Building Bridges

Jennifer and I had a wonderful time visiting the Kimbrough Bar Association and the Lake County Bar Association this past week. Both groups extended warm hospitality as we reunited with old friends and picked up some new ones. The experiences and conversations of both gatherings left several impressions on me that seem fit for sharing.

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Yes, Jeff Lind, my name and the numeral 1 appear on the back of the T-shirt to designate me as the new #1 honorary Kimbrough member ;>)

The Kimbrough Bar Association welcomed us like family during its annual  reception for the ISBA president at the Valparaiso School of Law on Thursday, January 29. Kimbrough’s President, the Hon. Gina Jones, declared me an honorary Kimbrough member and gave me a Kimbrough-logoed T-shirt to commemorate the occasion.

Kimbrough members Robin Rucker and Adedoyin Gomih, who also serve with me on the ISBA Board of Governors, gave testimonials about the strong diversity component of the ISBA’s long-range plan implementation. I responded to their testimonies with my personal opinion that a bar association becomes diverse when diverse people build bridges beyond their enclaves and embrace each other. Cultural nuances may feel like barriers when a member of one group enters another enclave, but when everyone extends and receives grace and compassion, those nuances ripen into the rich fruit that diversity makes possible. When everyone lives and works freely with everyone else, diversity matures from promise to fulfillment.

Several Valparaiso law students asked the other lawyers and me for career advice during the gathering. I could not hear all of the wise counsel that my peers offered, but three pointers came to mind in my conversations:

  1. Prepare thoroughly and engage opportunities boldly, so that you can say at the end of the day that you grew into your commitments.
  2. Legal careers choose lawyers perhaps as much as lawyers choose careers, so always be ready to follow the road less traveled when it appears unexpectedly.
  3. Always grow as a lawyer by adapting to innovative forms and functions, embracing technological change, and expanding your voice and the circles of influence in which the world may hear you.

As the reception concluded, I encouraged the Kimbrough officers and board members to explore the ISBA’s offerings of local bar association support services. Many local bar associations may not be aware of it, but the ISBA offers a wide variety of local bar association help, including the development, hosting, and maintenance of local bar association websites. The ISBA’s support services help bridge the gap for local bar associations that lack administrative staff and resources so that their members can focus on service with fewer administrative encumbrances.

We attended the Lake County Bar Association’s annual reception and dinner for the installation of its new president and board members on Friday, January 30. Once again, old and new friends extended warm welcome to Jennifer and me.

A service theme emerged in conversations and speeches throughout Friday evening. Outgoing President Michael Tolbert praised several long-standing and active LCBA members, and singled out LCBA (and ISBA) board member Scott Yahne for his exceptionally selfless service to the association. Keynote speaker and Indiana Supreme Court Justice, the Hon. Stephen David, challenged the crowd to commit 60 minutes per month to public service in the Bar Association and surrounding community. Incoming President Jacquelyn Pillar built on Justice David’s challenge by encouraging members to commit at least two hours per month to get out of the office and build relationships (bridges) with one another.

Everywhere I turn in the Indiana Bar, lawyers, judges, and other affiliated legal service professionals are connecting and improving their parts of the state. We ISBA presidents probably wear out clichés about the honor of serving, but it is hard not to feel pride about the ISBA’s bridge-building activities. If you don’t feel connected to the ISBA, grab your hardhat; we probably have a bridge-building opportunity in your part of the state.

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