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DTCI: Take time to smell flowers along the way

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Indiana Lawyer Commentary

DTCI-crabill-jeffreyOnce in a while you meet someone who makes a lasting impression on you. It’s very trendy today to speak of these people as mentors or role models. When the name Rabb Emison comes to my mind, I immediately think of the word “great.” Rabb Emison was a great person, a great resource, and a great member of the legal community. With his recent passing, we have truly lost a valued member of the legal profession and Indiana society.

Tucked away in his practice in Vincennes, Rabb Emison was the epitome of civility and professionalism in the practice of law. He carried himself with dignity and was ramrod straight in his appearance and in his demeanor.

Rabb Emison was a caring thinker. He frequently shared his thoughts through his submissions to “Res Gestae.” His writings were thoughtful, inspiring, and a real lesson plan for those starting out in the legal profession. Here are a few snippets of his comments.

On service to the community:
[T]here is a lot for lawyers to give in public service. The rewards go to the people and you have a good time in the bargain.

Rabb Emison, Fair Comment, RES GESTAE (Sept. 1991). The Indiana Bar Foundation has published a booklet with nearly all of Rabb Emison’s “Res Gestae” columns. For a copy, contact Jerry Zeigler at Ewing Printing in Vincennes, Ind., www.ewingprinting.com, (800) 982-2415.

Why you may ask, should I be concerned with more than the welfare of my client and seeing that I am compensated for doing a job well done? Why should I be concerned for people I do not know and matters that will likely be forgotten? There is a short answer to those questions. You are a lawyer.

Id. (Sept. 1992)

The distinction between a professional and a tradesman . . . is that a professional gives away a percentage of his time.

Id. (Mar. 1995).

On the importance of mentoring:
Find a mentor. Selection of a role model is a natural adaptation. The mentor will supply a standard for judgment and style, more than rules. Judgment and style, like a smooth golf swing, is better learned by imitation than by words. Your selection of a mentor, someone whose manner you admire, will probably be because the person’s style is similar to your own. No one knows how judgment is developed. Perhaps like music in the movies, it just appears at the appropriate moment.

Rabb Emison, President’s Message, “Res Gestae” (June 1987).

He mentored the entire Indiana bar by dispensing sage advice to the young and old lawyer alike:
Your reputation is to be made in your first five years. It is developed by trustworthiness, punctuality, and style. Sacrifice during this period to develop a good reputation, and it will be a lifetime benefit. If you develop a flawed reputation, it sticks with you. And you deserve it.

Id.

With your client, always exhibit concern. This is being prompt, returning calls, making reports and listening. The client knows a problem exists and is aware that it may not be solved. You are not to be faulted for failing to solve all problems, but you should be faulted for indifference to the client. Today, you can be sued.

Stand your ground when you are right. Any experienced lawyer is a good bluffer and bluffs best against the new lawyer. In my rookie year, I spoke up in a trial conference. The adversary had failed in essential proof. When I pointed this out, first the opposition, then the judge, then – of all things – my lead counsel looked at me as a Creature from the Deep Lagoon. I was embarrassed and shut up, although I was right.

Enjoy your practice. You will have sweet victories, and, on occasion, your heart will be broken. If you have served your client well, you will have succeeded.

Id.

Before diversity was a buzzword, Emison called for diversity in the practice of law:
This bar association should stir itself to see that the percentage of minority lawyers fairly reflects the population. As we are a proud profession, participating in the government, all voices should be fairly represented.

Id. (Oct. 1987).

In the future, our Bar will reflect more of the changes to be seen in our profession. If Indiana is to participate in a cosmopolitan world, the practice of law here should be receptive to all comers. The opportunity to practice is, of course, equal to all, but the Bar has a role in encouraging any applicant to believe in a welcome.

Id. (Feb. 1987).

Last but not least, he stressed the importance of enjoying the practice of law:
What can this mean to lawyers? [discussing Vietnam War] Lawyers are combatants, and for them, too, humor is a leavening force to stress. A trial lawyer has good reason to remember that work done with loyalty to a cause does not require being grim. Each of us knows lawyers whose approach is a gut shot rather than consideration of the issues. LET UP. That approach is boring, tedious stuff. Competent, admired lawyers know a dose of humor, to quote a lyric, is the “spoonful of sugar [that] makes the medicine go down.”

Rabb Emison, Fair Comment, “Res Gestae” (Dec. 1995).

Take time to smell the flowers along the way.

Id. (June 2003).

Emison certainly took his own advice.•

____________

Jeff Crabill is an attorney with State Farm Litigation Counsel in Indianapolis and is a member of DTCI. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s.
 

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  1. November, 2014, I was charged with OWI/Endangering a person. I was not given a Breathalyzer test and the arresting officer did not believe that alcohol was in any way involved. I was self-overmedicated with prescription medications. I was taken to local hospital for blood draw to be sent to State Tox Lab. My attorney gave me a cookie-cutter plea which amounts to an ALCOHOL-related charge. Totally unacceptable!! HOW can I get my TOX report from the state lab???

  2. My mother got temporary guardianship of my children in 2012. my husband and I got divorced 2015 the judge ordered me to have full custody of all my children. Does this mean the temporary guardianship is over? I'm confused because my divorce papers say I have custody and he gets visits and i get to claim the kids every year on my taxes. So just wondered since I have in black and white that I have custody if I can go get my kids from my moms and not go to jail?

  3. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  4. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  5. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

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