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IndyBar: Why Attending Bench Bar is a Great Idea

May 18, 2016

By Magistrate Tiffany Vivo, Marion Circuit Court

Baseball fans have forever wondered and speculated about what is said on the pitcher’s mound, or when the team manager or pitching coach meets with the pitcher, catcher and shortstop during a World Series game. It is during those mini team-meetings at the pitcher’s mound that the smallest detail of game strategy and tactics are debated and decided. These mini team-meetings at the pitcher’s mound may just be the origins of the term “inside baseball,” which refers to the detail-oriented approach to mastering a particular subject. “Inside baseball” is the specialized knowledge about a particular topic that is not generally appreciated by outsiders.

The Bench Bar Conference is where judges and lawyers learn the “inside baseball” of our profession. Here are reasons why you should take advantage of this great opportunity and consider attending this year’s Bench Bar.

What Judges Learn

Judges welcome the opportunity to talk to lawyers on a casual basis, because judges want and need to know about the challenges facing lawyers who appear before them. Our profession is not immune to change. Changes in the law, demographics, social norms and technology, to name just a few, impact how lawyers practice law, and it’s important that judges are aware of and appreciate those influences. Judges rely on lawyers to aid them in understanding the facts of a case, as well as the law that governs the conduct, obligations and rights of litigants. Judges who attend Bench Bar have opportunities to learn from smart lawyers, thereby making those judges better at their craft.

What Lawyers Learn

Every lawyer who has experienced an unfavorable decision has asked this question: “What was the judge thinking?” Bench Bar is a lawyer’s opportunity to gain a better understanding of how judges weigh evidence and apply the law. In other words, lawyers can learn some “inside baseball” by talking to judges and gaining a better understanding of how judges think about cases assigned to them for consideration. The insight gained from a judge’s thought processes then becomes a valuable tool in assisting a lawyer to become an effective advocate and practitioner.

Bridging the Gap

The informal conversations that take place at Bench Bar bridge the gap that can develop when busy judges and busy lawyers do not have the luxury of having those informal conversations during busy work weeks and heavy dockets and caseloads. Nor is it always appropriate for lawyers and judges to have informal conversations, say just before or just after a hearing or trial, when a lay person may perceive the conversation as “too cozy.” Bench Bar is a great place for judges and lawyers to talk, share ideas, learn from each other and gain an appreciation that outside of the courtroom, judges and lawyers are people too.•

To register for the 2016 Bench Bar Conference, visit indybenchbar.org.

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