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Rising bar association memberships linked to jobs and social activities

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A boost in membership rolls at some bar associations around the state is credited to the changing employment landscape in the legal community. People are joining the organizations because they are getting jobs or because they want to network to get future jobs.

The Evansville Bar Association has recorded a surge in new memberships, increasing its size by 10 percent in 2013 alone. Susan Vollmer, executive director of the bar association, attributed the growth to a wave of new hiring by law firms in Vanderburgh County. All the big firms and many smaller offices have added attorneys.

“It’s kind of amazing what we’ve had this year,” Vollmer said.

Since Jan. 1, 2009, the association has added 156 lawyers. A third of those, 55, have joined since Jan. 1, 2013, bringing the organization a record membership of 550.

In Indianapolis, the Marion County Bar Association continues to add members as well. TaKeena Thompson, president, believes the group’s increased visibility and activities, rather than an uptick in hiring, have inspired more lawyers to join.

The MCBA had almost ceased to exist. Regular meetings were often canceled, few social events were offered, and even getting a response from the association was difficult.

New leadership in 2012 brought in more energy and revitalized the organization. The MCBA has upgraded its website, gotten on social media, and introduced a variety of events such as the “coffee chats,” which enable members to meet informally with Marion County judges.

“We want to give something back to our members,” Thompson said. “We want our members to feel that they are getting something from the organization.”

Like the Marion County Bar Association, the Allen County Bar Association has concentrated its efforts on offering its members more continuing legal education courses and social activities. This has kept the current membership steady at roughly 700.

In Bloomington, the Monroe County Bar Association has had new interest from students at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

President Joyce Jewell believes the students are motivated to join not only so they can network with attorneys but also because some want to stay in Bloomington after they graduate.•

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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