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IndyBar: Then and Now: Practitioners Look Back on 50 Years in the Profession

November 2, 2016

iba-50year.jpgFifty years ago, the average house was $14,200, the average salary was $6,900, the average price of a new car was $2,650 and a gallon of gas could be purchased for 32 cents.

In 1966, Batman and Star Trek both air for the first time. NASA launches Lunar Orbiter 1, the first U.S. spacecraft to orbit the moon. Cigarette packs now carry a health warning. The war in Vietnam continues to rage. Medicare goes into effect for 19 million elderly Americans. The world says goodbye to Walt Disney.

For 16 IndyBar members, 1966 was also the year 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 left lasting impressions.

These members are among those to be honored at the upcoming IndyBar and IBF Recognition Breakfast on Nov. 15 at the Meridian Hills Country Club. Join us to salute their accomplishments. Register online at indybar.org/events.
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James D. Blythe II “Work with and for your clients and they will stay with you.”

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

Lawyers really tried to work together in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

What is your favorite memory from the last 50 years?

My favorite memory is hosting public TV’s Ask A Lawyer Show for several years.

Words to live by?

Work with and for your clients and they will stay with you, and they have.
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Eugene W. Lausch “The achievement of useful goals is facilitated…to not to be needy for personal recognition.”

What’s different about practice law today compared to when you began?

Widespread use of technology in preparation, processing and storage of legal documents, the introduction of continuing legal education, the effort led by the Indiana Supreme Court to improve the administration of justice in all of the courts of the state.

What is your favorite memory from the last 50 years?

Most of my career was spent in the public sector where I used my law degree to help me be more effective in carrying out administrative tasks and leadership roles. Focusing on activity that was more purely legal in nature, I enjoyed being involved in researching, drafting, supporting and then implementing state laws and city ordinances designed to achieve useful public goals. In the area of law, in which I tried to develop and maintain some expertise in land use and zoning, I was a faculty member for a number of CLE seminars and served for a term as chair for the Indiana State Bar Association Land Use and Zoning Section.

Words to live by?

Again thinking about the public sector (although I think the principle has broader application), the achievement of useful goals is facilitated by a willingness by those working on the effort to not be needy for personal recognition.
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Elliott D. Levin “Take the high road.”

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

There are many differences from when I started practicing law to today, including the camaraderie among attorneys, the civility among attorneys and the goal to resolve issues rather than litigate issues. In my mind, the biggest change has not been the practice itself, but the technology changes that have occurred. When I started practice, we didn’t have copy machines–we used carbon paper. There weren’t fax machines, and personal computers were years away. Those advancements in technology have made the practice easier, less stressful, less costly, and I think it gives each attorney the ability to better represent a client in real time.

What is your favorite memory from the last 50 years?

My favorite memories are the individuals I have practiced with, and who have now either retired, passed away, or are unable to practice. I am speaking of Steve Ancel, Leonard Opperman, David Kleiman (who has only slowed down), Sigmund J. Beck, Dan Johnson, John Carr, Don Kroger and many others. They made the practice enjoyable. I learned from them, and they were my good friends, and those are the memories that I continue to live by in the practice of law.

Words to live by?

I always say, “Take the high road.” It is less crowded.
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Robert E. Stewart “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”

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

The dramatic change that electronic data has brought to the profession; starting with the change from typewriters and carbon paper to word processing, online research, video depositions, computers in court, e-filing, etcetera. Also, I believe there has been an unhealthy change in the civility of lawyers toward one another in my 50 years of practice.

What is your favorite memory from the last 50 years?

There have been many highlights, but probably the most memorable was the case of a criminal defendant I represented. He was charged with attempted murder for admittedly shooting his estranged wife in the eye with a .22 pistol. The prosecutor would not budge from that charge. After a week-long jury trial, he was convicted of only a lesser included offense of a C felony battery. The associate from our office who assisted me at trial and I went out that evening for dinner and drinks and celebrated long into the evening for the “conviction” of the client. While I have been pleased with the result of many cases tried or settled in 50 years, that is the only occasion I recall really joyously celebrating the conviction of a client.

Words to live by?

The “Golden Rule.” I have always tried to treat clients and fellow attorneys and I would like to be treated were the situation reversed. This also applies to private life.
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Ronald S. Timmons “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter.”

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

I imagine most responses will be similar in that 50 years ago we had to deal with typewriters, carbon paper, making “wet” copies and huge investments in books, bookshelves, supplements, advance sheets and carrying huge tomes from the shelves to our desks in order to prepare our written work. Today, lawyers can carry the Library of Alexandria in their laptops or in their smart phones, in pockets or purses along with all the Indiana statutes and the Northeastern Reporter and can call up (sometimes literally) any case or pertinent statue instantly. Big difference.

What is your favorite memory from the last 50 years?

I have many favorite memories, but the most memorable event has to be appearing before the Supreme Court of the United States as a Deputy Attorney General during the tenure of the late Attorney General John J. Dillon. Asst. AG Douglas McFadden made the oral argument before the Warren Court. I was in Washington at a National Crime Conference and in the evenings prior to the Indiana case being heard, I assisted Doug in the preparation of the argument and sat at counsel table before the most renowned court in America. President Lyndon B. Johnson was a surprise speaker at the last dinner of the Crime Conference later that week, but this took second place in that week’s events, which happened only five months after I was admitted to practice law. What an unforgettable start in a noble profession.

Words to live by?

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ‘Tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” –Mark Twain•

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