LEADERSHIP IN LAW 2019: Jeffrey A. Abrams

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As a leading Indianapolis real estate attorney, Jeff Abrams knows a thing or two about deals. The Taft Stettinius & Hollister partner has been involved in many multi-million-dollar developments. One of his next big deals will benefit the legal community, as he’s been a driving force in building a new home for the Indianapolis Bar Association. 

abrams-lil2019-15col.jpgWhen did you first decide you would become a lawyer, and what motivated you?

I did not decide to go to law school until my last semester in college. I started out in accounting because numbers come easy to me. After my first semester sophomore year accounting class, I realized this was not the career for me. I switched majors, and when friends started interviewing for jobs, I did not see anything that excited me, so I took the LSAT. Some of my cousins are lawyers, so I decided to pursue it after conversations with them, and it was a great decision.

What was your most memorable job before becoming an attorney?

Bartending — I worked at the Exchange in Indianapolis, serving drinks to thousands of people every week. I loved the conversations and getting to know people, and of course the perks that went along with that position.

What was it like moving with your former Benesch colleagues to Taft Stettinius & Hollister?

Benesch was a great firm when we integrated in 2010. In 2017, while still a very successful firm, it was not the right fit anymore for the Indianapolis lawyers. We talked to several firms and decided on Taft. The discussions we had with key Taft partners made for an easy transition. It is a great place to continue the practice of law.

What’s been the most rewarding aspect of your practice?

I have the opportunity to work with my friends every day. My friends become my clients and my clients become my friends. It does not get better than that.

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

I have been blessed to have three incredible mentors: Phil Pecar, Norm Newman and David Kleiman. All three are brilliant lawyers, writers and thinkers. They had great work ethics and taught me that writing was a critical trait of becoming a successful lawyer. I won my only appellate case with a 13-page brief compared to the other side, who had a 35-page brief. I learned brevity, sentence structure and proper choice of words was a winning combination.

What’s the biggest challenge in finding a new home for the Indianapolis Bar Association?

Finding the right place is paramount. We’ve raised adequate funds through the generosity of Indy lawyers to build out space to assist Indy unemployed and underemployed attorneys, but finding the right place is the challenge. We have learned that the 15th floor in a high-rise office building is not the best home. The IndyBar leadership will find the right place to perpetuate its message.  

What do you most enjoy about practicing in real estate?

Real estate attorneys’ goal is to get the deal done. Most every lawyer I deal with (except for a few) realizes that some compromise is the norm. We do not have to “win” and have someone “lose.” We all win after a transaction is completed.

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

I have been quoted before — “Playing golf and making my wife happy, but not necessarily in that order.”  I think that sums it up pretty well.  

What advice would you give your younger self?

You don’t have to win all the time. It is easy for young lawyers to argue points “to the death” to prove how smart they are. I did it, but it’s not really needed.

If you could change one law, what would that be?

Marijuana. The revenues that are being generated in other states are substantial, and those revenues could be extremely beneficial to many people. We would be able to help and increase pay for so many worthy groups, such as teachers, firefighters and police, who are so underpaid for the services they provide.

What’s something about you not many people know?

I am a sentimental person who gets choked up watching certain television shows and movies, along with getting very emotional when things pertain to my family.

What’s your advice to a younger person who’s thinking about a legal career?

The practice of law can be a very rewarding life. I have met thousands of people I would not have known and am enriched by knowing them. If you are to pursue it, be committed to be the best you can be by spending quality time with your family, because a quantity of time is not easily available. It takes more than 40 hours each week to create and enjoy a satisfying career.•

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