These Indiana-based lawyers are at home in the office and in the field. Purdue alumni (from left) Gary Chapman, Tim Ochs, Sue Shadley and Alan Townsend say they represent an increasing number of clients in agricultural and environmental legal matters.
Used to be that Alan Townsend would get only an occasional case involving agriculture in his law practice.
Now, the Purdue Agriculture alumnus says he spends 25 to 40 percent of his time representing clients in agricultural legal matters, including some that go to court. "Having grown up on a farm, I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times we ever had to call a lawyer," he says.
Three decades later, that has changed.
"I have seen a steady stream of agricultural disputes," says Townsend, an agricultural lawyer and vice chairman of the litigation group of Bose McKinney & Evans in Indianapolis.
Running a farm or other agribusiness today is far more complicated than it was 30 years ago. There are more government regulations, more people watching out for the environment—the buzzword is "green"—and more ways for farmland to be used, including for alternative energy operations such as wind farms.
All of that leads to more work for lawyers who specialize in agricultural and environmental law, whether they represent family farmers, large-scale producers or groups of people trying to right a wrong, get something started or stop something from happening. Purdue Agriculture graduates who have pursued legal careers are using their background to fill a growing niche in the law.
Building Relationships Through Ag
Townsend grew up on a hog farm near Hartford City, Ind. A son of former State Sen. W. Wayne Townsend, he comes from one of Indiana's most prominent agricultural families. He went from the farm to Purdue University, where he obtained a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics in 1987. He earned his J.D. from Indiana University in 1992.
Townsend says what people want from a lawyer is someone who understands their business—in this case, farming.