The Adrenaline Law Firm

Is there something in the water at Woodard Emhardt that encourages daredevilism?

Published in 2004 Indiana Super Lawyers magazine

By Jackie Davis on December 1, 2004


The attorneys at Woodard, Emhardt, Moriarty, McNett & Henry spend many a day arguing in court to protect trademarks and patents. Don’t think, however, that that means they rush home, turn on the TV and become couch potatoes after work. Weekends see many of these lawyers in other kinds of competitive events, against themselves, the elements and other competitors.We don’t know if it’s the corporate culture or something in the water, but this 46-person law firm has more than its share of daredevil attorneys.

Racing on Land (By Horse and Car)

Holly Banta and T.J. Cole are partners in the firm and are married to each other. But if you intend to socialize with them, don’t expect quiet tea parties with crustless sandwiches.

Banta has been horse-crazy since she was 8. She’s an award-winning equestrian triathlete who rides her horse Autoritaire in the three-day event of jumping, dressage and cross-country riding. This triathlon has been an Olympic event since the 1930s. 

“I fight it out all day here at work, then ride,” says the Tennessee native.“Riding is 100 percent mind-absorbing. It’s a great way to relax, and very, very good aerobic exercise. Even if I’m not feeling well, I forget about it when I’m riding.

“It’s an adrenaline rush,” she says. “The horse has never seen the course before, then he’s asked to jump gates and into water he’s never seen. It takes a bold horse to do it, an aggressive horse.”

Grand,Autoritaire’s stable name, is such a horse. He’s half quarter horse, half Thoroughbred, and is stabled in Greenwood.

A member of the firm since 1994 and one of its litigators, Banta did undergraduate work at Indiana University, majoring in biology, and then went to Vanderbilt University for law school. She had thought about law since the sixth grade when, after successfully arguing with a teacher about raising a grade, the teacher told her she should become a lawyer.

T.J. Cole, Banta’s husband, works with “idea” people, helping guide their ideas from conception to patent. He’s been with the firm since 1994, like his wife. He graduated from Bradley University with a degree in electrical engineering. After Bradley, he worked for Texas Instruments before heading to Southern Methodist University for law school. In Dallas, he had a friend who drove his Porsche in autocross races. “He took me to a meet, gave me a helmet and off we went.”

Cole was hooked.

Today he competes in his restored 1983 Alfa Romeo, which he’s equipped to race by installing a roll cage and five-point safety belt. “It’s still street-legal,” he says. “I have a real emotional attachment to it.

“We drive in a paved area, marked off by cones. One car goes through at a time, with another car starting about midway through the first car’s run. We’re looking for the fastest time through the course for our class.”

The course features slaloms and 180-degree turns at the end of long straight-aways. The Sports Car of America Club sanctions the races.

“People drive the cars they drive at home,” Cole says of the competitors. “Autocross tests driver skill at controlling the cars. Smaller cars are best because you can control the balance, although I’ve watched a driver succeed in a Lincoln Continental Mark 8. 

“You need to walk the course first, to determine how to take the slaloms so that you enter the ramps in the right position. It takes a lot of mental concentration.”

A “slight edge of danger” contributes to his interest in autocross. Although he’s thought about more difficult racing, such as that at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Cole is preparing for vintage road racing, a more “gentlemanly” sport.

Both Cole and Banta make efforts to be involved in the other’s world.

“I go to his races, to cheer him on,” Banta says, “and he
comes to mine as my groom.”

As to which of them is in the more dangerous sport, Banta says that “horse riding is more dangerous than car racing, because you have more control over a car.” She adds, “I’ve never hurt myself, no broken bones, although I did see stars once when the horse jumped a fence from a standstill and our heads hit. The horse hit his leg, but I stayed on and finished the course.”

An incurable romantic, Cole proposed to Banta during a party in Paris at Versailles — at midnight on Jan. 1, 2002. They married in May that year, after four years of dating.

“We were the test case for the firm,” he says of partners marrying partners.

Racing on Water

Clifford W. Browning, another Woodard partner, spends his free time on the water in a snipe class sailboat. He started sailing in 1980, when he was 30, and then joined the Indianapolis Sailing Club (ISC) at Geist Reservoir, at the invitation of his friend, ISC founder and Browning’s first employer, Kraig DeVault.

Browning sailed with DeVault on his 15-1/2-foot dinghysized craft, but before long he bought his own boat, much to the disappointment of an understanding DeVault.

He soon traded up to the Snipe, a 15-1/2-foot, two-person dinghy he now sails in national and international races. He’s sailed in the U.S. National Regatta and in two World Masters Regattas: Denmark in 2000 and St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2002. He plans to attend the event in 2004, to be held north of Rome.For that, he’ll sail a new boat being built in Denmark that will be delivered to Rome for the race.

The new boat will be christened Minde, in memory of his wife, who died in 2000 from Hodgkin’s disease five years after they were married.

“She was a librarian here [at the firm], and I needed a small person to complete the 325-pound crew limit,” Browning says. “We started sailing together in 1989 and married five years later.”

He attended Culver Military Academy, graduated from Purdue University in chemical engineering, went into the U.S. Army and graduated from Indiana University—Purdue University, Indianapolis, with his law degree.

He says that races consist of 40 to 80 boats on the water, each racing around buoys. “It’s like chess on water.We sail fast and position correctly.”

Turning over is one of the dangers of the sport. Browning has flipped three times in 23 years. “That was because of errors on my part, but I’ve never repeated them,” he says.

The boats don’t sink, although the 22-foot masts can get caught below water when they turn over. “We all wear U.S. Coast Guard flotation devices, which are required by the racing rules.”

He calls sailing “magical, almost mystical” and says it is a great outlet for those with a competitive nature.

“It’s serious sailing,” he says, “but serious fun. We take no prisoners, in a gentlemanly sort of way.”

Racing on Ice

John (Jack) V. Moriarty, another managing partner, got hooked on DN iceboat racing since he built one from a kit 33 years ago.

The DN class is the largest iceboat class in the world, named when the design was chosen as the winner in an iceboat design contest sponsored by The Detroit News in 1937.

The ice yachts, according to Moriarty, are 12 feet long by 21 inches wide, with three runners equipped with skates, one in front and on two sides, each 8 feet long.The 60-square-foot mast is 16 feet high.

“You lie on your back and stick pivots into the ice to get the front skate going,” explains Moriarty. “It’s instant speed, up to 60 miles an hour, as you stop and go into the wind.”

His checklist before sailing includes making sure the ice is 4 inches thick and that there’s no snow on it, and making sure he has his helmet, ice claws (to keep him up in case there’s an accident), a rope and a buddy. 

“You also have to be careful to look for holes in the ice. Sometimes, at Geist Reservoir, there will be holes where ducks have settled or where homeowners are trying to keep their docks from freezing up.They can be very dangerous for these boats.”

He has a degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Notre Dame, and business and law degrees from Indiana University.

Ice racing may be Moriarty’s preferred sport, but it’s hardly the only sport at which he excels. He’s most pleased that he won this year’s Woodard Cup, an in-firm tennis award that took him 20 years to win.

“And I bought the cup in the first place,” he says.

Racing on the Court, And Elsewhere

It’s generally agreed that the person in best physical shape at the firm is managing partner David Emhardt, which is pretty good for a 72-year-old guy.

“If you get exercise, it keeps you healthy,” he says, adding that for his exercise he does a bit of everything these days.

In the past, he’s competed in crew racing, and now is a scuba diver and windsurfer. He graduated from Culver Military Academy in 1948, where he met Bob Glaze, who was to become Cowboy Bob on the former children’s TV show “Cowboy Bob and Janie.”

“When they were young, my five children were more excited that I knew Cowboy Bob than anything else I did.”

The Glazes and the Emhardts often traveled together, and when the Glazes were scuba diving and windsurfing, Emhardt did too. Emhardt has been enjoying a more landlubberly pursuit for the past four years: barbershop harmony. “It’s a different kind of fun and very interesting.”

After Culver, Emhardt graduated from Purdue University with a degree in electrical engineering and from Harvard University with a degree in law. He explains that the U.S. Patent Office requires engineering or science degrees for trademark and patent attorneys, and talks about the firm having celebrated its 100th year in 1979.

And then he’s off for a tennis game.

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