LEADERSHIP IN LAW 2019: Andrew Ozete

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Andy Ozete and four partners set out a few years back to start their own law practice, and Ozete says it was a great decision. Throughout his career, Ozete has earned accolades for his skill as an attorney and his commitment to serving the legal profession and the greater Evansville community. Among other activities, he chairs the Indiana State Bar Association’s Bankruptcy and Creditors’ Rights Council and is president of the Public Education Foundation of Evansville. 

ozete-lil2019-2col.jpg (Photo courtesy of Farmer Scott Ozete Robinson & Schmitt LLP)

What led you and your partners to establish your own law firm?

We had a common vision of how we wanted to practice. We knew we wanted to create a firm where success meant providing excellent service to our clients, working hard, supporting each other and enjoying the practice. It has been a great decision.

What is something you learned in stepping out on your own? 

How liberating it is to work with a group of folks who need to meet less but get together often.     

What drives your involvement in public education efforts in Evansville?

One of the Public Education Foundation of Evansville’s belief statements is “We believe high-quality public education is fundamental to the strength of our community.” I wholeheartedly agree. If we fail to have an educated electorate or prepare our children to be ready for the challenges of the workplace, our society is in trouble. The PEF’s vision is “Students will be educated, engaged and ready to meet the challenges of the world.” I want to be part of
that vision.

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

Vacation, without a doubt. The opportunity to spend more time with family and see and do interesting things is fantastic. Day to day, I enjoy the opportunities to watch my children’s sports, laugh during dinner on the rare occasions we all get to eat together, and being involved with my church.

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

The Indiana tax sale process. The fact that it is tweaked by the Legislature almost constantly to deal with constitutional and other issues is indicative that the process is fundamentally flawed. I would require that the tax sale lien be actually foreclosed and require actual service of process. I would also allow for redemption until the time the actual deed is issued. It seems it is far too easy to fall afoul of the forfeiture aspect of the current statute.

What was your most memorable job before becoming an attorney?

Working as a landscaper building rock walls. We started the day picking out the rock slabs and loading them into the trailer. When we got to the job site, we would move the slabs in wheelbarrows and spend all day building. I was working for and with friends, though, so while the job was very hard, it was enjoyable.

What advice would you give your younger self?

You’re not going to believe how valuable being in the Boy Scouts will be. My scoutmaster, Jay Coy, drilled into us that we always had to leave the woodpile higher than we found it when we got to a campsite and that you had to tie the knot the right way every time, even if it didn’t seem to matter. It’s not about the wood or the knot. Leave things better than you found them. Do it right, even when it does not seem to matter. These are invaluable lessons. Try to live and teach those lessons yourself.  

What’s something about you not many people know?

When I was a kid, I had a newspaper route. Many of the lessons from that route have served me well as a lawyer and business owner. For example, I had to pay the newspaper for the papers I delivered no matter what. My profit, if any, was the last dollars collected. I had to be sure to stay on top of collections to be sure that my work was rewarded. Also, good service can lead to more than just keeping your job. While I was a carrier, the newspaper group sponsored a program called Young Columbus, and the winner of the contest received a trip to Spain. Many of my customers were willing to write enthusiastic letters of recommendation, and due in no small part to those letters, I won. I want to be a person that others want to write those kind of letters about.  

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

If where you want to live is important, think about the kinds of legal opportunities that will be available there. The practices will be very different in different sized markets. With industry consolidations and changes, there will be fewer opportunities to represent the local car dealer or the local newspaper. It will be a different kind of practice in the future than it is today. Think about how you want to fit into it.  

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

Terry Farmer was the head of the banking group at my old firm when I was hired out of law school. He is a man of tremendous capacity to work and live, and he lets his faith guide him. He was a great teacher and beyond patient with the questions of the numerous associates he supervised. I learned how I wanted to practice from him.  

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

When I am able to use my experience and expertise to achieve good results for my clients.  

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

I first became interested in the law in high school. I enjoyed speech and debate. Most of my friends’ parents were professionals of one sort or another, and I had occasion to talk to one who was a lawyer. He seemed to enjoy his job, it provided a good livelihood for his family and it allowed him to be active in the community. It sounded like a good career to me.•  

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