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Then and Now: Reflecting on 50 Years of Life in the Profession - IndyBar Blog

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Posted on: Apr 18, 2018

1968 was unforgettable. The United States became involved in the Vietnam War, Nixon was elected, Apollo 8 goes to the moon. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination marked 1968 as a monumental year for the fight for civil rights and put Indianapolis on the map as a pillar of peace in the wake of Robert F. Kennedy's historic speech in our city calling for compassion, love and an end to injustice.

Filled with tragedy, joy, loss and happiness, events of 50 years ago remain clear in the minds of colleagues who've been fortunate enough to have practiced law since then. We had the chance to sit down with a few of them to gain insight to just some of the many things that have changed. Read on and register now to celebrate their accomplishments at the IndyBar Practice Milestone Reception on May 10 at indybar.org/events!


Pen Cosby

Why did you want to become a lawyer?

My grandfather was a lawyer and I loved what he did.

Can you recall one particularly funny or interesting moment from your career in law?

The travel and the people you meet!

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?

My victories in the U.S. Tax Court.

Where and when were you the happiest in your life?

Every day is a great day.

What has changed most over the last 50 years?

Law has become a big business with many more lawyers coming from the law schools every year.

Gerald Cowan

Why did you want to become a lawyer?

After l finished my Bachelor's Degree at Indiana University in marketing, I then could not decide whether or not to go to graduate business school or law school. I decided to go ahead and pursue my MBA and consider law at a later date. After I was nearing the conclusion of my MBA at the University of Oklahoma, I really did not want to go to work yet, so I considered going to law school. I was admitted to law school at Ohio State and Indiana University Bloomington and I guess the reason why I went is due to some distant relatives who practiced law, together with the fact that I was not yet ready to go to work full-time.

Can you recall one particularly funny or interesting moment from your career in law?

One particularly interesting moment was when a gentleman came to me requesting that t represent him in coonecti.n with the settlement of the estate of a friend. I agreed and upon further contact with him, he indicated that not only was the man deceased but his sister had been deceased for years and her bones were in one bedroom and his Aunt had been deceased for some time also and her bones were in another bedroom. This was the most unusual estate I have ever handled. We petitioned the Court for approval to bury the ashes of each in the same grave. This was both economical and practical since they had apparently lived together for quite some time.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?

My greatest achievement has been being elected by my peers to be included in the Best Lawyers in America under several categories, including wills, trusts and estates and sports law.

Where and when were you the happiest in your life?

The happiest day of my life was when I received news that I had passed the bar exam due to the fact that it represented many years of study, as well as exam concentrated study in direct preparation for the bar exam.

What has changed most over the last 50 years?

The changes that occurred in the last 50 years include automation and computerization of the practice of law. It includes the non-lawyer commercial websites that supposedly equip the client to act as their own attorney. These websites sacrifice quality and thoroughness. Actually, they provide more work for lawyers because of mistakes that they make using them. Another change in the practice of law is the ability to work from home or even on vacation through the use of email and cellphones. Due to practicing law in this fashion, quality is not sacrificed and yet savings take place with respect to overall overhead, which is true for a sole practitioner, such as myself.

Edward Harris

Why did you want to become a lawyer?

My high school senior class had the assignment of interviewing someone about his/her career and writing about it. I went downtown to the law offices of Barnes Hickam Pantzer & Boyd (now Barnes & Thornburg) and interviewed Lester Ponder, a prominent member of that firm. He spoke passionately and eloquently about the rewards (and challenges) of practicing law and introduced me to several of his partners, who were also very impressive in discussing the opportunities they had as lawyers  It sounded like (and has been) a great career. I was hooked.

Can you recall one particularly funny or interesting moment from your career in law?

I represented Frank Jackson, a man in his 60s whose main goal in life was to remove the stain of a dishonorable discharge from the Army. The process culminated in his appearance with me before a review board consisting of three Army bird colonels. Mr. Jackson told his story at length, which in summary was that he had served in combat in the Pacific for two years in World War II, then volunteered for the Korean War, where he served in combat for another 1½ years, before being sent home for two weeks of leave followed by the last several months of his tour of duty. As Mr. Jackson explained very emotionally, he snapped while on leave for reasons he still cannot explain, never returned to his unit, and was court-martialed.

Following the hearing, the head of the board addressed Mr. Jackson directly, in words I remember essentially verbatim: “Sgt. Jackson, on behalf of the United States of America, we want to thank you for your exemplary service to your country.  Your discharge will be upgraded from dishonorable to honorable. God bless you.”

My client and I did a lot of crying.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?

I have tried to provide high quality and caring legal service on a consistent basis. To the extent I have succeeded, I consider that my best achievement.

Where and when were you the happiest in your life?

I am as happy now as I ever have been. My health is good, and I have a wonderful family including six grandchildren. I am still practicing law a little—without the economic pressures of prior years.

What has changed most over the last 50 years?

Factors outside the profession affecting the delivery of legal services have forced law firms to shift from a collegial model to much more of a corporate model.

John Hess

Why did you want to become a lawyer?

I have always been interested in government and politics. Law was just a natural calling.

Can you recall one particularly funny or interesting moment from your career in law?

When I was younger I used to dabble in criminal law. One day many years ago in early morning Municipal Court, I represented one of about five defendants who were involved in a drug arrest. In those days, all defendants and their lawyers would stand in front of the bench for a trial or proceeding, so about four lawyers and five defendants were standing crowded in front of the bench. All defendants except one had talked to the deputy prosecuting attorney and all but one had made a plea bargain which would include no jail time for their clients. The sole defendant who did not have a deal was represented by an older attorney—a really nice guy of some stature who, when younger, had a very successful law practice but by this time in life was struggling with the bottle. He stumbled into the courtroom a little late and I realized he was pretty inebriated. I did not want him to call the Judge's attention to his situation, so I jockeyed myself well in front of him so as to keep him as far as possible from the bench. I also placed myself in such a position that the old fellow would stay far away from the deputy prosecutor. The judge had already asked the four lawyers what they were going to do and all of us replied that we had plea agreements and were pleading our clients guilty. The old lawyer got very close to me whispered to me, about knocking me over with his bourbon breath, "What are you going to do?" he asked. I whispered back, "I have a deal!"  By this time the Judge asked the older attorney, "Mr. ______, what are you and your client going to do today?" The old lawyer shouted out in a loud voice with great bravado, "Your honor, my client will plead guilty and participate in any plea agreement before the Court!" Of course, neither the old lawyer nor his client knew what the plea arrangement was to which he had just pleaded guilty. To make a long story short, all defendants (including the old lawyer's) were spared a jail sentence, the Judge did not punish, call out, or report the older lawyer for appearing drunk in his Court, and all went well everybody that day. I look back on that day believing in the old adage that the Lord sometimes really does work in mysterious ways!

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?

I have achieved very little. I would say my greatest achievement is that I fathered a daughter who is a terrific lawyer.

Where and when were you the happiest in your life?

This is easy! I was in hospitals when my daughter was born and years later when my granddaughter was born.

What has changed most over the last 50 years?

I believe it is the computerization of law and almost every activity we engage in today. I struggle with this daily and I often say if I did not have computer problems, then I would have no problems.

Robert Koeller

Why did you want to become a lawyer?

It was through a process of elimination in that I was a political science major/history major and did not want to teach and was not sure what else I could do with those majors. So, I elected to go to law school with the assumption that it would open up many avenues of pursuit.

Can you recall one particularly funny or interesting moment from your career in law?

There are not many funny moments I can easily disclose, but am very thankful for the many opportunities I have had to meet and work with very influential people.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?

To maintain a private practice that has been specialized and lucrative.

Where and when were you the happiest in your life?

Probably between ages 60 and 70.

What has changed most over the last 50 years?

The practice has changed from one attorney having one secretary who took short-hand to one secretary for three to five attorneys, with each attorney doing most of the clerical work.

Craig Pinkus

Why did you want to become a lawyer?

I was involved in politics, civil liberties and civil rights beginning in high school. Fellow lawyers-to-be Alan Goldstein, Steve Claffey and I won the Indiana high school debate championship and that led to a debate scholarship from Mac Cripe at Butler. The scholarship solved my inability to afford college. With formal argument and the turbulent issues of the day important parts of my life, everything seemed to point to law as a career. Charles Feibleman of Bamberger & Feibleman and Lee Cross at Ice Miller took an interest in me and encouraged me to go to law school.

Can you recall one particularly funny or interesting moment from your career in law?

Hundreds come to mind. I don’t know where to start.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?

Doing the best I could as a father.

Where and when were you the happiest in your life?

I reserve hope that this question's implication is incorrect that my happiest moments were in the past.

What has changed most over the last 50 years?

Increased access to information and decreased access to wisdom.

Alex Rogers

Why did you want to become a lawyer?

Growing up in Indianapolis as a youth (grade/high school and college), my next door neighbor was an attorney and Indiana Supreme Court Justice. He was a role model who inspired, influenced and encouraged me to go to law school and enter the practice of law in Indianapolis.

Can you recall one particularly funny or interesting moment from your career in law?

During my early law career, I enjoyed and had fun participating as a play/actor in bar association skits and performances produced and directed by Judge Joe Myers.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?

The satisfaction of being able to assist people resolve their various legal problems and issues.

Where and when were you the happiest in your life?

Enjoy spending my leisure time from the practice flying and spending time with family and friends at Lake Maxinkuckee Culver, Indiana.

What has changed most over the last 50 years?

The advancements in technology have completely changed the practice of law (word processing to legal research). In the early days of my law practice, there were no computers, internet, cell/smart phones voicemail or email. The culture and bar environment was far different in the late 60s and 70s. The practice of law was more leisurely and much more congenial. You knew most fellow lawyers. The old dining room operated by the bar association above the Keith’s Theater on Pennsylvania Street and later in the basement of the Indiana National Bank Tower seemed to foster this congeniality, friendships, good relationships and great times.

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