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LEADERSHIP IN LAW 2017: Jeffrey S. Dible

Member, Frost Brown Todd LLC, Indianapolis; Indiana University Maurer School of Law, 1979

May 3, 2017
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If you need to know a certain section of IRS Code, just ask Jeff Dible. He has a near-perfect recall and accurately cites them in discussions. That knowledge has led to his reputation as a highly regarded tax attorney. He’s also well-known in estate planning and frequently testifies before committees of the Indiana General Assembly in favor of or against bills to amend the state’s trust, estate and guardianship laws, including the repeal of Indiana’s inheritance tax. Jeff is certified as a trust and estate specialist in Indiana and is the longtime leader of the board that certifies the specialty. He also frequently presents on the topics of estate planning and tax matters for local organizations.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Buy Apple Computer common stock in 1978, and hold it.

What are the advantages and drawbacks of always being accessible to clients and working anywhere, thanks to technology?

Advantages: Being able to react more quickly to clients’ questions and needs as important events “break,” and to work at home early in the mornings and on weekends. Disadvantage: Never being really “off duty” and free from the demands of work and clients.

What will the profession look like in 15 years?

For those of us who are not confined to re-education camps, the profession will look even more like a technologically driven, mature business than it does now. I hope that the great collegiality among trust and estate lawyers does not diminish.

Why did you become a lawyer?

I chose a career that I thought would have intellectual rewards, provide adequate income and some personal autonomy, and be relatively protected from being displaced by robots.

What do you do to unwind?

With my wife, gardening and doing restoration work on our 1897 Victorian house. Watching some classic film on DVD at 3 a.m. on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

What attracted you to your practice area?The mixture of intellectual exercise, problem solving, document design and dealing with life-and-death issues that are high-priority matters for individuals and their families.

What’s something about you not many people know?

Back in 1975-76, I was the “film chairman” at my dormitory at Purdue, and I ran the program where we showed recent or classic movies (on 16 mm film! With a projector!) for the dorm residents.

What has been your most memorable case? My next one. I could not identify one past case that is “most memorable.” To paraphrase Tolstoy, “Every dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in its own way.”

What do you learn when mentoring someone?

I see new illustrations of the principle that the best way to learn some discipline is to train someone else and to answer that other person’s new questions.

What’s something about you not many people know?

In the pre-VCR era, back in 1975-76, I was the “film chairman” at my dormitory at Purdue, and I ran the program where we showed recent or classic movies (on 16 mm film! With a projector!) for the dorm residents.

What was your most memorable job before becoming an attorney?

Driving a forklift and working in the receiving and storehouse department at an aluminum plant.

What are some tips for achieving a work-life balance?

I don’t feel qualified to answer because I’m not sure I know what “work-life balance” looks like.

How has the practice of law changed since you became a lawyer?

Much more of a business, frenetically paced, with incessant use of metrics and bean counting.

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