IndyBar: Who Is This Guy? How Did He Become President of IndyBar? And Why Should We Care About IndyBar Anyway?

On Jan. 16, I had the honor of being installed as the 142nd president of the Indianapolis Bar Association. Many of you are asking: Who is this guy? How did he become the president of the Indianapolis Bar Association? And why should I care about, and be active in, the IndyBar?

I won’t belabor my history. Instead, subscribe to the podcast Off the Record with James Bell (and leave a glowing review and five-star rating). On an episode to be released Jan. 28, James and I talk about a wide range of topics, from my folk trio Marble Moon, to Montana and the IU McKinney School of Law, work/life balance, the legal market and law firm mergers and the IndyBar, among many other topics.

How did I become president of the Indianapolis Bar Association? Well, in 1878, 40 lawyers, including future President Benjamin Harrison and Vice President Charles Fairbanks, came together to create a law library and reading room for lawyers, judges and law students. By 1910, they had over 7,000 volumes and the Indianapolis Bar Association was thriving. Jump ahead 100 years. In 2010, I was a fifth-year associate at then-Baker & Daniels when a senior partner, Carl Pebworth, said that the IndyBar was looking for a new chair of the Pro Bono Committee. I told Carl, “You must be flattered, but aren’t you a little too busy to be chair of the Pro Bono Committee?” Carl laughed and explained that he already volunteered me for the position. I jumped at the chance to lead the IndyBar’s pro bono initiatives for the next few years. Like many of us, all it took was for someone to ask.

After five years on the Indianapolis Bar Foundation board and a few more years on the IndyBar Board, James Bell was nominated for president. I thought, “Well they’ll take just about anybody, so I might as well throw my hat in the ring…” Seriously, my pledge to the nominating committee was that I would be an active leader to fulfill the IndyBar mission to “serve our members, promote justice, and enhance the legal profession.”

What does the IndyBar do and why should we care and be active? Today, the IndyBar serves its members with 18 legal sections that provide expertise, resources, networking, referrals, CLE and much more. Four divisions represent the unique interests of law students, solo and small firm lawyers, women and the law, and young lawyers. Twenty committees provide products and services like the IndyBar Review Course, the Diversity Job Fair, Law Practice Management, Practice Builder, legislative relations, paralegal support and a dozen pro bono initiatives. In short, while the physical law library of 1878 may be gone, the IndyBar’s commitment to serving its members is robust and unwavering.

The IndyBar is equally committed to promoting justice. At the State of the Judiciary Address, Chief Justice Rush talked about spending a recent morning in small claims court. The docket had 275 eviction cases. The Chief Justice recalled that none of the tenants had a lawyer. Not one. They all faced the judge and the landlord’s lawyer alone. “That is not the model of a legal system that promotes justice,” Chief Justice Rush proclaimed. Ironically, at the same time, Mayor Hogsett was announcing a new landlord-tenant initiative. One part of that initiative will set up a hotline for tenants when they experience legal issues. Those calls will be referred to attorneys through the Tenant Legal Assistance Project. The IndyBar will be one of the legal service providers to recruit volunteer attorneys to provide advice and representation. This is just one of the many ways that the IndyBar is committed to promoting justice.

Finally, the IndyBar is dedicated to enhancing the legal profession. Our new three-year strategic plan will enhance the connection of lawyers in an increasingly disconnected world. We raised more than $500,000 to sign a new lease for ground-floor space on the corner of Illinois and Ohio Streets. The newly renovated space (opening March 2) will be a beautiful member-centric hub of activity for law students, lawyers, judges and paralegals.

The strategic plan will also continue to support and assist lawyers’ entrepreneurial professional development. We will nurture the relationship between the members of the bench and bar, particularly as the Marion County courts prepare to move into a new justice center outside the mile-square. We will invest in the infrastructure that bridges lawyers and the community through education and service. And we will support, engage, develop and retain diverse lawyers in leadership roles in the IndyBar and the community.

In sum, the IndyBar’s commitment to its members is strong. If you share these values, then join us or renew your membership. I look forward to actively serving you over the next year.•

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