Conference a success

June 8, 2009
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From IL reporter Rebecca Berfanger:

The eighth Indiana State Bar Association Solo and Small Firm Conference at Belterra Resort went off without a hitch June 4-6.

About 300 attorneys who are solo and small-firm practitioners, frequently work with them, or are just starting their solo endeavors attended their choice of more than 30 hours of CLE. But other than learning about legal issues, organizers said, participating attorneys had a networking opportunity that few other events can claim to offer, especially for solo and small firm attorneys.

“More important than the CLE, this is our reunion,” said Stephen M. Terrell, of Terrell Law Office in Indianapolis, who started the event almost a decade ago with James Springer, a solo in Fort Wayne, and others who saw a need.

It was obvious that attorneys who drove to the scenic southeastern Indiana casino, hotel, and golf course were interested in exchanging cards if they were meeting for the first time, and war stories if they were meeting as old friends, as many attendees were.

With too many CLEs for one person to attend, highlights included a breakfast that featured an ethics lesson from former Marion Superior Judge Gary Miller, who recently started the law firm MillerMeyer in Indianapolis. Miller used examples of attorneys from TV (“The Flintstones,” “Ally McBeal,” “The Practice,” and “I Love Lucy”) and movies (“Adam’s Rib,” “Inherit the Wind,” “A Civil Action,” and “A Few Good Men”) while explaining what the attorneys did right or, more often, wrong, according to the rules of professional conduct.

ISBA President Bill Jonas, a solo practitioner based in South Bend, also highlighted what Indiana lawyers should be proud of, including involvement with civic education programs like the Indiana Bar Foundation’s support of “We the People” and “Project Citizen,” and mock trials at the high school level. He also emphasized that lawyers should continue to work with their communities to improve the overall public image of the legal profession.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller also made an appearance at the opening reception June 4 and again at the June 5 breakfast session, where he talked about how his office has been working more with the ISBA, and how ISBA members helped his March for Hunger campaign by donating non-perishable food.

At a diversity reception and dinner, featured guest speaker Vanita Banks, an Indiana native now working in Northbrook, Ill., highlighted the 2008 election of President Barack Obama as an example of the importance of a change in attitudes toward diversity.

Overall, attendees seemed to enjoy themselves in a much more relaxed atmosphere than a court appearance or mediation where they would usually meet.

Did you attend? If so, let us know your thoughts on this or other conferences for Indiana attorneys.
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