John F. Kennedy once said that “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Twenty five young members of the IndyBar are living proof of that. This group has just completed the Bar Leader Series VIII. What started 9 years ago as a new concept has erupted into a highly sought after program. This year almost 50 attorneys submitted their applications to be considered for one of the 25 slots. The resumes are impressive, and their impact will be lasting.
To be considered for the Series, an attorney must have been in practice between 3 and 10 years. Once selected, the members participate in monthly all day meetings dealing with a wide variety of topics designed to assist the students understand leadership and the need for leadership in Central Indiana. One day, the students toured the State Capitol and met with a host of high ranking government leaders; another month, they toured the Marion County jail and met with the Public Safety leaders including Prosecutor Terry Curry. Another month they were dazzled by Allison Melangton, the head of the Indy Super Bowl Committee. Each guest speaker spoke about their respective role in making our City and State operate, and each provided insight for the students to understand what it takes to succeed and to advance their careers and professional lives.
The Series is funded by the Indianapolis Bar Foundation, and this year, donors to the IBF were invited to attend the “graduation.” None who attended were disappointed. In addition to attending the monthly educational sessions, the group was divided into five teams and each team was charged with completing a service project. Each team was provided $1000 of “seed” money for their project but encouraged to use as little as possible. Many teams returned a good part of that money this year.
The projects were required to provide some form of sustaining assistance to satisfy a need in the community. Each team submitted its proposed project and at least one of the projects was initially rejected. The volunteer staff of the BLS Series takes its responsibility very seriously that the projects must meet the established criteria. At the graduation, each group made a presentation about their projects. One team worked with a group that uses dog training at the Juvenile Detention Center. They learned that being responsible for a dog can create self respect and responsibility. Another sought “dress for success” clothing to be dispensed at the Indianapolis Convention Center in connection with the Homeless Project. Another used a running event to help young ladies establish self respect. Another created a computer lab for a local homeless shelter and implemented it with software to prevent viruses from ruining the computers. The other group worked with foster children in connection with arranging college visits and assistance in the application process.
It was both eye opening as well as heart warming to listen to the teams describe their project as well as the process they went through to complete the task. Each first needed to determine an area in Central Indiana that had a need and then develop a strategy for meeting and fulfilling that need. We hear about networking, but it was interesting to note that each team spoke about having “a guy.” None of the projects would have been a success but for a team member knowing a friend or contact that helped them open a door or provide a solution. All of the projects morphed a little as the teams encountered obstacles and difficulties in implementing their strategy. But, through the teamwork of the group, each team was successful and they could not wait to talk about their set backs as well as their successes. One team sought and received substantial free dry cleaning services from Curley’s Cleaners and free moving services from Two Men and A Truck. Others used their law firms and friends to provide computers and other materials to make their project possible. All found creative ways to provide services to the needy and underprivileged, and all appeared to feel very proud of their efforts.
Through the Series, this group of 25 graduates has not only heard about leadership, but also demonstrated it through their projects. Applications for the Series IX are now being accepted. I would encourage any young attorney who has visions of being a leader either in the IndyBar or the community to apply. It is time consuming and a good bit of work, but as in most things worthwhile, you get out of life, what you put into it. The graduates of BLS VIII have certainly demonstrated that leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.•