When thinking about how far we’ve come as a firm in the past 40 years, we realize that we’re tasked with the important mission and responsibility of continuing the work of our founder, Phillip Stewart (not an easy task). Luckily for us, as we have continued to grow, Darron Stewart has continued to follow in his father’s footsteps, committed to carrying on a family legacy.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and the origins of Stewart & Stewart?
“My dad started the practice in 1982. I grew up with conversations around the dinner table that drew me toward the law. I actually got my undergrad and master’s degree in marketing and constitutional law and worked for a couple of years in marketing. I went to law school when I was 27 or 28. After law school, I started practicing law here. I’ve been here my whole life—it’s what I live and breathe.”
Which law school did you go to?
“I went to Thomas Cooley Law School in Michigan.”
Oh wait, is that the same school as attorney Nick Wagner?
“Yes, Nick and I went to the same school. That’s how he got his job, and keeps his job [laughs]. Yes, we went to the same school. At the time, it was an independent law school founded by one of the supreme court justices.”
What is your role at the firm and as a part of the Stewart & Stewart team?
“As little as possible [laughs]. I spend most of my time now managing the attorneys, overseeing cases and the different practice areas. Most of my time is spent helping my dad manage the firm. I do also enjoy the marketing side because I’ve been a part of that my whole life.”
“The business side is necessary, but my first love is really working with clients. I just love people. I love working and connecting with people in the community. It’s a lot of fun to be out on the street, so to speak—doing a deposition or mediation with people. But on the day-to-day, I’m a desk jockey managing the attorneys and the business side. I also help deal with some of the more intricate cases as well.”
What got you interested in working with the law and making the transition from marketing?
“Well, I think it had a lot to do with my dad having a practice, and me having a job. I hate that answer, but there is truth in it. I did begin having an interest talking to my dad and hearing about some of the cases he would have. I’ve always watched my dad help other people, and I think that is where I got my drive to do the same.”
“I know it sounds cliché, but that gratification you get from helping someone—particularly when you’re not expecting anything in return—is worthwhile. It is rewarding emotionally and mentally. It is about helping people, really. I grew up around the law, and it just fit with me. The main force was I could go to law school, have a job, and be with a firm I could grow with. I could grow my skills, knowledge, and be in a family practice—so, it became a no-brainer.”
“Law school is tough. A lot of work and a lot of reading. You have to want it. I always tell people if you want it bad enough, you’ll put in the time and do what it takes to get through law school and the bar exam. So, I went through it twice, and now I’m licensed in Kentucky and Indiana and am a certified civil mediator.“
What is something you have been able to achieve in your time at Stewart & Stewart, personally or professionally, that you’re really proud of?
“I would say my kids. I have seven kids. They are great kids. I have to be away often for work, but they have just turned out great, and I’m so proud of them. In terms of the firm, the most recent work I’ve done regarding initiatives in firm culture has been rewarding. At one point in time, maybe the culture wasn’t all the way there. You know, today, obviously it is still a workplace, but we believe in doing our best to treat everyone like family. Treating people the way you would want to be treated. We’ve created a good place to work at. That attitude, positivity, and enjoyment of what you’re doing inevitably trickles all the way to the client. It’s still a work in progress, but we’ve come a long way.”
Who has been an inspirational figure in your life, and why?
“My dad. I think that goes without saying. But it is my dad because to be honest he was a really good dad. After raising seven kids myself, it’s hard. It is really tough being a parent and being a dad. No matter your walk of life or socioeconomic situation, it’s hard being a parent and you have to work at it. My dad was there; he always showed up.”
What do you enjoy most about working as an attorney?
“Instilling and fostering the environment and work atmosphere that we have—a positive space with good morale. I enjoy that type of culture and management where you get the most out of team members in a positive way. I’m far from perfect at it, and I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes, but overall, I think we do a really good job about it. Second would be working with clients and team members on challenging cases. Somewhere on that list is managing the firm as well. Culture, marketing, and interacting with the public is all what I love to do. For example, we’re involved in the Fishers and Carmel Police Teen Academies. We enjoy doing that and helping out in those small ways.”
What has helped you the most in reaching your professional goals?
“The drive that I have to be the best leader I can be no matter what I’m doing. I try to lead from behind. My leadership style is to try to get everybody involved so that everyone feels we’re moving in the same direction. Striving to be the best leader I can be has pushed me to do what I need to be doing. Other than that, seeing my dad and his work ethic has pushed me to want to do the same. Additionally, I’d also include the concern for wanting to help people—team members and clients alike—drives me personally. I guess it sounds like a cliché, but it really is what pushes me.”
What advice would you give to someone new to the industry or looking to start law school?
“I’m joking, but it has changed a lot in the past twenty years. I would tell them: just remember you can do anything if you want it bad enough.”
What is one of your hobbies that many people might not know about?
“I like to travel. When I’m not working, my hobby is traveling with my family and spending time with them. We’ve been to some states out west traveling and doing activities outdoors. While my kids were growing up, we did a Disney trip every October. We rented an RV and took the trip out to Disney World for 13 years in a row. I guess a lot of my travels were centered around loved ones and doing things with family—not just immediate but also extended. It’s so much fun to get away from the daily grind and take time out with your kids and parents. I just have so many good emotions and memories from those trips. That is why it comes to mind as a hobby.”
If you could snap your fingers and become an expert in something, what would it be?
“I would say business and finance. Unequivocally.”
But…aren’t you an expert in that already? [laughs]
“I just think there is always so much more to learn. There are so many other businesses you can learn from. When I say business and finance, that is a big umbrella. It includes everything from marketing, investing, and development. I don’t know if I’d ever consider myself an expert in it during my lifetime. There’s always so much more to learn. And that applies to everything in my life. As a parent you’re kind of like the CEO of the family, and you always want to do the best you can in making a positive and happy environment.”
What is your favorite way to unwind after a busy day?
“Besides traveling with the family, I do a lot of reading when I have downtime. I try to read at least one book a month about business, finance, and self-improvement. I aim for books from successful entrepreneurs and also those about teamwork and team building. I’m currently reading a book called Extreme Ownership. It’s about how US Navy Seals lead and win. They talk about the critical nature of leadership, and it’s a great read. These kinds of books get me excited. I also like to read fiction and watch movies too. I like to binge-watch Netflix just like everybody else.”
Do you have a favorite movie then?
“Whenever I get asked this question, this movie always pops into my head, so it must be my favorite: Airplane.”
Do you have a favorite book as well?
“My Bible. I sound cliché, but it is true. It’s tough to say. I have a lot of books I’ve enjoyed over the years. I really enjoyed Watership Down. I thought that it was an awesome novel on so many levels.”
What is the most important thing you have learned throughout your career?
“I’ve learned so many things from different people that I find incredibly valuable. I appreciate learning from them. If you boiled it down to one specific thing, I would say treating people with respect, kindness, and love. In that sense, you could never go wrong.”