For Kenneth Yahne, earning a law degree isn’t about prestige, good job prospects, and a high salary—it’s about helping other people. “With a law degree comes a degree of responsibility to assist those who cannot afford the services of a lawyer. It doesn’t have to be a full-time job—though I admire those to whom it is—but it ought to be an innate component of every lawyer’s practice,” he says.
And that’s not lip service. Yahne practiced corporate law for 35 years with Lincoln National Life Insurance Co. in Fort Wayne before retiring in 2003. During those years, he inspired the company’s volunteer community. At Lincoln, he developed and oversaw the Lincoln National Corp. Pro-Bono Legal Services Program for nearly 20 years. Today, Yahne is president of the St. Mary’s Church Finance Committee. He oversees the budget of the church, which includes the $270,000 budget of the Soup Kitchen, which serves more than 25,000 meals monthly.
Words of wisdom for young lawyers: “Try to maintain a sense of perspective about what a law degree is, what it is not, and why you got it in the first place. If your motivation is to have the nicest house and the biggest car and a membership at the best country club, you are beyond wanting to hear anything I might have to say. A more reasoned career path, it seems to me, is to achieve a level of success that is not defined by material goods.”
Fixing a tarnished image: “We need to find ways to project a more positive image of the legal profession to the public at large. It seems to me that the optimal way to do this is to demonstrate that we—each and every one of us—truly do believe in the concept and practice of ‘justice for all.’”
Our new endowment to Indiana Law: “I never envisioned providing an endowment to a public educational institution until I had a series of discussions with Brian Kearney of the IU Foundation [now major gifts officer at Indiana Law] and Dean Lauren Robel. They sensed our sentiment about trying to help those in need, and so they suggested some form of endowment that would be available to reward senior-level law students in the form of tuition assistance if they agreed to engage in public assistance work for some period of time after graduation.”