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Hebenstreit: Bench Bar - Let's Get Acquainted

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IBA-hebenstreitHave you ever been asked by a friend or acquaintance to conduct their marriage ceremony? All you have to do is ask a Judge to appoint you pro tem for the day to accommodate that request, but do you know a Judge well enough to ask? How about being able to ask a Judge to speak at a Girl Scout meeting or a school program? Would you know who to call?

As lawyers, we are frequently involved in activities where it is helpful to know a Judge on a more personal basis. Kelly Eskew found herself in that situation recently. Her employer was hosting a young German law student participating in an unpaid internship. Kelly took it upon herself to try to enhance this young lady’s experience. Through her involvement in the IndyBar, Kelly had become acquainted with a local Judge and felt comfortable reaching out to that Judge. Her request was simple. Did the Judge have any trials going on that week that the student could observe. As it turned out, the young lady saw some civil procedural hearings and then spent about a half day in Criminal Court observing a trial that could easily have been a Criminal Minds episode. That case involved a defendant who had confessed to breaking into a female‘s home, killing the lady and then having sex with the corpse. It was a pretty bad fact situation, but it was a fascinating learning experience for the foreign student. All because Kelly was familiar enough with a Judge to help make it happen.

Hopefully, you have seen the promotional material about the Bench Bar conference coming up June 16 to 18 in French Lick. What started about 20 years ago as a noble experiment has morphed into a first class educational event. The education includes not only fantastic CLE offerings, but also a chance for members of the Bench and Bar to get acquainted with each other on a personal basis.

As a younger lawyer, I was somewhat intimidated by Judges—concerned that I would not have anything in common with them or would not know what to talk about. The older I get, the more obvious it is that most humans (including lawyers and Judges) are reserved and frequently ill at ease meeting new people. Attending the Bench Bar is a perfect way to interact with others and get acquainted. I may be preaching to the choir because many of you are regulars each year. If so, please register today and ask your friends to attend. But, if you are a first timer, put your apprehension aside and book your room. You won’t regret it. There is a special reception on Friday evening where first timers are paired with a Bench Bar veteran. It helps break the ice.

What if you think you can’t afford the time away from the office? That may be true if you have more work than you can do, but most of us have to think about marketing. It may seem illogical to go to a conference with a group of attorneys and call it marketing, but my best cases have been referred by another attorney. But you have to know those attorneys before they will refer a case to you (or you to them).

This year Judge Sheila Carlisle’s committee has put together a unique and informative array of CLE events. In addition to being educated by experts in their respective fields, you will have the chance to learn from members of the Indiana Supreme Court including Chief Justice Shepard, and Justices Dickson and David, Greg Zoeller, the Indiana Attorney General, our Marion County Prosecutor, Terry Curry, and the Chief Public Defender, Bob Hill. All we need is you.

We as lawyers are probably frequently guilty of procrastination. Break that habit at least once. Registration is cheaper if completed by May 1. Save yourself some money by signing up now. And by all means reserve your room early. The conference is likely to be a sell out and that also includes the special price the IndyBar has arranged for hotel rooms. Confirm your room so you are guaranteed to be able to stay at the venue. Whether you gamble or not, French Lick is a beautiful facility—particularly at our reduced rate. Don’t delay.

You may never need to be appointed pro tem to marry your best friend, but your time attending this year’s Bench Bar will be not only fun, but a good investment.•

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