The Verdict’s In
Local lawyer mentors other blind or visually impaired youth
Writer / Jon Shoulders
Photographer / Michael Thierwechter
Michael Dalrymple has never shied away from a challenge. This holds true not only in his professional capacity as an attorney with his own practice in Broad Ripple, but also throughout his childhood, academic career and current community involvement.
“One of my favorite moments of the day is when I get a call from a client and they say, ‘You will not believe what just happened,’” Dalrymple says. “You know there’s a story coming and you’re at the beginning of a process of trying to figure something out. I love that process.”
Born and raised in Indy, Dalrymple attended the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired from kindergarten through seventh grade, and graduated from North Central High School as an honor student. Having lost his vision at age three, Dalrymple’s passion for helping others as a labor, employment and disability lawyer resulted in large part from the help and support he received from friends, fellow students, family and professors throughout his own journey.
After taking a casual interest in the legal profession during his high school years, it was a pair of jobs Dalrymple secured after finishing an undergraduate degree in international economics at Earlham College that further ignited his passion for the law. He lobbied the Indiana General Assembly on behalf of several nonprofit groups and spent two years with the Indiana Department of Education, during which time he advocated for improved access to social services and healthcare and drafted a due process hearing handbook for parents of special education students.
“Those experiences convinced me that the law was what I needed to be doing,” he says. “I guess I just got tired of saying, ‘I’m not an attorney, but…’ I wanted to learn more about the law and communicate with people directly in that way.”
After graduating from the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University Bloomington in 2002, Dalrymple served a two-year clerkship with the Indiana Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court, followed by a position at Ice Miller’s labor and employment department, representing clients on employer compliance issues and labor relations. After five years with Ice Miller, a desire for closer client relationships led Dalrymple to put out his own shingle on Broad Ripple Avenue in July of 2009.
“When you’re representing a Fortune 500 company, which Ice Miller does on a regular basis, you are truly representing a corporation and there are layers and layers of bureaucracy attached to that,” he says. “They’re in need of good representation as well, but I wanted to have a closer connection with people. For me, that’s what makes the practice of law great.”
Dalrymple specializes in labor and employment law in areas including discrimination, contract disputes and wrongful discharge, as well as disability cases touching on issues like fair housing and accessibility, civil rights and workplace accommodations.
During the time he can spare away from his legal practice, Dalrymple serves as a board member for the Indiana School for the Blind and often takes time to mentor people of all ages with visual or other physical disabilities. He says simply talking to someone else with a disability about their experiences can often help boost confidence.
“I’m often put in contact with young adults who are thinking about college or law school and have a vision impairment,” he says. “When you’re 45 or 50 and you start losing your vision that’s a major challenge, and I also work with attorneys and a couple judges who’ve gone through that experience. There are local resources and organizations that can provide the necessary support. Sometimes it’s just having someone to talk to, and being reassured that some of the things they’ve always done, and always wanted to do, can still be done even after they lose their vision.”
Dalrymple says technology has, in many ways, leveled the academic and professional playing field for those with visual impairments, particularly with the advent of computerized scanning and text-to-speech software, which he says has developed to the point where individuals can digitally scan a page of text or an entire book and almost instantaneously listen as a computer or smartphone reads it aloud.
“The iPhone has changed the way everyone interacts with information,” Dalrymple says. “Ten years ago you had to go to libraries and track things down, and if you were blind you needed help with that. Because of the digitization of text, now I can do first-hand research and reading just as efficiently as anyone. I can be sitting in a deposition, for example, and when opposing counsel hands me an exhibit, I can snap a picture of it with my iPhone and I’m reading it along with my client and opposing counsel. It’s just amazing.”
Every aspect of Dalrymple’s law practice reflects his desire to assist those in challenging situations — even his philosophy on client billing. Whereas many attorneys charge by the hour, he often uses project-based billing where clients learn their legal costs beforehand, eliminating concerns over time-based costs. In addition, Dalrymple serves both small businesses and plaintiffs, a balance which he believes allows him to provide superior service to both groups.
“My employment plaintiffs are often in a situation where they think they’ve been discriminated against one way or another and maybe inappropriately terminated from their job,” he says. “When you’re fired the last thing you’re able to do is write a big check to an attorney. So, I try to work with my clients. My small business clients are not interested in significant legal bills but do want to make educated and appropriate decisions.”
Dalrymple says Broad Ripple Village provides an ideal home base for his professional practice as well as a thriving social scene with accessible amenities he can take advantage of independently.
“I bought my house here in 2003, and I love the area,” Dalrymple says. “There’s an energy to it, but the neighborhoods around here are quiet and it’s a great place to get up in the morning and take a walk. It’s all pedestrian friendly, which for me is important. I use Uber and ride with friends, but when I’m not with someone, the combination of public transportation and walking is required. I love it here.”