The SJCBA Occasional

September 7, 2017:

Several years ago when he was president of the Indiana State Bar Association, Erik Chickedantz started an effort to improve lawyer “wellness” in Indiana. At the time, your faithful webmaster thought this was a bit much. We hear about the importance of eating right, exercising, etc. from our doctors, the media, and everywhere. Certainly, I thought, we don’t need to hear it from the ISBA as well.

Well, I have concluded I was wrong. We lawyers do a terrible job of taking care of ourselves. Lawyers, judges, and law students are much more likely to self-medicate (and abuse) alcohol. We live in our offices and very few of us get exercise at levels we really need. We are more likely to suffer from depression and stress disorders than the general population.

As I see it, even a life that is longer due to good eating and exercise habits is still too short to be unhappy. We certainly ought not be doing anything to shorten it and end up with the fate of some of our colleagues. Just in recent memory we’ve lost two colleagues—Jeff Jankowski and Ken Sheetz—to heart attacks. More seasoned lawyers will remember that Ken Wilber took his own life less than two decades ago.

There are resources out there who can provide help. The Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program is one. By law, it is confidential. The fact its offices are in Indianapolis doesn’t matter. JLAP can refer you to local resources.

The New York Times has a whole section it calls Smarter Living with practical, bite-sized articles on strategies for physical health, mental health, and maybe even how to quickly untangle holiday lights.

Give meditation a try. If you think that’s too “woo” for lawyers, you should know that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer meditates in chambers after oral arguments. His form is just shutting the door for about 20 minutes while he sits quietly with his eyes closed.

At this year’s Local Practice Seminar, Loretta Olesky from JLAP will offer a session to tell you what all JLAP does, and perhaps more importantly what you can do when it appears a colleague needs help.

Please don’t wait for January 1, 2018 to decide to start taking better care of yourself (and watching out for each other). Start now. Your family, your friends, and your colleagues deserve nothing less.

August 7, 2017:

What happened to the President’s Blog? Well, truth be told, blogging isn’t for everyone. And life sometimes gets in the way (in the best way possible, right Victoria Wolf?). So, rather than use this space as a spot for the SJCBA President to blog (although David Pruitt is certainly encouraged to do so!), your faithful web master has opted to convert this into the SJCBA Occasional. Meaning, we will occasionally post items here that are of interest, but not necessarily worthy of appearing the newsletter or in an email to members.

As an example, here is the follow-up to the May 20, 2016 post from Bill Wilson. In that post, he asked about a young lady who appeared in the 1922 composite bar association photo. Maxine E. Ryer, as it turns out, was the first woman to practice law in St. Joseph County and was the first woman to graduate from the Notre Dame Law School. We know from an archived copy of the South Bend News-Times that Ms. Ryer graduated from high school in South Bend in 1916. (The headline from that issue: “One American and Two Mexicans Killed in Battle”…other news worthy of the front page: “Ex-Wife Sues Her Ex-Husband For Babies’ Support.”)

Tragedy visited Ms. Ryer just two years after she appeared in the composite photo. A blurb appears in a publication from the University of Michigan Law School: “Frank H. Dunnahoo was killed in an automobile accident on September 15th, 1924, in South Bend, Ind., where he was born, and where, immediately after graduation from Law School, he established himself in practice. He served for two terms as City Attorney of South Bend. In 1922 he formed a law partnership with Maxine E. Ryer, a young talented woman lawyer of said city, whom, a year later, he married and who survives him. He is said to have been ‘one of the best lawyers South Bend has produced or known.'”

June 30, 2016:

My time as the president of your Bar Association is ticking down with roughly thirteen hours and thirty-five minutes to go. I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t take a moment to compose some closing thoughts.

First, again, thank you for this privilege. While the job is not always easy, it more than makes up for any difficulties by being extremely rewarding.

Second, please give Victoria Wolf all the support you gave to me. While she may not need the help, she and her husband are expecting their first child in September. Any help you can give her is certainly going to be appreciated.

Third, think about one thing you could do for the Bar Association that wouldn’t be too demanding or time consuming. If everyone could find ten minutes a month—less than .2 billable hours!—they could spend doing something for the SJCBA, we would knock the socks off of every bar association in the state. Contact the SJCBA and offer your time.

Finally, for some reason I was thinking about advice I’d like to share with my son when I had an idea that should be shared widely. Find something you can do that others will enjoy. Maybe it’s writing short stories. Perhaps it’s taking photographs. We all have some kind of creative talent that we can use for the benefit of others. When we do so, the rewards we receive are very satisfying. You don’t need to be a Picasso or a Mozart. But if you can create enjoyment for others, you will experience joy yourself.

That’s it. Here’s to a new administration and great things ahead!

Bill Wilson

May 20, 2016:

IMG_1234Does anyone know who this is? Obviously, her name is Maxine E. Ryer. Her photo appears in the 1922 composite of the St. Joseph County Bar Association. It’s safe to say she was one of the first women members of the SJCBA. She might have even been the very first. Out of all the photos in the 1922 composite, Ms. Ryer is the only woman. I happen to pass by her photo at least twice a day, and I often wonder what her life must have been like. What challenges did she face from her colleagues, and did they even consider her a colleague? Heck, in 1922 Ms. Ryer had enjoyed the constitutional right to vote for only two years. She had to be a trailblazer.

Unfortunately, a Google search turns up nothing on Ms. Ryer. Perhaps someday we will find out more about her story.

May 16, 2016:

This morning has me thinking about wellness. In recent years we’ve lost a number of our colleagues well before their time. Looking around at our members, I see some who are doing what needs to be done for their physical health, but too many of us aren’t. We all have demands on our time—which means we skip exercise and eat fast food too often. The problem is, those behaviors take a toll on us. We end up with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, and insulin resistance or diabetes.

There’s one thing you can do that can make a huge, HUGE positive impact. Take ten minutes and watch Dr. Mike Evans explain it for you. Follow his prescription. Your friends, family, clients, and colleagues will thank you.

May 12, 2016:

Fifty days to go…not that anyone is counting.

On June 30, 2016 I will serve my last day as the SJCBA President. Looking back, I’m proud that we have accomplished a major task in our strategic planning session. At the same time, I feel regret that we didn’t accomplish more during my term. I can’t say specifically what should have been accomplished, but that feeling persists.

Since there are still 50 days left, though, I hope to use them to urge you to move from being a passive member to an active member. I know as well as anyone that we are all extremely busy—both during and after work hours. That doesn’t mean you can’t be an active member, however. There are plenty of opportunities that don’t require a lot of time. For example, if you can think of an idea for a CLE program send it in. If you found a great resource on the Internet that would be helpful to lawyers, let us know so we can link to it from our site. If you have a checklist you’d be willing to share with your colleagues, get it to us so we can publish it here. Even something as simple as “Tuttle’s Tips to Tick Off the Judge” can be very helpful to newer lawyers.

Heck, even if you can say, “I’d like to help; what can I do?” it would be a terrific contribution to your association. We can find big or small tasks that can fit your availability.

To paraphrase a great orator, don’t ask what the SJCBA can do for you, ask what you can do for the SJCBA. You’ll be glad you did.

May 2, 2016:

Yes, with just under two months to go in my term as your association’s president, I finally launched a blog. This might (and should) turn out to be a good way to keep everyone informed on topics that don’t always make it into the newsletter. Please note that the observations and comments here are solely my own and not the official policy of the bar association. There could be times I dissent from the official policy, I suppose. So, without further ado, I begin.

Survey says…

We had a remarkable response rate to the survey conducted by the American Bar Association. Oddly, the largest demographic represented by survey participants was lawyers age 50 and over. While that might skew the results somewhat, the information we received was invaluable. Indeed, we had our ABA-led strategic planning session on Friday, April 29 and the survey results were very helpful. (More about the strategic planning in a future post.)

Within the survey there were indicators of some urban legends and misunderstandings. I’d like to try to clear some of them up.

  • A number of members perceive that bar leaders are part of a clique that rotates people through leadership positions. Our treasurer’s “lifetime appointment” is one example, and other long term board members is another. Let’s take each topic in turn.
    • Historically, the treasurer has been an office occupied by one person while the other association officers come and go. Robert Parker held this position for decades until Mitch Heppenheimer took it over most recently. Believe it or not, Mitch is stepping down as Treasurer on June 30 in light of his upcoming year of service as the Indiana State Bar Association’s president. Mario Zappia will serve as the new treasurer. Why keep one person in the same role for so long? For one, few people want to take on the responsibility of signing hundreds of checks each year and preparing financial reports. The position might require up to five or more hours per week; the treasurer is the real workhorse of the board of governors. In addition, having a long term treasurer helps maintain some institutional knowledge among the officers.
    • Our bylaws provide for a number of “ex officio” members of the board. I’ve never liked the term “ex officio” because it suggests that the person is on the board by virtue of an office he or she holds. A better term is non-voting member. The bylaws say that the board can appoint two non-voting members; another non-voting member is selected by the board from the pro bono programs; the final non-voting member(s) chair the new lawyers committee. Judge Michael G. Gotsch, Jr. and Mario J. Zappia have served in these non-voting positions because of their long involvement with the bar association. They represent a great deal of historic knowledge and offer perspectives that help keep the voting members of the board from repeating historic mistakes. With Mario Zappia moving into the treasurer’s role, Mitch Heppenheimer will move to the vacant non-voting member seat.
    • So, in short, it’s fair to say that a number of people always seem to be involved in bar association leadership, and that they happen to have a bit higher profile. Over the ten years or so I’ve been on the board, I’ve served with a number of other board members who have come and gone. Those members sometimes rotate out of the positions or move into officer positions (where they eventually end up leaving the board after serving as immediate past president).
    • I would hope that all of our members feel welcome getting involved. Like any association, new blood at any level is healthy for the group. Our bar association has a number of committees (which we really should call sections) that contribute. Some are more active than others, but they should all be quite active—and they probably would be if people came forward to help. Of course, time is a precious commodity for all of us. As part of our strategic planning, we’re exploring how we can create opportunities for members to “micro volunteer” on short tasks. As Magistrate Judge Christopher Neuchterlein likes to say, many hands make for light work. Ideally, our committees should be the breeding ground for future bar officers and leaders. We will look to those groups in the years ahead to groom lawyers to take on other leadership roles.
  • There is a lot more to say about the survey results, and in the near future I will present an executive summary of the results. Thank you to all who participated—and congratulations to David Keckley on winning the $100 gift card!

Strategery for the future

In 2015, the board of governors voted to create a strategic plan so we would develop and have a road map for the association’s future. The survey was the first big step. The second big step took place on April 29. Karyn Linn, of the ABA’s Bar Services Division, led your board and some other association members through a full day of thinking. Tim Curran, Angelika Mueller, Greta Lewis, Danielle Campbell, Libby Klesmith, Nick Derda, Mike Gotsch, David Pruitt, Joe Fullenkamp, Angela Hall, Stephanie Steele, Amy McGuire, Rich Urda, Victoria Wolf, Aladean DeRose and I weren’t quite locked in the room together all day, but it was close. We asked hard questions: What should the bar association look like in three years? What are the priorities to get us there? What tools will we use to advance those priorities? Of course, asking the hard questions is actually quite easy. It’s the answering that takes hard work. We brainstormed, debated, had a few realizations, and put together the foundation for moving forward. Everyone left mentally tired but enthusiastic about the next steps.

After we get our report back from Karyn Linn, I’ll be happy to unveil it. I will also be happy to have volunteers to work on the next steps. Regardless of your level of involvement in the past, your participation will be most welcome. Indeed, having the perspective of people who haven’t historically been deeply involved is very important. If you’ve been looking for a way to contribute to your association, here’s your chance.

A final note

By now I’m sure you heard the horrible, tragic news from last Thursday, April 28. Judge Hostetler’s elderly parents were both killed in an automobile accident in Kokomo. As I have said before, losing a parent is a tough rite of passage no matter what the circumstances are. Losing both parents in such a sudden and shocking way is all but incomprehensible to most of us. I know you will join with me in offering Judge Hostetler and his family your support, thoughts, and prayers in the weeks and months ahead.

Your obedient servant,

Bill Wilson, President