Indy Women Connect

Practicing law has become her ministry

Probate lawyer’s caring approach is unusual

Marti Starkey Blends Compassion with Law Expertise to Serve Clients

I found my interview with Marti Starkey to be refreshing, even inspiring. Yet, at its conclusion, I felt slightly off- balance. She made me do something I hadn’t done in quite a while.

“This Indianapolis-based probate lawyer made me think about the undeniable fact that one day I would die. Unnerving? Yes. Unsettling? Yes. Unavoidable? Alas, yes.

Strangely enough, I found myself contemplating the Grim Reaper’s ultimate entrance into my life with a warm and engaging person who I had just met and liked immediately.

The unlikely combination of the words “lawyer”, “warm” and “engaging” demonstrate why Marti (Martha) Starkey, owner and president of Starkey Law Group, is a success in her profession. As a probate lawyer handling end-of-life planning and settlements, she merges the job’s practical requirements with an ability to connect with, understand and respond to the emotional needs of her clients.

“Our mission at Starkey Law Group is to serve our clients and to help them through difficult times as they experience the loss of a loved one, or as they go about making plans for their own death or for the death of their children,” says Marti. “It’s hard to admit your own mortality. These are hard things to talk about or even envision, but you have to envision them to plan.”

“It’s hard to admit your own mortality”

Marti’s calling to the law profession found its roots through her involvement with a Christian-based youth organization called Young Life. Marti spent several summers as a student with the group and then worked for the youth ministry as a volunteer in college.

“At that point in life, I was considering the ministry with young people as a profession, and then one of my contacts told me that there was a ministering organization that needed lawyers,” Marti recalls. “I thought that might be one unique way I could serve and I thought it would be intellectually challenging.” Marti realizes, after 21 years specializing in estate planning and trusts, that practicing her discipline of law and ministering to people aren’t really contradictory professions at all. “I realize now that I am still able to minister. This is a ministry. Clients have told me that as they go through one of the most difficult times in their lives.”

Following her graduation from the Indiana University School of Law, Marti worked at several law firms, all of which either initially or eventually made her a partner.

I started my law career with a firm that was very independent. The partners of that firm truly encouraged the entrepreneurial spirit in its employees and encouraged me to find my own clients in addition to serving the clients of the firm. I will never forget them for being very progressive,” says Marti. At that company, Marti was asked to build its estate and will planning division, which she did hand-in-hand with building and serving her own personal client list.

Our ConferenceWhen a larger corporation sought an experienced lawyer in the field of probate, Marti was offered the position. “It was a great offer and a great opportunity with an up-and-coming firm, and I felt like it was the right move for me. I was a single parent at that time and I had to think of those types of things.” Three years late, realizing her talents and personality were better suited to firms rooted in less of a corporate environment, she took a position with a smaller firm, was made a partner, and had “Starkey” incorporated into the firm’s name.

With her own client base well established and continuing to blossom through, Marti set up her own official practice in 1999 and continued to offer services in the areas of wills, trusts, estates and related litigation. “I didn’t feel like the practice was something new. I had the same client base as before, and it wasn’t as overwhelming as it might have been if I had jumped into it without an established base to work from. It’s always been my dream to have my own practice and I love it.”

She readily attributes much of her company’s success to the efforts of the eight people who work with her in the practice. Marti feels especially blessed to have the loyalty of staff people like paralegal Jonita Miller, who has worked with Marti for 10 years and understands her unwavering focus on the client. Marti admits that as a business owner, she strives to instill in her staff the importance of what they do and the amount of effort it takes to truly serve a client. “Many of the people in the office are younger people, and to see them progress and understand the value of client service is so satisfying,” Marti says. “The best way to ensure our future success is to do a great job for our clients. Most of my new clients are referrals. And I have a wonderful COO in Pam Joyce who helps to run the business and strategize about its future.”

Marti balances her role as successful business owner and practicing lawyer with her personal life, which includes her husband and three children. “I have an extremely wonderful husband who is very supportive, and we really are a team. We’ve merged two families since we were married four years ago and we enjoy spending time together and with our children.”

Marti admits her greatest challenge is “the time issue, especially during big litigation cases.” But she adds, “I’m much better at managing time now. I’ve grown into that. When I was a single parent and practicing law, I really had to make sure I had my priorities straight. My daughter was my priority and if I had clients that didn’t understand that, then they probably would have been better served by another lawyer. I continue to remember what my priorities are today.”

Marti’s comment about remembering life’s priorities jerks me back to the undeniable fact that my husband and I had yet to plan our estate. And it’s not just us. I think of many of our friends and family members. I make a mental note to talk to those I love when I see them during the upcoming holidays. Marti’s advice may well be the best holiday present I could ever give them: “People who haven’t yet planned their estate should make an appointment to talk to an estate and trust lawyer. People put it off when it should be a priority. It’s not an expensive process to plan your estate and will, and it gives peace of mind.”

You can contact Sherri via e-mail at sherrid@iquest.net or by phone at: 765-342-2602