TCBAB (Taking Care of Bar Association Business)

By Jeff R. Hawkins
ISBA President, 2014-15

The Indiana State Bar Association’s Board of Governors has been hard at work to stretch the ISBA budget and squeeze as much value out of it for members as possible. As I was thinking about this update, I thought of the classic Bachman-Turner Overdrive tune, “Takin’ Care of Business.” Your Board of Governors has certainly been taking care of ISBA business as it met for several hours in each of June and July, and scheduled a follow-up conference call for late August to finalize the 2015-16 budget.

Except for people living under rocks and those who were born yesterday, everyone knows that recovery from the previous decade’s economic crisis remains slow and tenuous. The ISBA shares with almost every Indiana law firm the sense of rising pressure to generate income and control costs. The Association’s expenses have outpaced income in recent years in spite of efforts by the Board of Governors to increase revenue and hold the line on expenses.

The ISBA Budget Committee scrutinized the Association’s financial records and offered recommendations about all expenditures to which the ISBA lacked contractual commitments in the June meeting of the Board of Governors during the Solo Small Firm Conference. Upon receiving those recommendations, the Board took its fiduciary responsibility seriously and made tough cost-cutting decisions.

The Board extended one of its toughest cost-cutting choices into the July meeting. After eight years as the most generous sponsor of Marcia Oddi’s Indiana Law Blog, the Board directed its officers to explore ILB funding alternatives with Ms. Oddi. After receiving the officers’ report of that dialogue at the July meeting, the Board determined that it must limit membership dues expenditures to items that benefit ISBA members more directly than a blog that offers no exclusive ISBA member benefits. Board members expressed appreciation for Ms. Oddi’s efforts, but determined that it would be more appropriate for her readers to support the blog than for ISBA members to continue bearing that burden disproportionately.

New Albany lawyer Todd Spurgeon and Brook lawyer Candace Armstrong led an all-star cast of ISBA members as chair and vice chair, respectively, of the new Revenue Enhancement Special Committee this year. The Board of Governors directed the Committee to examine every reasonable opportunity to increase ISBA revenue, with an emphasis on non-dues revenue enhancement. The Committee upended every boulder and pebble, and presented a thorough report to the Board last weekend. The report recommended several practical and insightful non-dues revenue improvements that the Board passed on to ISBA staff. Ultimately, however, the Committee advised the Board that non-dues revenue, alone, cannot fill the ISBA’s budgetary gap. After holding the line on membership dues rates for six years, it was obvious to the Board it would have to offer a dues recommendation to the House of Delegates this fall.

A couple of new revenue developments encouraged the Board of Governors during the July meeting. First, the staff reported that lawyers within their first six years of practice were responding noticeably better to the new online membership registration renewal notices than they had responded in previous years to the old paper notices. Second, the staff reported that we have a growing number of faithful ISBA members participating in the new Sustaining Membership program.

Members of the Indiana State Bar Association’s Board of Governors deserve all ISBA members’ gratitude and praise for their faithful service. Board members experience the same time demands that all other ISBA members face, but they devote many hours of billable time and leisure time to the maximization of membership benefits and the minimization of membership costs. That task is neither glorious nor fun, but the Board discharges the responsibility with professionalism that should make all of us proud.

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