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August 27, 2013

Longtime New Albany lawyer says ‘it’s time’

Naville retiring after 37 years of practicing law

NEW ALBANY — His office doesn’t look like it belongs to someone who retired six weeks ago. His desk is cluttered with files and there are no moving boxes in sight.

Mike Naville can’t just pack up 37 years of memories and accomplishments that quickly. He might mentally be retired, but he still can’t seem to stay out of his State Street office.

“I’ve been retired six weeks, and I have been in the office all but five days during that time,” he said as he made his way through the lobby of the law firm he helped build. “I grossly underestimated what I had left to do.”

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Naville wasn’t going to pass his cases on to others in the firm — Lorch Naville Ward LLC. He said he had to see some cases through to the end.

“I had five adoptions pending and a lot of people that I had a relationship with asked me to finish their case,” he said.

But once those cases are completed, Naville, 62, said he is retired. And, he said, once he steps away, he won’t be returning. He will continue to work 20 hours a month as a federal magistrate, a job he has held for 17 years.

When asked why it was time to retire, Naville had a simple response.

“I have three reasons,” he said. “I needed to, I wanted to and I could. I had a client about a year and a half ago give me some advice. He said he was a workaholic and worked until he was 69. He said in hindsight that was the dumbest thing he ever did. Now he never does anything. He said his advice was to retire as soon as you think you can. There is about an eight-year window there where you can do what you want.”

He also got some advice from his heart doctor who told him his heart was beating 122 times a minute while resting, which is too high. He blamed it on job stress and workload. He said once he announced he was retiring, his heart beat dropped to 104.

After the year Naville had, it’s no wonder he is feeling stress and thinking retirement. In January and February of this year, he worked only five days due to pneumonia. On Valentine’s Day, a home where he lived for 23 years before selling it to his daughter and her husband was destroyed by fire. And two days prior to the fire, someone hacked into his bank account and “cleaned me out” he said.

Naville took a step back and started thinking about the future.

“It’s time,” he said of bowing out. “I have no regrets on anything. I’ve been lucky and fortunate. I’ve had some hurdles but everyone has those to clear from time to time.”

One of those hurdles came 40 years ago when Naville was diagnosed with cancer on his first day of law school. Radiation treatments eventually cured Naville, but since the treatment was in its primitive stage, it also caused permanent damage to his lungs and other areas of his body. He said he only has about a 75 percent lung capacity and a lymph node under his right arm was destroyed due to radiation.

“If I hadn’t had it [radiation] I would be dead,” he said.

However, the cancer and treatment didn’t keep him from fulfilling a dream on following in his father Herb’s footsteps and becoming a lawyer. He received his law degree from the University of Louisville in 1976 and joined his father’s practice. The firm merged to become Lorch & Naville in 1987.

He has sat on numerous non-profit boards and earned several honors including the IU Southeast Chancellor’s Medallion in 2012.

He said when he became a lawyer his dad gave him some good advice which he always tried to live by — you have to represent your client the same as you would a family member.

“I told my nephew not to get personally involved in his client’s cases, but there is a fine line there. You have to empathize with your client. You have to feel their pain,” he said.

“You have to be prepared. You can’t fly in on the seat of your pants and expect to win a case.”

Naville, who specialized in zoning laws and adoptions, said he has slowed down a lot in the past five years. He said early in his career he would get up at 5 a.m. every Saturday, run to Williams Bakery for two glazed donuts, go to the office, work a couple of hours before returning home to cook breakfast for his four daughters. On some Saturdays he would go back to work.

He said there is no substitute for hard work.

“When you are at the bottom of the ladder you have to put the effort in, and you are not going to get rich,” he said. “You have to work your tail off. Some of these big law firms are like sweat shops. It’s all about numbers. And when they use you all up, they just bring someone else in.”

He said he has never operated like that, instead always putting people and family first.

“We have some good people down here, quality people. We have had very low turnover,” he said. “I always tell them family should come first. If there is a Little League game, or if your kid is involved in something, I always encourage them to go. They might have to come in on their time and finish a project, but family should always come first.”

Linda Lorch has known Naville most of her life and has been business partners with him since 1987. She said the firm will keep his office in order and he can come and go as he pleases.

“Mike is a wonderful man and business partner,” she said. “He is a kind and thoughtful man. He is fair to everybody and I think everyone respects him for that.”

Lorch said Naville always puts families first and has also donated countless hours to St. Elizabeth’s.

Naville said growing up, he wanted to be a biologist. But after his mother told him his father wanted him to become a lawyer, he decided to go that route. He said his dad would later say he never said that.

He said he hopes to travel, spend more time with his wife, Sandy, four daughters and six grandchildren. He also will continue to pursue two passions, cooking and dancing. He said he just wants to enjoy life.

“It’s been a good career but it’s time,” he said. “It’s time.”

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