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Chinn: What I'm Thankful For

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iba-chinn-scottWith Thanksgiving meals, family gatherings and football games barely visible in the rear view mirror, I want to get my thoughts of holiday thankfulness in just under the wire. In full disclosure, I’m focused here on three things about which I am most thankful for the Indianapolis Bar Association. While I don’t confuse that with the other important things about which we all can and should reflect on with thanksgiving, I am proud to observe these three things about our bar.

First, and foremost, I am thankful for the membership of more than 5,000 legal professionals in the IndyBar. I promise you everyone in the leadership and staff of the IndyBar has your membership top of mind. Ours is a voluntary bar. Your membership is a registering of your consumer choice that you derive value from the bar. I am confident that it will always be a top priority of the IndyBar leadership to maintain and create new value for your bar membership. It’s also worth noting that even beyond member services, there is value in what unites us to become and stay members of the IndyBar. With 5,000 members strong we are able to garner resources to have active pro bono programs, to reach out to law students and new lawyers to get them on the right track in our profession, and to advocate for the profession to elected officials and the broader community.

Second, I am thankful for the IndyBar staff. Over the past 20 years, the number of IndyBar programs has multiplied and the membership has doubled without a general dues increase. At the same time, in recent years the number of paid staff members has decreased from 13 to nine full-time equivalent employees along with one part-time and one contract employee. In short, what this lean and productive staff accomplishes is amazing – and is admired by executive directors of peer bars around the country. This is a testament in large part to Julie Armstrong’s tremendous leadership.

Last, and by no means least, perhaps the greatest strength of our bar is the large number of legal professionals who volunteer their time, energy and creativity as bar leaders. The Indy Bar has a 29-member board of directors, 18 standing or steering committees, 18 sections and 4 divisions. The sections, divisions and committees have multi-member executive committees that govern their operations. In addition, every year even more people volunteer for discrete efforts on task forces or special projects and on pro bono programs. So, scores of legal professionals contribute to success of the bar.

Just this past week, President-Elect Kerry Hyatt Blomquist presided over a two-day leadership retreat in which all the 2013 section, division and committee chairs and board members gathered to get to know each other and plan operations for the year. It went great, and Kerry and her leadership team are poised to keep what is working, shed what isn’t, and continue to innovate while keeping members foremost in mind. What I am most thankful for is what was observed by the retreat’s facilitator, Elizabeth Derrico from the ABA’s division of bar services. Elizabeth explained to those assembled that by agreeing to becoming leaders of the IndyBar, they had signed up to be the latest in a line of people whose tremendous efforts are recognized by bars all over the nation. I couldn’t agree more. Our bar association is noteworthy for the number and quality of initiatives, its willingness to take calculated risks to stay ahead of the professional curve, and for its number of people in positions of influence in national organizations like the ABA, the National Conference of Bar Presidents, the Conference of Metropolitan Bar Associations and the Metropolitan Bar Caucus.

To go full circle, from my perspective this last list of things isn’t to be looked at like a set of trophies on the mantel, but real live examples of a vibrant bar association that works to sustain itself from the most basic membership service obligations to promoting justice and the profession to serving the community. And at the core of that vibrancy is the breadth of our membership, the diligence of our staff, and the zealousness of our volunteer leaders. For these things I am very thankful.•
 

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