DTCI: Spotlight on New Defense Lawyers

By Jordan Slusher

The DTCI resumes its popular feature, “Young Lawyer Spotlight,” introducing a few of its new members to the Indiana legal community at large. DTCI members are encouraged to submit the names of their new associates for inclusion in future Spotlight features.

Allen

Anastasiia Allen

Firm: HeplerBroom, LLC, Hammond

Years in Practice: 3

Practice Focus: Insurance coverage, civil litigation, medical malpractice defense, toxic tort

Why did you decide to become a lawyer?

I was lucky to have met great mentors before my decision to go to law school, who sparked my interest in the American legal system. Attorneys actually do make a difference, and I knew I wanted to be a part of this community and contribute in any way I can.

What do you enjoy most about the practice of law?

I find that learning never stops when you are an attorney. There are always unexplored areas that I find fascinating and enjoyable. I love that it is my job to continually gain new skills and expertise to help our clients.

What has been one of the greatest highlights or accomplishments of your legal career thus far?

I had an opportunity to work on an extensive briefing of a contested motion in a toxic tort case, which involved many hours of drafting and research. The court agreed with our reasoning and dismissed the case. It felt great to see all the hard work pay off for the benefit of our client.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve experienced in your first few years in practicing law, and how have you overcome it?

Billing time is an art that is not taught in law school, and I am still learning how to efficiently capture all the time spent working on a matter.

What is one of the most important lessons you have learned in your first years of practicing law?

It is impossible to figure everything out on your own and it is okay to reach out to your peers for advice.

Why did you join DTCI, and what do you find beneficial about being a member of DTCI?

DTCI provides a community of smart and talented attorneys whom I admire. Every attorney I have met through the DTCI is very welcoming and willing to share advice.

If you weren’t practicing law, what would you be doing and why?

I am proud of my Ukrainian upbringing, and I would probably try to maintain my connection to it by opening a translation agency.

What is one fun fact about you not many others know?

I used to participate in competitive ballroom dancing before I went to college, and I still waltz.

Buckner

L. Katie Buckner

Firm: The Tyra Law Firm, PC, Indianapolis

Years in Practice: 2

Practice Focus: Insurance defense

Why did you decide to become a lawyer?

My dad recommended law because he saw in me a love for justice and the skills to think logically and critically. As I learned what lawyering entails, I realized that I enjoy researching, crafting arguments, and advocating for people.

What do you enjoy most about the practice of law?

It is difficult to pick a favorite! I love that my work allows me to think deeply and to analyze real-life situations for real people.

What has been one of the greatest highlights or accomplishments of your legal career thus far?

One that comes to mind is the time a client wanted to hug me. I think about how stressful a lawsuit would be for a defendant and the relief of knowing she is heard and represented by competent lawyers. It was great to give this client that comfort.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve experienced in your first few years in practicing law, and how have you overcome it?

My biggest challenge was an expected one. Being new to the profession, I had to learn how to practice law! While my courses in law school taught me the law and some theory of practice, even my internships were not the same as practicing law. The other attorneys in my firm have been great examples for me, and simply doing the work has taught me tremendously. I still have a lot to learn, and I expect to continue learning for the rest of my career.

What is one of the most important lessons you have learned in your first years of practicing law?

I have learned how to bill for my time, including what level of detail to include in the entries billed to the client. This simply was not something I had thought about before working as a licensed attorney. If clients don’t understand what they are billed for, they may be reluctant to pay.

Why did you join DTCI, and what do you find beneficial about being a member of DTCI?

I joined DTCI on the recommendation of my boss, Kevin Tyra, and have found it to be a great organization for my professional development. Through DTCI, I have met colleagues who work in my area of practice. Beyond the annual conference, periodic happy hours, and women in the law events, I learned a lot from the Rookie Seminar. There, I learned practical tips for practicing law and helpful base knowledge that is relevant to my practice area.

If you weren’t practicing law, what would you be doing and why?

I would probably be a mathematician, as I started college with that course of study. I earned a minor in math.

What is one fun fact about you not many others know?

Alaska is the only state I have not been to … yet!

Crabtree

Jordan T. Crabtree

Firm: Lewis Wagner, LLP, Indianapolis

Years in Practice: First year

Practice Focus: Insurance coverage, bad faith, insurance defense, general litigation

Why did you decide to become a lawyer?

I have always been interested in history, politics and truth, among other things. It’s my opinion that lawyering, to a certain extent, involves all three of these. Regarding history, lawyers often look at past events for context and precedent for guidance. Regarding politics, lawyers often make up a large percentage of legislators and executive branch employees that form our political system. Regarding truth, while zealous representation of our client is important, bringing out the truth is lawyering at its most basic level. So, becoming a lawyer was a natural fit for me.

What do you enjoy most about the practice of law?

In the very short time that I’ve been a licensed attorney, I enjoy piecing together the facts of a case and forming those facts into a narrative that is true and accurate and, at the same time, beneficial to my client.

What has been one of the greatest highlights or accomplishments of your legal career thus far?

I’ve practiced for only a few months, but in that time, I was able to draft a motion for declaratory judgment that I am pretty proud of.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve experienced in your first few years in practicing law, and how have you overcome it?

Billing. It’s almost an art form and getting used to it is an ongoing process. Thankfully, my supervisors do a good job of giving me constructive feedback regarding billing on at least a monthly basis. I appreciate it, as I would much rather gradually correct course than to steer way off course and then have to backtrack a long way.

What is one of the most important lessons you have learned in your first years of practicing law?

Proper time management. It is an area in which I need a lot of improvement.

Why did you join DTCI, and what do you find beneficial about being a member of DTCI?

I was highly encouraged by a seasoned partner at my firm to join DTCI. As a lawyer focusing on insurance coverage, bad faith, insurance defense, and general litigation, it makes perfect sense. Since I’m such a new attorney, and also due to COVID-19 and all its challenges, my opportunities to participate in DTCI activities have been limited. That said, I believe the networking opportunities will be of great benefit. I have also used DTCI’s log of essays/articles, which is helpful.

If you weren’t practicing law, what would you be doing and why?

Homesteading. I’m big into self-sufficiency and living off the land. I hope one day to have several acres of land of my own for my family to live on, enjoy, and improve.

What is one fun fact about you not many others know?

I am an avid Second Amendment supporter and firearms enthusiast. You can often catch me at a firing range, especially outdoor ones, in my free time (which is minimal right now, since I’m a new attorney with a wife and two small children).

Gordon

Jazzmin L. Gordon

Firm: Quarles and Brady LLP, Indianapolis

Years in Practice: 4

Practice Focus: Product liability

Why did you decide to become a lawyer?

When I was around 2 years old, I guess I talked and babbled a lot, so my dad told me I was destined to be a lawyer. My dad’s vision was clear and consistent, so I adopted it. As a child, whenever someone asked about my career aspirations, I replied, “I’m going to be a lawyer” without even knowing what a lawyer actually did. In high school and college, I worked a few legal internships and discovered that I love the law. So I went to law school. Turns out, my dad was right!

What do you enjoy most about the practice of law?

Honestly, I really enjoy working with so many supportive colleagues at Quarles and Brady. The knowledge and development I have gained over the past four years has been invaluable.

What has been one of the greatest highlights or accomplishments of your legal career thus far?

I love the feeling I get after working really hard for hours, and sometimes days, on a complicated brief with complex legal issues. It’s gratifying to know I put together strong arguments supported by legal citations. No matter how the court rules, I know I did my best work and that’s a great feeling.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve experienced in your first few years in practicing law, and how have you overcome it?

I had to learn, to the extent possible, to keep work/wife/mom/family/physical fitness life balance. It’s truly a challenge! Thankfully, I have a supportive husband and family that understand the commitment and dedication that a legal career requires. Establishing family goals, flexible scheduling, sharing of home-life responsibilities, and boundary setting are the tools that have helped me to maintain better work/life balance.

What is one of the most important lessons you have learned in your first years of practicing law?

The practice of law is not simply “black and white.” Growing up, there were a lot of hard and fast rules I was taught to adhere to. I am finding that the practice of law requires flexibility and resourceful approaches such as strategic creativity and thinking outside the box.

Why did you join DTCI, and what do you find beneficial about being a member of DTCI?

I was born and raised in California, so DTCI was a great way to be introduced to the Indiana legal community. Throughout the years, DTCI has provided opportunities to explore ideas, approaches, contacts and tools outside the bubble of my law firm and my specific area of practice.

If you weren’t practicing law, what would you be doing and why?

If I wasn’t practicing law, I would work as a mentor to young girls who want to enter into the legal field. As a Black female attorney, my path to becoming a lawyer and working in big law was not easy. I want to show other young girls that they too can achieve their goals with hard work and perseverance.

What is one fun fact about you not many others know?

I was a Division I basketball player at the University of California, Riverside. Being a collegiate athlete allowed me to develop many characteristics that I continue to draw upon as a lawyer: hard work, practice-practice-practice to improve, prepare for your opponent, and always take pride in giving your best effort.

Harrison

Joseph H. Harrison III

Firm: Stuart & Branigin LLP, Lafayette

Years in Practice: Less than 2 years (admitted in October 2018)

Practice Focus: Education law, employment, tort defense

Why did you decide to become a lawyer?

I have always enjoyed working with and serving others. I wanted to be challenged daily and work in a profession where I am expected to never stop learning. Also, I come from a family of lawyers so I began observing the profession at a young age.

What do you enjoy most about the practice of law?

I enjoy that the practice of law demands that I am accountable, organized, and an effective communicator. I am grateful that Stuart & Branigin provides me with a diverse practice and the opportunity to travel throughout the state of Indiana to serve our clients.

What has been one of the greatest highlights or accomplishments of your legal career thus far?

All of my “firsts” have been highlights and rewarding experiences — for example, my first: meeting with a client; argument in court; examination of a witness during trial; deposition; and mediation.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve experienced in your first few years in practicing law, and how have you overcome it?

It takes time to resolve disputes. Before I began my legal career, I incorrectly assumed that my success would be defined by the quantity of cases I handled. I have learned to be patient and focus on the quality of work that I produce.

What is one of the most important lessons you have learned in your first years of practicing law?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Why did you join DTCI, and what do you find beneficial about being a member of DTCI?

I joined DTCI because I wanted to build relationships with lawyers throughout the state of Indiana. In my limited legal career, I have attended the DTCI Rookie Seminar and the 2019 Annual Conference. Both DTCI events provided me helpful knowledge about the practice of law and presented me with opportunities to reconnect with law school classmates and to meet new attorneys.

If you weren’t practicing law, what would you be doing and why?

Working in politics at the state or federal level. I was fortunate to work as an intern for a U.S. Senator and a U.S. Congressman. These experiences taught me the importance of relationship building and helped educate me on issues facing Hoosiers throughout the state of Indiana. I realized that regardless of political affiliation, involvement in politics can open the door to incredible people and opportunities.

What is one fun fact about you not many others know?

I’m a double Hoosier (IU Bloomington undergrad and law school) who enjoys living in West Lafayette. I will never turn my back on my IU loyalty, just ask my colleagues and friends.•

Jordan Slusher is an attorney in the Indianapolis office of Kightlinger & Gray and chairs the DTCI Young Lawyers Section. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors.

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