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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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