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LEADERSHIP IN LAW 2019: Matthew J. Ehinger

Partner, Ice Miller LLP, Indianapolis; Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, 2009

May 1, 2019

Tax law isn’t for everyone, but colleagues say Matthew Ehinger has combined his mastery of the practice with kindness and a sense of humor. He also has provided ample pro bono tax representation to charitable, religious and nonprofit organizations serving the Indianapolis community. Ehinger serves on the board of the Jameson Camp for children, and he is active in numerous educational, community, bar and service organizations.

ehinger-lil2019-2col.jpgHow does a sense of humor help with your tax law practice?

There are some (including probably my wife) who may dispute that I have a good sense of humor. In reality, though, often clients that I am working with do not regularly deal with tax issues, and in many cases those individuals do not necessarily enjoy the fact that they have to handle a tax issue. Humor can, at times, help to bring some perspective and levity to those situations. Simply stated, humor can help tax advice go down.  

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

Early on in my career at Ice Miller, I received a great piece of advice: When working with more experienced attorneys, I was told to watch the way they practice law and interact with others, and find those skills and traits that stood out to me and work to integrate them into my practice. To this day, I still try to adhere to this rule, and as a result, I have many people who have influenced me. For example, Tom Schnellenberger has shown me that the best tax lawyers are those who continue to learn on a daily basis, even after practicing for decades, and Mark Richards has shown me that the attorneys who work the hardest, strategize the most and do not stop being persistent generally get the best results for their clients.  

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

This is the easiest question of the lot — spending time with my family, which includes my wife and our two young children (2 and 4 years old); no one can accurately convey how enjoyable dance parties, Lego towers and fort building can be as a parent. Catching a game (Hoosiers, Pacers, Colts and Cubs) after the kids fall asleep is a pretty decent bonus.      

Where do you see your legal career 10 years from now?

Hopefully continuing to do what I have been doing for the past 10 years. Tax law can be complex and challenging at times. While it is not for everyone, there is a real enjoyment in being able to help others navigate this area of the law.

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

Any tax attorney will tell you that the federal tax reform legislation that was passed in 2017 is riddled with issues and ambiguities. While those issues have generated an incredible amount of work, I still would be an advocate of more well-crafted and precise tax legislation. 

What inspires your work with Jameson Camp?

Jameson Camp is one of Indianapolis’ best kept secrets. It’s a youth camp on the west side that is open to all, but has a focus on families with limited means and children with health issues. Playing a small role in helping ensure this organization can continue to fulfill its mission is a great honor.    

What motivated you to pursue a legal career?

I have always enjoyed being presented with complex and complicated situations and trying to come up with the best possible solutions, and hopefully having a positive impact in that process. My thought process was that a legal career would provide complex and complicated situations — and to date, that has certainly been the case. Trying to have a positive impact is a big part of why I continue to come to the office every day.      

What would you be doing if you had not become an attorney?

I spent time working on Capitol Hill while in college and certainly was interested in going down that path. I ultimately decided that I likely would not have enjoyed living in such a highly politicized city on a long-term basis, and I am certainly relishing in that decision recently.

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

I really enjoy the people I work with on a daily basis. We are very collaborative and while we work hard, we can have fun in the process.  

What do you get out of your involvement with local and state bar associations?

The tax community is a relatively small group in both Indianapolis and Indiana. The bar associations help ensure that we all stay connected and serve as resources to each other. 

What’s something about you not many people know?

My celebrity connection is that I have colored Easter eggs with Matt Damon. I went on a road trip during college to the East Coast and made an obligatory stop at a friend’s house in New York City, and Matt was sitting on the couch. We hung out, drank mimosas and painted Easter eggs. Despite being a fan of the Red Sox, he was pretty down to earth and fun to hang out with.

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

There are many great aspects of being a lawyer. However, you have to choose the practice of law for the right reasons. The glitz and glamor of being a lawyer can fade over time, so you have to do your due diligence to determine whether you will actually enjoy the practice of law. Also, plan to track your life in tenths of an hour.•  

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