Are Lawyers Taking Over Indiana?

More and more, the top echelons of business and government are being filled by lawyers

Published in 2004 Indiana Super Lawyers magazine

By Julie Slaymaker on December 1, 2004


When Clarian Health Partners needed to settle the bureaucratic turf wars that arose during the state’s biggest health merger, they tapped Baker and Daniels senior partner Daniel F. Evans Jr. When the late Governor Frank O’Bannon needed someone to direct traffic at the State Department of Transportation, he chose J. Bryan Nicol from the attorney general’s office, who rewarded him with the innovative Hyperfix. When Bart Peterson needed help with his mayoral campaign, he called on Norris Choplin & Schroeder lawyer Keira Amstutz. And when the opportunity to head the ad agency Young and Laramore came knocking, Bingham Summers attorney Paul Knapp seized the moment.

Though all of them say they miss their former colleagues, and some took a cut in salary to be of service, none if them voice any regrets.

All agree that their law degrees were invaluable. Anthony A. Tarr, dean and professor of law at the Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis explains why: “A good legal education enhances a person’s analytical skills and problem-solving ability, as well as oral and written communication skills. All of these attributes are readily transferable to other occupations. Worldwide, lawyers have found that these skills and their legal knowledge give them a competitive advantage in the business and commercial environment.” Here are some stories that illustrate the truth of the dean’s words.

Daniel F. Evans Jr.

It’s a family affair

It was in Dan Evans’ genes to become president and CEO of Clarian Health Partners.The 6-foot-4-inch, silver-haired 54-yearold is the fourth generation of his family to be involved with Methodist Hospital, the second-largest hospital in the United States.When Clarian Health Partners was formed in 1997 through the consolidation of Methodist Hospital of Indiana, Inc., Indiana University Hospital, and Riley Hospital for Children, it created the state’s largest health care system, a $2 billion business.

“My great-great-grandfather, my great-grandfather and my father were active leaders in the United Methodist Church. Methodist Hospital was a faith-based organization established by the Methodist Church in July 1899,” says the soft-spoken baritone, who sounds like CNN’s Lou Dobbs. Taking down a treasured plaque from his Spartan corner office at Methodist Hospital, Evans proudly points to a button. “My great-great-grandfather, Arthur Fraley, was superintendent of schools in Linden, Indiana, when he wore that button at the Epworth Convention and raised $8,000, which paid for the bedclothes and beds for this hospital,” he says.

“My paternal great-grandfather, Frank C. Evans, succeeded him as a board member of the hospital,” he adds. “Then the family tradition of service skipped a generation to my father. He was chairman of the board of L.S.Ayres when he was a Methodist Hospital board member.”

Evans was a senior partner at Baker & Daniels when he came to Clarian to serve as interim CEO. It took the search committee only three months to tap the Indianapolis native who had previously served on and chaired the Methodist Hospital Board of Directors. “The search committee interviewed other people,” Evans says. “But they decided that we would be better off with a local person because of the special issues relating to the merger of the academic medical center with a private hospital. This job was an accident of opportunity and experience crossing at the same moment, which doesn’t happen very often.”

Evans went to School #66 before becoming student body president of Park School. Before graduating from Indiana University in 1971 with a degree in economics and political science, he served as a summer intern for then-mayor Richard Lugar. “I don’t remember what I did there because that’s where I met my wife, Marilyn, who was also a summer intern. I just hung around her office hoping that she would notice me,” he says.

While attending Indiana University School of Law–Indianapolis at night, Evans received a federal grant to run a drug diversion program called Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime (TASC). “I collaborated with Wishard Hospital and the municipal courts to identify young people who had marijuana, heroin or cocaine in their bloodstream. If it was a first-time offense and they hadn’t hurt anybody, they would be diverted to a treatment program,” he says. “In 1976, I was Governor Otis Bowen’s campaign manager. So I didn’t start practicing law at what is now Bayh Tabbert and Capehart until the end of 1976 when Bowen was re-elected. I joined Baker and Daniels in 1985.”

From 1987 to 1990, Evans was chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank in Indianapolis. On December 18, 1990, he was sworn in as chairman of the Federal Housing Finance Board during the savings and loan crisis. “President Bush the First appointed me to the chairmanship of the successor agency of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. The law that we all know as the S&L Bailout Law established this agency. I was the guy who picked up the pieces of the regulatory apparatus after the S&L collapsed. My current job is a piece of cake compared to that,” laughs the lawyer who earned a million frequent flier miles while commuting to Washington,D.C.

“I did that for four years and then resigned five years before my term expired. I desperately wanted to be fired by Bill Clinton so that I could hang that letter on my basement stairway wall, but he never did, so I resigned. And now I have a letter on my basement stairway wall telling me what a great job I did,” laughs the devoted father of daughters Meredith and Suzannah and sons Benjamin and Theodore.

Evans misses the camaraderie of his law partners, “but it was time for a change,” he says. That change, however, did not come with bankers’ hours, to say the least. In his new position he works 14-hour days, beginning with the 5:30 a.m. shift change.“I was in a large law firm where creativity is encouraged and collegiality is the norm,” he says.“These are great assets to me at Clarian, where ideas in health care are scarce. And collegiality is often stymied by the physician relationship with the hospital and the community.

“When my dad managed Ayres,” Evans says, thinking about his own management style, “everything was about the customer. I hear my dad talking when I bring that same intense focus to our patients and their families.”

J. Bryan Nicol

The Colossus of Roads

When J. Bryan Nicol’s father was a heavy-equipment operator for an Ohio highway contractor, he never dreamed that one day his son would head the Indiana Department of Transportation. But on September 10, 2001, Bryan became commissioner of the department, leading nearly 5,000 people who plan, construct and maintain more than 11,000 miles of highways, as well as manage the oversight of aviation, public transit and railroads.

Anyone who’s had a bad experience on a new job should consider Nicol’s opening experiences. The second day of his watch was September 11, 2001. “It was an incredible second day on the job,” says the 39-year-old, $91,000-a-year commissioner. “First our department had to make sure that the public-use airports in the state were shut down.Then we went on high alert to monitor the state’s infrastructure of bridges and highways. That included expediting traffic on the Indiana Toll Road for rescuers and their equipment headed to New York City to help in the recovery effort.”

For a brief two months, Nicol had served as deputy chief of staff to Governor Frank O’Bannon. But when the former INDOT commissioner resigned, O’Bannon appointed Nicol because he had worked before with the agency.

Nicol grew up in Westchester, Ohio, wanting to be a doctor.“I started out in pre-med, but organic chemistry took care of that,” he laughs. He worked his way through the University of Evansville doing pre-sentence investigation reports and later serving as bailiff for Vanderburgh County Circuit Judge William Miller. Working at INDOT during the day (like his father) and going to law school at night, he became the first lawyer in his family when he received his law degree from the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis in 1993. In 1994, he was appointed deputy attorney general, serving under Indiana Attorneys General Pamela Carter and Jeffrey Modisett.

“After three years of legal experience in the AG’s Office, I left to join the O’Bannon administration because the opportunity of becoming INDOT’s deputy commissioner was one I simply couldn’t pass up. Public service is extremely gratifying,” exclaims the first lawyer to hold the job in the last 16 years.

A poster of his highway repair brainchild sits in the corner of his Indiana Government Center North office overlooking the canal. “When highway engineers told me that we were going to have to rehabilitate 33 bridges and 35 lane miles of pavement on the combined sections of Interstate 65 [I-65] and Interstate 70 [I-70], they said it would take 169 to 180 days. Because we have 175,000 vehicles a day using that stretch of interstate, I suggested that we shut down the two interstates that serve downtown.”

The successful $34 million project was completed 30 days early and has become a model for other states. Last September, Nicol was elected vice president of The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Traditionally, the vice president becomes president after a one-year term, so next year Nicol will be the highway commissioner-in-chief for the entire country.

Keira Amstutz

Indianapolis’ Culture-Vulture-in-Chief

Keira Amstutz got the political bug after her sophomore year at DePauw University. “I took two semesters off and went to Washington, D.C.,” she says, “where I worked on the Hill as an intern for Whitley County Democrat Congresswoman Jill Long.”

It was while she was a Governor’s Fellow for then-governor Evan Bayh that she became friends with Bayh’s chief of staff, Bart Peterson, who would later be elected Indianapolis’ first Democratic mayor in 32 years. Impressed with Peterson and the other lawyers she worked with in the governor’s office, Amstutz decided to get a law degree so “I could home in on the minutiae and take care of the details to move myself forward to the big picture.”

After graduating from Indiana University School of Law in 1995, she spent five years with Norris Choplin & Schroeder. “I took a leave of absence to work on the mayor’s campaign because I believed in his vision for the city. It was a once-in-alifetime opportunity to help chart a new course for the city,” says the 35-year-old mother of two daughters, 6-year-old Chase and 4-year-old Elise.

After Peterson’s historic election, he appointed Amstutz assistant deputy mayor for public affairs. When the mayor launched the $10 million Cultural Tourism Initiative to increase funding for the arts, he named Amstutz as the director of cultural affairs to administer the initiative.

The first person in her family to go to college, Amstutz learned to hustle at age 11, when she started her night crawler business. “I hunted them and sold them to fishermen who were headed to Lake Erie,” she says. As she got older, she graduated from night crawlers to traffic that crawled when she was a flag person on road construction jobs. “It’s the most dangerous job I’ve ever had. Now, whenever I go through a construction zone, I wave at those people and hope that they have a drink of water.”

The city’s cultural scene has been parched for years, according to former resident David Nash, who served as vice president of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. He reminds us what a truly difficult job Amstutz has before her.

“The arts in Indianapolis have existed on the fringe for as long as I can remember, almost apologizing for not being the Indy 500 or being otherwise sports-related,” says Nash. “Without this initiative and private foundations such as the Lilly Endowment, Indy might well be a cultural wasteland.”

Paul Knapp

Who says a lawyer can’t be creative?

In terms of dramatic job changes, Paul Knapp’s ranks right up near the top. In 1996 he sacked his 14-year legal career with Bingham Summers Welsh & Spilman to become president of Young & Laramore advertising agency. Goodbye suits, ties and lousy coffee, hello every-day-is-casual-Friday and tall lattes.

His extraordinary career switch began six years before he actually made the jump, when he hired the agency while heading the firm’s practice development committee.

During their association, he became close friends with the agency’s co-founders, Dave Young and Jeff Laramore, who are artists. “I didn’t prepare to make this change,” says Knapp, an intense, fast-talking 47-year-old. “I got a call from Dave Young and 31 days later, I accepted and became president of the third-largest full-service agency in Indianapolis.”

Among Young & Laramore major clients are such giants as Steak n Shake, Goodwill Industries, Stanley Steemer, Galyan’s Trading Co.,Weaver Popcorn Co., Red Gold Tomatoes, Monsoon Audio Systems, Chautauqua Airlines and the Indianapolis Star.

Changing course is not new to Knapp, who graduated from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs in 1979.“I went to Notre Dame’s Law School for the training and knowledge with no intention of practicing law,” says Knapp. “But a clerkship at Bingham Summers made me realize the practical use of what I was learning academically.”

The Patterson, N.J., native spent the next 14 years as a litigation attorney at the firm where he was a partner for eight years. He developed a niche practice in federal election law, which allowed him to form the U.S. Senate campaign committee for then governor Evan Bayh. He also represented the congressional bids of Greencastle Mayor Mike Harmless and former Secretary of State Joe Hogsett.

Winning elections comes naturally to Knapp.The self-described “Type A” personality served as Lawrence Central High School’s sophomore and junior class presidents. He was elected president of the student body his senior year.

His natural gregariousness may well have arisen as a side effect of his family life. When Knapp’s mother died, his father remarried a widow with nine children. “There were 16 of us living in one house,” winces Knapp, whose wife, Marilyn, is an ER nurse at St. Vincent Hospital. The two have three teenage children: Carley, Jenna and Ben.

Wearing khaki slacks and a blue, open-collar shirt, Knapp gazes out the window of the bustling Young & Laramore, which is located in the hip, historic Massachusetts Avenue arts district.The agency has capitalized billings of an estimated $55 million in 2003, up from $35 million in 2001.

“I can’t imagine doing anything other than what I’m doing now,” exclaims Knapp. “It’s home!”

Search attorney feature articles

Other featured articles

How David Gair went from teaching to tax law

The arrest that made a lawyer out of Nina Ginsberg

View more articles featuring lawyers

Find top lawyers with confidence

The Super Lawyers patented selection process is peer influenced and research driven, selecting the top 5% of attorneys to the Super Lawyers lists each year. We know lawyers and make it easy to connect with them.

Find a lawyer near you