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Planning for the Future: The IndyBar Strategic Plan

November 30, 2016

Much like a good map (or app) on a road trip, successful organizations rely on a plan to guide them into the future. The strategic planning process—one that the Indianapolis Bar Association has undertaken since the early 1990s—is a crucial practice that charts the course for the coming years, setting priorities, focusing energy and strengthening the organization.

While many things have changed since the association’s first strategic plan, one thing hasn’t—the IndyBar’s commitment to a continual evaluation of the needs of the legal community and the role that the association plays in it. IndyBar strategic plans are formulated for three-year periods, which allows for creation and implementation of deliverables that execute plan goals while also ensuring that the next iteration isn’t too far off to address new challenges and opportunities that arise.

With 2016 marking the final year of the current plan, the strategic planning process—the plan to make the plan—kicked off in August.

The Process

The IndyBar Strategic Planning Task Force met in French Lick, Indiana, on August 26, 2016, for the purpose of developing the bar’s next strategic plan. The task force represented a cross section of the Indianapolis legal community, including involved members, passive members and non-members from a variety of practice environments and areas. Mary Byers, a speaker, author, facilitator and consultant, was engaged to lead the planning process.

The strategic planning session started with an exercise designed to help focus participants on the task at hand. Participants were given paper and crayons and asked to draw a picture of what they’d like the IndyBar to look like in the future. These images were shared and words were captured to begin crafting the vision for the IndyBar. A list of strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities was then developed.

Using this information, participants were asked to make lists of what they believed the IndyBar should focus on over the next three years, for the purpose of identifying priorities. Of the priorities identified, five were selected as overarching goals. Participants then spent time clarifying each one, including identifying assumptions and addressing accountability.

The Priorities

Priorities identified for the 2017-2020 Strategic Plan:

1. Transform the Bench Bar Conference to elevate the experience.

The Bench Bar Conference was identified by many as a hallmark event for the IndyBar, one that brings together practitioners from a variety of practice environments and experiences with our judiciary. Many Indy judges and attorneys have gained practical education as well as fond memories during this collegial annual event, but could it become more?

A number of ideas were generated for raising the bar of the Bench Bar Conference—everything from community service events to wellness activities and even a name change. Throughout the next three years, Bench Bar Conference Chairs and committee members will pull from this list of ideas to make the Bench Bar Conference even more inclusive and impactful.

iba-retreat-strategic-plan-15col The IndyBar Board of Directors convened for its annual Leadership Retreat in November 2016. The Strategic Plan was a major topic during the retreat. Here, board members Eric Engebretson, Whitham Hebenstreit & Zubek LLP; Jacob Bradley, Quarles & Brady LLP; Nissa Ricafort, Broyles Kight & Ricafort PC; Commissioner James Snyder, Marion Superior Court; and James Bell, Paganelli Law Group, engage in a brainstorming exercise.

2. Help members get and stay professionally, financially, physically and mentally healthy.

While advances in technology have undoubtedly made aspects of the practice easier, 24/7 demands mean that the stress and pressure to perform are greater than ever. Lawyers serve a crucial purpose in our society, but they can’t do that job well if they aren’t tending to their own professional, financial, physical and mental health. Through programs, resources and events, the IndyBar will help members improve and maintain their wellness as they serve in their important roles in our community.

3. Provide services that allow firms and practitioners to be more productive and profitable.

As the local bar association, the IndyBar has a duty to provide members with tools, resources and benefits that allow them to achieve their goals and find success in the profession. As an increasing number of members make their way without the safety net of a large firm or mentors, this role is more important than ever. This priority will focus the bar on creating and bringing to members services and benefits that make their practices more productive and more profitable.

4. Pilot and offer a tiered dues structure.

The duty to belong has long since passed. Today, the onus is on the association to prove value and demonstrate a return on investment. The “one size fits all” approach is unlikely to serve members or the association in the coming years. Creating and rolling out a tiered “a la carte” dues structure that allows individuals to build and customize their membership will result in more engaged and satisfied members.

5. Identify space that provides for optimal use and convenience for IndyBar staff and members.

Today, IndyBar members are spread throughout the metropolitan area in a variety of settings, from virtual offices to the traditional large firms. While these practice environments have consistently evolved, the IndyBar’s physical space hasn’t. As the current office lease ticks down to an end in January 2018, IndyBar leaders will consider a variety of questions: Should the IndyBar office be downtown? Would a satellite office be worthwhile? What about parking? And how can the office better serve members as a “home away from home?”

Short-term fixes are already in place due to space reconfigurations in the IndyBar office. New private workstations are available to members throughout the workday, and members are invited to make themselves at home between meetings, hearings or before and after educational programs.

It’s Your Turn

Member input is crucial as these priorities are transformed into concrete plans. Individuals interested in participating in work groups to address various priorities within the Strategic Plan are encouraged to contact Julie Armstrong at jarmstrong@indybar.org.•

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