After years of leadership in local and national bar organizations, Rubin & Levin P.C. managing partner Christine Hayes Hickey has assumed a new role that will allow her to provide leadership to other “lawyer-leaders” like herself: president of the National Conference of Bar Presidents.
Hickey, whose Indianapolis-based practice focuses on creditors’ rights and commercial litigation, first became involved with NCBP when she was president of the Indianapolis Bar Association in 2010. She’s since gone on to serve as secretary, treasurer, Sponsorship Committee chair and a member of the Executive Council for the national organization, which provides resources to state and local bar leaders in 53 states and territories.
As NCBP president, Hickey will draw on her experience leading not only the IndyBar, but also the Indianapolis Bar Foundation and the National Conference of Bar Foundations. Hickey’s professional resume also includes involvement with the Indiana State Bar Association and American Bar Association.
Armed with that experience, Hickey aims to equip today’s bar leaders with the tools they need to provide effective service to their members. That includes connecting them to NCBP resources, such as Bar President, a publication that provides updates on information relevant to leading a bar organization, and 21st Century Lawyer, a program that uses technology to connect attorneys from various parts of the world, allowing them to engage in live dialogues. Such tools enable bar leaders to learn from the experiences of their fellow lawyer-leaders, Hickey said.
And in a time when the legal profession is changing rapidly, Hickey hopes her new leadership role and longtime involvement with various bar organizations will serve as an example of the benefits of bar membership. Here’s a look at her plans for her time as NCBP president and her take on the issues currently facing bar associations and their leaders.
IL: What will your role be as NCBP president and what issues do you plan to address?
CH: The mission of NCBP is to inform, educate and train bar leaders. Our goal is to help them be better leaders and, in turn, to strengthen bar associations nationwide. We focus on current legal issues, the future of the law, governance and leadership skills, and we engage them in dialogue with other lawyer-leaders from diverse bars and geographical locations. Our NCBP leadership is the best of the best, and my role as president is to work with them to reach more bars and incoming leaders and to continue to be that source of cutting-edge dialogue on critical issues facing our bars and profession. … Throughout my presidency, we will be looking for opportunities for collaboration and ways to bring more diverse leaders up the ladder.
IL: What are some of the challenges currently facing bar associations and their leaders, and how do you plan to address those challenges?
CH: It is a challenging time for bar associations, with changes in the legal world the likes of which we have never seen — virtual practices, artificial intelligence, pressures from outside entities in our legal space, declining bar passage rates, young lawyer engagement and an aging lawyer population, diversity and inclusion in our profession and our bar associations, and the ever-present issue of relevancy. Bar leaders have the challenge of dealing with the normal pressures of leading an association and also being forward-thinking, with access to the right resources to know and understand the legal landscape of tomorrow. NCBP provides those resources and the opportunity to engage in discussion on each of these critical issues.
IL: You’ve been involved in bar associations throughout your legal career. How has that involvement benefitted your career?
CH: Bar association involvement has given me so much more than I could ever give back. It has brought me close to some of the most extraordinary people who, one by one, have given me gifts that I can only hope to pass on to others: a recognition that lawyers are true leaders and that each one of us has something special to offer, a passion and joy that fills what would otherwise be “just” a legal career, and an understanding of how to lead. I cannot imagine having come on this journey without being involved in the bar.
IL: You’ve been president of the Indianapolis Bar Association and Foundation, and National Conference of Bar Foundations. How will those leadership experiences influence your work as president of NCBP?
CH: Every leadership role is unique and special, and each has given me experience and skills to help guide me in future volunteer and professional positions. Bar foundation work is essential to so many things that we as lawyers do and all that we value: giving back, solving problems in our community and organizing for the benefit of others. I have been fortunate to work with dedicated boards here in Indianapolis and nationally for the NCBF. The impact bar foundations have on a national level cannot be overstated, and their critical tie to their associations cannot be overlooked.
As president of the Indianapolis Bar Association, I followed a long list of truly amazing lawyer-leaders and had the pleasure of working with our second-to-none executive director, Julie Armstrong, and her staff. I was fortunate to have officers and a board that worked as a team to tackle issues that faced our bar back in 2010, and it is my presidency of the IBA that led me to NCBP. As president of NCBP, I have the benefit of having worked at the national level on the foundation side, and I am keenly aware of the importance of the connection between law-related organizations. I have begun outreach to other national legal associations, and my hope is to find ways to collaborate to strengthen all of our members and lawyer-leaders nationwide.
IL: What role do bar associations play in today’s legal field, and how can bar leaders encourage lawyers to take advantage of bar membership?
CH: Bar involvement is essential to today’s practicing lawyer, regardless of whether you are a solo practitioner, big firm lawyer, in public service or serve as in-house counsel. It is impossible to quantify the personal and professional benefits of bar involvement. You learn from others. You establish a family in the legal community. You open up opportunities for leadership. You create friendships. You establish a referral network. You learn about relevant and substantive legal issues. You become a better lawyer. You become a better person as part of a diverse bar brought together in the way only bar associations can. For all of us that have reaped the benefits of our bar associations, it is incumbent upon us to share our secret of success with all other lawyers, young and old. While some say it used to be “just what you did,” belonging to a bar association, I say it still is exactly what you need to do to open the door to greater success, a passion in your professional life, and a true love of the law and lawyers.•