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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. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

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  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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