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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. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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