“Find Something That You Enjoy”

By Yen-Chia Chen *, Photos by Hiroo Suzuki **

October 20, 2010

          Litigation has been a perfect career choice for Matthew Gregory Butcher, a young lawyer who is practicing in Indianapolis, Indiana. Matt started practicing law after graduating from Indiana University Maurer School of Law in 2008. In 2009, Matt joined Leeuw Oberlies & Campbell, P.C., where he concentrates on insurance defense litigation. “I have only been practicing for a few years,” said Matt, “but I already feel like I am headed in the right direction.” After practicing for a few years, Matt has found that he really enjoys his work as a lawyer: “I always get caught up in the story of whatever case I happen to be working on.” One can easily see Matt’s passion from the sparkling in his eyes when he talks about his work and life as a litigation attorney.

          Matt decided to pursue a career in law after he had a summer job at a personal injury firm when he was an undergraduate.  The attorney that he worked for was very successful in his professional life and was also deeply involved in the community.  “I wanted that sort of balance,” said Matt.  Today, Matt is glad that he made the decision to become an attorney: “Once I started law school, I never looked back.”

            Recalling his time in law school, Matt noted, “There is definitely a connection between my current practice and my time in law school.” When Matt was in law school, he did not take any courses that dealt with litigation until midway through his second year of law school.  After talking to a professor who taught several litigation courses, Matt decided to take a trial advocacy course to see if he enjoyed it.  To his surprise, it turned out to be a perfect choice.  “From the first day, I was hooked!” he said.  Since then, Matt has been learning everything he can about building a case.

            Participating in a trial tournament while in law school also helped Matt in preparing himself to become a litigation attorney.  “It was a lot of fun,” said Matt, “I got to work with a lot of amazing people, and I learned a lot about how to present a case.”  Matt’s enthusiasm in participating in the trial tournament rewarded him with a remarkable achievement:  he earned the honor of being the overall winner of the 2008 Annual Law School Trial Tournament at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.  Upon graduation, Matt spent a year as a law clerk in a civil trial court. “I had the opportunity to watch a lot of lawyers try cases on a daily basis,” he said, “Also, I got a behind-the-scenes look at the judicial system.”  In Matt’s opinion, judicial clerkship experience is very rewarding and he strongly recommends it to all law students. “Really, I could not have asked for a better experience,” Matt emphasized, “it set me up perfectly for my career.”

            In Matt’s career as an attorney, he has faced the typical challenges of a first-year associate.  Matt noted, “Like most specialized areas of practice, insurance law is not heavily addressed in law schools.  Every day has been a learning experience, and I enjoy the challenge.” When being asked about what he would do to prepare himself for such challenges if he could re-do law school again, Matt smiled and answered, “While I would love to be able to travel back in time and give myself a few pointers, I am proud of what I have achieved so far. At this point, I am more focused on the future - I have my entire career ahead of me.”

            When talking more about his work and life, Matt mentioned the part of his job that he enjoys the most: “Any insurance claim has a human element.  Regardless of the details of a particular case, something has happened which has profoundly affected the lives of the people involved.”  Matt also pointed out that the people and facts at the center of his cases constantly remind him of the importance of the work.  “And it certainly keeps me interested,” Matt added.”

            Matt’s best advice for current law students is: “Find something that you enjoy and throw yourself into it.” For those who are interested in pursuing a law career like his, he added: “If you happen to like litigation,” said Matt, “then you are on the right track already.”  Another piece of advice that he gives to current law students is to gain more practical experience while still in school.  Matt recalled that a growing focus on hands-on clinical experience when he was attending law school. “If anything,” he said, “I wish that I could have gotten even more of that sort of practical experience while I was still in school.”

            Other than advice on pursuing a career in law, Matt also provided his opinion on how law students should try to strike a balance between law school and life. “Striking a balance is different for every person,” he answered.  Matt recalled that when he was still in law school, he knew people who would gladly spend hours every day switching between different colors of highlighters and tabbing hornbooks.  On the other hand, he knew depressed, frustrated people who did the same thing.  Matt also knew plenty of happy people who spent every minute outside of class doing anything but studying, and unhappy people who did likewise. “By and large,” he noted, “people who enjoyed themselves in law school are still enjoying their lives outside of law school, regardless of whether they spent all day cracking books and interviewing, or whether law school was just a day job for them. On the other hand, most of the negative people that I knew in law school are still miserable.”  The punch line is: “Try to live in a way that makes you happy,” Matt suggested, “because your life probably isn’t going to change too much in the real world.”

 

 

 

* Yen-Chia Chen is the President of the Asian Law Students Association.

** Hiroo Suzuki is the IT-in-Chief of the Asian Law Students Association.

 

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