IndyBar: The Evolution of Law: 50-Year Practitioners Look Back

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iba-50-year.jpgFifty years ago, a gallon of gas cost 30 cents, a postage stamp cost five cents and a ticket to the movies was $1.25. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War raged on. The first Ford Mustang was made, Cassius Clay became the World Heavyweight champion and the British and French governments began making plans to build a tunnel under the English Channel.

For 14 IndyBar members, fifty years ago was also when they began practicing law.

To get a better idea of what it means to spend 50 years devoted to the profession, some of these members shared an inside glimpse at some of their best memories in the field. Read on to see what has changed and which experiences have left a lasting impression.

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Mr. David B. Hughes

“In all things, finish in style.”

What was it like practicing law when you started compared to now?

Where do I start? If the question were, “What are the biggest similarities?” my answer would be, “N/A!” I think the biggest difference is the fast dwindling ability of regular folks to obtain the services of good lawyers at an affordable price. Close seconds would be the sheer size of the bar now, electronics, specialization and the ungodly expense of litigation.

What is your favorite memory from the last 50 years?

Time spent with my mentors: my dad, Fran Hughes, and Shel Breskow, to name only two. Also, surviving–pretty much unscathed–my three years as chief deputy prosecutor in Saul Rabb’s Criminal Court No. 2 (truth be told, I actually liked Judge Rabb).

Words to live by?

My mother drilled into our brains, “In all things, finish in style.” It comes in very handy in all of life’s endeavors. As to the opposite–words to die by–my sarcophagus at Crown Hill will read, “His motion for enlargement of time was denied!”

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Robert P. Kassing, Bose McKinney & Evans LLP

“A good friend of mine long retired from the practice once told me, ‘If there is something you want to do, you had better get after it.’ Fifty years fly by so much faster than I would have imagined.”

What is the biggest difference between practicing law in 1964 versus today?

When I started out many years ago, the Indianapolis bar environment was far different, not only because of the great increase in the number of practicing lawyers over the years. There was limited, hardly any, lawyer free agency among law firms of any size. At the beginning of my practice, the number of lawyers in mid to large firms ranged from 10 to the mid-20s. My recollection of the biggest difference between then and now, however, was the culture of the bar in the 60s and 70s. It was much more collegial, which was helped along by a dining room operated by the Indianapolis Bar Association. The food was marginal or worse but the gathering place fostered collegiality, friendships, good relationships and great times.

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Mr. Norman P. Metzger, Indiana Legal Services, Inc.

“Perfect is the enemy of good.”

What was it like practicing law when you started compared to now?

First of all, technology has completely changed the practice of law, including everything from word processing to legal research to form practice. Secondly, training and support for attorneys have become the sine qua non, not just for trial practice, but every element of the practice of law. Finally, the practice of law is so diversified that knowledge beyond the law is a requisite to succeed in the practice of law. It’s an advantage for lawyers to be multilingual, to specialize in discrete substantive law areas and to be comfortable when dealing with non-traditional legal issues and clients.

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Mr. Robert H. Reynolds, Barnes & Thornburg LLP

“Do your best to maintain a balanced life, despite heavy pressures from today’s practice. Leave time for your family and your community. At the end of the day, you’ll be glad you did.”

What is your favorite memory from the last 50 years?

There are many. First, being in the associate

and partner class with Shirley Shideler, the first female lawyer employed by the firm, was one of the best. She went to what is now the IU McKinney School of Law at night while she worked as an extraordinary secretary during the day. She later became the first female partner in any of the larger firms. We were buddies until her untimely death.

Second, being on the committee to arrange the 1982 merger of Barnes Hickam Pantzer & Boyd with the Thornburg McGill firm of South Bend (then the fourth largest firm in the State) to create Barnes & Thornburg, the first “statewide” law firm. That merger resulted in the Indianapolis firm’s first written partnership agreement. Now Barnes & Thornburg has 12 offices and spans the country. The changes have been breathtaking.

Third, also in 1982, is helping Don Knebel recruit Bill Coffey and the Jenkins Coffey firm, making Barnes & Thornburg the first Indianapolis firm to include a substantial and integrated intellectual property practice.

Finally, fourth, in 1990, the firm joined TerraLex, a worldwide network of leading independent law firms. Working through the TerraLex member firms, the firm’s lawyers were able to serve our United States clients in international matters. Those activities took me to Germany, Japan and China, to name only a few of the special memories my work with TerraLex created. Contrast this with the fact that because international travel was so unusual, firm lawyers who were fortunate enough to travel out of the country in the early years, usually on vacation, were expected to report on their foreign travels at firm meetings.

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Mr. Paul G. Roland

“Respect, tolerance and perseverance.”

What is your favorite memory from the last 50 years?

I have many, many fond memories of successful jury trials, especially defending members of the Fraternal Order of Police. However, my favorite memory was achieving acquittal prior to jury submission in the trial of my father who had been charged with illegal transportation of lottery tickets in Illinois prior to the time Congress repealed the laws banning sales of lottery tickets countywide.

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Pearson Smith, Bose McKinney & Evans LLP?

“Keep your eyes on the ball.”

What is the biggest difference between practicing law in 1964 versus today? ?

There was no such thing as email.

What’s your favorite memory of the last 50 years in law??

The standing ovation received by Andy Jacobs Sr. in the late 60s when he entered the IndyBar lunchroom after winning a defamation case against the Star-News.

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Mr. Sydney L. Steele, Kroger Gardis & Regas LLP

“Do nothing to compromise your reputation.”

What was it like practicing law when you started compared to now?

No voicemail, email or internet. “Cut and paste” was actually “cut and paste.” You had time to breathe between sending a letter and waiting for a response, unlike now when you get an immediate response (sometimes). The practice of law, although tense at times, was a little more leisurely. Also, you knew most of the lawyers in town.

What’s your favorite memory of the last 50 years in law?

There are many, but I fondly remember trying a case before Judge Dillon when he directed the U.S. Marshall to take away in handcuffs a witness I had cross-examined who had clearly lied on the witness stand in the Judge’s court. Yes, there sometimes is justice.

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Mr. Stephen W. Sutherlin, Bose McKinney & Evans LLP

“The greatest thing a lawyer has is his ego, and the worst thing a lawyer has is his ego.”

What is the biggest difference between practicing law in 1964 versus today?

Technology and the addition of women to the bar. The latter took what was more of a good old boys organization to one with much more integrity and ethics.•

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