Terre Haute attorney Scott M. Kyrouac wants to advance civility between plaintiffs and defense lawyers, and plans to advocate against “anti-lawyer legislation” that may be lodged against the legal community.
These are two of the main goals that the 25-year attorney embraces as the new president of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana. He will be the 44th person to hold that position when his term begins at the start of 2011.
“We’re ambassadors for the legal profession and need to do what we can to advance civility among all attorneys we practice with,” said Kyrouac, who takes the reigns of an organization that boasts about 700 members and is considered to be one of the strongest of its kind in the country. “Too often, it seems there’s a tendency among attorneys to tear another attorney down in order make themselves look better.”
A 1985 graduate of what’s now Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Kyrouac practices at law firm Wilkinson Goeller Modesitt Wilkinson & Drummy and focuses on personal injury, medical malpractice, products liability, and various other types of defense litigation.
Indianapolis attorney Tom Schultz, a past president of the DTCI who serves as the organization’s state representative, says that Kyrouac’s leadership as a trial attorney and devotion to the practice overall make him a good fit for the presidency this next year. His experience looking at other similar defense organizations from other states shows him that Indiana has one of the strongest in the country because of its legislative lobby, an active amicus committee, and so many in-depth committees serving members.
In turn, all of those areas are priorities that Kyrouac has his sights on during his presidency.
Working with attorneys from outside Indiana during the past year, Kyrouac says he’s witnessed firsthand how civil Hoosier attorneys are compared to others from outside the state. But that doesn’t mean the practicing attorneys here are immune from hostile sentiments.
“Even though we may be mostly civil, we have to be careful” that lawyers here don’t end up behaving in uncivil ways, he said. “That is contrary to the goals our chief justice has set forth for the Indiana bar, and I think we need to promote those ideals more aggressively.”
Kyrouac is interested in advocating for legislation that promotes general civility in the legal community as well as against what he calls “anti-lawyer legislation” targeting specific segments of the practicing bar and their clientele.
For example, he refers to legislation proposed in 2010 that would have raised the penalty for failing to accept qualified settlement offers from $1,000 to $5,000 that, in essence, he sees as keeping more litigants out of court. He’s also concerned about any legal services tax that might be used in this coming budget-setting session to try and raise additional revenue and would push the DTCI to oppose that.
“I’m a strong believer in the jury system and am opposed to any anti jury trial or anti-lawyer legislation that truly takes away from our system and eliminates people’s ability to find a lawyer or get their cases heard in court,” he said. “That’s contrary to the principles of our Constitution and we all need to be on guard against it. You’ll find that my trial lawyer experience is what sets me apart from a typical DTCI mouthpiece.”
Aside from those two main priorities, Kyrouac hopes to also improve and further develop the DTCI’s website so that it’s more interactive and user-friendly for members and the public. He’s interested in seeing the organization’s Indiana Civil Litigation Review more accessible to members online as well as possible brief banks that could provide value to members to review or cite in their own cases.
He wants to continue developing each of the association’s sections, especially the paralegal section that he views as too often being an afterthought in the defense practice despite paralegals possessing the ability to make law firms more cost efficient.
All of that means continuing what his predecessors such as Indianapolis attorney Mary Reeder have done to pave the way for his presidency, Kyrouac said. He’s also looking forward to the 45-year anniversary next year that will be marked by the annual seminar in French Lick in mid-November. For 2011, the new president hopes more vendor relationships can be established to help keep down member costs, and he would like to see a strengthening of the organization’s educational efforts.
Getting these goals accomplished means being mindful of DTCI’s biggest challenge currently and in the year to come: the economy and financial concerns.
“Lawyers have been hit hard by the recession and are suffering as much as other people in Indiana. We find we have to watch our budgets and efficiently spend our membership dollars,” Kyrouac said, noting that he plans to continue focusing on efforts such as the organization’s amicus brief writing and advocacy efforts on appellate court issues.
“I’m grateful for what’s been done and I want to continue getting involved in cases and being a resource for our members the best we can.”
Joining him in leadership roles, Reeder takes on the past-president title while Lonnie D. Johnson of Bloomington is president-elect, Jerry E. Huelat of Michigan City is vice president, James D. Johnson of Evansville is secretary, and Thomas C. Hays of Indianapolis is treasurer.•