Stafford: In all seriousness, 2018 Leadership in Law class sets high bar

editor-perspective-stafford.jpgStop me if you’ve heard this one: What’s the difference between law and baseball? If you get caught stealing in baseball, you’re out.

Ah, the lawyer joke. Cultural staple and reliable punchline since at least the time of Shakespeare, no other profession endures as many rhetorical slings and arrows, such barbarous barbs. Well, maybe doctors. Or journalists. But seriously, the joke above was rather tame. Have you heard some of these lawyer jokes? I suspect you have, and you might even have a guilty favorite. Or not.

I’ve talked to attorneys who despise lawyer jokes because, to them, the funnies simply do not reflect their experience. Some lawyers have told me they feel theirs is the Rodney Dangerfield of professions — no respect.

Respectfully, I take exception. I’ve gotten to know Indiana Lawyer’s 2018 Leadership in Law honorees a bit in the past few weeks. What I’ve learned is, in addition to being collectively capable of handling just about any legal matter imaginable, our Distinguished Barristers and Up and Coming Lawyers also demonstrate the spirit, dedication, humanity and drive to make their profession and their communities better. Through their examples, they have earned our respect and the respect of their peers who nominated them.

As we’ve done each year since 2006, we’re honoring 15 Distinguished Barristers and 15 Up and Coming Lawyers. Each brings rich and diverse experience to the practice of law, and we’re honored that they’ve shared a bit of their personal and professional stories with us. Read about them in the Leadership in Law supplement in this issue, and check out their full Q&A profiles on our website,

Among our honorees are attorneys with household names in the Hoosier state, and some who are the first in their family to go to college. Some of those we salute have worked on matters involving our largest industries, while others have ensured justice and access to the legal system for our most vulnerable citizens. Our honorees are bridge-builders in the literal and the figurative sense.

If your practice is corporate, real estate, transactional, public defense, public service, nonprofit, in-house, intellectual property, rainmaker or mover-and-shaker, you’ll find a practice area colleague we’ve honored this year. But that’s barely scratching the surface of who our honorees are, professionally or personally.

You should see some of the accolades we received from people who nominated our Distinguished Barristers and Up and Coming Lawyers. I’ll share just a few: “Generous before the need is obvious.” “He has more energy than the Energizer Bunny.” “She possesses a keen legal mind to match her public servant’s heart.” “A man of great integrity and a fine representative of the Indiana Bar.” A judge told us this of one of our Distinguished Barristers, who had been a mentor years ago: “If I have achieved any success in my career, I owe it in large part” to the person he nominated.

We’ll be saluting our honorees at the 2018 Leadership in Law Distinguished Barrister and Up and Coming Lawyer Reception from 4:30-7 p.m. Tuesday, May 8,at TwoDEEP Brewing Co., 714 N. Capitol Ave., Indianapolis. You can RSVP by May 4 by registering at

We hope you join us in recognizing and paying tribute to our 2018 Distinguished Barristers and Up and Coming Lawyers. And that’s no joke.•

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