Q: Did you experience any sexism in the
profession as a young attorney?
A: Some of my female colleagues’
perceptions were that they were treated
differently, that they lost a motion because
they were female. I just didn’t look at it that
way. I never wanted to be a female lawyer; I
didn’t want to belong to anything that had
“women’s” in front of it. I just wanted to be
a lawyer, and I wanted to be the best damn
lawyer I could be.
It’s my second week of being a deputy
prosecutor and Judge Gray used to call
all the criminal pre-trials for 1 o’clock on
Monday. So every lawyer in the county is
there, plus all the lawyers in the venue
counties, and you’d just wait your turn.
Over the years I came to really appreciate
that call, because that’s when I got to catch
up on gossip.
I’m standing there in the superior
Q: Do you remember your first day?
court office and some guy walks up to
me and hands me a stack of papers and
says, “Here hon, will you make me some
copies?” And I just looked at him, I blinked
my eyes a bunch of times, handed them
back and said, “You know, I’m just a deputy
prosecutor. I don’t know how to run this
Another time, I worked my way up to
chief deputy, [and got a call]. This guy says,
“Oh, I’m sorry. I asked for the lawyer on the
case.” I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what. I’m
chief deputy of this county and here’s what
we’re going to do. We’re both going to
hang up. You’re going to call back. We’re
A: My very first day was hilarious. I showed up
like an hour and a half early. The courthouse
was locked, and so was the prosecutor’s
office. Somehow I talked a custodian into
letting me into the prosecutor’s office.
Nowadays, of course, custodians would never
Q: What inspired you to eventually make
[let a person in]. But I was pretty persuasive
even then, huh? [Laughs]
So there I stand in the prosecutor’s office
and in comes one of the other deputy
prosecutors. I’m just standing there. I don’t
even know where my office is. And he says,
“Have you pulled the files for the pre-trials
this afternoon?” I looked at him like, “Pre-
trials? Files?” I didn’t even know where the
filing cabinet was.
the switch to private practice?
A: I actually thought I was going to be
a prosecutor forever. I really enjoyed
helping people. I really enjoyed
crawling around looking for bullets in
the middle of the night. It was a small
enough county that if we had something
serious happen, they’d call me up in the
middle of the night and I’d go interview
witnesses and all that.
But it was in Martinsville, which,
although it’s only 20 minutes from the
love of my life, Bloomington, Indiana, it
wasn’t Bloomington, Indiana. So out of
the blue one day, I got a phone call from a
lawyer here in Bloomington trying to build
a personal injury practice. That person
was Ken Nunn. I went to Bloomington and
stopped by and saw him, and he offered
me a job on the spot. That was in 1988.
Q: And you’ve been doing it ever since.
A: I was there for 16 years, then in January
2005 I started my practice. Fred [Schultz]
came and joined me about six months
Q: What have you brought from being a
prosecutor into private practice?
A: First of all, an incredible work ethic
and trial experience—case management
The other thing that I brought: I
have never defended a case. Isn’t that
interesting? I have always had the burden
of going forward. I mean, if you’re the
state or if you’re the plaintiff, you bear the
burden of proof, always.
That’s a lot different than defending.
You have to craft. I’m fond of saying that
you’re limited only by your imagination
and the rules of evidence. So you have
more freedom to create a truthful story
that you want to tell. There are lots and
lots of stories, and there are lots of ways
to tell them.
I liken it a little bit to shoving a boulder
up a hill. That’s what I do. The insurance
companies, they’re not interested in
paying my clients, and they’re not
interested in moving things along. So my
clients don’t get compensated until the
case is done. So I’m rolling all kinds of
boulders up hills all the time.
Q: What does it take to get those
boulders to the top?
A: So many things. You have to be flexible.
If you’re in the middle of a case, no matter
how hard you prep, people are people,
right? So they’ll come out with crazy stuff
on the witness stand or evidence will take
a turn south you didn’t see. You have to be
able to ride with that and react to that.
You have to have lots of perseverance.
You have to be willing to push those rocks, or
run up those walls or tilt at that windmill no
matter what. And you have to be willing to
put your heart and soul into something and
lose. That’s a hard thing for most people. You
have to be able to recover from some bumps
and bruises. I’ll say this: Most people who tell
me they’ve never lost a case, I’m thinking to
myself they’ve never tried a tough one.
Q: When you do lose, how do you recover?
A: You suffer, that’s what you do. You
Q: So when you win a case, do you have
suffer horribly in the beginning, and then
you put one foot in front of the other and
try to figure it out. It’s your fault even
though it isn’t—you’re the lawyer. I mean it
sort of jokingly, but sort of not. So you look
back and say, “Did I give it my all? What
could I do better?”
So yeah, if it comes back the wrong way,
you just have to kind of feel terrible and awful
for a while until you get past it. And if I ever
didn’t suffer, then it’s probably time to stop.
an equally powerful positive feeling?
A: Absolutely. I have this goofy little dance
I do from this one big, big case I won a
long time ago. I would not try to be rude
and arrogant, so I do my little dance on the
courthouse lawn when there’s no defense
people around. It’s just kind of a tradition. I
always do it, and it’s exhilarating.
There may be some trial lawyers out there
who say, “Oh, I don’t get invested in my
clients. I’m a technician.” Maybe that works
for them. That’s not how I do it. I give my heart
and soul. I spend hours and hours in groups
with these people, reenacting things, listening
to them, asking them how they feel, spending
time with them. How am I supposed to tell
their story if I don’t know it, right?
This interview was edited and condensed.