Several weeks ago, I attended a press conference called by Attorney General Greg Zoeller. The news to be released: that attorneys are once again doing good. In fact, attorneys across the state banded together to contribute fifty tons of food for regional food banks. Indianapolis boasted the top firms with the largest contributions in each of three categories: large firms, small firms, and law offices of public or nonprofit lawyers. Not surprisingly, the attorney leading the charge for the large firm winner is a graduate of the IBA Bar Leader Series.
Fast forward to one week later: I attended the graduation of the IBA Bar Leader Series VI. Attorneys selected for the Bar Leader program are expected to develop and execute a community service team project, details of which are shared during the final day culminating in graduation from the program. Enter 25 lawyers, add the Bar Leader Series, and a grant from the Indianapolis Bar Foundation, and it’s pretty powerful. As I sat during presentations made by the groups of five, I was awestruck by the generosity of time and talent that these attorneys contributed to our community. It was during the presentation of these projects that I realized how important it was to share them with our members. These are their stories.
Abandoned Housing. For the homeowner, tackling a problem involving abandoned housing isn’t easy. In fact, when five lawyers got together to decide how best to help in this area, they discovered that first-hand. They set about to gather resources, find answers, and to create a resource guide to empower communities to use tools available to them to help combat the problem. The resource guide is a comprehensive tool for the public that provides in one place answers to problems presented by abandoned housing.
B.L.I.N.G. A second group chose to focus on mentoring young students by teaming up with B.L.I.N.G: Business Leadership in the Next Generation In doing so, the attorneys put together an orientation kick off program aimed at encouraging greater parent and student participation. In addition, two students in this summer program will be sponsored by this group of Bar Leaders.
Peace Coaches Program. These five lawyers underwent training through the Peace Learning Center and then took what they learned back to the Shortridge Magnet School in a firstof-its-kind Peace Coaches Program. Through the program, the attorneys taught children about managing emotions, listening skills, what makes an acceptable apology, and a host of other topics aimed at peaceful conflict resolution.
FUTSOUL. Concerned about combating gang-related activities in a suburb of Indianapolis, this group channeled their energies into creating something lasting for a multicultural community starving for a positive outlet for children. From securing a site to creating a logo, a youth sporting league was created. The attorneys not only organized, structured, and planned a long-term vision for the FUTSOUL league, but they learned this soccer-like sport themselves and even coach on the weekends!
Tumble for Troops. The final program created during this Bar Leader Series focused on the temporarily-fractured military family. Understanding that spouses and children grappling with a missing spouse or parent can feel isolated, this group hosted an event in April to bring these families together for a stress-free evening of fun and support. The event also served to announce the creation of a website to connect these military families to loved ones on active duty and to each other.
As diverse as they were creative, the projects selected by the attorneys were not in areas where their skill and training prepared them for practice. The projects chosen were as powerful as the message they delivered: that even in unfamiliar territory, attorneys are leaders who have the ability to make a difference when they set their mind to it. Whether through an organized forum or on your own, from helping to combat depletion of food for the needy to creating a positive outlet for impressionable youth, these types of community projects impact not only a community, but also the attorneys who participate in them. Now that is food for thought.
The IBA Bar Leader Series helps prepare attorneys to assume leadership roles in their profession and the community. The application process for the next series is now open and I encourage lawyers in their third through tenth year of practice to submit an application (available at www.indybar.org) by the deadline of June 21, 2010.•