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ISBA conference attracts law students

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The ninth conference aimed at solo and small firm attorneys in Indiana was a success according to organizers and those who attended, especially going by the number of law school students in attendance compared to previous years.

The conference, which provides CLE credit, networking opportunities, and vendors of products that in many cases specifically cater to solo and small law firms, took place June 3-5 in Merrillville. Plans are already under way and organizers are seeking help for the Indiana State Bar Association’s 10th Solo and Small Firm Conference, June 2-4, 2011, in French Lick.

One of the major differences between this year and last year was the number of young attorneys and recent law school students in attendance.

conference Indianapolis solo attorney Marc Matheny, program development chair for the ISBA Solo and Small Firm Conference, addressed attendees in Merrillville. (Submitted photo)

One of the organizers, Ted Waggoner of the Rochester firm Peterson & Waggoner, said this year had 11 students who registered to attend, the most by far compared to other years. The 2009 conference had about 200 attendees total, which wasn’t the lowest or highest number the conference has seen.

Waggoner helped teach a weekend course at Indiana University Maurer School of Law – Bloomington to 2Ls and 3Ls about solo and small firm practice management. Students in that class learned about the conference, some for the first time, and attended based on recommendations of Waggoner and professor Bill Henderson, who helped organize that course.

Alice A. O’Brien, a solo attorney in Arcadia and the 2010 conference’s chair, said the conference has always tried to include younger attorneys and law students. She said Jay Conison, dean of Valparaiso University School of Law, has always been supportive, and it was helpful this year that the school was a conference sponsor.

Organizers also had more success this year reaching law students, thanks in part to law schools that offered scholarships to students for the conference, and also the close proximity of Merrillville to Valparaiso University School of Law.

donna bays Bays

Marc W. Matheny, program development chair for the 2010 conference and a solo practitioner in Indianapolis, said he also hopes to get more law school students involved next year and considers that – while not forgetting the needs of the practitioners – when looking at programming.

“As lawyers helping out future lawyers, it would be wonderful to have a large contingent,” Matheny said. “I would love to have 50 or 100 law students from law schools attend; it’s a great opportunity for them.”

Donna J. Bays, a solo practitioner in Indianapolis and the 2010 conference vice chair and 2011 conference chair, said one of her goals is to have an even better turnout from law students next year.

She added that for law students who attend the Missouri solo and small firm conference – one of the largest in the country with about 1,100 members of the legal community attending this year – course credit is available for attending various sessions on firm management.

Two recent graduates of the Bloomington law school, Jeremy Kridel and Angela J. Fox, said they are spending most of their time studying for the Indiana bar exam. However, both attended the conference on scholarships.

While Kridel received a job offer shortly after the conference, he still plans to open his own firm someday. Because he was a non-traditional student and earned his master’s degree before law school, he didn’t see himself joining a larger firm because he didn’t want to wait to make partner 10 years down the road.

Fox said she and a law school classmate plan to start their own firm in Avon after passing the bar. They hope to open early next year.

As to what kind of law she’ll practice, she said it would be what a judge had called “a threshold practice,” meaning she and legal partner Ben Blair would take on “‘anything that walks through the door,’ and I’m OK with that.”

Ideally, she and Blair have talked about her practicing business law and Blair practicing real estate law, so the two practices would complement each other.

ted waggoner Waggoner

Fox and Kridel said the conference was helpful in terms of what they’d be able to use for their own firms someday. They also enjoyed seeing other attorneys interact at CLE sessions.

The two also said networking was invaluable because they received helpful support from other attendees, whether it was another solo attorney who had specific advice or just getting positive reactions to the idea of starting a solo or small firm.

While some friends and family have expressed concern to Fox when she has told them she planned to open her own firm, she considered opening a solo or small firm practice something she’d eventually do. She just didn’t think she’d start one this soon out of law school. She added with nothing to lose at this time – she isn’t leaving behind another job and she doesn’t have any children she needs to take care of, this was as good of a time as any to get started.

When choosing their sessions, Kridel and Fox said they looked for ones that would apply to the business of law practice. Fox attended some of the boot camp and tech camp sessions June 3, and both attended marketing and other technology-related sessions.

Kridel did attend the session on family law mediation, which Bays presented with South Bend attorney Charlie Asher. That session was memorable to him because audience members mentioned cases and real examples of things that they experienced that related to Bays’ and Asher’s comments.

Another law student who attended was Jennifer B. Beinart, who is about to start her third year at I.U. School of Law – Indianapolis. Beinart is Bays’ daughter, which she said is more or less the reason she attended this year and in 2009. But even though she has no definite plans to be a solo or small firm practitioner, the conference has been helpful to her and is something she would recommend to other students as well.

A connection she made at last year’s conference helped her get the job she has this summer with Indiana Farm Bureau. She had another connection to her summer employer as well, but she said it didn’t hurt to have more than one connection.

She said she appreciated the networking opportunities because even if she doesn’t open her own practice, she knows she’ll eventually interact with attorneys at the conference in some way.

Of the sessions she attended, Beinart thought Beverly Hills attorney and Gary native Jay Foonberg’s discussion about client satisfaction “was applicable to all lawyers, no matter what you’ll do. It was aimed at solo and small firm lawyers, but it was also about how to be a better lawyer.”

She said she’d recommend the conference to other students, and that other than networking, she thinks some of the CLEs with an Indiana law focus will help her when she ultimately takes the Indiana Bar Exam.

“The connections, advice, and networking opportunities are incredible and the value is incredible as well,” she said, adding the law school student pricing, which includes all meals at the conference, makes it more affordable. “Plus it’s a lot of fun.”

To help with the 2011 conference or to get involved, attorneys can contact Bays at dbays@donnabays.com or (317) 630-3175; or Maryann Williams at ISBA, (317) 639-5465.•

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. 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.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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