Chinn: Super February

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iba-chinn-scottUsually, there would be no reason to expect February to be a “hot” month for the City and for the IndyBar. But this is no usual February.

The midyear meetings of the American Bar Association were held in New Orleans earlier this month. As bad luck would have it, the meetings overlapped Super Bowl week in Indianapolis and for some even Super Bowl Sunday itself. But despite the conflict, a number of IndyBar leaders made the trip to the Crescent City to take part in the meetings, to represent the IndyBar, and to fulfill various speaking obligations.

And let’s be honest, if you are going to miss a portion of the Super Bowl festivities in Indianapolis, New Orleans isn’t the worst place to drown your sorrows. The meeting week did start with a sense of foreboding in that when we arrived in New Orleans, we immediately saw on the television monitors that Punxsutawney Phil had committed us to six more weeks of winter. But after a brief bout of rodent-inspired profanity, the situation improved.

The IndyBar has long been a leader among bars in the country and that was on display during the meetings. IndyBar Past President and Metropolitan Bar Caucus Board Member John Kautzman moderated a panel on judicial selection issues at the National Conference of Bar Presidents (NCBP) meetings. And IndyBar Past President and NCBP Membership Committee Member Chris Hickey moderated an NCBP panel on strategies to attract and retain new members. Both panel discussions were very well received.

Another happy development in New Orleans was news that the Indianapolis Bar Foundation is the recipient of the National Conference of Bar Foundations (NCBF) Fundraising for Success Award for the IBF’s “Giving Level Improvement Program” – an initiative that raised funds from targeted donors at the end of the 2011 giving year and permitted the IBF to exceed its campaign goals for the year. I was pleased to make a presentation on that initiative and about the importance of IndyBar/IBF collaboration to a gathering of the NCBF representatives.

While we were in New Orleans, we received innumerable positive comments and well wishes from lawyers all over the country regarding the success of Super Bowl activities and coverage up to that point. There is no question that being from the IndyBar had some cache, because of the events in Indianapolis. And as heartwarming as that is, the point of the meetings is to learn about bar activities around the country and about trends in the profession. So, let me briefly recap three issues we heard about from our peers in other places.

First, there remains a deep concern about declining membership in many bars around the country. While IndyBar membership has actually been increasing over the past few years, our leadership is focused on making sure IndyBar members continue to derive value from membership. Because February is literally the “drop” deadline for IndyBar members that haven’t renewed, please take a moment to make sure that you have. We value your membership and your input.

Second, there was a discussion among metropolitan bars about the increased need for pro bono or subsidized legal services, especially in the family law area. That confirmed what we already know about our community. As we’ve communicated before, IndyBar has committed to take a more active role to assist the Heartland Pro Bono Council and to communicate with the local legal services providers. IndyBar Past President Mike Hebenstreit is leading that effort.

Finally, serious concerns persist about our new lawyer colleagues that are having trouble finding legal jobs. Some bars are trying pilot programs and engaging in other outreach efforts to help students find jobs, gain skills, and cope with hanging out their own shingles. We are “ears wide open” about those issues. I tend to think the most important thing we can do about this problem in the short term is informal – established lawyers spending time meeting and networking with new lawyers who are unemployed or underemployed. You may not have a job to offer, but you have some ideas, some wisdom, and some encouragement to offer – and these interactions inevitably lead to positive results down the road.

It’s good to be back in town, basking in the glow of a Super Bowl week well executed and that put some warmth (literally and figuratively) into February in a City that is usually a little bleak this time of year.

Stay warm.•


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  1. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  2. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  3. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  4. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  5. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well