All of us have known since our earliest days in law school that the American Bar Association exists as a national voice for our profession, and many of us belong. However, few of us would know that there is another powerful organization that works tirelessly to bring value to bar association members and to improve our profession. That organization is the National Conference of Bar Presidents, and our own IndyBar and IndyBar Foundation past-president, Christine Hayes Hickey, has just been installed as its new president.
All of us are very proud of her accomplishment, and I hope this short commentary will educate you about the NCBP and motivate you to renew your own engagement in the bar. I also hope that it will serve as encouragement for you to begin paying closer attention to the fast-moving changes in the business and profession of law.
The membership of the NCBP consists of bar leaders from as many as 53 states and territories. It includes state, city, county and some specialty bar associations. (For example, officers of the Indianapolis Bar Association and the Indiana State Bar Association attend multiple NCBP meetings a year to receive training and information as they move up within their respective organizations.) Because of the number of bar associations, there are literally hundreds of bar leaders who attend the NCBP meetings.
Side by side with the NCBP are the National Conference of Bar Executives and the National Conference of Bar Foundations. Your Indianapolis and Indiana State bars also send representatives to these meetings. The presentations and training at these meetings are cutting edge, and all attendees bring back innovative ideas to their organizations for their members.
The leaders of NCBP are acutely aware that bar membership and bar participation have stagnated as young lawyers cease to see value in bar associations, fewer lawyers are coming out of law school, and law firms are less likely than in the past to provide financial support for bar engagement. Consequently, NCBP has long focused on the future of the profession, law practice management, and recruitment, mentoring and engagement of millennial lawyers.
Chris Hickey has been instrumental in the NCBP’s “21st Century Lawyer” program, and I encourage you to learn about it. This program has given intense focus on where our profession is headed and what lawyers and law firms need to be doing to survive and thrive. Anyone who participates in this program will be far ahead of rank-and-file lawyers in their understanding of what law will be like in the immediate and looming future. (Older dogs like me have had our eyes opened.)
Indiana and Indianapolis are fortunate to have Chris Hickey in this important role. We will all benefit from her knowledge and her efforts.
So, how are you most likely to learn about the future of law and the cutting edges of law practice management? The answer is simple — renew your engagement and your support for bar association activity. You can continue practicing law like you have always done with your head down and your eyes closed to change, or you can show up at bar meetings and seminars and support committee participation. You can incentivize your young lawyers to be active. You can urge your firm leaders to attend practice management forums and workshops.
Many lawyers are already being left behind and have not seen change coming (or they have denied it.) Don’t let your own firm be a victim of change denial.
If Chris Hickey and the NCBP have their way, 21st century lawyers of all ages will jump on board and embrace and promote change. Our profession is in good hands. Please join me in congratulating Chris and in supporting her and the efforts of the NCBP! #WillYouBeThere?•
John C. Trimble (@indytrims) is a senior partner at the Indianapolis firm of Lewis Wagner LLP. He is a self-described bar association “junkie” who admits that he spends an inordinate amount of time on law practice management, judicial independence and legal profession issues. The opinions expressed are those of the author.