Editor's note: This article has been corrected. An earlier version of this article erroneously reported that Frank Julian had been a Navy SEAL. Julian was a Navy surface warfare officer.
It’s not uncommon for South Bend attorney Frank Julian to be involved in an email discussion about an important case or legal issue on a Saturday or Sunday, but it’s not because his work keeps him chained to his desk all weekend. Instead, Julian often finds himself engaged in discussions with fellow members of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, the organization he has been tapped to lead in 2018.
As a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney at the three-attorney firm Sweeney Julian, the new ITLA president said he knows the value of having a network of attorneys who can provide differing perspectives. Whether it’s advice about a judge, tips for litigating a particular legal question or a post-mortem conversation after a case is won or lost, Julian said ITLA provides an outlet for him to connect with other attorneys facing similar issues.
“I don’t know what I’d do without ITLA,” he said. “It’s like having a law firm with 800 lawyers in it.”
The Navy surface warfare officer-turned-lawyer has been involved with ITLA since the beginning of his legal career, which he said he always knew he would pursue. Though Julian grew up in a military family and always planned to follow suit, he also describes himself as a “politics nerd” who was first drawn to the legal profession during an eighth grade mock trial program. Since then, Julian planned on following his dream of going to law school after his military service.
Julian’s ITLA involvement began when he made good on that dream and enrolled in Notre Dame Law School. Since then, he’s made it a point to regularly travel south to Indianapolis to engage with other trial lawyers and participate in ITLA events. Doing so has been a tremendous benefit to his career, Julian said, so he hopes his year as ITLA president will encourage more trial lawyers from across the state to join the organization.
“It gives an individual attorney or an attorney in a big law firm the opportunity to have discussions with some of the best trial lawyers in the state and get advice,” he said. “For me, it’s been invaluable practicing for 20 years, and you know you’re learning something new almost every day. I’ve been saved from doing something catastrophically stupid because of advice I’ve received from other lawyers.”
Julian recently spoke with Indiana Lawyer about ITLA and his goals for 2018. Here’s what he had to say:
Indiana Lawyer: How long have you been involved with ITLA?
Julian: I had a great boss when I was in law school who said, “You need to come to ITLA continuing legal education events.” I did, and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed talking to a diverse group of lawyers from all over the state. So I’m guessing it’s been about 22 years that I’ve been going to ITLA events.
What leadership roles have you held in the organization?
I’ve been on the executive committee for about 10 years, so I went through all of the leadership positions to get where I am today. You start as an at-large executive committee member, then you have to be secretary, treasurer, vice president and so on, so there’s plenty of time to get to know the organization.
What will be your goal(s) during your year as ITLA president?
I’m not from Indianapolis, and neither is a large percentage of our membership, so I want to have some events that expand our footprint to other parts of the state. I’d like there to be more continuing legal education events in Evansville or in Seymour or in Muncie. Indianapolis is great because it’s the central part of the state, but I want to expand our membership. I think expanding helps us all, because when there’s more lawyers, there’s more benefit.
What’s the most important part of ITLA’s work?
I am constantly impressed by the professionalism of our legislature and our current governor, and I think that being able to work with them is a great experience. I’ve been very impressed that they’re willing to listen … but one of my concerns is that they always have a temptation to limit people’s right to access to the courts. We see it all the time: legislation that gives immunity to special interests, that limits liability for certain protected classes, but our Constitution doesn’t allow us to do that. There’s an absolute right to a jury trial … but there are hundreds of immunities written into Indiana law that shouldn’t be there.
Have you had the opportunity to lobby the legislature for access to justice or other issues?
I have been lucky enough to talk to them about (ITLA’s) issues. I also make an effort to talk to my local legislators on a regular basis. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to committees, and that’s an amazing thing to do. I feel very lucky to have done that.
How does your military service impact your career as an attorney?
When you’re serving in the military, you have the opportunity to work with folks from every economic and cultural part of the country, and it really humbles you when you realize that you may have had opportunities that other people didn’t get. I served on a ship where some of the guys who were working for me were much smarter than me, but they didn’t have the opportunities that I had.
The military gives you a lot of responsibility at a very young age, which I think helps you build more confidence. A jury trial is a high-pressure thing, and it’s very scary, but when you’ve driven a ship next to an aircraft carrier, you’re ready for it.
If you weren’t an attorney, what would you be doing?
I’m not sure. I enjoy the business part of running a law firm, which has nothing to do with being a lawyer. And I enjoy the entrepreneurial part of it and working with my great staff here. So if I weren’t a lawyer, I feel I’d be in some type of business or small business, but I’m not sure.
What’s been your proudest moment in your career?
The cases that I’m most proud of aren’t the big ones where you have a multimillion-dollar verdict. You love getting those, but a lot of times the cases that I’ve been most proud of are cases that were hard for one reason or another, whether it’s a bad insurance company or the person having some prior injuries. … Being able to overcome those odds in the case and getting a verdict, that’s what makes you proud — when you get a verdict that you believe in your heart is good. Everybody likes big verdicts, but you want to get a verdict that’s fair. … Whether it’s $5,000 or multimillions, if you manage to convince the jury that your ideas are correct, that’s what really makes you proud and makes you wake up and want to go to work in the morning.•