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Chinn: Opportunities To Serve In 2012

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iba-chinn-scottGreetings colleagues of the bar and other interested readers. This is my first president’s message of the year and I want to take the opportunity to congratulate all the persons elected and appointed to leadership positions in the Indianapolis Bar Association for 2012. We fully realize we won only an opportunity to serve. Section, division, and committee chairs are in place and are already moving their groups forward. The new IBA board was formally sworn in on January 12, but by then had already met and picked up the baton on a number of substantive issues from last year’s board.

As challenges for non-profit member organizations continue to mount, that continuity of leadership has marked the IBA’s many successes in membership growth, programming, and civic impact. I could not be more conscious of the good and important work that has preceded my becoming president. The 2012 IBA board and its officers have inherited a well functioning and special organization – an association that we are proud to hear frequently mentioned as one of the leading bars in the country when we travel to ABA meetings and other national gatherings.

A special word here is deserved for IBA Executive Director Julie Armstrong and her great staff. It is hard to imagine such a lean staff could be so strong, productive and committed to the association membership and its goals.

So, as we begin 2012, let’s pay heed to the formula that has produced these good results. The first ingredient is to strive always to keep in place what works and what is necessary, eschewing change made for the sake of change. At the same time, we should never shrink from bold action where we can make a difference in an important matter or be ahead of the curve for the benefit of our profession. It is that artful blend of solidity and opportunistic progressivism that makes up the “sweet spot” the IBA has been hitting on for such a long time.

With that background in mind, let me respectfully ask you to think about three ways you can help the work of the IBA and the profession.

Be involved. Every bar president says this every year, but that’s because it’s important. The IBA needs your help, your interest, and your talent. The great news is, the IBA doesn’t lack for strong leaders who are willing to give their time in support of its aims.

But the only way we continue to progress, to avoid associational atrophy, and to promote the profession appropriately is to seek and enjoy the time and resource commitments of our members. When you see a substantive section, a program, or an issue that the IBA is involved in – or you think should be – contact me, Julie or any bar leader you know to get more involved.

Be sensitive. We practice law in a world that needs our help more than ever. The recent economic downturn has exacerbated the problem of finding legal representation for people of few means. You’ll hear much more this year about how the IBA is actively addressing the growing need for such services. Our immediate past president Mike Hebenstreit has kindly agreed to head a special committee dedicated to pro bono and indigent legal assistance.

And we don’t have to look far for opportunities to help in other ways. So many of our colleagues, especially our youngest members of the profession, are struggling to find jobs and meaningful legal work. Do what you can to help by including these new lawyers in your networks, give them advice and guidance, and think creatively about how you can be a mentor and assist them in their job searches.

Be yourself. The best way you can serve the IBA and the profession is to be yourself. Just go be the best lawyer you can be. Serve your clients, serve the judiciary and legal system, and serve your networks of civic and social contacts.

I wanted to be involved in IBA leadership because I like and believe in lawyers. My mother (who later became a second career lawyer) told me when I was young that the most important thing lawyers do is solve problems for people. Not a day goes by that I don’t have an opportunity to help solve someone’s problem – however big or small – using my training, experience, and judgment. That’s what we are supposed to do.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve. Best wishes for a great 2012.•

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