chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
January 19, 2023

Myra Selby: Leading by Example

David Allen Larson
Myra Selby speaks at the ABA Margaret Brent Award ceremony in August 2022.

Myra Selby speaks at the ABA Margaret Brent Award ceremony in August 2022.

Powell Creative Services

Please join our Section, and the entire American Bar Association, in celebrating Myra Selby’s selection as an ABA Margaret Brent Award Honoree. The Award was established in 1991 to recognize female lawyers who have excelled professionally and have paved the way for other women. As Maureen Mulligan, Chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, explained, “We are honored to recognize this spectacular group of women who have been trailblazers throughout their careers.” The term “trailblazer” is the perfect word to describe Myra.

I had the pleasure of working closely with Myra in 2020-2021, when she was the chair of our Section and I was chair-elect. The pandemic that ultimately killed more than one million Americans had begun earlier that year and conditions were worsening. When Myra became chair in August 2020, we were all still struggling to determine how we could manage our work as dispute resolution professionals and our personal lives. We needed strong and creative leaders to survive a crisis of this magnitude. In her role as our Section chair, Myra proved she could rise to the occasion, as she has demonstrated her entire life.

To better understand how Myra has influenced our Section, I asked other Section leaders and members for their thoughts.

“Myra is a terrific leader and provided support and great vision during a challenging time for the section,” Current Chair Brian Pappas said. “She brings insight into every interaction and does a great job of considering all views and helping everyone get to the right result. Myra is also a team builder, and her care and concern for everyone shines through in everything that she does. I’m a better person and leader for having worked with her!”

Chair Elect Susan Guthrie agreed. “Among her stellar attributes, Myra was an amazing and supportive leader as Section chair,” she said. “She has an innate ability to find the strengths among her colleagues, to support them as they need, but to let them run with it and have ownership, so that all feel acknowledged and are able to contribute. I will be forever grateful to her for her support of me personally at all times, and especially in encouraging me to establish the Section’s first Membership Committee.”

Having spoken with many of our Section members, I can confirm that their impressions about Myra are similar and unanimously positive.

I do not pretend to have intimate knowledge regarding Myra’s life or knowledge of all her accomplishments. But I did witness her strong and steady leadership the year I was chair-elect and came to appreciate the power of leading by example. As I began writing this short tribute to her, I wondered where she got her strength. What inspired her to become the outstanding leader that she is? Myra generously shared some of her personal history and reflections to help answer these questions for me.

Myra’s mother was an elementary school teacher who believed every child was capable of learning. Her father was a lawyer and partner in a two-person firm that was one of the oldest Black-owned law firms in the country. Myra credits her parents for instilling the values of honesty, humility, and perseverance.

For several years, Myra was the only lawyer of color at her large law firm. As the “only,” she was lonely. Some days were difficult, but she persevered and is thankful for the outstanding mentorship that she received.

Not surprisingly, Myra’s law firm was not the only place she was an “only.” Myra was the first woman and first person of color on the Indiana Supreme Court. She understood her value and refused to accept limitations that others wanted to impose upon her. As a supreme court justice, Myra authored more than 100 majority opinions and participated in landmark decisions involving state property taxes, insurance, and tort law reform. In 1999, Myra was appointed to chair the Indiana Supreme Court’s Commission on Race and Gender Fairness. She continues to be a member of this commission, which is charged with ensuring diversity and fairness in the legal system.

Myra has a long list of other accomplishments that cannot be completely captured in this short tribute. She is a partner at Ice Miller LLP in Indianapolis and has been recognized as an outstanding health care lawyer. She has been included in numerous best lawyer and super lawyer lists, including The Best Lawyers in America and Indiana Super Lawyers. Before serving on the Indiana Supreme Court, she was the Health Policy Director for the State of Indiana. She serves as an arbitrator and mediator and is a member of the American Arbitration Association National Roster and the American Health Lawyers Association Alternative Dispute Resolution Service.

Myra has a deep commitment to bar service both inside and outside of the American Bar Association. She is a member of the ABA Presidential Advisory Council on Diversity in the Profession, the Indiana Supreme Court State Board of Law Examiners on Character and Fitness, and the Board of Directors for the American Health Lawyers Association. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute.

Her interests and service are not confined to the law. She sits on the Board of Directors for the Indiana Repertory Theatre and the Christian Theological Seminary, for example. She is also a member of the Board of Advisors, Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis; a member of the Executive Committee, Indianapolis Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.; and Honorary Chair of Craine House, which supports women transitioning out of incarceration. She has also been an adjunct professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

Myra believes she has been blessed to be the first in several roles and believes “it is not about her.” She believes that the ability to stick with it in the face of opposition is crucial. Whether we call it “grit” or something else, she encourages us not to shrink from adversity because we are afraid of failure. Barriers must be broken for opportunities to flourish and, in Myra’s words, on occasion she has been the person standing in the place to make it happen

We are very fortunate that Myra Selby has shared her time and energy to serve as a leader of our Section. And we are grateful that she continues to be involved with our Section and the American Bar Association. I cannot think of a person more deserving of the Margaret Brent Award.

David Allen Larson

Immediate Past Chair, Dispute Resolution Section

David Allen Larson the is immediate past Chair of the Dispute Resolution Section. He holds the John H. Faricy Professorship in Empirical Research and is a senior fellow at the Dispute Resolution Institute at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. He can be reached at [email protected].

The material in all ABA publications is copyrighted and may be reprinted by permission only. Request reprint permission here.