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

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Posted on: Apr 16, 2019

1969 was undoubtedly historic and memorable. The Beatles held their last public performance on the roof of Apple Records, the Boeing 747 jumbo jet made its debut, 350,000 rock and roll fans attended Woodstock, and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first humans to take steps on the moon.

Events of 50 years ago remain clear in the minds of our colleagues who've been fortunate enough to have practiced law since then. We had the chance to talk with a few of them to gain insight into just a few of the things that have changed and the advice they have for practitioners today. Read on and register now to celebrate their accomplishments at the IndyBar Practice Milestone Reception on May 9 here!


Hon. Sarah Evans Barker, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana
Why did you want to become a lawyer and a judge?
When the idea of going to law school was suggested to me by a graduate student advisor at IU, I thought it was a total and complete overestimation of my abilities, and besides, I had never heard of any women lawyers before. But it lit a spark and piqued my curiosity, so I pursued the idea I wasn't so much a matter of concern about whether I could get into and through law school as to whether I could make it as a lawyer. There simply were not many women pursuing this path so there were no role models. Pure chutzpah moved me to give it a try. As for becoming a federal judge some 15 years later, I hadn't thought about that either until a vacancy occurred on our court with the death of Judge Cale J. Holder. When he died quite suddenly, I was the U.S. Attorney so being a judge was, you might say, something that was in my wheelhouse. 

Can you recall one particularly funny or interesting moment from your career in law?
Yes—too many to retell! The best one was when I was a new judge presiding over an 8th Amendment jail conditions case and did not know, when a prisoner complained of unsanitary health conditions, what crabs were. I do now.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?
I have been privileged to be in a position to hold the door open for many extraordinary women lawyers who followed me through it.

When and where were you the happiest in your life?
When I find myself deep in the bosom of my family, with my children and grandchildren and my best friend and much-beloved husband, Ken.

What advice do you have for lawyers and judges today?
Learn how to live within your natural boundaries, cultivate a circle of utterly trustworthy girlfriends,  grow things that keep you humble (gardens, pets, children, fruit trees), do something good on a regular basis for its own sake without expecting to be noticed or repaid, write letters and find something daily that makes you laugh out loud.


Dave Coots, Coots Henke & Wheeler PC
Why did you want to become a lawyer?
It was a long time interest. Plus, I couldn't get into medical school!

Can you recall one particularly funny or interesting moment from your career in law?
There are way too many. Serving on the Judicial Nominating Commission was the most rewarding.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?
Growing a law practice from two to 15 and having many friends in the practice, especially at the firm I left in 1978 to start my current firm.

When and where were you the happiest in your life?
Every day!

What advice do you have for lawyers today?
Be civil and take time for yourself.


Richard Darst, Cohen Garelick & Glazier PC
Why did you want to become a lawyer?
An elementary school teacher told me that I should be a lawyer. Later, I was in college during the civil rights revolution that brought forth the new laws and court decisions against discrimination. I enjoy helping people correct discrimination.

Can you recall one particularly funny or interesting moment from your career in law?
It was interesting seeing the Court of Appeals have the courage to reverse two consecutive adverse jury verdicts in one of my cases after two consecutive trial courts had improperly excluded evidence of sexual harassment.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?
Obtaining multi-million dollar verdicts in discrimination cases, being president of the Seventh Circuit Bar Association, prosecuting the leaders of the Indiana Senate for political corruption and continuing to represent victims of discrimination.

When and where were you the happiest in your life?
Skiing with family and friends.

What advice do you have for lawyers and judges today?
Give the courts as much help as you can. We ask them to do a tough job every day.


Steve Dutton, Barnes & Thornburg LLP
Why did you want to become a lawyer?
While studying political science at the Illinois Institute of Technology, a course in constitutional law intrigued me with the application of our constitution to complex factual situations and the way in which judges applied the law. This led me to apply to law school. While in law school, I had the good fortune to be on the staff of a legislative study committee, the Judicial Study Commission. That commission authored the revised Judicial Article for the Constitution of Indiana, the state Rules of Civil Procedure and created the Judicial Conference to help educate our judges. The members of the commission were top flight legislators and lawyers, including two of the leading lawyers of the time, Ben Dutton (no relation) and Bill Evans. That was such a tremendous learning experience early in my career.

Can you recall one particularly funny or interesting moment from your career in law?
It was in working with a client to acquire an insurance company out of a California receivership. We were in an auction and being outbid by a party that our investment banker said couldn’t raise the capital needed to fund their bid. We took a deep breath and told the court we weren’t going to raise our bid but requested an order that if the outbidding party couldn’t fund the bid, then our client’s most recent bid would be accepted. The investment banker was right, that party couldn’t raise the funds, and our client acquired the company based on the court order. Everyone was very happy.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?
I’ve had the good fortune to be at firms where the young lawyers who arrive are the best and brightest. I think my greatest achievement is that I have been able to train lots of really good lawyers, and I’ve truly enjoyed working with and mentoring those lawyers. I am proud of all of those attorneys, as I have been able to watch them grow personally and professionally. I hope I’ve provided them with an example to follow, solid advice and a steady sounding board to help them deepen their dedication to the profession and that they will continue to pay that legacy forward.

When and where were you the happiest in your life?
I’ve generally been happy throughout my life. My choice – and knowing very early on – that I wanted to practice law has continued that happiness. I feel privileged to do what I do because I thoroughly enjoy every aspect of it. Being able to take intellectually challenging problems and put together solutions that fit for everyone – well, there is nothing better, I think.

What advice do you have for lawyers today?
Simply put – do what you enjoy. I have and that has made all the difference in my life and hopefully in the lives of those I’ve worked with and for the individuals and businesses I’ve assisted as well.


Alan Goldstein, Katzman & Katzman PC
Why did you want to become a lawyer?
As a high school and collegiate debater, I enjoyed the rigors and intellectual challenge of competitive argumentation. As an English literature and history major during the turbulent early 1960s, I witnessed the impact of law on society and the role lawyers played in promoting social justice and the public good. I decided that I wanted to practice law. I never have regretted my choice. 

Can you recall one particularly funny or interesting moment from your career in law?
I was a first-year associate in a corporate law firm. At that time, judges would go down the lawyer lists and appoint lawyers to defend indigent criminal defendants. One day, the bailiff in Criminal Court 2 called to inform me that Judge Saul Raab had appointed me to defend an indigent defendant. A preliminary hearing was set for a week or so later. I met with my assigned client, walked over to the City-County Building on a freezing January day, found Judge Raab’s courtroom, hung up my coat in the back of the courtroom and sat down to wait for my hearing. I barely hit the chair when I heard, “Mr. Goldstein, approach the bench.” Judge Raab had stopped the hearing he was conducting and was summoning me to the bench. My conversation with him in front of a crowded courtroom went something like this: “Mr. Goldstein, did you graduate from law school?” “I did, your Honor.” “Did you pass the bar?” “I did, your Honor.” “Does that fancy law firm you work for ever try to teach you anything?” “I’m sure they try their best, your Honor.” “Well, Mr. Goldstein, I am going to teach you a very valuable lesson in criminal law. This is a criminal court. If you hang your coat in the back of the courtroom somebody’s going to steal it. Now go get your coat and hang it on the lawyers’ rack.” Excellent, practical advice to a beginning lawyer.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?
I take satisfaction from having drafted, negotiated, arbitrated and litigated construction contracts for major landmark projects in Indianapolis and throughout the United States. However, I am most proud of having taught civil procedure to hundreds of law students during the 1970s and early 1980s while an adjunct professor at what now is the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Many of those students have gone on to become prominent lawyers and judges. I hope those classes were of value to them and contributed something to their careers. For me, teaching was immensely satisfying and I look back on it fondly.

When and where were you the happiest in your life?
When I see my sons and grandchildren contribute, succeed and prosper.

What advice do you have for lawyers today?
The law has evolved during my 50 years as a lawyer. Technology has and is changing how we practice. But, no matter how sophisticated the software or artificial intelligence becomes, certain principles must remain constant. Never forget that you are an officer of the court. Conduct yourself as one. Rules of Professional Conduct are not negotiable. Vigorous advocacy on behalf of a client does not include, justify or excuse bullying, abusive behavior, incivility, or acting like a jerk. Conduct yourself ethically and with integrity so that clients, opposing counsel and courts trust you and can rely upon your word. No client or case is worth losing your good name, your reputation or your license to practice law.


John Green, Hume Smith Geddes Green & Simmons LLP
Why did you want to become a lawyer?
I wanted to become a lawyer when I attended Rushville High School at Rushville, Indiana in 1956.

Can you recall one particularly funny or interesting moment from your career in law?
I remember many years ago my partner, Robert W. Geddes, and I were trying a wrongful death case in federal court in the Southern District of Indiana. We were representing a widow whose husband had been killed in an automobile accident. Plaintiff’s counsel table was set up facing the jury and Bob and I were facing the jury with our client next to me. As I recall, Bob was examining a witness and walked over to the witness sitting in the witness chair and presented an exhibit to the witness to review. He turned around and walked back from the witness chair and approached our table. He leaned over and picked up his legal pad and scribbled a note on the pad and handed it to me  In big letters, he wrote: Please lean over and wake up our client, she is asleep.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?
My greatest achievement thus far was to begin my practice of law with Robert W. Geddes, Gordon Smith and Jack Hume in the law firm of Smith & Jones. Our law firm has grown over the years and I have been blessed to continue my practice with a group of partners that enjoy the practice of law and continue to engage in litigation and perfect their skills.

What advice do you have for lawyers today?
My advice for lawyers today is to enjoy the profession and hold your head up high knowing that you are providing legal aid and assistance for those in need. 


Jack Moriarty, Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic
Why did you want to become a lawyer?
A close friend of mine was a lawyer with a personal injury law firm. He sold me on going to law school. My undergraduate degree was in Aeronautical Engineering with the result that I became a patent attorney being able to utilize both disciplines. 

Can you recall one particularly funny or interesting moment from your career in law?
I was serving as a deputy prosecutor to gain trial experience. During voir dire, a prospective juror was asked by the judge if he knew any of the lawyers. Yes, he met the lawyer at the prosecutor’s table once at a reception. There was only one person sitting at the prosecutor’s table and it was me. I didn’t remember ever meeting the man. The judge asked, “Would your meeting with Mr. Moriarty influence your decision today?” The juror responded, “No, I wasn’t very impressed with him at that time.” The solemn courtroom erupted in laughter, including me. With the other jurors looking on, the judge asked, “Mr. Moriarty, would you like to excuse him from being a juror?” I responded laughing, “No, Your Honor, he will make a fine juror.” The man served as a juror and the defendant was convicted of first-degree burglary. 

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?
My greatest achievement was marrying my wife of 53 years, resulting in a wonderful family of four children and nine grandchildren.

When and where were you the happiest in your life?
No particular point.

What advice do you have for lawyers and judges today?
Keep a balance between working hours and outside activities. Do not turn into a workaholic.  The years go by quicker than you think. Take time off to be with your family and to see your children participate in activities. You only get one chance. Circulate in the community and participate in those activities that are meaningful to you. Treat your clients as you would treat a friend, and carefully check your work.


Nick Nizamoff, DeFur Voran LLP
Why did you want to become a lawyer?
A career in law had always been in the back of my mind, but the process of becoming a lawyer seemed doubtful and daunting. That, plus I was to be married shortly after graduation from college and having a job with an immediate income seemed like a reasonable plan at the time. So, I accepted an offer to enter Ford Motor Company’s management training program and set out to become a captain of industry at Ford’s heavy truck assembly plant in Louisville, Kentucky. While not exactly Paris Island, it was close enough that I can honestly say that Henry Ford literally drove me to law school after about a year of training.

Can you recall one particularly funny or interesting moment from your career in law?
The particularly funny moments would get me denounced or disbarred today, so we’ll not go there. As for interesting moments, those occur continuously even now every time I counsel a client, draft a document, question a witness or write a brief. Law is an endlessly fascinating profession and each of us who have been admitted to its priesthood has truly been blessed.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?
Passing the bar exam. Hands down.

When and where were you the happiest in your life?
Here and now.

What advice do you have for lawyers today?
Cherish your clients and give them your all, because they trust you and need your help. It’s both professionally rewarding and personally fulfilling. And a collateral benefit, as told to me by a client, a principal of a major professional design firm, is that if your clients are your friends, you’ll never work a day in your life.


James Strain, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP
Why did you want to become a lawyer?
It is fair to say that I entered the profession through the back door. When I was an undergraduate student at Indiana University, I worked as a janitor and was assigned to the law school. In the course of my duties, I got to know Val Nolan, Jr., a brilliant law professor, and an equally brilliant zoology professor. Val was typically at the law school on Sunday mornings when some of my duties were assigned and I would often help him by fixing the then new-fangled Xerox machine. We would chat about IU basketball, the statistics for his study of the prairie warbler (since I was a math minor) and my future. He suggested that I take the LSAT, which, on his suggestion I did. I did very well and that convinced me that law school and becoming a lawyer might make a good career path. When that was coupled with Val’s encouragement, I decided to do it.

Can you recall one particularly funny or interesting moment from your career in law?
There have been so many. One that sticks in my mind, however, comes from an episode around question three. Even though most of my career has been spent in transactional law (corporate/corporate governance and securities law), I had one argument at the United States Supreme Court involving certain aspects of the Indiana Business Corporation Law. By the time the argument was set, my former boss, The Honorable William H. Rehnquist, an Associate Justice when I clerked for him, had become Chief Justice. With me at counsel table (and on the brief) was Stanley Fickle who, like me, had been a law clerk (for Justice Brennan). The argument was just before the lunch break (and the Chief Justice even let me finish up so that it would not be divided – which irritated Justice White). At lunch, Stan chastised me for “having too much fun” making the argument! And in those days, we would go to Washington, D.C. annually for a law clerks’ reunion. When Justice Rehnquist’s wife, Nan, heard that I had not invited my wife to the oral argument, she gave me a tongue lashing for not bringing her along, which, in retrospect, was funny. 

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement thus far?
Beginning in 1984 or so, I was part of an ad hoc group that provided input to the Indiana Corporate Law Study Commission on the revamping of our corporate law. What came out of that in 1986 was the Indiana Business Corporation Law (the IBCL). My focus was on things that primarily affected my firm’s public company clients, including several anti-takeover provisions. One such provision was the Control Shares Acquisition Chapter. There had been a similar provision that had been struck down in Ohio, so Ted Boehm and I took a walk around the Circle to discuss it. Ted suggested that there could be no more internal corporate affair than taking away the vote of shareholders and that should be the way to have an anti-takeover provision withstand constitutional scrutiny. The IBCL incorporated that concept and it was held unconstitutional almost instantly in the Northern District of Illinois and in the Seventh Circuit. I was lucky enough to be allowed to appeal the latter judgment to the United States Supreme Court and to argue for its constitutionality. By a vote of 6-3, the Court upheld the constitutionality of that chapter and, in so doing, reaffirmed the primacy of state law in governing internal corporate affairs. CTS Corp. v. Dynamics Corp. of America, 481 U.S. 69 (1987). There have been others, but this one, I think, was the most impactful and was described by Stan Fickle as “the lawyer’s dream”.

When and where were you the happiest in your life?
I am modifying the answer to limit the question to my life in the law. It strikes me that your readers are not so interested (or at least should not be) in my marriage, the births of our children or our grandchildren. Again, there have been several, but there have only been a few where I was so happy I could not speak. When I received the call that began, “Jim, this is Bill Rehnquist . . .” and he offered me the clerkship that was a really happy moment. Thereafter, I met my wife for lunch at the “umbrella room,” one of those street vendor stands in New York where you can buy a hotdog and went to meet the partner at Cahill, Gordon who was my mentor. When he saw that I could not even tell him, he knew that I had gotten the clerkship. In 1978, when we were fighting a hostile bid for P.R. Mallory by Dart, I stopped my senior partner who was in charge of the litigation from doing something which would have led to a constitutional irrationality. I remember his saying to me then that, despite all of the other work I had done on the matter, that was my most important contribution. In 1982, when Stokely Van Camp was under attack by Pillsbury, I was part of the team, and the only Indiana lawyer on that team, that sold the businesses of Stokely in three different transactions over a weekend. It was with particular joy that we all ate Haagen Dazs ice cream, a Pillsbury product, in the New York conference room of Wachtell Lipton after we had completed the sales and before the market opened on Monday morning. Obviously, making and winning the argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in CTS in 1987 were both happy occasions. Leading the team that helped the City of Indianapolis through the acquisition of the water utility from NIPSCO, which turned out to be three separate transactions, was happy because it was so difficult and involved the use of several different skill sets. And again, as part of a team, helping to guide a client through the various problems created by the terms of its preferred stock thereby saving the client millions of dollars was a very happy time. In short, there have been many happy times and most of them involved working with teams.

What advice do you have for lawyers today?
There are two things that may be most important in the practice, certainly in the kinds of things I do. First, at our best, we use the legal system to solve our clients’ problems. To be able to do that, it is imperative that we understand their problems that need to be solved. That means we must listen to our clients and understand their needs. Second, some of what we do is very difficult and needs thorough vetting to get to the right conclusion. That is a lesson that was instilled in me by Justice Rehnquist. If he needed to have that ability to vet problems with another lawyer, whether one of his law clerks or another justice, then you know I really need that. That means working in teams is almost always beneficial, if not mandatory. Lawyers must learn to work effectively in teams.

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