ILNews

DeGroote: The new social network - return to the bar

February 15, 2012
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Tim DeGrooteNot so long ago, when I was a “young” lawyer, our local bar association sponsored various outings. I remember them fondly. There was always a summer golf outing and bus trip to Chicago. In the fall and winter months, the bar association would sponsor various events, including the occasional happy hour at a local watering hole. The events were well attended and memorable.

Those events provided the opportunity for me to get to know my fellow lawyers in an enjoyable, casual and non-adversarial setting. Just as important, the events brought lawyers from different practice areas and generations together. Judges, prosecutors, criminal defense counsel, family lawyers and civil litigators all joined forces with a common goal: to have a good time. Stories were told. Accomplishments and defeats were embellished. It was a wonderful time.

When I joined the law firm, I had the privilege to be mentored by several great lawyers. They spent time with me both in and out of the office. They encouraged me to get involved in local and state organizations. They introduced me to other lawyers and took me to seminars, events and to the occasional happy hour where, once again, stories, accomplishments and defeats were shared and embellished.

Times have changed. In the last 15 years, life has become more complicated. Like many, I attempt to juggle and balance my professional and home/family commitments. I have a fabulous wife who works full time as a magistrate. We have two children who are actively involved in school and extracurricular activities. It is a rare evening when something is not scheduled on the work or family calendar.

With more demands on my time, I find myself less involved in the state, local, and firm activities and social events. Apparently, I am not alone.

In the last several years, there has been a steady decline in active participation in local bar association events. I anticipate that other organizations have experienced a similar problem. While I do not have all of the answers to explain the decline, several factors come into play, including the changes in society, the family structure (both parents working) and the increasing demands made by the workplace.

Change is inevitable. The way we communicate and socialize has been redefined. We are now connected 24/7. We have the ability to email, text and update our Facebook pages while we sit in traffic. The phone call has been replaced with the text and/or tweet. The handwritten and (even) dictated letter has been slain by the email. The social gathering at the local bar event has fallen victim to the chat room. There is no need to be physically present because we are connected all the time. Technology has allowed us to become more efficient so that we may accomplish more in less time. Technology has allowed us to save time. And yet, do any of us feel like we have more time?

I truly enjoy the benefits of the advancements made in technology. However, I would propose that we use some of the time saved through the use of technology and re-invest it in our profession and the people with whom we work. Attend a state or local bar association event. Take a young lawyer, fellow associate or partner with you. Get involved in a worthy organization, such as the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana (shameless plug). Put down the mouse, leave work early, and spend time with your partners and associates outside the office. Attend a happy hour or two. Reconnect with your fellow lawyers. Stay involved or get involved and get to know the people you work with or who may be across the table from you in your next case. The time spent is a valuable investment in your practice and our profession.•

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Mr. DeGroote is a partner in the Fort Wayne office of Hunt Suedhoff Kalamaros and is a director of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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