LEADERSHIP IN LAW 2020: Brandon Ehrie

IL photo/Eric Learned

Brandon Ehrie’s first decade in practice has been marked by several landmark cases dealing with issues from the Right to Farm Act to a niche practice in dram shop law he developed at his firm. He’s risen to co-chair Lewis Wagner’s Tort Practice Group and is active in ensuring an inclusive workplace through his involvement in the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. He also is active in organizations that support the arts in central Indiana, aim to address the problem of food deserts in the community, and offer nutrition education, cooking classes and inspiration for young people in Indianapolis Public Schools.

Why is it important for you to take a leading role in your firm’s diversity efforts?

I believe it’s critical to a modern law firm’s success to incorporate initiatives that advance both diversity and inclusion. My firm has always taken pride in our firm culture. Diversity and inclusion are principles that are reflected and integrated in that culture, including our practices and relationships. I’m not diverse, by definition, but I understand and appreciate that one of the most effective ways to ensure a healthy and energetic workplace is to recruit and retain people of diverse backgrounds, life experiences, perspectives and ways of thinking. More importantly, it’s essential that all team members feel valued, supported and respected. These are important initiatives, because a fully inclusive law firm creates an environment where people enjoy coming to work every day, which in turn makes diversity sustainable.

How do you balance your legal career with raising two young boys?

It’s not easy. Being a father is the hardest and absolutely most rewarding thing I’ve ever had the privilege to do. Most days, it feels like I’m just trying to manage my career with the day-to-day of raising two young boys. I’d say time management is key, and I make a sincere effort to prioritize quality time with my family. I’m thankful that I have some flexibility in my job — I don’t punch a clock like some. It’s not uncommon that I have to leave the office early, but I will almost always plug back in from my home office in the evening. Also, as a litigator in private practice, I have some control over my calendar and I’m able to schedule in a way that allows me to be an involved parent.

What do you most like to do when you have free time?

Most of my free time is spent with my family, which I love. My oldest is almost 4, so it’s been fun acting like a kid again with him and seeing his reactions as he experiences new things. We like to stay active, and I tend to find myself at various parks, the Children’s Museum and the Indianapolis Zoo. I enjoy spending time outdoors and playing sports. I really like to golf, and I’ve made it a point to play more rounds this year. Otherwise, I’m waiting on warmer weather so I can find a patio downtown and enjoy drinks with colleagues and friends.

You’ve carved out a niche in dram shop litigation. How did you get interested in that area of law?

About six years ago I had a client come to me needing dram shop defense. To provide adequate representation, I entrenched myself in studying Indiana’s dram shop laws, and the rest is history. I discovered what I perceived as a need and opportunity to become an authority in a fairly specialized area of statutorily regulated law.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Sample life. Learn from your mistakes. Try to live so that someday you won’t have to wish you could tell your younger self anything.

If you hadn’t pursued a legal career, what do you imagine you might be doing?

I would probably be teaching high school history/social sciences and coaching (football, basketball, baseball). I was drawn to history at a young age, which ironically led me to my career path. When I was 14 years old, I was lead counsel for a mock trial in my eighth-grade social studies class. I made up my mind right then and there about law. If I hadn’t gone this direction, I would have most likely picked a profession where I could teach and mentor kids and coach student-athletes.

What do you gain from your involvement in The Penrod Society and other community involvement?

My experience as a member of The Penrod Society has been extremely rewarding over the last five years. I have been fortunate to develop lasting friendships, and I’m proud to play a part in organizing and holding our annual Penrod Arts Fair as well as other charitable events that occur throughout the year. It feels good to be part of an organization that impacts so many people by supporting and funding central Indiana arts organizations, schools, hospitals and other nonprofit groups.

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

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my father. He’s always championed me and continues to be a huge part of my support system to this day. Professionally speaking, I’ve been fortunate to have various mentors who have taught me valuable lessons. Above all others, I grew up learning from Tom Hays. Tom mentored me by example. Trying cases with him and watching and learning from him has taught me the importance of civility and professionalism. I’ve also learned the importance of creating meaningful relationships with other lawyers, and that just because litigation is contentious by nature, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the level of respect owed to opposing counsel.

Where do you see yourself professionally in another 10 years?

I see myself continuing to build and manage my firm’s ever-evolving tort practice with an eye always toward further developing professional and personal relationships. In addition to maintaining a busy litigation caseload, I see myself completing the registered civil mediator certification and hope to serve as a mediator down the road. I see myself continuing to take on leadership roles and speaking engagements within local and national professional organizations. I hope to be in a position to educate and mentor young lawyers. I’d like to leave the profession in better shape than I found it.•
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