By Martha Lehman, SmithAmundsen LLC
Are you wondering why you should donate to the Indianapolis Bar Foundation? Meet Caren Chopp, and you will understand the importance of the IBF and the funding that it provides. When you talk with Chopp about her job, her eyes light up as she describes the numerous ways in which the Indianapolis Bar Association and the Indianapolis Bar Foundation serve the local community. Donations to the IBF fund this work both directly and indirectly.
As the IndyBar’s Pro Bono and Legal Services Coordinator, Chopp is responsible for putting much of the $85,000 that is granted to the IndyBar by the IBF to good use each year. Those grants fully fund all IndyBar pro bono programs, including staff support. They provide significant support to events like the Diversity Job Fair and the Bench Bar Conference, and they enable IndyBar members to enjoy top-notch technology like online CLE.
Chopp took a roundabout way in getting to her position, but now that she interacts with attorneys on a daily basis, she rates that work as the best part of her day. She praises the attorneys of the Indianapolis Bar Association who provide pro bono services and says that the work of the IndyBar and the IBF is robust.
Chopp graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in business and a specialization in hotel & restaurant management. She began working at the Hyatt in Denver, Colorado, and later moved to the Hyatt Hotel in Chicago. As part of her job duties, she planned meetings at the hotel. Eventually, the American Bar Association hired her as a meeting planner for its Litigation Section. Chopp developed an expertise in working with and for attorneys as the Litigation Section serviced over 60,000 members at that time. While she was in Chicago, Chopp met her future husband. He got transferred to Indianapolis, and she moved to Indy in order to work with a meeting planning company. Later, the IndyBar advertised its need for a meeting planner. Chopp started as a meeting planner for the IndyBar and began working with IndyBar pro bono programs in 2003.
Despite Chopp’s obvious affinity for pro bono work, the IBF funds other programs, like the IndyBar’s Diversity Job Fair. The Diversity Job Fair gives the bar a chance to bring talented students back to Indiana. Chopp refers to it as “reversing the brain drain.” Over the years, students from as far away as Utah, San Diego, Arizona and North Carolina have attended the fair. Chopp maintains that the Diversity Job Fair is one of the IBF’s most successful outreach programs.
Chopp is equally proud of the bar’s Hospice Program, which is funded, like all IndyBar pro bono programs, through IBF grants. The Hospice Program is a collaboration with various local hospitals, including Indiana University, St. Francis and Eskenazi Health. The program’s attorneys each take a calendar week to serve as a volunteer. During that time, attorneys answer calls for emergency health care powers of attorney, wills and/or financial powers of attorney. Chopp notes that the attorneys who participate have the opportunity to bring some needed peace of mind to those in need and their families.
Chopp also talked about the number of volunteers and their responsiveness. As part of the bar’s pro bono efforts, Chopp places cases where Legal Aid has a conflict. She has a roster of attorneys that she knows that she can reach out to for assistance with a case, and can find a match for a case in as little as 20 minutes. At the present time, there are more than 100 family law volunteers with over 100 active cases in the community. These involve matters such as divorce, child support and grandparent custody and guardianship.
Chopp also works with the IndyBar’s Bar Leader Series and coordinates the IndyBar’s attendance at the 24 naturalization ceremonies that take place in Indianapolis each year. And if that is not enough, she continues to provide support to the various committees within the bar.
If you see Caren Chopp at an IndyBar or IBF event, thank her for all the work that she does. Each donation to the IBF helps underwrite much of the important work she does each day and plays an important part in enriching the lives of residents in central Indiana. Now more than ever, join the IBF in advancing justice and leading positive change in Indianapolis.•