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ICLEF’s Speaker Spotlight Shines on Jack O’Drobinak

Welcome to our Speaker Spotlight. For over 50 years the backbone of the Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum has been the dedicated lawyers who step forward to serve as its leaders. This feature highlights those generous individuals.

Our Speaker Spotlight today features John M. “Jack” O’Drobinak, whose outstanding leadership for over 20 years has assisted ICLEF in achieving its goal of providing quality continuing legal education. We are pleased that Jack spent some time with us recently reflecting on his legal career and his ICLEF experiences.

The Law – Why and How
When asked how and why he chose a career in the law 54 years ago, Jack O’Drobinak responds explicitly, as if it was yesterday. He recalls the years when he was an undergraduate student at Notre Dame. How he felt strongly that he wanted to be an architect and how much he enjoyed his courses in that field. “I loved the process of building something, creating a plan that fulfilled a person’s vision.”

But then, he met a friend of his father’s. This lawyer in Whiting named Ben Dankow, introduced him to aspects of his estate planning practice…helping clients to reach their goals, not only for themselves but for their heirs. Jack explains, “I learned how much I enjoyed assisting people with their estate planning….the rewards are both financial and personal for clients.” He was hooked.

The O’Drobinak legal career began in 1960 when Jack received his Juris Doctor degree from Indiana University, after graduating cum laude from his beloved University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. At this point he also began the relationship with his chosen community of Lake County, Indiana, that is a lasting and cherished piece of this man’s being.

His first job was with Chicago Title Insurance Company where he was an examiner and learned about the impact of real estate title transactions. In his first law firm position, he plunged head-on into pending estate cases, learning by doing. Jack’s own law firm came about soon thereafter, immersing him for life as a counselor in probate, estates and trusts. Another fondly-remembered segment of his career is his 17 years as Probate Commissioner, directly impacting people’s lives in yet another manner.

Estate Planning continues to bring Jack O’Drobinak those rewards that he identified back in 1960.

Today the O’Drobinak & Nowaczyk law firm in Schererville includes his daughter, Amy Nowaczyk. They both chose the estate planning practice due to the satisfaction they have from knowing they are having a positive impact on people.

Estate Planning – Serving the Client Now or Later
Describing his interactions with estate clients, Jack has a key pointer he provides often about how important planning ahead is: “Your heirs are going to see the benefit of what we are doing to prepare for when you are no longer here.” Watch this short video for a glimpse of Jack’s feelings on the estate planning practice.

This engaging conversation about practicing law led to an interesting vignette that has been repeated over Jack’s 54-year career as an estate planner. We all know, there are those who have a hard time realizing the value of good counsel and taking action before it’s too late on their estates. He speaks very candidly to individuals when he gets the question “Can’t I just do my will online?” He has one repetitive answer: “Do me a favor….leave my business card with your family so that they can call me to clean up the mess when you die.”  You can be sure that this lawyer will give you his straight opinion, at any point, or whomever is involved.

Working On Your Practice and Not In Your Practice
And how did Jack O’Drobinak come to find his sweet spot in the practice of law? Are there warnings he has for someone considering a legal career? What thoughts might he have for anyone that’s reached a point of dissatisfaction? Jack has definite suggestions in these areas. He says: “You have to love it, or get out. A lawyer can bring themselves to a point where the practice dominates your entire life.”

O’Drobinak developed long ago a strong belief in the benefit to both the lawyer and his/her client of a balanced life.  As a result, he has in place throughout his law firm a system and philosophy that organizes every process to save time and increase efficiency. The system has proven to be the best formula for his law firm and his family, producing more satisfied, healthy people. Let’s take a moment to hear personally from Jack O’Drobinak about “working on your practice and not in your practice.” Click on the video link below for his thoughts:

Another aspect of his legal career that brings Jack satisfaction are the times when he can help others grow through one-on-one advice, assisting new lawyers in building their successful practice. He approaches mentoring as he does his law firm’s operation, expecting to use valuable time and energy as effectively as possible. In mentoring situations, he asks: “What does the law say? – If the lawyers knows what the law says, they are ready to discuss how to fit the client into a broader description of the law.” He then is willing to give his knowledge and guidance to the situation. These are the times he feels he can provide the best advantage for anyone who wants to learn from his experience.

ICLEF Leadership
Fortunately for ICLEF, along the path of acquiring his legal expertise, Jack O’Drobinak also identified the joy of sharing his educational skills. He chose 20 years ago to participate as an ICLEF speaker. His faculty contributions incorporate 50 to 60, always popular, Estate and Trust Administration CLE programs. About this involvement, Jack says: “I’ve enjoyed every one of my experiences with ICLEF seminars. Excellence is always a key component. It provides me a very satisfying opportunity to share my knowledge of guardianships, probate and trusts with others.”

Speaking of his CLE participation, let us mention a recent event that marks a significant milestone for Jack. He and his daughter, Amy Nowacyzk, teamed up for their first cooperative CLE entitled: Guardianships in Indiana. This excellent family ICLEF presentation is available in locations around the state by video replay. We’re looking forward to additions to the O’Drobinak & Nowaczyk estate planning seminars.

After these years of dedication to ICLEF’s educational goals it was natural that Jack would evolve from his faculty role into other leadership roles. He is currently using his knowledge of the organization in his service as Secretary on the Board of Directors.

As we chatted further, Jack was willing to pause to consider any recommendations for lawyers considering joining in as educators. We asked: “What have your years of attending and presenting CLE taught you is an important focus for a faculty member?” He recalled that he’s been to seminars at all levels of quality, both the presentations and the printed materials. Unfortunately, he’s been surprised on occasions that there were subpar ingredients. Not ICLEF programs, of course! Thinking back on both being seated in the audience and standing at the podium, Jack offers his characteristic, to-the-point suggestions for anyone who wants to be a valued educator:

“#1. Be well prepared.   #2. Have accurate materials.”

Where’s CLE going?
Of course, ICLEF’s leaders are constantly engaged in anticipating CLE needs for Indiana’s legal profession. A few of the questions they ask themselves are: “How do we insure that ICLEF’s quality continues? What kinds of CLE do you believe meets the current demands and those of the future?” We asked again for Jack O’Drobinak’s valuable input in these areas. He responded first by sharing the guidance that he provides to his associate: “Attend as many CLE programs as you are able.” Jack follows this tenet himself, and believes in the results.

Further, looking to where the practice of law is trending, Jack notes that the operations of his law firm have benefited from expanding technology, electronic systems being an important component. He sites the advances in software that have made his law office considerably more efficient. Jack points to providing education in the quickly-changing law practice management areas as a key to meeting demands. As well, he identifies “desktop CLE” is an area that increases in popularity every day. This 50-year lawyer has decided: “I like to sit at my desk for CLE. I see more and more of that.” He gives ICLEF high marks for the quality of our On Demand and Webcasting presentations.

“Take a good long look”
There’s no doubt about Jack O’Drobinak’s passion for his legal career and his dedication to making it a satisfying way of life. When asked how he would close this conversation, he quickly offered these thoughts:

“Take a good long look at your practice. You control everything about the practice of law, from beginning to end. If there’s something that bothers you take a look at what it is and how you can overcome it.” His suggestions on making sure you’re happy are in the following video. There’s valuable advice here for everyone:

His candid perspective on life and the law made this Speaker Spotlight conversation with Jack O’Drobinak a unique pleasure. Thank you again to Mr. O’Drobinak for participating in ICLEF.

It is through these types of Indiana lawyers that this organization continues to meet the high standards established in 1964.

See Jack at the ICLEF lectern as a presenter at the 42nd Annual Midwest Estate Tax & Business Planning Institute, June 11 & 12 at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium – 500 Ballroom.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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Live CLE in July & August


Estate/Probate Administration 101
6 CLE / 1 E – This program is no longer available as a Live In-Person Seminar. However, you can still view the Video Replay, On Demand Video or purchase the Publication of this Seminar by Clicking Here.


Advanced Issues In Indiana Gaming
A Masters Series Seminar
6 CLE – This program is no longer available please join us next time.


Slip, Trip, Fall & Sue
6 CLE – This program is no longer available as a Live In-Person Seminar. However, you can still view the Video Replay, On Demand Video or purchase the Publication of this Seminar by Clicking Here.


Trust Accounts Made Easy – Live in 3 Locations!
Merrillville – 3 CLE / 3 E – Tuesday, July 28
Live In-Person Only Seminar: Avalon Manor Conference Center, Merrillville

Indianapolis – 3 CLE / 3 E – Thursday, July 30
Live In-Person Seminar: ICLEF Conference Center, Indianapolis
Live Group Webcast: Ice Miller Law Office, Indianapolis
Live Individual Webcast: From your home or office computer

Evansville – 3 CLE / 3 E – Tuesday, August 25
Live In-Person Only Seminar: Tropicana Hotel, Evansville


Annual DUI Defense Update
6 CLE – Friday, July 31          9:00 A.M. – 4:30 P.M.
Live In-Person Seminar: ICLEF Conference Center, Indianapolis
Live Individual Webcast: From your home or office computer



3 Key Worker’s Comp. Issues for Plaintiff Counsel
3 CLE – Wednesday, August 12          9:00 A.M. – 12:15 P.M.
Live In-Person Seminar: ICLEF Conference Center, Indianapolis
Live Individual Webcast: From your home or office computer


Social Security
6 CLE / 1 E – Thursday, August 13          9:00 A.M. – 4:30 P.M.
Live In-Person Seminar: ICLEF Conference Center, Indianapolis
Live Individual Webcast: From your home or office computer


Sigmund J. Beck Advanced Bankruptcy Roundtable
A Masters Series Seminar – 6 CLE / 1 E – Friday & Saturday, August 14-15          
Live In-Person Seminar Only Seminar: Blue Chip Casino, Michigan City, IN


Public Access Law in the Modern Digital Age
3 CLE – Friday, August 18          9:00 A.M. – 12:15 P.M.
Live In-Person Seminar: ICLEF Conference Center, Indianapolis
Live Individual Webcast: From your home or office computer


Representing A Client in the Mediation of A Personal Injury Case
6 CME / 6 CLE – Friday, August 21          9:00 A.M. – 4:30 P.M.
Live In-Person Seminar: ICLEF Conference Center, Indianapolis
Live Group Webcast: Ice Miller Law Office, Indianapolis


Handling a Contested Adoption Case
3 CLE – Wednesday, August 26          9:00 A.M. – 12:15 P.M.
Live In-Person Seminar: ICLEF Conference Center, Indianapolis
Live Individual Webcast: From your home or office computer


Financial Considerations in Divorce
2 CLE – Thursday, August 27          9:00 A.M. – 11:00 A.M.
Live In-Person Seminar: ICLEF Conference Center, Indianapolis
Live Group Webcast: May 
Oberfell Lorber Law Office, Mishawaka
Live Individual Webcast: From your home or office computer


CME For Family Mediators: Representing The Client in Mediation
6 CME / 6 CLE – Friday, August 28          9:00 A.M. – 4:30 P.M.
Live In-Person Only Seminar: ICLEF Conference Center, Indianapolis

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Groundhog Day – Renegotiating Terms

Notes on Negotiations
By Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute

“We had a deal when we left the room. But after we flew home and sent them the agreement, they admittedly reneged and started renegotiating everything. What should we have done differently?”

Given that legal action on oral deals is notoriously difficult, likely not worth the cost, and will almost certainly prevent possible future deals with that party, this can be a serious problem.

How can you prevent this?

1: Identify “renegotiators” in advance
It’s highly unlikely your counterpart is using this tactic for the first time with you. In fact, he or she has almost certainly done this before multiple times. This means others have experienced this and will surely remember it.

Find them. Do your strategic due diligence by researching your counterparts’ reputations. Then put this information into a database (what I call a Counterpart Intelligence Bank) so you and your colleagues can access it in the future.

Of course, this is easy to recommend but difficult to accomplish. It’s much easier now than ever before, though, with search engines, social media and sites that allow you to mine your networks for this hugely valuable data.

2: Ensure someone in the room has actual authority
Sometimes renegotiators tell you when reneging that they didn’t have the authority to agree in the first place even though they seemingly had it.

You can prevent this problem or smoke it out early by explicitly insisting that your counterpart has someone in the room with authority to make concessions and do the deal. And if they don’t have the authority, then you should only send someone to the negotiation with equivalent limited authority.

Then any deal will be tentative from both sides, and you will substantially reduce the effectiveness of a renegotiation move.

3: Insist on immediately enforceable agreements
Years ago I represented a client in some contentious litigation involving a company and its former employee, who was accused of stealing trade secrets and working for a competitor in violation of his non-compete agreement. Needless to say, the relationship and trust between the parties was irreparably gone.

After a hard fought day long mediation in which we negotiated a resolution to all the issues, everyone was concerned someone would go home, sleep on it, feel like they could have gotten a better deal, and try to renegotiate it.

The mediator’s solution? He asked each lawyer and client to record a statement at the time describing the agreement. He then had this transcribed, while we waited, and had everyone sign the transcription. It was a final, binding legal agreement.

I am not suggesting you do this for every deal. But if you find your counterpart is a “renegotiator” by reputation, do this before you leave the room.

At the least, write down the major agreed upon terms and get everyone to initial them. Written commitments decrease the likelihood parties will renege later.

4: Ensure that renegotiation has a cost
Renegotiators count on their ability to renegotiate with no real negative consequences. Change this. Make sure their possible use of this tactic has negative consequences to their ability to achieve their goals.

How? The mediator above insisted on a provision that if there was any disagreement between the parties as to the terms, he would be the final decision-maker on that issue. And the losing party would pay the winner’s legal costs.

In short, it became super costly to even try to renegotiate – and you would lose anyway.

Another option is to let your counterparts know, before you leave the room, that you consider the agreement morally and legally binding. And tell them that any possible future effort to renegotiate it would be considered a fundamental breach of trust and would result in no deal.

Of course, only state this if it is true and you have strong leverage.

Latz’s Lesson: Renegotiators renege on agreements because it has worked for them in the past. Find this out in advance and protect yourself so it doesn’t work again – this time against you.


Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company, and ExpertNegotiator, a Web-based software company that helps managers and negotiators more effectively negotiate and implement best practices based on the experts’ proven research.  He is also the author of Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want (St. Martin’s Press 2004). He can be reached at 480-951-3222 or Latz@ExpertNegotiator.com

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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Family Law Case Review: Divorce Court May Issue an Order Providing for Visitation Even if Custody Orders are in Place from Another Court

Case: Jovon R. Richardson v. Joshua M. Richardson
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Under certain circumstances, a divorce court may issue an order providing for visitation between a step-parent and a child, even if the child is subject to previous custody and parenting time orders of another court.

Mother gave birth to Child in 2003. A subsequent paternity action established paternity of Father, and included orders of child support and parenting time.

In 2008, Mother married Step-Father. By this time, Father was basically out of Child’s life. Child and Step-Father developed a close bond, and Child essentially treated Step-Father like her father.

In 2013, Step-Father filed for a dissolution of his marriage to Mother. As part of those proceedings, in addition to adjudicating property division and custody and parenting of a subsequent child that Step-Father and Mother had together, the trial court also included a visitation order for Step-Father to have visitation time with Child. Mother appealed.

In its review, the Court of Appeals noted that it is “well established that stepparents have standing to seek visitation rights and that a trial court has the authority to grant the same.” However, at the core of Mother’s appeal was her assertion that, in this particular situation, the trial court lacked authority to issue its visitation order because Child was already the subject of a custody and parenting time order in the preexisting paternity matter between Mother and Father.

The Court of Appeals acknowledged that Father was not a party to the divorce proceedings between Step-Father and Mother and, thus, the trial court could not issue orders affecting Father’s rights. However, since the visitation order of the trial court implicated only Mother’s parenting time — that is, Step-Father’s visitation periods would occur exclusively during Mother’s parenting time periods under the prior paternity order — the trial court’s order did not conflict with the paternity order, or infringe upon any of Father’s rights.

The trial court’s order was affirmed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Jovon R. Richardson v. Joshua M. Richardson


James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas of Bingham Greenebaum Doll represent clients in a wide spectrum of relationship transition and wealth planning matters, including premarital agreements, estate planning, cohabitation, separation, divorce (especially involving high net worth individuals and/or complex asset issues), custody, parenting arrangements, adoption, and domestic partnerships. Bingham Greenebaum Doll, a multidisciplinary law firm serving regional, national, and international clients, is the fourth-largest law firm in Indiana. The firm’s main practices include corporate, property, litigation, labor, government law, and personal services law. Visit the firm’s website at www.bgdlegal.com.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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