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.
Justice Steven David, Indiana Supreme Court
Humility and Professionalism. They go hand in hand. I learned the value of both in two lessons many years ago. I was finishing my first year of law school. My mother took me to JC Penney, and I picked out a bright yellow suit to interview for summer clerk positions. I had an interview in my hometown of Columbus, Indiana, with the law firm of Richard S. Eynon.
I arrived 15 minutes early, of course, with the nicest clip-on tie I could find neatly pinned to my shirt and in that bright yellow suit. To my dismay, I had to wait five whole minutes before my interview. And to top it off, I didn’t interview with Mr. Eynon but with his paralegals! And then I had to wait and wait. There was no one else in the office that I could see, and I became a little frustrated. Did I mention I was about to complete my first year of law school?
A few minutes later, I was taken to Mr. Eynon’s office. We spoke for just a minute or two and then he offered me the job. And then the life lessons came. He said, “You understand, don’t you, that had my staff not given you the nod I never would have even interviewed you. I don’t have to hire you, but I can’t afford to lose any one of them because they can’t get along with you or because you poison my entire office.” Lesson One.
He went on, “Now if I get any complaints from anyone at the Courthouse, whether in the Clerk’s office or from the Judge’s staff or need I say any Judge, I will fire you. Do you understand? And my clients are my livelihood. You must treat every one of them with respect. They don’t care if you are in law school or even if you are a lawyer. They want to be treated with respect and they want you to care about them. Do you understand?” I swallowed my pride…hard. Lesson Two.
I learned more that first summer than I can even recall. Rich Eynon has been a friend and mentor for over 35 years, and he still mentors me today. A former President of the Indiana State Bar Association and a highly respected and acclaimed trial lawyer, he taught me humility and professionalism. He also taught me the importance of being genuine. These are all qualities I try to demonstrate every day and pass along to the next generation of attorneys, like Rich Eynon would.•