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Hebenstreit: Game on

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hebenstreit Michael J. Hebenstreit Whitham Hebenstreit & Zubek LLP IBA President

It has been two years in training, watching first Jim, and then Chris, taking notes, learning, and getting prepared. Now the training is over, I am ready to start, and it is “game on.” It is going to be a busy and productive 2011.

Have you ever stopped to think about why you are a member of the IBA? What is it that makes us worthy of your interest and money? I certainly hope it is the collective good that our Association accomplishes, not only for you individually, but for the profession as a whole. I hope it is because you feel that you receive good value for your dues, both personally and professionally.

Since a year is a relatively short period of time, we generally do not adopt pet projects for the year. Rather, we continue to implement what has already been started and anticipate what your Association should be doing now and in the future. That is not going to change this year; however, I do hope the general themes for this year will be based on Service and Collegiality.

In addition to the many seminars, programs, and initiatives in which the Association is involved, there are a few new items that I anticipate will be coming up this year to serve you, our members. One is a new web based service for connecting our members with potential clients. It differs from the Lawyer Referral Service in that it would allow a potential client to preview information about attorneys on line rather than just getting the name of a possible referral over the telephone. With our new website, this type of project is now possible, as are a number of others. For those of you who understand social media better than I, we are also now on Facebook and Twitter to better say in touch with each of you—if, unlike me, you know how to access this new media. Maybe I will make that a New Years resolution for 2011!

Another issue facing the Association is the number of attorneys who have moved outside the Mile Square. We have a significant number of members around I-465 and beyond. It is important not to lose touch with those members of the bar, and we are developing the technology that will allow us to better serve the needs of outlying lawyers. That type of service is critical. If you happen to be one of those suburban lawyers, please let us know what we can do to better serve you.

We are also investigating ideas to assist the law students since they are the future members of the IBA. I recently read a New York Times article that was very troubling. It reported on the large number of law students emerging from law school with mountains of debt and few, if any, jobs available. Pretty distressing, but the apparent focus of the article accused the nations’ law schools of fraud—with the abundance of cheap student loans the price of tuition at these schools has risen tremendously and the law schools are continuing to entice young people to attend—presumably knowing that there is little hope of meaningful legal employment. I hope the day never comes when law schools have to add a warning label on their admissions packets warning the applicant that attending law school is not a guarantee of great jobs and quick riches. We hope to work with the law school in developing some mentoring and or apprentice programs to better assist the law student cross the bridge between law school and practice of law. Although reasonable minds may differ about how many new lawyers we need, it serves our profession as a whole to have better trained and better prepared colleagues.

So much for Service, but what about Collegiality. The dictionary defines collegiality as the relationship of colleagues. Isn’t that a huge part of what we do? Lawyers are bright, interesting and engaging individuals. Getting to know lawyers on a more personal level makes working opposite an attorney more pleasant----and frequently more productive. Being personally acquainted with other lawyers is not only good for business, but makes the practice more rewarding on a daily basis. The IBA can help with that.

If you are short on time (and who isn’t) I hope that you will at least read the weekly E bulletins and occasionally jump on the website. At a minimum, keep your eye out for the monthly Meeting of Members. They are an easy way to stay in touch with, or meet, other attorneys. Our next monthly meeting is February 17th when Jim Voyles will receive the Buchanan Award. It is a fun event and Jim is certainly deserving of this most prestigious award. In addition to registering yourself, why not bring a friend. Introduce that person to some of your friends and to the concept of Collegiality. I think you will find that it is contagious.

You are being served by a fantastic group of energetic and talented colleagues who have agreed to be Board members as well as Section and Committee leaders. I very much appreciate the trust that you have place in me this year, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to serve you and lead this terrific organization. It is both a privilege and a responsibility. It is going to be a great ride in 2011. Jump on board and don’t get left behind.•

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