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Blomquist: The IBA Bench Bar Conference, Well Worth the 'Conference Depression' Risk

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blomquist-kerryHere is a new phrase for me: “Conference Depression.”

According to the Urban Dictionary, the definition of “conference depression” is: “Being extremely depressed after an awesome weekend at a conference.” Withdrawal usually lasts a day or two depending on the conference. Example:

Q: “Dude what’s up with him?”

A: “He just came back from Bench Bar and his ‘conference depression’ is really bad.”

Prediction: On Monday, June 17th, 2013, the moon will be 53 percent visible in the night sky, fathers will be boycotting any and all food after an indulgent Father’s Day, and many Indianapolis lawyers and judges will be suffering from “conference depression” because the IndyBar Bench Bar conference was held just a few days before.

I’m that confident.

Our 2013 IndyBar Bench Bar is June 13th to the 15th in Louisville and it’s gearing up to be the biggest and best one yet. It’s not often lawyers and judges can mix business with pleasure, but over the past 20 years this conference has become known as the premier event to do just that, and in casual attire no less.

Confession of a Bench Bar junkie: I don’t need the CLE and in 20 years I have never been “sent” to this conference. It has always been on my time and on my dime, but it has been one of the best investments I have ever made. It is where I have made great friends that I occasionally get to practice with and to whom I can refer clients (with money). It is where I have met judges from all benches that have become my friends and my colleagues. And it is where I know I will get quality, entertaining CLE because my colleagues are the experts in what they do.

Co-chairs of this year’s 20th Anniversary Bench Bar Conference are Judges Annie Christ-Garcia and Bob Altice who, with their committees, have been working tirelessly to put together a stellar program of events. Highlights are almost too many to mention but include a new in-house counsel track to accompany existing tracks in family, civil and criminal law; golf on Thursday for the brave and the talented (I’m brave); dinner at Quattro, a highly acclaimed chef-owned restaurant in Louisville; and an encore presentation of Trivia Night to benefit the Bar Foundation, which is always a good time.

While this is an unapologetic commercial for Bench Bar, this is also an opportunity for associates to learn and for partners to lead. Any bar leader will tell you that the two questions most frequently asked us by young lawyers are: How can we effectively network and how can we develop a client base? To each of those, the answer is the same. Work your soft skills. Nothing can replace the contacts, the referral sources and the friends you can garner at a conference like this. Especially in this economy, investing in your legal community pays off more than you know. Let’s face it; in this era of voicemail, email, conference calls and webinars, it is the face-to-face natter that falls by the wayside while that is precisely what often determines success. We used to meet people and follow up by email. Now we forge relationships by email and are surprised (positively or negatively) if or when we finally meet them in person.

Confession, lest you doubt I live in a glass house.

I reached out to Frost Brown Todd’s Tom Davis a couple of weeks ago to ask him to reflect on the history of Bench Bar. Twenty years ago, when “T.D” penned this same column, his IndyBar legacy became the Bench Bar Conference. Along with colleagues John Baker, Tony Metz, Jim Babcock and the late great Neil Shook, he choreographed the first of these conferences and IndyBar history was made. By “reaching out,” however, I mean I emailed him some questions. What was shot back was an absolutely appropriate and bracing: “Really? Can’t we just meet in person?”

Ouch. “Snap,” as my teens would say.

The result was the most delightful hour I have spent in a long, long time inadvertently reinforcing the argument that nothing comes close to personal contact. It is what we need to do more of as professionals and as people. Bench Bar is a great place to start. Take a look at the agenda, make your plans now, and prepare to have some fun. Information and registration can be found online at www.indybenchbar.org.•

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