The world has been flipped upside down during the course of a year. The pandemic has changed the way we live our lives, the way we interact with friends and colleagues and it’s certainly changed the practice of law. It has forced us to innovate and think in ways we haven’t had to think before. One thing that has not changed over the past year: the Indianapolis Bar Association’s commitment to the positive growth and development of early-career lawyers in our community.
That’s where the IndyBar Bar Leader Series comes in. The Bar Leader Series is an intensive year-long leadership development program designed to prepare early-career lawyers to take their places as both leaders in the legal profession and leaders in addressing needs of the community. With social distancing measures still in place, 2021 steering committee chair Justice Frank Sullivan and his fellow committee members have done what we’ve all become accustomed to since March of 2020: they pivoted and developed a comprehensive program for 2021 in the hopes of equipping these early-career professionals with tools to understand and conquer the long-standing AND new issues facing lawyers today.
We had the chance to catch up with Justice Sullivan to talk about this year’s Bar Leader Series programming and his vision for the 2021 participants. Applications for this year’s series are due April 30! Read more and apply at indybar.org/barleaderseries.
The Bar Leader Series is a longtime leadership program now in its 18th year. Could you summarize the premise of this year’s program?
The goal of the IndyBar Bar Leader Series Class XVIII is to prepare a cadre of talented and diverse early-career lawyers to take their places as both leaders in the legal profession and leaders in addressing the pressing needs of the community.
In your own words, describe the ideal candidate for the 2021 Bar Leader Series.
The ideal candidate for the Bar Leader Series is a member of IndyBar admitted to practice for at least two but not more than 10 years who has an intense desire to learn more about the profession and the community with an ultimate goal of serving both as a leader.
What’s your top piece of advice for early-career professionals who are considering participating in the Bar Leader Series?
My advice to individuals considering participating is, first, to obtain and complete the application available on the IndyBar website for the Bar Leader Series at indybar.org/barleaderseries. Answering the questions will itself cause the individual to focus on the mission of the series and his or her suitability for participating. Second, the IndyBar Bar Leader Series has a rich history; hundreds of judges and lawyers in our community have participated in the previous 17 series. Individuals considering participating should consider contacting one or more of the previous participants to discuss the experience. A list of many of those participants is available on the IndyBar website in conjunction with this year’s series.
The Bar Leader Series touches on a lot of topics that impact our community. Why do you think it’s important for participants to become engaged on these topics, many of which may seem unrelated to their practice?
The IndyBar Bar Leader Series is not a CLE; it is a leadership development program. Lawyers who seek to increase their substantive knowledge in their respective areas of practice should do so by taking appropriate CLE courses. The IndyBar Bar Leader Series is for lawyers who aspire to be both leaders in the legal profession and leaders addressing the pressing needs of the community. It is for that reason that many of the Bar Leader Series programs will be devoted to the pressing needs of our community.
Finally, what do you hope participants get out of this experience?
First, an appreciation of the central role of lawyers, from the earliest stages of their careers, in providing leadership to the legal profession and in addressing the pressing needs of the community. Second, an understanding of the pressing needs of the community, the institutions that are addressing them and the leadership structure, both professional and volunteer, of those institutions. Third, recognition of the various employment settings of individuals with law degrees in our community, starting with the traditional private practice of law but also including judging, government lawyers, in-house counsel and nonlawyer executive positions in business, government, and academia. Fourth, a new network of professional and personal contacts in the community consisting of fellow members of this IndyBar Bar Leader Series class itself as well as those involved in organizing the program and those who make presentations to it. •