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Interrogatories: Candid Q&A with James Bell

By Tyler D. Helmond, Voyles Zahn & Paul

James J. Bell
Partner, Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP

He is a graduate of DePauw University and the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He practiced at the Marion County Public Defender Agency and Kiefer & McGoff prior to joining Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP. He is the most dynamic speaker on the regional CLE speaking circuit. He is James J. Bell, and he has been served with interrogatories.

Q: Your doppelgänger, Peyton Manning, recently left the city. How have you been holding up?

A: I just looked up “doppelgänger” and I do not believe that word accurately describes my relationship with our former QB. And no, it wasn’t a “man-crush” either. Anyway, I am sooo over #18 and have moved on to #12. Mr. Manning and I will just have to be friends.

Q: You’ve practiced in a variety of settings, including the Marion County Public Defender agency and both small and large firms. If you could choose a legal job other than your present one, what would it be?

A: If I could be anything in the legal profession, I would want to be Jim Voyles. He has implied to me that it is pretty awesome being him AND he gets to park next to the No Parking sign at The Workingman’s Friend.

Q: If you and your colleague Phil Isenbarger played basketball one on one, first to 21 wins, what would be the score?

A: Phil is a great guy so I think he would let me score at least once before he pummeled me with tomahawk dunks. Final Score: Isenbarger: 21; Bell: 2.

Q: You’ve practiced criminal defense for a long time. Have you ever had a client offer to pay you in something other than currency?

A: Believe it or not, my firm likes to get paid in currency. I once tried to get paid in tattoos and championship rings. However, the management of our firm said “no way” citing to the case of The Ohio State University v. the NCAA. I was really disappointed because I had already picked out a beautiful lower back tattoo of a demon mermaid for a select member of our management committee.

Q: Last year, you were a finalist in the Indiana State Bar Association’s Harrison Legal Writing Awards, but you didn’t win. Do you think you’ll ever win?

A: I shood. I am verry stellular righter. Not shure y I faled too win.

Q: Speaking of legal writing, you work with young associates at your firm. What advice do you give them about improving their writing?

A: Having never won one of those Harrison Award thingys, I am not sure I have enough writing street cred to hand out advice. But if I did, I would tell younger writers to get to the point as clearly and concisely as possible without being condescending to any of the parties or the courts.

Q: You went to DePauw. DePauw has lost the Monon Bell in each of the last four years. Is Wabash a superior institution?

A: Until you asked this question, I had never heard of Wabash College. However, I called David Hensel and he assured me that Wabash is a great institution and that it easily lives up to its nickname as being “The Harvard of Crawfordsville.”

Q: What has been the most satisfying moment or accomplishment of your legal career?

A: That’s hard to say. Whether I am representing individuals in criminal cases or attorney discipline matters, I am representing someone against the government. No matter how “successful” I am, my client has normally been put through a lot. I sometimes feel only relief when I accomplish something for my client. That said, a Henry County Sheriff once escorted Kevin McGoff and me to the county line after an acquittal in a murder case. That was satisfying in a Dukes of Hazzard sort of way.

Q: If you had to be stranded on an island with three members of the Indiana bench and bar, who would you choose and why?

A: If I were stranded on an island with three lawyers, I would apply sunscreen, vote myself off the island and start swimming.

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