Looking back over their careers as attorneys in the family practice, Robert and Jared Ewbank often ask themselves, “Why are we still doing this?”
The father and son are numbers four and five in a line of five generations of Ewbank men, all fathers and sons, who have pursued careers as lawyers in Lawrenceburg. The two most recent Ewbank attorneys define themselves as late starters, with Robert Ewbank waiting to begin his legal career until he returned from service in the Navy in 1973 and 39-year-old Jared Ewbank just recently earning admission to the Indiana bar.
The original Ewbank lawyers were county-seat attorneys, and the first two generations — John William and James — were abstractors who founded the family businesses in 1882. Gerald Ewbank, Robert’s late father, then began to expand the family practice, and today Ewbank & Kramer is a full-service law firm that offers services in criminal, family, personal injury, estate and probate, real estate and business law. Additionally, the family continues in the tradition of the first two generations’ work as abstractors by owning and operating Ewbank Land Title Inc.
“It’s just unusual that the firm holds together that long,” Robert Ewbank said.
Although their legal work began after pursuing other careers, the Ewbank men admitted that their fathers’ influences eventually pulled them toward the life of an attorney. But five generations ago, when John William Ewbank began practicing law in 1882 without paternal precedent, it was the influence of his mother that moved him into the legal sphere.
Going back as far as the 18th century, Robert Ewbank said his ancestors established a pattern of marrying women who had pursued an education and allowed their daughters to do the same. Though the practice of sending women to school was still somewhat unusual at the time, it became a tradition in the Ewbank family and laid a foundation for a dedication to education in the family for generations to come, he said.
The direct line of Ewbank men aren’t the only family members with a prominent presence in Indiana’s legal community. Louis Ewbank, Robert’s great uncle, was the 62nd justice of the Indiana Supreme Court and the chief justice, serving on the state’s highest bench from 1920 to 1927. Robert Ewbank said his great uncle was also a prolific writer and author of the noted legal work “Ewbank Criminal Law.”
When he was growing up, Robert Ewbank said his father encouraged his children to exercise their minds even at the dinner table, when he would lead Socratic-type conversations about the events of the world. Robert Ewbank said he encouraged similar, often heated discussions with his own children, including Jared, a fact he said contributed to the family’s affinity for arguing effectively in court.
As one of six children, Robert Ewbank said he never felt pressure to become an attorney, but instead was inspired by his father’s happy and successful career. But as one of only two, Jared Ewbank said he felt there was more pressure on him to keep the family business going, though a legal career was never mandated.
Instead, the fifth-generation Ewbank attorney said his career as a restaurant manager had become mundane, and he believed working as an attorney would offer more variety. So far, his work with the family law practice and land title business has proven him right, he said.
Though working closely with family members is often discouraged in many professions, the Ewbanks said their close connection actually enhances their practice. When a problem arises, the father-son duo said they often think of the same solution at the same time, which leads to them finishing each other’s sentences as they talk through the issue.
And as he prepares for a time in his career when his father will no longer be working by his side, Jared Ewbank said he looks to his father’s example now and tries to commit his actions and ideas to memory.
“It’s very fulfilling to have that resource,” he said.
As a father of two young children, Jared Ewbank said he is already seeing signs of a possible sixth generation in his son.
But Jared Ewbank’s son sees the practice of law as more than just desk work or going to trial. When he talks about Robert Ewbank’s work – or “Grandbob” as he is known amongst his family – the youngest Ewbank says he wants to be a “warrior” like his grandfather.
Though the work of being an attorney can at times feel like being a warrior as Jared’s son described, the Ewbank men said they try to balance their work with fun and cherish the unique opportunity of getting to work side-by-side in a business that has been in their family for more than a century.
“As a kid, if your dad’s working in the garden, you want to work in the garden with him,” Jared Ewbank said. “Now the garden’s a lot pointier.”•