I remember the monthly Meetings of Members of the 1980s and how much I looked forward to them. I was a young lawyer and I felt like the new kid in school at those meetings, but somehow I knew it was important to be there and to mingle. Every lawyer in town was at the monthly meetings. The only way I would get over my nervousness was to jump in and meet as many lawyers as I could so I’d be one of the “in crowd” soon. Times have changed in so many ways. Now I’m the president of the preeminent metropolitan bar association in the country (and now I’m not even sure who the “in crowd” is!).
We haven’t held monthly Meetings of Members in a long time. Lawyers’ offices are dispersed more widely now and a trip downtown from another county doesn’t make sense. Clients demand immediate service, so time away from one’s practice can be costly. Social media has replaced face-to-face conversations. Lunchtime speakers’ messages can be heard on blogs, e-news and online CLEs.
I still push back on the statement that there’s little value in gathering as a professional group. I know from personal experience that the best clients come from referrals from other lawyers. When someone sees you and has a worthwhile conversation, you come to mind as someone to whom to refer business. While “Indianapolis” lawyers’ offices are no longer exclusively downtown, trips to the courthouse can be planned to coincide with some camaraderie. Matters can come up in casual conversation that afford the chance to learn something new and sometimes even solve a client problem or settle a case. The groundwork for future opportunities is laid in face-to-face meetings. It’s unknowable what can come out of making a new acquaintance, only to be revealed sometimes years later.
Do I sound like I’m resisting change? Actually, I’m not. When the IndyBar leadership held our retreat this fall, we took a teamwork personality assessment and one of the things I learned about myself is that I tend to seek change, just for change’s sake, and that I need to remember others prefer slow or no change. So, this year at the IndyBar, we are working on adapting to the new legal environment, figuring out how we can provide all of the benefits and opportunities a professional association should provide to more members, while maintaining all of the programs that have made our association meaningful and important in the lives of lawyers for the last century.
We’ve got a great “think tank” of younger lawyers figuring out what future lawyers in our community will want and need from their association. It won’t be monthly meetings, but we’ll still have some of those. It won’t be CLEs, but we’ll still have a lot of those. It might be better e-forms, and we already are improving those. It might be more Web presence, and we already provide free online profile design for members joining Indy Lawyer Finder. We’ll certainly provide more assistance electronically. We’ll let you know how these smart young lawyers answer all the questions we’re asking of them, later in the year.
So tune in, don’t tune out. Come visit us at @indybar, facebook.com/indybar, indybar.org or at 135 North Pennsylvania St., Suite 1500. Share your ideas about what we can do for you. We welcome and serve all lawyers — regardless of how you connect with us.•