1971 was undoubtedly historic and memorable. The New York Times began to publish sections of the Pentagon Papers, the voting age was lowered to 18 when the 26th Amendment of the United States Constitution is ratified, the Walt Disney World theme park opened in Florida and NASA’s Apollo 14 mission was launched to the moon.
Events of 50 years ago remain clear in the minds of our colleagues who’ve been fortunate enough to have practiced law since then. We had the chance to talk with a few of them to gain insight into just a few of the things that have changed and the advice they have for practitioners today. Read on and register now to celebrate their accomplishments at the IndyBar Practice Milestone Celebration on Oct. 14 at indybar.org/milestone!
Why did you want to become a lawyer?
“Growing up I was very close to my grandfather, Frank Richman, a lawyer and judge on the Indiana Supreme Court and a judge at the Nuremberg trials. In later years, my grandfather served as a labor arbitrator and Special Judge and I accompanied him to listen to the proceedings and became convinced that the practice of law was a noble profession that I wanted to enter. I had added encouragement from my father and three uncles, all of whom were lawyers.”
—Stephen M. Coons
“For as long as I can remember, I would go with my father on weekends to his law offices. I guess because he was an attorney and I would go with him to court dates, I thought I was going to be a lawyer. I used to sit in the witness box or on the judge’s lap during hearings. I always enjoyed those days.”
Can you recall one particular funny or interesting moment from your career in law?
“I vividly remember trying to accept a guilty plea from a guy charged with ‘receiving stolen property,’ and I had to establish a factual basis for the plea. So, when I asked how he knew the property was stolen, he said, ‘I got it from Johnny Green.’ I answered, ‘How does that show it was stolen?’ He retorted, ‘How long you been here, Judge? Everybody knows that everything you get from Johnny is stolen!’”
“I remember deposing an astronaut, Pete Conrad, who testified as an expert in a local mid-air collision case. I listened to him describe his moon missions, including the differences between the g-load experienced by the astranauts when they were ‘on the nose of the Titan Rocket vs. being on the nose of the Saturn Rocket’ as it lifted off the launch pad and accelerated toward space.”
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?
“I would humbly say, I am most proud of starting the Homeless Shelter Project 30 years ago. Until the pandemic, our terrific volunteers have gone in teams to more than 10 homeless shelters every three weeks to provide pro bono services and helping address many legal issues. I gratefully turned the program over to the Indianapolis Bar Association about three years ago.”
“In terms of my career, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to play a significant role in negotiating and drafting the consolidation agreement between Methodist Hospital and Indiana University Hospital. A very interesting and very complex transaction. Personally, I am proudest of my son, who, for reasons I’ve never really fully understood, also chose to become an attorney.”
What advice do you have for lawyers today?
“Take the work seriously, but never take yourself seriously.” •