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MCBA puts renewed focus on diversity

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TaKeena Thompson, president of the Marion County Bar Association, wants lawyers to know that the MCBA is just as important today as it was when it was founded in 1925.

“The Marion County Bar Association is still relevant. We’re here to serve, we’re here to continue to make sure that diversity is taking place in the legal profession, and we want to be that support group to minority attorneys as well,” she said.

To remind people about the relevance of the MCBA, Thompson came up with a slogan that captures its goals in 2012: “Revisiting Our Past, Rebuilding Our Present, Reshaping Our Future.”

In keeping with that theme, the MCBA is unveiling new networking opportunities, a fresh approach to fundraising to benefit Indianapolis youth, and a partnership designed to foster diversity in the profession.

New efforts

At its strategic planning meeting this year, senior members of the MCBA reported feeling disconnected from younger lawyers. In an effort to close that gap, the MCBA rolled out a new program in June, “Coffee Chat,” that allows bar members and judges to interact in a personal setting.

“I think a lot of people were excited. Our judges

were excited because it’s a nice way to bring our younger practitioners and older practitioners together, which has kind of been a concern of the MCBA,” she said.
 

il-mcba-02-15col.jpg (From left to right, back to front): Marion County Bar Association board members Noell Allen, vice chair; Juval Scott; Trezanay Atkins, treasurer; and TaKeena Thompson, president, pose for a photo at Cohen & Malad LLP in Indianapolis. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

The event featured Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Carr Darden, retired Marion Superior Judge Webster Brewer, current Marion Superior Judges David A. Shaheed and Barbara Crawford, and former Warren Township Small Claims Judge Ricardo Rivera.

Cohen & Malad LLP, where Thompson is an attorney, hosted the event, allowing for a small-scale get-together where lawyers could ask the judges questions and get candid responses.

Promoting diversity

When the MCBA was founded, the American Bar Association did not accept African-American lawyers as members – and the ABA maintained that restriction until 1952. Thompson thinks attitudes about diversity have changed for the better since then. She pointed to Indiana State Bar Association 2009-2010 president Roderick Morgan, the association’s first black president. Thompson thinks that the selection of Morgan to lead the ISBA “speaks volumes” to diversity and how it’s increased and progressed in Indiana.

But the MCBA is focusing on doing more to promote diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

The MCBA is partnering with Shortridge Magnet High School for Law and Public Policy in Indianapolis and Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law to introduce young students to the legal profession. Curriculum for the new program, which is to be implemented for the 2012-2013 school year, is in development.

“I’m hoping through that partnership, we can create a pipeline and help increase diversity that way, so that we see minority students going from middle school and high school into college and into the legal profession,” Thompson said.

Jimmie McMillian, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, joined the MCBA as a law student in 1999. He said the MCBA may offer young lawyers the support they need early in their careers.

“It’s an extremely comfortable and welcoming environment – and that’s a lot of what you need. You’re free to ask questions, to get information, you’re free to be yourself, and I think in some ways it’s almost a family-like environment. As a young lawyer, you want a place where you don’t feel like you’re in a foreign land,” he said.

Community outreach

McMillian sees the benefit of participation in MCBA outreach efforts.

“Through my involvement in that organization and involvement in some of the community service that we were able to initiate, I think I became more visible to community leaders as a whole, and that has served me well professionally and personally,” he said.

MCBA board member Noell Allen talked about a new outreach effort planned for July 21. The James C. Kimbrough Bar Association, an African-American bar association based in Merrillville, contacted the MCBA about working together on a fundraising project. The MCBA identified the Wheeler-Dowe Boys & Girls Club, in Indianapolis, as a worthy cause because of its efforts to combat childhood obesity and associated health problems.

“We chose the Wheeler-Dowe Boys & Girls Club because we wanted to focus on some of the elements that affect the African-American community, one being diabetes,” Allen said.

The two bar associations initially considered having a charity golf outing, but wanting to do something original, they decided to hold a basketball tournament.

Allen said the event at Wheeler-Dowe will include a lawyer basketball game comprised of two 10-minute halves, a three-point contest, and a half-court shootout contest. The event is open to all members of the legal profession, and they’re still looking for contestants who can participate for a fee of $15. Allen said the MCBA is also working on getting a few celebrities to attend the event and sign autographs for children.

The MCBA expects donations and sponsorships to bolster their fundraising efforts.

“If we can give the Wheeler-Dowe Boys & Girls Club a nice check of $15,000 to $20,000, that would be a success,” Allen said.

The day after the Wheeler-Dowe fundraiser, the MCBA will hold its “Going to Church” pro bono program – which is similar to the ISBA’s “Ask A Lawyer” program – at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Indianapolis.

The MCBA will also hold a retirement dinner for Darden on Sept. 14 at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown. Thompson said save-the-date reminders will be mailed soon. Bar leaders also hope to host two more Coffee Chat gatherings this year.

New energy

Thompson credits an active and dedicated board of directors with bringing new momentum to the MCBA. And Allen said that if the MCBA seemed a bit silent in the past, all of the new initiatives will help remind people of the group’s relevance.

McMillian explained that through his MCBA membership he has forged connections with people who share his cultural heritage, and found new opportunities.

“As a lawyer, you’re planting seeds and you’re hoping that they grow, and the MCBA is definitely a place – definitely fertile ground – to plant those seeds and see them grow, and that’s what it’s meant for my career,” he said.

For more information about MCBA events, contact TaKeena Thompson at tthompson@cohenandmalad.com.•
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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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