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Incoming ISBA president sets communication at top of agenda

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Jim Dimos was just out of law school and settling into his first job at an Indianapolis firm when he volunteered to help coach an inner-city youth football team.

Named the Falcons, the team bruised the gridiron during the Saturday dog-eat-dog games and ended up exceeding expectations by making the playoffs. Dimos, an offensive lineman in high school, ran the defense with a cool hand.

apb-jimdimos01-15col.jpg Jim Dimos (IL Photo/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Dan Lueders, partner at Woodard Emhardt Moriarty McNett & Henry LLP, was among the other volunteer coaches on the Falcons’ team. Recalling that 1987 season, Lueders remembered Dimos towering over the 5th- and 6th-grade boys and talking to them, explaining to them. He never yelled, he never used vague, abstract buzz words that confused the players, but rather he patiently helped them understand what they should do on the field.

“That just came naturally to Jim,” Lueders said.

Dimos, partner at Frost Brown Todd LLC, will once again be using those leadership and communication skills as he becomes the next president of the Indiana State Bar Association. He wants to lead by listening and engaging bar association members and non-members from around the state to not only tell them what the organization offers but also to hear what more the association can do.

Building on the initiatives started by outgoing ISBA president Dan Vinovich, Dimos has plans to strengthen and grow the state association of more than 12,000 members.

“It really is an honor to be selected to serve in this role and represent the association,” Dimos said. “I hope members, at the end of it, feel I met their expectations of what they look for in a state bar association president.”

Pedigree

Dimos will bring bar leadership experience to his presidency. He has been active in both the state and Indiana bar associations as well as the American Bar Association pretty much his entire professional career.

He was introduced to the bar associations as a young attorney. The culture at the former Locke Reynolds, now Frost Brown Todd, encouraged participation, with the firm paying the annual dues and senior partners inviting associates to bar lunches.

With that foundation, Dimos joined and actively participated. He rose in the Indianapolis Bar Association, eventually serving as president in 2001, and is currently a member of the ABA House of Delegates. The value he sees in belonging is the ability to interact with lawyers from different places, working on a variety of projects and helping to improve the legal system.

For the long hours and energy he has devoted to his volunteering, Dimos has received, as his wife said, “emotional compensation.”

“I feel better about what I do when I’m able to do something that helps the community at large,” he said.

Dimos will take the helm while the legal profession is undergoing fundamental changes. The disrupt caused by technology, the growing need for affordable legal help, the tight job market and the concern over law schools are among the issues drawing attention.

vinovich-dan-mug Vinovich

Certainly, as Indiana’s largest organization of attorneys, the ISBA has a prominent bully pulpit from which it can speak. However, Dimos cautioned the association has to use its voice in the appropriate manner. Members have different viewpoints, he said, and the ISBA has to be respectful of those.

The association’s collective voice will be guided by input from the sections and committees within the ISBA, he said. Substantive issues the smaller groups raise will be taken to larger groups in the ISBA to determine what position, if any, the organization should take.

One thing Dimos learned from his earlier turn at bar association leadership is that he does not always get to control the agenda. Much like a coach reacting to what is happening on the field, he said as Indy Bar president he would start his day by reading the newspaper to find out which judge, lawyer or columnist just changed his day.

John Maley, partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, saw Dimos’ style up close as the 2001 president-elect of the Indy Bar.

“Jim is the consummate bar leader and servant – local, state, and nationally,” Maley said. “He believes strongly in the virtues of lawyers and the legal profession, and has devoted thousands and thousands of hours through his distinguished career to serving the bar and promoting justice. Indiana will be well served with Jim leading the state bar.”

Three-year plan

When Vinovich became the ISBA president, he launched a three-year initiative that sought to strengthen the organization by improving member benefits, diversity and governance. The idea was that the plan will be carried forth by his successors, Dimos and Sullivan attorney Jeff Hawkins.

One-year initiatives that start and end with a single presidency are ineffective, Hawkins said. He believes Vinovich had a remarkable suggestion to coordinate the agenda among three leaders as a way to accomplish more.

Currently, the bar association has added free access to the online legal research provider, Casemaker, and a free ethics continuing legal education course for members. The total value per individual reaches $540, Vinovich said, and has helped increase the member rolls by 644.

To increase geographic diversity, the ISBA has enlisted video conferencing to enable members in the far reaches of the state to serve as chairs and vice chairs of the sections and committees, Vinovich said. Also, the association is considering adding two at-large seats to its board of governors.

Vinovich is confident Dimos will pick up the initiative and advance the ISBA even more. He described the incoming president as having a “very calm and level-headed demeanor” that makes him particularly suited to lead attorneys. Dimos, he said, lets everybody talk and then creates a consensus.

“I can’t wait to see what he does,” Vinovich said. “He’s really going to be good.”

Healthy conversations

Dimos wants to continue to reach out to attorneys and get them to join the association. The board of governors will be visiting Valparaiso, Notre Dame and Indiana University Maurer law schools and he plans to ask the district representatives to engage more with members and the local bar associations.

hawkins-jeff.jpg Hawkins

Mostly, he wants to talk with members. He wants to have healthy conversations where many different voices are heard and all opinions are respected. This, he said, will allow the association to accomplish good things.

Raising two daughters and one son, Dimos knows the conflicting needs and desires that can exist with a group. Achieving consensus in the ISBA will not be easy, he said, and it will not be created the way it sometimes is at home.

“I can’t at the end of the day say, ‘No, I’m sorry, I’m dad,’” Dimos said. “I don’t get that luxury nor do I want it.”

Practicing in a small town, Hawkins understands the necessity of bringing more attorneys into the ISBA, listening to what they say and giving them the resources they need. Communication, he said, is key to doing this.

Hawkins, the next ISBA president-elect, said Dimos is coming to the organization with a real passion for the organization and a lot of leadership experience. The incoming president, he said, has a desire to work together with members, promoting a free exchange of thoughts to keep the association percolating with fresh ideas.

“Jim is a big man in terms of physique and capability,” Hawkins said. “When I stand by him, I look up to him and not just because he’s well over 6 foot and I am not.”•
 

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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