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LEADERSHIP IN LAW 2016: Charles R. Dunlap

Executive Director, Indiana Bar Foundation, Indianapolis; Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, 1996

May 4, 2016

In Charles Dunalp’s first years as executive director of the bar foundation, times were good. Then the Great Recession hit and the organization saw IOLTA funds available for disbursement drop from $3 million to around $300,000 annually. He kept a positive outlook and took tough personnel and program restructuring decisions that have allowed the organization to thrive. Chuck encourages young lawyers to participate in civic and pro bono programs that are the core of the IBF. He’s also worked with the Indiana Supreme Court to restructure its role in the delivery of legal services to needy Hoosiers and helped develop a new pro bono reporting rule.

dunlap-15col.jpg (IL photo/Eric Learned)

Why are the We the People program and civic education important?

I feel strongly that civic education is important for everyone regardless of what they do as a professional career. A good foundation in civic education instills the importance of being an active and engaged citizen throughout that person’s lifetime, which is the key to healthy communities at the local, state and national level.

What can be done to encourage attorneys to perform more pro bono work?

The Indiana Bar Foundation recently launched a statewide website, www.IndianaLegalAnswers.org, which lets attorneys log on and answer basic legal questions from low-income Hoosiers across the state. You can think of it like a virtual statewide, 24-hour, 365-day-a-year (or 366 this year) talk-to-a-lawyer clinic. It is easy to use, allows attorneys to volunteer based on the limited time that they may have, and it also counts toward the new pro bono reporting requirement for all Indiana lawyers. I encourage all attorneys to log on and find out more.

Why did you become a lawyer?

Like many people drawn to the practice of law, I have a family member (my father) who is a lawyer, so I was exposed to it at an early age, and I enjoy the problem-solving focus of the profession.

If you couldn’t be a lawyer, what would you do for a living?

My undergraduate degree was in public financial management, and I enjoy local and state government. If I wasn’t doing what I am now, I would probably be working in state or local government in some capacity.

What was the most memorable job you had prior to becoming an attorney?

Memorable does not always mean “good.” My most memorable job was working in a warehouse packing various fulfillment orders the summer before I attended law school. It certainly reinforced that I had made the right decision to continue my education and go to law school.

What’s something that you wish you could tell your younger self?

I would tell myself to take advantage of more opportunities and to not be afraid of pursuing opportunities that were outside of my comfort zone.

What’s been the biggest change in the practice of law since you began?

I would say it is how technology has impacted the profession. Even 20 years ago when I started practicing law, the use of email and other communication technologies was not as widespread as it is now. I think that electronic filing, email and social media, among other things, have significantly impacted the way lawyers deal with the courts, clients, the media and the general public. Many of these changes have been positive developments to be sure, but it has presented countless complications and ethical problems as well.

Why is it important to be active within legal and community organizations?

So many of our organizations, including our state and local bar associations and bar foundations, could not operate without the involvement of volunteers. This work helps to inform major legal policies affecting all Hoosiers and in the case of the Indiana Bar Foundation, volunteer attorneys are able to help educate students not only about the importance of the rule of law, the legal system and our Constitution but also to help protect the rights of all Hoosiers by representing people in need with low income.

One of the key components of the Indiana Bar Foundation’s mission is civic education and engagement, so this question certainly resonates with me and my current position at the foundation. I think it is important to be an active and engaged community member and this certainly applies to the legal community. So many of our organizations, including our state and local bar associations and bar foundations, could not operate without the involvement of volunteers. This work in turn helps to inform major legal policies affecting all Hoosiers and in the case of the Indiana Bar Foundation, volunteer attorneys are able to help educate students around the state not only about the importance of the rule of law, the legal system and our constitution but also to help protect the rights of all Hoosiers by representing people in need with low income. It is not an overstatement that without active and engaged volunteers, Indiana’s legal organizations would not be able to function adequately to meet their missions.

What will the legal profession look like in 15 years?

I think in the next 15 years the demand for legal representation by low-income Hoosiers will only increase. The challenge will continue to be how we as a community and profession are able to help low-income people around the state who need legal help, given the economic realities associated with the practice of law. I think that we will have to develop new models for the delivery of legal services to a large volume of people and hopefully enlist those attorneys who are currently willing to help but who are not economically able to do so without any compensation. I also think that the continuing progression of technology will be a key component to coming up with solutions in this area, which will also expand our profession’s speed, efficiency and scope.

What do you like the most about being an attorney? What do you like least?

I love the things that drew me to the profession in the beginning, like being able to help people in need and being able to help solve problems for people. On the other side of the equation are the frustrations about the legal system and some of the economics of the practice of law as a profession that exclude some lower- and middle-income segments of our society. This is one of the reasons I love my current position where we try to address those issues and try to ensure that everyone regardless of economic status has access to meaningful legal assistance.
 

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