Noe Dudas: Columbus lawyer’s got game after rediscovering lost calling

June 12, 2019

connecting-the-dotsSometimes seemingly unrelated things are actually strongly connected, although we may not realize it. Skills translate more than we realize, and it is the goal of this column to explore examples of Indiana lawyers who find ways to bring value to their practice with skills gleaned from unrelated interests. In addition, skills we have accumulated as lawyers render us successful in other endeavors. As a result, we find balance in our lives by releasing ourselves from the desks to which we sometimes feel chained and tapping into talents that are honed by diversifying how they are applied.

Today, I’d like to tell you about Tim Vrana.

Tim is an attorney in Columbus who has been in practice for 37 years. He’s tried several jury trials and successfully briefed and argued cases in front of the Indiana Tax Court, Indiana Court of Appeals, Indiana Supreme Court, the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. He now streamlines his practice to Social Security disability cases.

Tim had no intention of going to law school as a young man. Once, he recalls, he and his father decided that if they could pick any job at all, they would both pick being a United States Supreme Court justice. The conversation didn’t seem to leave much of an impression on Tim, however, as he did not enter college with any sights on law school (despite the political science major, which is often a giant indicator).

But after college, when he had been working at the Social Security Administration for over two years (and realizing that’s not what he wanted to retire doing), he happened to go to a play about Oliver Wendell Holmes at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. It was at that moment he remembered the “dream job” conversation with his dad. And that was what inspired Tim to go to law school.

You just never know where you’ll find your inspiration.

Tim is also a major sports fan and, as a kid, was intrigued by the idea of being a play-by-play or public address announcer. But he didn’t pursue that, either, until, by chance, in 2003, his son was playing basketball in the sixth grade. As luck (fate? destiny?) would have it, the regular public address announcer was unavailable for a few games and Tim, triggered by this childhood interest, volunteered to fill in. Three years later, one of the mothers at one of those games pulled up next to him at a red light and asked him if he would be the announcer for the Columbus North High School Bulldogs volleyball team. Tim knew nothing about volleyball, but he educated himself quickly. Lawyers are pretty good at doing that.

Then another mother of another kid heard from the volleyball mom that Tim was announcing volleyball. This woman’s son was on the freshman football team, so Tim was asked to announce freshman football at the same school. And so he did. One thing led to another, and now the list of sports Tim has announced for the Bulldogs includes volleyball, football, swimming and basketball, both junior varsity and varsity.

“I get pretty excited when I’m doing it, but always within the bounds of good sportsmanship,” Tim says. “My goal is to provide accurate information in an exciting and positive way.”

Tim points out that he’s a card-carrying member of the National Association of Sports Public Address Announcers, which I didn’t even know existed. But of course it does. And they have their own code of conduct, which includes not upstaging the game, refraining from improperly influencing the crowd, good sportsmanship, civility toward opposing teams and their fans, and being prepared, to specifically include learning the proper pronunciation of players’ names. The association provides certification and continuing education.

Tim has even subbed as the PA announcer for an Indiana University volleyball game and is eagerly awaiting a call back for additional gigs. It sounds to me like he’s more than willing to keep subbing as an announcer at IU, so spread the word, people.

In addition to announcing, Tim has acted in community theater and has done some stand-up comedy. When you think about it, really, it’s clear that lawyers, especially litigators, are performers at heart. We tell our clients’ stories and weave facts and documents together to make a favorable impression.

Tim will tell you that lawyers need the ability to talk to people, and so do public announcers. Both lawyering and announcing require quick thinking, with a mixture of scripted speech and improvisation. In both pursuits, one must be able to be spontaneous while sounding intelligent and being appropriate for a particular audience. Both endeavors require a carefully controlled filter while maintaining the integrity of the process.

Tim must prepare equally as hard for announcing a game as he would for a jury trial, writing a brief or making an oral argument. And despite all that preparation, the contest may go really, really well, or it could go really, really poorly. And sometimes the outcome simply cannot be controlled. Either way, you are being watched, intently. If you make a mistake, important people notice. And you may not recover.

The lesson? Take those subtle cues from the universe. A lost memory of his dream job was triggered by seeing a play right when Tim was at a career crossroads. And so, he went to law school. The regular announcer needed a sub when his son was in the sixth grade, and Tim’s childhood interest in sports announcing gave him a nudge. A chance meeting at a red light and one mom told another mom and now Tim’s voice is the one you hear when the Columbus North Bulldogs varsity football team plays on Friday nights.

The two have more in common than one would have thought at a glance. We as lawyers can and do find ways to incorporate our talents into interests that relate in no way and, on the other hand, in every way, to the living we make. A common trait among lawyers is a desire to make a difference and to help, and when we find additional ways to do good, we flourish.•

Amy Noe Dudas — amy@dudaslaw.com — is the founder of Dudas Law and co-founder of Dudas Inspiration Venue for the Arts in Richmond. Opinions expressed are those of the author.