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IndyBar: President's Column — The Bar Association’s Role as Mentor

June 27, 2018

iba-pres-bell-james-2018Because you are reading The Indiana Lawyer, I’m going to assume that you’re an attorney. And if you are reading this in print format, I am going to assume that you’re at least over 40 years old. And if you’re an attorney who is at least 40 years old and you have practiced this long, I’m going to assume that you’re fairly happy to be a lawyer.

After all, the practice has been good to you. Sure, the Managing Partner did not give you the corner office he had “sort of” promised. According to the Managing Partner, someone more “productive” got the corner office. (Or so he claims. You’ve looked at the firm’s coveted “production metrics” and you don’t see the difference between your numbers and the other guys’. This has led you to the conclusion that that Managing Partner likes the other guy better. (And you’re probably right. That other guy is pretty cool.)) And while Corner-Office-Gate has created an international incident, there are a lot of younger attorneys who wish they had your “problem.”

You see, you were kind of lucky. You entered law school knowing with pretty good certainty that you would get a job at the end of it all and you had the peace of mind that the investment you made in a legal education would be worth it. When you received your letter in the mail (what is a letter?) that explained you had passed the bar exam, you knew what you were going to do after you were sworn in because you had what was called “a job.”

Here is the list of things that you took for granted that likely came along with that “job:”

A mentor who taught you how to practice law.

Although there was some assembly required, that mentor likely came complete with clients who had problems you could try to solve.

That “job” likely also came with someone who understood the business side of the practice of law. That someone likely knew how to manage a trust account, select malpractice insurance, handle financing of a business and set up office systems.

That job better have also come with a steady paycheck that made paying your student loans a really bad dream and not a nightmare.

And finally, that job probably came with an office, war rooms to work on cases, colleagues to bounce stuff off of and break rooms to decompress with friends.

Nowadays, it’s not necessarily like that for the youngest members of our profession. Not everyone gets a “job.” Our brand-new attorneys in Indianapolis are talented, but they are putting up a shingle and going at it alone, which can be a little intimidating.

In its continuing effort to enhance the legal profession, the IndyBar has attempted to fill the void left by the decrease in jobs for students coming directly out of law school.

We have an Education Center that is constantly full of young lawyers learning how to practice law—and doing so at free or the most competitively priced CLE programs in the region.

We have services like the Lawyer Referral Service and Indy Lawyer Finder that help connect clients to attorneys.

Experienced attorneys like Josh Brown, Rebecca Geyer, Holly Wanzer and Erin Clancy have helped others develop a product called Practice Builder that takes solo and small firm attorneys through each step of building their practice.

We are beginning to help younger attorneys find ways to tackle the crippling debt they are facing.

We are looking for a new home that will provide space for attorneys to work on their cases, take a deposition, meet with clients and more importantly, hang out with their colleagues to decompress.

Most importantly, our members are taking time to mentor the youngest members of our profession through both structured programs like Mentor Connect and the Indy Attorneys Network and unstructured opportunities at bar events and programs.

These services and benefits are only the beginning of what the IndyBar hopes to offer its members. We are continually evaluating the needs of our legal community and have volunteers at the ready to craft resources to serve those needs.

Thank you to the IndyBar’s members who are finding a way to make a difference for the next generation of lawyers. As we head into the second half of the year, there will be opportunities for everyone to mentor, train and provide the newest members of our profession. It is our hope that you will be willing to make an investment in the Indy legal community that has given you so much (but not a corner office).•

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