Why Elkhart? Thoughts From a Local Lawyer
Even though this is where I startedmy law firm and raisedmy kids, I truthfully didn’t even know Elkhart existed until I went to law school. Growing up just outside of Chicago, this little slice of Indiana was far beyond the reach of my radar. In fact, as an undergrad, I had loose plans of moving to the Southeast to start my career. But then I met the woman who would become my wife: a student from Edwardsburg, Michigan. Being from this neck of the woods, my then- girlfriend brought Notre Dame to my attention. She knew I’d been applying to law schools and thought the university would be a good fit. Sure enough, I became one of the Fighting Irish and earned my Juris Doctor in 1993. During that time, we were married, and after graduation, we decided to move closer to her parents. Thankfully, I was able to land a legal job in a town called Elkhart. I won’t lie; I first viewed this city as basically being a suburb of Chicago. However, as I began raising my kids here, Elkhart began to grow onme more andmore. Not having to deal with city traffic was a blessing, and once I founded this firm, I was able tomake my schedule more flexible. This way, I couldmake it tomy kids’sports games and be there for themwhen they neededme most. If something did come up while I was cheering on my daughters from the sidelines, I could rest easy knowing the office was only tenminutes away. Now, with all of our kids in college, I’ve found even more appreciation for this quiet town. Whenever I’m out running errands, I’m almost always greeted by friends somewhere along the way. This isn’t something that happened during my childhood in theWindy City, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face. It feels good to be a part of such a tightknit community where people support one another and everyone knows your name.
Of course, all the prosecutors and insurance lawyers I square off against knowmy name as well. Part of the challenge of practicing law in a small town is that there’s a delicate line between maintaining a professional relationship with these adversaries and getting too close. I never want to be the kind of lawyer who“trades favors”— it always amounts to harming one client to save another. The key is to foster a good professional reputation that centers on the fact that you’ll fight hard for every client. Despite this challenge, there are some real advantages to being a local lawyer. Knowing the legal professionals on the other side, as well as the judge, can vastly inform the way I approach a case. For example, knowing how open a judge is to alternative sentencing programs can help inform the strategy we use in a criminal case. Where I’ve found it most helpful to be a local firm is when we represent members of our community that have been in an auto accident. I’moften familiar with the streets or intersections where the accident occurred, which can sometimes reveal important details.
I once represented someone who’d been in an accident on Lincolnway, near my office. The police report left a lot to be desired, making it unclear which driver was at fault, but frommy client’s side of the story, it sounded like the other driver was speeding. Knowing that people tend to lay on the gas during the long stretches between lights on this street, I decided to have an expert examine the evidence. My hunch ended up being correct. We were able to determine that the other driver had to have been going at least 20 miles over the speed limit to have caused damage consistent with the crash. Needless to say, for my personal and professional lives, I’mglad I found Elkhart. I love this community and feel privileged to defend its members. When people ask me why I startedmy firmhere, I tell them the truth: I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.
Here’s to you, Elkhart.
-Tom Wil son
www.wilson-law-office-elkhart.com | 1
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