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My mentor and the value of persistence

Article By Bob Johnson in Awards and recognitions

This is my mentor – Charles R. Vaughan. He’s been practicing law over 50 years. My first position as an attorney was at his firm, Vaughan and Vaughan, in Lafayette, Indiana. I worked there from 1993 to late 1998 (about 6 years). In fact, Mr. Vaughan is the reason Travis and I met, and Johnson Jensen LLP even exists. Travis was hired as a summer law clerk at Vaughan & Vaughan during the summer of 1996… and the rest is history.

While at Vaughan and Vaughan, my introduction to law was baptism by fire. Mr. Vaughan gave me full responsibility for cases and let me run with them. He also had me work closely with him on his cases. I was able to sit second chair at multiple trials. Having that experience has been invaluable.

Mr. Vaughan is a giant among trial lawyers in Indiana. He has tried hundreds of cases – probably more than 300.  He has fought for rights of Indiana citizens for decades. He represented Ryan White in the 1980s when Ryan was told by the Kokomo school system he couldn’t attend class because he had AIDS. George C. Scott played Mr. Vaughan in the TV movie. Mr. Vaughan literally helped change the entire nation’s perspective on AIDS.

Last week, I was inducted into the “College of Fellows,” a select group within ITLA (Indiana Trial Lawyers Association). Mr. Vaughan helped start the College of Fellows which was created in 1965 and while it may have started out as a social gathering of lawyers, the group morphed into so much more over the years. It’s still social, but now has a major focus on philanthropy. This year, the focus is on a campaign in cooperation with the End Distracted Driving initiative.

Mr. Vaughan was in attendance for my induction and offered me words of encouragement. He said, “I am very proud of you and what you have accomplished. And now with Travis. Keep doing what you are doing and you are going to have a lot of success.”

Why is it important for a lawyer to have a mentor? Most young people who come out of law school, especially those with no prior legal experience, really do not know anything. Just like doctors have residency and fellowship programs, lawyers should have them, too. Mentoring provides that same experience through practical advice and common sense solutions to problems that can’t be taught in law school.

Then, if you are lucky (like I was) you learn how to be a lawyer. I learned, by watching Mr. Vaughan, the value of persistence.

I’m lucky to have someone like him in my life.