LEADERSHIP IN LAW 2018: Lisa C. McKinney

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Lisa McKinney lives by this adage: Do well by doing good. As a leader in her firm’s hospitality and administrative law practices, she’s known as a mentor to young associates and has championed diversity. Her volunteerism has been honored by the American Cancer Society, and she’s been a tireless advocate for the environment.

lil-mckinney-2018What’s been the most rewarding aspect of your practice? 

Without question, developing strong relationships and friendships, both with clients and at the firm, and helping clients achieve their goals has been extremely rewarding. Those relationships and friendships still make my practice enjoyable and fulfilling.

What do you most enjoy doing when you’re not in the office?

We are an extremely active and outdoorsy family, and I love the times we ride horses, camp, travel, ski, or hike together. A glass of wine and a good book or watching “The Voice” or “Game of Thrones” isn’t too bad, either.

When did you first decide you would become a lawyer, and what motivated you? 

My father is a lawyer and growing up I was always interested in the variety of work that his law degree allowed him to do. Then, in high school, I had a teacher who was attending law school and she encouraged me to do a special project on the criminal justice system. Serving on the Juvenile Court and working with youth my age inspired me to make a difference in their lives. I saw law school as a path to making that difference.

What’s the most challenging aspect of hospitality and alcoholic beverage law? 

The alcoholic beverage industry changes nonstop. To be competitive, our clients have to be innovative and they look to us to help them navigate both state and federal laws and regulations to make their dreams a reality. 

Who is someone who inspired or mentored you, and what did you learn from them?

My father. While we never practiced law together, his stories from his years practicing law and his passion for the law inspired me. He never wavered in his integrity and ethics. He preached “do well by doing good” — it wasn’t just something he said, he lived it. Trying to live by the same motto has served me well. 

How did you become involved in environmental sustainability efforts?

My parents loved to spend time outdoors (my mother enjoyed shopping more) and I always found peace and felt energized hiking, skiing and riding my horse. As my own children grew, we spent even more time outdoors and visiting our state and national parks. We’ve witnessed the changes in nature and realized we needed to take steps to preserve the environment for future generations. My parents started the McKinney Family Foundation and as a family we are working hard to make a difference here in Indiana.

What advice would you give your younger self? 

To slow down, be patient, and trust your instincts. 

What’s something about you not many people know?

I have been on two mountaineering trips with my husband — Mt. Rainier and Ixta and Orizaba in Mexico. I didn’t summit any of them. The first one because of weather, the last two because I learned my lesson the first time and was happy to keep base camp secure while the rest of the team hit the summits. 

What has been your most memorable case? 

It will come as no surprise that some communities are more opposed to alcohol sales than others. I’ll never forget the first local board hearing that I handled alone and having to park three blocks from the courthouse because all of the spaces were taken by remonstrators coming out to fight my client’s application for a new alcohol permit. After several hours of testimony, the local board voted to deny the application. The drive back to the office to tell the partner in charge (pre-cellphones) was tough. We appealed and ultimately got the permit for the client. It was eye-opening and affirmed my belief in the system. 

What was your most memorable job before becoming an attorney? 

The summers of my junior and senior years in high school, I was camp counselor for a backcountry trail riding camp in Colorado. I oversaw approximately 25 horses and pack mules and helped the campers with their gear and coping with seven weeks riding through the Rockies without any contact with home.   

How do you see the legal profession changing in the next decade?

First, the law and lawyers are more important now than ever. While enrollment in law schools has declined over the past several years, the legal issues now facing our country and world have captured the attention of our country’s youth and I foresee a change in that trend — a wave of talented and passionate new lawyers using the law to address and solve these issues and changing the increasingly negative attitude toward lawyers and the judicial system.

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

Technology has had the biggest impact on the practice of law. When I started practicing law, when you left the office to go home, you really left the office and the work that was there. So, it was easier to get away from the practice and recharge. Now, we’re always connected and work travels with you, which makes it easier to get away, but takes discipline to truly get away.•

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