The only job my dad ever had after college graduation was as a spy. He was recruited into the CIA initially about the time of his marriage to my mom by colleagues of his father-in-law, who was in Army intelligence. My dear father-in-law worked for Allison’s his entire career. When he retired, Allison’s gave him a clock marking his 40 years of employment with them. I wonder how many people these days stay with the same job for 25 years or more? Are those days gone?
Well, I can tell you about one person who has worked at the same place for 25 years—our Executive Director, Julie Armstrong. Her first assignment at the IndyBar when she began on June 9, 1991, was to be in charge of the CLE programs. We can all agree she must have done something right on those because we now do more than 150 CLEs each year.
Rosie Felton was the Executive Director at the time and Rosie was a legend, in oh so many ways. She worked Julie hard. One of Julie’s many job duties was to balance Rosie’s checkbook. When Julie took off for maternity leave to have Katie, Rosie appeared on her front door step the first day to drop off a fax machine (laptops had not been invented yet) so she could keep in constant contact with Julie during her maternity leave!
Julie was offered the position of Executive Director on June 13, 1996—the same day as her wedding anniversary. The membership of the IndyBar has more than doubled since then but the staff has not grown much, currently just nine staff members. I’ve seen a lot of good managers through the years but I think Julie is probably the best. I had a recent hiccup in something I did for the bar, and it came back to haunt me. She told me: “It’s the little things that you never saw coming that get you.” She is so right.
Past presidents of the association and foundation feel the same way I do. One former bar president wrote to Julie that during his presidency, he felt chewed up and spit out over something he had done. He thanked her for her support and guidance through that difficult time.
Another past president thanked her for dragging him away from his reliance on the telephone to his Blackberry—to which he is still wed and refuses to follow the iPhone “fad” (he obviously still really needs Julie).
Another past president remarked about how Julie offered her support and encouragement at a time when Julie was losing her own sister to cancer and was the one who really needed the support and friendship.
The overwhelming sentiment of past association and foundation presidents was to express their deep friendship with Julie and her family. When you are in leadership of the IndyBar and IBF, you spend a lot of time both in Indianapolis and at conferences out of town with Julie and her husband, Bob. You get to know Amanda, Katie and Brady Armstrong. To get to know Julie is to know her family. Next to her devotion to her faith is her devotion to her family.
I’m sure her kids, and mine, would rebel if they knew how many funny stories we’ve told one another about our kids, especially the one about Julie and Bob getting an “alarming” call from Brady’s school this past year while we were all out of town at a conference. Brady, who was in 6th grade at the time, had kissed a girl. We all had trouble finding the problem there. Julie and Bob have raised three fantastic kids. Although Brady is still a work in progress, it’s very clear he is on track to be as good a person as his siblings are.
Julie has thought a lot recently about whether her longevity with the IndyBar is a good thing and if she still brings the same “buzz” to the association and foundation that she did when she came. She knows nearly every member of the association by name and she knows their history, long or short. If there is something happening locally in the legal world, Julie is the first to know about it and to have considered what the IndyBar should do in response.
She cares about our profession but she cares more deeply about the lawyers in our town. She understands how hard it is for good lawyers who have always been successful just doing what they have always been doing, to now suddenly find their profession has changed. She worries about us and how we can weather these times. So, when she has told me she wants to be the right person for this job at this time, I can wholeheartedly assure her that she is.
One of the past presidents wrote to Julie that the best way to follow a legend is to be a legend. Julie is a legend and I feel lucky to know her, to work with her and to call her my very good friend.