I don’t think my husband Mike or I have missed a Bench Bar Conference since we started going in 1994. Tom Davis was the president of the IndyBar and Neil Shook was the very first Bench Bar Conference Chair. Tom told me he stole the idea from the St. Louis and Kansas City Bar Associations, and our Bench Bar Conference is now larger than either one. Neil did such a great job of chairing it, that he did it for two years. These were two fine lawyers who had vision.
Those readers who haven’t been to a Bench Bar Conference might wonder why we and so many other lawyers go every year. My answer: it’s really fun. Mike’s answer: it’s really fun AND it’s great for business.
Since I’m president of the bar this year, I got to choose the venue, which is frankly pretty limited. There aren’t many hotels that can accommodate a conference of our size. I happily chose French Lick. I like that the location encourages socializing as a group. I also have a soft spot in my heart for French Lick. Mike and I have so many memories that we made there. Mine were mostly in the spa, his were in the Power Plant Lounge.
Many years ago, a group of lawyers, including Mike and me, started getting together for Thursday night dinner at a local restaurant, just to start things off right. Within a few years, the group got to be so big the IndyBar started having an optional Thursday night banquet. That became just as popular as the rest of the conference, so now it’s part of the package. I miss the smaller group, but you can’t fight progress.
Bob York and Bill Winingham love to play golf so they organize the Thursday golf outing which is a huge success every year. The rest of us non-golfers usually hang by the pool, soak up the sun and enjoy adult beverages. Someone had the great idea of adding even more fun to pool time by making it officially a party! This year we have a fun-loving group of young (at least I think of them as young, you might not) attorneys planning a big pool party for Thursday afternoon. I’m sure there will be stories!
The TED Talk format was terrific last year. We all attend hour-long seminars at lunch or the day-long conference, so the quick-hitting format of a TED Talk is refreshing and fast-paced. The speakers choose topics that interest them and they have 20 minutes to present the topic in an impactful way. It’s never boring.
Indiana Supreme Court Justice Mark Massa has arranged a national expert on bodycams to speak at a plenary session. There’s so much talk about wrongful police shootings and local funding of police bodycams, this presentation should be of great interest to all of us. I’ve been told Professor Stoughton will talk about the advantages and the limitations of bodycams. I’ve seen short videos that have made me question how much one should rely on a single angle camera shot. I’m anxious to know more, especially if they become one of IMPD’s law enforcement tools.
Speaking of Justice Massa, one of the things that makes Bench Bar so great is all of our wonderful judges who attend. I know they enjoy the chance to get to know lawyers outside of the courtroom. We have a Saturday morning session with some of the judges, led by James Bell. I think it’ll be fun and informative.
Locally, we’ve heard a lot about the legal obligation to report suspected child abuse, especially in the context of a lawyer coming across such allegations. I’ve listened to lots of attorneys “guessing” at what the obligation is and how it might conflict with the attorney’s obligation of confidentiality to the client. I’ll confess that I don’t know the answers but if I practiced law, I’d certainly find out (or keep an ethics lawyer’s phone number on speed dial). You can’t know when or if you might come across this sort of dilemma and you’d better have some idea of what to do, or not do, just in case you’re confronted with it. Mark Glazer and Kevin McGoff are going to break down the issues for us.
For the past couple years, the Indianapolis Bar Foundation has included a Trivia Night right after Friday night dinner. It was so successful last year that they brought in extra chairs and still people were standing. If you think you might not be good at trivia, I have two responses: someone is bound to be worse and the money goes to a worthwhile cause, our foundation. You won’t want to miss this, especially if you haven’t been to a Trivia Night before. I attended the recent Cinco de Mayo Trivia Night and everyone laughed all evening long. I have been to a lot of these and I’ve never had a bad time. I’ve only guessed a few right answers.
Did I mention earlier that Bench Bar can be a great networking event? Mike tells me every year that within a couple of weeks of Bench Bar, some lawyer he saw there referred a client to him. Frequently it’s because the lawyer had a conflict and much of the time it’s because the lawyer doesn’t do bankruptcy, probate or divorce work, areas that Mike enjoys. It’s surprising how much just being seen at a professional event like Bench Bar can trigger others to think to send you a client. You just never know.
So, the best advice I can give you is to come to Bench Bar, have a great time, get to know other lawyers and lots of judges, and maybe bring home a new client or two. I hope to see you there!•
Online registration and the full agenda for Bench Bar 2016 can be found online at indybenchbar.org.