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IndyBar: Avoiding ‘Time Outs’ Through Lessons in Civility

January 28, 2015

iba-getting-along-logoCivility. Courtesy. Respect. Professionalism. These are words that should be synonymous with “Advocate” but in a world of high stakes, strong opinions, and a general, societal decline in basic manners, how can attorneys fight the good fight while living up to these ideals – especially if the other side doesn’t? We set out to find examples of lawyers who model the way while providing excellent representation.

Getting Along is Not Wrong, an initiative of the IndyBar Standing Committee on Professionalism, is the impressive collection of such positive and compelling behavior. Check out the newest entry below, and find new installments online at indybar.org/blog.

Melanie Reichert, Broyles Kight & Ricafort PC

Three attorneys who led by example for me are Mike Hebenstreit, Kevin McGoff and Bruce Pennamped. I had challenging and complicated cases with each of them opposing fairly early in my legal career. While other experienced attorneys either “talked down” to me, ignored my perspective, looked at me like a piece of meat or assumed I would be ill-prepared for trial, they never did any of those things. They treated me with respect and fairness at all times. They taught me that our clients could have drastically different positions or treat each other horribly but that there was no need for the lawyers to do so. They showed the importance of not taking the cases personally. They demonstrated that while clients come and go, you work with the same core group of colleagues for the duration of your legal career. I try to model their approach now when I have less-experienced counsel on the other side of a case.

One of my favorite examples from a judicial officer involves Justice David. I was co-counsel in an extremely contentious case. Lead counsel for each of the spouses do not have reputations for being the most civil of legal professionals. During a hearing and argument on a narrow issue, the two attorneys were speaking with raised voices, interrupting one another and quickly heading down a path of personal insults. Justice David stopped the proceedings and essentially gave everyone a time out. When the hearing resumed, cooler heads prevailed. A judge with a strong presence from the bench, yet a calm and even-handed judicial demeanor, runs an effective courtroom and promotes a favorable public impression from the legal system. Local examples of such judges and judicial officers, in my opinion, include: Steve Nation, Dan Pfleging, Will Greenaway, David Najjar, Jeff Edens, Mark Smith, Justices David and Rush, Heather Welch, David Dreyer, Robyn Moberly and Tanya Walton Pratt.•

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