Stafford: A remote salute to our 2020 Leadership in Law honorees

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Every year about this time, Indiana Lawyer recognizes outstanding members of our legal community with our Leadership in Law awards. We aren’t letting COVID-19 stand in the way of continuing that tradition, but like everything else in the world of late, things aren’t exactly how we’d like them to be.

We had planned to toast our 2020 Leadership in Law class in early May at our annual recognition event, but by now, we’re all agonizingly familiar with the impossibility of such gatherings. We will formally recognize our honorees at a future event, and I invite you to join us in celebration when we set a new date.

While the world has changed since we selected our honorees earlier this year, we are pleased that one feature of our signature award program has remained the same: We couldn’t have asked for a more impressive Leadership in Law class for 2020. Read about them here on our website or in our Leadership in Law supplement in the April 29 print edition of Indiana Lawyer.

This year marks our 15th of honoring the best of Indiana’s legal community. Our 15 Distinguished Barristers represent the best of the profession, from renowned jurists and lifelong public servants to attorneys whose careers established a standard of excellence. And our 15 Up and Coming Lawyers are living proof that the profession’s future is in good hands, whether these young attorneys’ exemplary careers are in private practice, public service or as general counsel.

I hope you’ll find each of our honorees as worthy of recognition as did their colleagues — or in some cases, their clients or fellow servants — who nominated them. Thanks to everyone who took the time to tell us about a Leadership in Law candidate. We had many more worthy nominees this year than the 30 we honor annually.

I had the pleasure of meeting most of this year’s honorees several weeks back, but in this time of stay-at-home orders and social distancing, it feels like ages ago. Just days after meeting our honorees, all of our worlds turned inward because of the pandemic — a global human watershed event that will fundamentally revise our lives and our society in ways we have yet to fully realize, let alone understand.

Meantime, we have been getting by, our lives abbreviated if not touched directly by the greatest public health crisis any of us have seen. We work from home and keep our distance. But we show our gratitude to our literal and figurative lifesavers — our families, friends, first responders, health care professionals, those who keep the shelves stocked and too many more to list — who selflessly carry on at great personal risk and sacrifice so that we all can carry on. We catch ourselves when we utter “when things get back to normal,” aware that place may not exist as we knew it.

My great hope is that we gain through this crisis — that we see with clearer eyes the full humanity within each of us, the sublime wonder of the world we inhabit, the potential of personal grace and the unlimited power of the open hand.

In that spirit, I’ve realized in the reflective weeks since meeting our Leadership in Law honorees that the problem-solvers and helpers like those we honor this year are needed more than ever now and in the days ahead. Their unique gifts, knowledge and talents will be called upon in ways familiar and foreign.

As each day brings new uncharted waters, I take comfort in knowing that the rule of law remains our North Star, pointing us to safer shores. It’s a further comfort knowing that those we honor as Distinguished Barristers and Up and Coming Lawyers are representative of legions who devote their lives to protecting, promoting and defending the rule of law, our highest ideal and our best idea. May it guide us always, ever onward, ever upward. Salute!•

Dave Stafford is editor of Indiana Lawyer. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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