. Did you always want to be an attorney or did working in the legal departments inspire you to pursue the law?

I think I knew I wanted to become a lawyer from a young age. My mother worked as a secretary in the Court of Appeals for nearly 20 years, so I grew up around a ton of lawyers. She, more than anything, inspired me to become an attorney.

You’re job title alone sounds overwhelming! What are some tips for achieving a work/life balance?

I work hard and play hard. I decided, long ago, what is most important in my life and I try to devote time to those things and people. Otherwise, I do not feel like a complete human being.

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

When I was an intern at the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, I was able to try many cases. It would be fun to try those same cases now, with the knowledge and experience I have gained.

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

Mentoring is something I truly believe our practice is missing. In my early career, I did not really establish a mentor/mentee relationship with any one particular person. Instead, I have taken lessons from multiple lawyers by whom I am surrounded. I continually strive to help newer lawyers in their endeavors. It is our duty.

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

My uncle, Lloyd DeWester. He passed away when I was a teenager. His granddaughter and I are the first female lawyers in our family. It would be great to hear his experiences and advice.

What civic cause is the most important to you?

Working to keep our city and neighborhoods clean and safe. I have lived here my entire life so whatever the problem, I will work relentlessly to fix it.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Life is too short for guilt.

Why practice in the area of law that you do?

I have always worked in government practice. I love what I do. Being able to help others is a fantastic feeling. I love our city and the great folks here. It is a pleasure being able to serve!

What’s something about you not many people know?

I have mentored kids for most of my adult life. I was a Big Sister for many years, mentored incarcerated boys at Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility and have currently mentored my “little sister” for nearly a decade.

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

Because you typically only hear about lawyers when something salacious or negative is going on. The media typically only reports when good lawyers go bad or when a case is very controversial.
 

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  1. The fee increase would be livable except for the 11% increase in spending at the Disciplinary Commission. The Commission should be focused on true public harm rather than going on witch hunts against lawyers who dare to criticize judges.

  2. Marijuana is safer than alcohol. AT the time the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was enacted all major pharmaceutical companies in the US sold marijuana products. 11 Presidents of the US have smoked marijuana. Smoking it does not increase the likelihood that you will get lung cancer. There are numerous reports of canabis oil killing many kinds of incurable cancer. (See Rick Simpson's Oil on the internet or facebook).

  3. The US has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prisoners. Far too many people are sentenced for far too many years in prison. Many of the federal prisoners are sentenced for marijuana violations. Marijuana is safer than alcohol.

  4. My daughter was married less than a week and her new hubbys picture was on tv for drugs and now I havent't seen my granddaughters since st patricks day. when my daughter left her marriage from her childrens Father she lived with me with my grand daughters and that was ok but I called her on the new hubby who is in jail and said didn't want this around my grandkids not unreasonable request and I get shut out for her mistake

  5. From the perspective of a practicing attorney, it sounds like this masters degree in law for non-attorneys will be useless to anyone who gets it. "However, Ted Waggoner, chair of the ISBA’s Legal Education Conclave, sees the potential for the degree program to actually help attorneys do their jobs better. He pointed to his practice at Peterson Waggoner & Perkins LLP in Rochester and how some clients ask their attorneys to do work, such as filling out insurance forms, that they could do themselves. Waggoner believes the individuals with the legal master’s degrees could do the routine, mundane business thus freeing the lawyers to do the substantive legal work." That is simply insulting to suggest that someone with a masters degree would work in a role that is subpar to even an administrative assistant. Even someone with just a certificate or associate's degree in paralegal studies would be overqualified to sit around helping clients fill out forms. Anyone who has a business background that they think would be enhanced by having a legal background will just go to law school, or get an MBA (which typically includes a business law class that gives a generic, broad overview of legal concepts). No business-savvy person would ever seriously consider this ridiculous master of law for non-lawyers degree. It reeks of desperation. The only people I see getting it are the ones who did not get into law school, who see the degree as something to add to their transcript in hopes of getting into a JD program down the road.

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