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Looking on the Bright Side...

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Robin Babbitt mug Robin L. Babbitt
Indianapolis Bar Foundation
President

I freely admit this is the time of year that I question my family’s decision to establish our residence north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Going for weeks on end without sunshine is not good for one’s soul. In Indiana, March is the month that typically throws a couple of cruel jokes this way. About the time Hoosiers become convinced that we have turned the corner and Spring has really arrived, the weather gods typically throw in a last winter storm (or two).

When winter gets the best of me, I reflect back on my move to Indianapolis in 1977 and the beginning of my studies at the IU Indianapolis School of Law. I entered law school at a time when it was being portrayed in an unflattering light in books (Scott Turow’s – 1L), in movies (Paper Chase) and on TV. I probably was not alone in starting law school with the firm conviction that I would be lucky to graduate. Superimposing images of Professor Kingsfield with unknown classmates who would sabotage anyone standing in their way to improve their class standing was not comforting.

The good news is that my reality was nothing like the events portrayed in the movie and TV series. Professors like Dean Harvey, Bruce Townsend and Chuck Kelso – while legendary – were brilliant, compassionate and fair. It did not take me long to come to the inescapable conclusion that my colleagues (in the Class of 1980) would form a group of the finest people and most accomplished professionals I would come to know. I will point out only one of them (at the risk of his certain embarrassment) because I think he is an excellent combination of all of the qualities that made our class special.

Ross Rudolph, a well respected trial lawyer and mediator who has practiced in Evansville for the past 30+ years, quickly became a very close friend. In short order during the Fall of 1977, Ross displayed his true colors. He had diligently prepared a typed outline (at a time you had to use White-Out to make even a simple correction) that he updated daily based upon the assigned reading in Contracts I and that he supplemented with his handwritten class notes. When Prof. Kelso told us he would give us a midterm so that we would have an appreciation for what it would be like to take a law school final before the end of the first semester rolled around, Ross offered to give a couple of us a copy of his outline in order to assist with our exam preparation. Almost immediately, it seemed as if copies were being made for our entire Contracts class. In short, Ross was happy to lose his hard-earned competitive advantage in order to lend a helping hand to his classmates. He was (and is) the model of a person who does things for the greater good at the sacrifice of personal gain. He was (and is) the consummate “team player”. He wanted to do well, but not at anyone else’s expense. Scott Turow must not have had a classmate like Ross.

Over the course of my 30 years of practice, I have been constantly reminded that the ability to practice law before, with and even against principled people with common “Hoosier values” is an immeasurable blessing that makes suffering through Indiana winters bearable. I had similar thoughts as I sat on the podium in January to witness President Mike Hebenstreit’s installation. As his family looked on with pride, I recognized how fortunate our bar association is to be led by someone who (like my classmate Ross Rudolph) is equipped with the full complement of the most important skills that a Hoosier lawyer can possess. When the going gets tough, I simply reflect on how fortunate I was to land in such a welcoming place chocked full of people of great character.

Part of that package is the unselfish desire to help those most in need. We are blessed to participate in a noble profession that gives us the ability to provide for those who depend upon us. I ask each of you to tap into that sense of altruism by generously supporting the Indianapolis Bar Foundation. It is as simple as going to the Indianapolis Bar Foundation website (www.indybar.org/about/bar-foundation) to donate online or to call Megan Keever at the Bar Foundation office (269-2000) to tell her that you would like to make a pledge. Rest assured, the Foundation will put your generosity to good use.

Ain’t it great to live in Indiana? …•

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