Serving as president of the IndyBar has been one of the highlights of my career. Doing so during a global pandemic that has profoundly affected our profession and a social justice movement with equal import on our community has made it both unexpected and extraordinary. Admittedly, I have worried at different points in the year whether the IndyBar’s work has made a difference for our colleagues and neighbors in such an exceptional year. Then I reflect on the accomplishments we’ve made: moving into the new IndyBarHQ space and then pivoting all programming to a virtual format, hosting more programming that has been attended by more members than at any point in recent memory, converting our biannual in-person Ask a Lawyer legal advice program to a virtual model accessible to our neighbors anytime they have a legal question, working with the IndyBar Foundation on the Crisis Empowerment Grant program that supports pro bono work, creating the IndyBar Commission on Racial Justice, Diversity and Inclusion to make tangible changes within the IndyBar and the broader legal profession, converting the IndyBar Review course to reflect a completely different bar exam and seeing our students achieve a 100 percent pass rate and all the other leadership, networking and educational programs and opportunities the IndyBar provides. Yes, our work makes a difference.
Another unique way that I know our work counts is a recent gathering of past presidents of the IndyBar and the IndyBar Foundation. Nearly 50 past presidents came together to celebrate the IndyBar’s history and accomplishments. What was astounding was that we had past presidents spanning five decades. Indeed, the past presidents from 1970 (Skip Kappes), 1980 (Ray Good), 1990 (Don Buttrey) and 2000 (Karen Turner) all joined the numerous other presidents from years past. When we consider the accomplishments of these presidents — just four years of IndyBar history — the impact of our association on our profession is crystalline.
Skip Kappes was admitted to the Indiana Bar in 1948 and continues to practice into his nineties. He assumed the reins of the IndyBar in 1970 before the IndyBar had any paid professional staff. Ten years later, Ray Good took the helm and, although he never struggled with substance abuse or depression, he saw a need and was a major force behind the creation of JLAP. In 2019-2020, that organization presented to more than 4,000 lawyers throughout the state and has taken nearly 400 calls for assistance.
In 1990, Don Buttrey led the IndyBar with an enormous impact. Through the IndyBar, Don was a catalyst for the creation of our current public defender system. Don also moved the IndyBar Foundation toward the organization it is now, with external fundraising beyond the Fellows program and, in turn, granting dollars to organizations beyond the IndyBar. Then, in 2000, Karen Turner was a rare in-house counsel that served as president. Karen was instrumental in launching the Ask a Lawyer program to grow the IndyBar’s community outreach.
These are just four years of IndyBar, yet they represent the development of some of the most impactful programs that the IndyBar and our profession continue to provide today. The years in between and since have been similarly productive. In sum, the IndyBar (more so than many other professional organizations) provides products, programs and resources that benefit lawyers across the profession — from solo attorneys to BigLaw. Fortunately, it doesn’t take a pandemic to show its value.
As 2020 comes to a close, we should celebrate a successful, albeit completely different, year than we expected at the IndyBar. We are fortunate to be well-positioned to continue to support and promote our profession as we rise out of the pandemic and return to in-person events and opportunities. Skip, Ray, Don and Karen represent over 50 years of IndyBar leadership, and I’m proud to follow in their shoes. Despite the challenges of 2020, I am no longer worried about whether the IndyBar is adding value — that is unquestionable. And more importantly, we are prepared for future success under the leadership of Jimmie McMillian, Hon. Alicia Gooden, and Rebecca Geyer.•