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Five for 5 at 25

October 21, 2015

As Indiana Lawyer marks its 25th anniversary, we posed five questions to five leaders in the legal community admitted to practice in 1990. Here’s what they had to say upon marking a quarter-century in the profession.

blomquist-kerry-mug Blomquist

Kerry Hyatt Blomquist
Legal counsel, Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence

1. When you finished law school and passed the bar, what were your expectations for your budding legal career, and where did you see your career going?
Law was my second career. For some reason, no one is ever shocked to find out that my first career was in TV and radio news reporting. I loved it; actually the radio more than the TV because I loved the challenge of writing effective and concise copy. When I worked at a station in California I worked at the Statehouse, then came the interest in law, a chance encounter with the LSAT, and off we went.

2. What is the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you during your career?
I was lucky to be involved in a U.S. Supreme Court case in 2006, a domestic violence case from Indiana, Hammon vs. Indiana. When (Chief Justice) Roberts called my name to be sworn in, I was so star struck I didn’t stand up immediately as I should have. The woman next to me had to elbow me. Classy.

3. In the 25 years you’ve been in practice, what advice has been the most meaningful to you?
There’s a pro-canine bumper sticker that says “Wag More, Bark Less,” and that, in a phrase, mirrors the best advice I have ever been given. We as lawyers belong to a distinguished profession that embraces civil discourse. Yes, we solve problems, resolve disputes and demand accountability, but the way we do that is critical to both the quality of our legal representation and our reputations in this legal community. I heard somewhere that empathy is a uniquely human characteristic. Let’s not screw that up.

4. When you think back to law school, how did those experiences and your student peers prepare you for the life you lead now?
I made some amazing friends in law school. There is a kind of camaraderie that is born when any one of us could be put on the spot and asked to state a case in Contracts class. Like most students, I suspect, we were all wondering if going to law school was going to be worth the financial sacrifice. Key lesson? Never underestimate the bonding power of palpable fear.

5. Where do you see yourself in another 25 years?
Napping without guilt.

massa-mark Massa

Mark S. Massa
Indiana Supreme Court justice

1. When you finished law school and passed the bar, what were your expectations for your budding legal career, and where did you see your career going?
I was a full-time intern in the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office during my final year of night law school trying major felony cases in Judge Patricia Gifford’s major felony court, and was hoping to get an offer to stay on as a full-fledged deputy prosecutor. That offer came about a month before the bar results, and I gladly accepted. I hoped for nothing more than a meaningful career helping crime victims and contributing to my community. My long-term goal was to someday become an assistant U.S. attorney, which finally happened in 2002.

2. What is the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you during your career?
All of it. I really wasn’t all that confident coming out of law school that I could hit big league pitching in major felony court. Everything else that subsequently happened to me is mostly dumb luck: clerking for Chief Justice (Randall) Shepard, meeting (former Marion County Prosecutor) Scott Newman, trying murder cases, serving as counsel to Gov. (Mitch) Daniels, and being appointed to the court. I can’t say I expected any of that when I finished law school.

3. In the 25 years you’ve been in practice, what advice has been the most meaningful to you?
Do what you like but like what you do. Don’t take a job just for the money. Find something that helps people and gives you resonance in your work.

4. When you think back to law school, how did those experiences and your student peers prepare you for the life you lead now?
My night school peers made the lectures come alive. All of us worked full time during the day and brought those experiences to class. I took Criminal Procedure and had two cops in my class. I had doctors and nurses as classmates in Medical Malpractice and Torts, and accountants in Tax Law. We all wanted to do different things, and we have. It demonstrated the breadth of the law and all it touches, and affects me to this day, especially in my current job, given the variety of cases and subjects we review.

5. Where do you see yourself in another 25 years?
If I’m still alive, I’ll be 79 and mandatorily retired. I hope to be healthy enough to enjoy it a little.

tavitas-elizabeth-mug.jpg Tavitas

Elizabeth F. Tavitas
Lake Superior judge

1. When you finished law school and passed the bar, what were your expectations for your budding legal career, and where did you see your career going?
I wanted to do public service work and told everyone I wanted to be a prosecutor and I wanted to be a judge. Then I realized you just can’t decide to be a judge. I’ve been very fortunate that I did start out as a deputy prosecutor, then I was a public defender for the juvenile court. I became a judicial officer in juvenile court as a referee in 1998, then I was appointed judge in 2006. My career actually went the way I had hoped, so I was very fortunate.

2. What is the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you during your career?
The most unexpected thing, I think, is that I did actually become a judge. Even though when I started out I knew that was what I wanted to do, once I entered the legal field, I realized it was one of those positions where the stars kind of have to align to be able to achieve that goal. Because it was my first attempt, that was also very unexpected.

3. In the 25 years you’ve been in practice, what advice has been the most meaningful to you?
Volunteer to do things that you are not being delegated. As a deputy prosecutor out of law school, I didn’t have trial experience, so I volunteered to sit as second chair. I’ve also carried that through my career in the sense that if I didn’t have experience in a certain area, I volunteered to try to get that experience.

4. When you think back to law school, how did those experiences and your student peers prepare you for the life you lead now?
The Socratic method of Notre Dame Law School taught me to always be prepared for class, which carried over to my practice as a lawyer and as a judge in the courtroom. During the first year of law school, it was common practice by the faculty to call upon one student and the professor would ask one student for the entire length of the class multiple questions regarding the assigned reading material. I learned to always be prepared so that I would not relive that terrifying experience of giving a wrong answer.

5. Where do you see yourself in another 25 years?
I see myself still being actively involved in the legal community. There are a lot of things on my bucket list. I would love to teach law someday; I’d love to volunteer for Judges Without Borders; I want to write a book. At the same time, I’d like to enjoy life, hobbies, and I hope to be traveling a lot. I don’t ever plan on retiring and doing nothing.

vinovich Vinovich

Daniel Vinovich
Partner, Hilbrich Law Firm, Highland

1. When you finished law school and passed the bar, what were your expectations for your budding legal career, and where did you see your career going?
I expected to return home to northwest Indiana and handle personal injury/medical malpractice cases with a small firm, which I did and still do with the same firm that I clerked for after my second year of law school. It has been extremely rewarding in that I enjoy the challenge of complex cases and helping people who are injured or lost a loved one. We have always been able to accept the cases we want and decline the ones we don’t want.

2. What is the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you during your career?
Becoming president of the Indiana State Bar Association in 2012 was most unexpected. I did not anticipate getting so involved in bar association activities but it is a wonderful experience and opened many doors. Having the opportunity to help formulate change in legislation and court rules affecting the judicial system and better the practice of law is fulfilling. Traveling throughout the state and country as a representative of all Hoosier lawyers is quite an honor.

3. In the 25 years you’ve been in practice, what advice has been the most meaningful to you?
Always be prepared, and do not underestimate your opponent. These are a trial lawyer’s words to live by.

4. When you think back to law school, how did those experiences and your student peers prepare you for the life you lead now?
I would say my law school experience was a wake-up call. I was not quite prepared for the significant change in study habits. While I enjoyed many of the classroom experiences, I found the grading system of one final exam with little feedback during the semester to be discouraging. My student peers, however, provided support and encouragement that helped fill the void from the lack of faculty involvement. Overall, I believe law school did better prepare me for analyzing problems, resolving disputes and dealing with uncertainties that arise in life.

5. Where do you see yourself in another 25 years?
Far away from the courtroom I hope. That would put me at 75 years old. I would hope to be retired and golfing somewhere warm with my wife.

Wentworth Wentworth

Martha Blood Wentworth
Indiana Tax Court judge

1. When you finished law school and passed the bar, what were your expectations for your budding legal career, and where did you see your career going?
I attended law school with the intention of having a career as a federal tax attorney. As luck would have it, however (and never discount the role luck plays in a career), my first legal job was as a clerk to then-Tax Court Judge Thomas G. Fisher. The unexpected result of my first job was that I learned, and fell head over heels for, the richness of state taxation. I was determined to become an expert in this area of law.

2. What is the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you during your career?
Three unexpected events have formed my career to date. The first is discussed above. The second was my decision to leave a law firm (Hall Render) and join an accounting firm (Deloitte). The third unexpected event was by far the most stunning to me – being appointed as the Indiana Tax Court judge. I had never considered that the position would ever be available to me because if Judge Fisher had not retired early, I would likely have been too old to be considered when he did retire. The lesson from my unexpected experiences then is that it pays to embrace the unexpected!

3. In the 25 years you’ve been in practice, what advice has been the most meaningful to you?
There are two pieces of advice that I have received that I have always tried to follow. The first is to work hard to be rewarded. We are in a profession that has lots of office politics and is very competitive. Rather than succumbing to the politics or dog-eat-dog combat, I just tried to show value through hard work and civility. Second is to do what you love passionately. I hope I am the poster-child for being passionate about state tax law!

4. When you think back to law school, how did those experiences and your student peers prepare you for the life you lead now?
I first attended law school at 36 years old. I was separating from my husband, had two beautiful daughters, and had a small business in Bloomington. My law student peers were much younger, but I tried to capitalize on being a bit different by getting to know as many of my colleagues as possible. That made school so much more enjoyable, but had the added benefit of creating colleagues for life. Many have helped me over the years in various cases, with introductions and important events.

5. Where do you see yourself in another 25 years?
I will be over 90 and a retired judge then, so I hope I am still enjoying life. I will find some avenue to continue to pursue my passion of spreading the word that state taxation is an exciting area of law that involves a variety of constitutional issues, statutory construction, procedural conundrums, and equitable issues unmatched by any other area of law. After all, my mantra is and always will be, “Tax is law, not math!”•
 

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