An interview with new OSBA President Judge Patrick F. Fischer

From the economics of today’s law practice to the challenges of serving as both appeals court judge and OSBA president, the Honorable Patrick F. Fischer outlines specific goals and expectations for his upcoming term at the helm of the Association.
What do you consider the main challenges facing the legal profession, and what is the OSBA’s role in meeting these challenges?
I believe that the new economic paradigm for the practice of law, to which the legal community must adapt and must adapt quickly, is the greatest challenge facing the legal profession today, and I believe it will
be the biggest challenge facing lawyers during the next decade.
The OSBA’s role will be to help all of our lawyers, old or young, women or men, private practice or otherwise, deal with the so-called new normal in the legal economy. Court funding has been cut. In-house legal budgets have been cut. Income for our Ohio lawyers has been stagnant, if not going backwards, for a decade or so. The federal government is attacking the attorney-client privilege. International economic forces are attempting to have law firms owned by non-lawyers. We at the OSBA must stand up for the basic values that every attorney follows: independence, loyalty and confidentiality. At the same time, the OSBA must facilitate the ways and means for lawyers to make a reasonable income. To me, that would be job one for this organization over the next five to 10 years.
How will you balance your duties as a court of appeals judge with your OSBA presidential duties?
I guess I could be a little facetious and answer “carefully,” but I am sure that is not what you are looking for! I will balance my duties by making sure, along with the OSBA staff and my staff, that my calendaring and scheduling is absolutely impeccable and always up to date. As my
oral argument/hearing and conference schedules are known months in advance, sometimes more than a year in advance, I do not see a problem on a day-to-day basis as long as my scheduling mechanism
keeps up.
From a more philosophical viewpoint, I also see absolutely no problems. The issues facing the bench and the bar, as noted in my previous answer, overlap almost entirely. So I see absolutely no problems in balancing both duties from a larger perspective, either.
OSBA Executive Director Denny Ramey is retiring in 2013. What is your role in finding a new executive director?
I will be chairing the Transition and Search Committee beginning July 1, so I will oversee the interviews and deliberations for the group that will make a recommendation to the Board of Governors, which I will also be chairing. My goal is to keep the process going, while providing a real opportunity for those involved to have input. Of course, with the great job Denny has provided to this organization, as the president when he retires, I will get “blamed,” despite the fact that the recommendation and final choice will be made by two different groups—the search committee and the Board of Governors. That is “blamed,” in the tongue-in-cheek sense, that even if the choice of successor is an
absolutely great executive director, many will “blame” me, because in many people’s minds–and probably mine–no one can do as great a job as Denny has done for the state bar!
But my other role will be to remind everyone, staff, board and every member–just like I did during my speech at the Convention–that this is also a very exciting time for the Ohio State Bar Association. We will be bringing in a new leader, with new ideas and exciting concepts, with the
goal of making this not only the best voluntary state bar, but one of the best state bars of all kinds, “bar none”!
What do you hope to accomplish during your term?
As I mentioned at the Convention, to make sure that on a day-to-day basis, not one member of the OSBA is negatively affected by the transition from Denny’s leadership to the leadership of his successor. I also hope to make this a fun and exciting year for every one as we go through this transition period.
How has the OSBA benefited you personally and as a lawyer?
By meeting so many great lawyers throughout the state, I have been reinvigorated with that spirit that the law matters, that the rule of law is essential for the success of our country, and that lawyers are probably the most interesting, diverse and caring group of professionals in this country.

Personal notes

Birthday: Dec. 30, 1957

Current position: Judge on First District Court of Appeals

Education: Received undergraduate degree and law degree from Harvard College and Law School

Family: I love my wife, Jane, and daughter, K.C., as the most important persons in my life.

Please tell us something fun about you
that is not related to your legal career.
I learned my most important lesson from sports when I was about eight years old. It was the summer after fourth-grade, and I was playing my favorite sport, baseball. It was the bottom of the last inning, full count, and the bases were loaded. We were down by one run. I struck out looking. And while I still think the umpire blew it, he didn’t think so, and so it didn’t matter. And while I played baseball into early years of high school, I never, ever struck out looking again. Never.

From then on, and every time I have had to make major decisions in my life, I always remind myself to never, ever go down without swinging. I believe that has helped me ever since. While I will not try everything—no one can do everything anyway—when I decide to try something that is important to me, I try to do my best and work my hardest. I never “go down without swinging.”

Now I know from watching little league and other youth sports these days, that a player who strikes out “looking” seems to not learn that same lesson, because everyone tells him or her what a great job they have done anyway. But if I was told I had done such a great job looking at a called third strike, and my father and brother had not categorically and absolutely ingrained in me that no one should go down without taking a chance, I sincerely doubt I would have accomplished as much in my life as I have, because of never looking again at a called third strike.

Finally, and I don’t know if this is related to my legal career or not, but I think the next story about my life has made me a person whom most others see as fair, impartial and willing to listen to all sides in a dispute. When I was about 15 years old, with three police cars’ sirens blaring and six policemen with guns drawn, I was falsely “arrested” or “Terry-stopped” for quite a while, because I was misidentified as the shooter in a crime. A clearly caring police officer began asking me questions and then brought the shooting victim to “eyeball” me. The victim, whom I knew, said words to the effect: “No, no, that is Pat Fischer. He couldn’t hurt a fly.” So at a very early age, I learned how important it is to listen to the whole story before making a final decision. That lesson has helped tremendously every day, both as a lawyer and as a judge, but just as importantly as a person.



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