2015 Annual Report of the President of the Indiana State Bar Association

By Jeff R. Hawkins,
ISBA President, 2014-15








Madam Chair, Chief Justice Rush, Judge Crone, Chief Deputy Attorney General Light, fellow delegates, friends all:

It is my great honor to report to the Indiana state Bar Association House of Delegates as the Association’s 118th president during this, the 119th annual meeting of the Association.

The state of the Association is sound, but not stationary. The Association is moving forward and, with your help today, it will continue to do so.

As most of you may expect, the ISBA presidency is a job on the move. That movement has carried me more than 14,800 miles across the United States and throughout Indiana to represent the Association in meetings with countless lawyers, judges, and public officials over the course of at least 68 days since the last meeting of the House of Delegates.

In this digital age, the ISBA presidency requires an even more substantial electronic involvement than physical appearance. Over the course of the past year, I have composed more than 1,430 emails, tweeted more than 290 messages that made more than 82,000 impressions on Twitter users, and posted 22 articles on the ISBA PrezBlog.WIN_20151009_09_21_29_Pro

I have used all of those communication resources to fulfill my leadership commitments to this association. Today ends the third year of the Vinovich/Dimos/Hawkins three-year leadeWIN_20151009_09_21_27_Prorship plan, which focused on making ISBA membership essential to the practice of law in Indiana and improving the Association’s governance effectiveness and diverse inclusiveness. During that three-year period,

  • We promoted the Leadership Development Academy that began during the presidency of Erik Chickedantz,
  • We contracted to provide Casemaker as a game-changing legal resource and membership benefit that has saved my own law firm thousands of dollars annually,
  • We commissioned a new long-range plan,
  • We promoted more collaboration among the ISBA’s various sections and committees,
  • We encouraged the House of Delegates to give the ISBA nominating committee authority to appoint two additional seats on the Board of Governors to promote diversity and inclusiveness, and
  • We incorporated information that we received from focus groups and national bar leadership conferences to offer more engaging membership benefits and services.

Last fall, we began implementing the long-range plan that the ISBA Board of Governors adopted during the 2014 annual meeting. The long-range plan calls for the ISBA to achieve the following goals within two years from now:

  • Improve Member Engagement;
  • Actively Recruit New Members, Including Students in Law School;
  • Enhance and Promote Career Evolvement; and
  • Enhance Diversity and Inclusion in ISBA, Including on the Basis of Gender, Race, Sexual Orientation, Disability, National Origin, Age, Geography, and Other Differences.

In our pursuit of membership engagement improvement, we continue investing in communications technology through ongoing enhancements to the ISBA website, social media channels, the ISBA smartphone app, and improved collaboration among the ISBA’s various sections and committees.

We are working to recruit new members among practicing lawyers and law students through our continuing legal education offerings, new membership benefits that are still emerging as I speak, and collaborative partnerships with law firms, law schools, local bar associations, and other participants in the legal service industry.

You would have to have spent the last seven years under a rock to have missed the fundamental change in the global, national, state, and regional law practice economy. The number of law school admission candidates using the Law School Admission Council’s Credential Assembly Service hovered around 80,000 candidates per year from 2005 to 2010, but the number fell off each year thereafter until it reached 51,600 candidates in 2014 – about a 35% drop in the number of people applying for law school admission.

Our courts have become increasingly inundated with pro se litigation. Our Supreme Court is spearheading efforts to improve judicial efficiency with improved technology, but it will take more than improved computer systems to unclog bottlenecks caused by amateur litigators.

One writer suggested that these factors may herald a bright future for existing bar members, but IU Mauer school of Law’s Professor Bill Henderson and others have countered that notion with examples of such proliferating competitive encroachments as LegalZoom, over-the-counter DIY legal service computer applications, and document review computer applications. In fact, just two months ago, the chief executive officers of LegalZoom and AVVO called on state bar leaders and the ABA House of Delegates to dispense with prohibitions of unauthorized practice of law entirely.

Think about that call from unlicensed legal service providers for state supreme courts to admit them to practice law without regulation. LegalZoom already sells documents to Indiana residents to plan and administer estates, establish a limited liability business entities, and dissolve marriages, among other things. LegalZoom and AVVO have signed up lawyers to provide legal advice to the company’s individual clients over the telephone or Internet for a minuscule fee, so that those unlicensed legal service providers can split fees with lawyers licensed to practice in the state of Indiana. Imagine how difficult it will be for any Indiana law firm to compete with global powerhouses that raise capital in private equity markets in quarter billion-dollar increments!

When I shared some of these thoughts at the ISBA Women’s Bench Bar Conference in Culver earlier this year, one lawyer told the audience that a physician client was struggling to earn $25,000 per year in Northwest Indiana. I suggested to the crowd that if we all think that doctors make more money than lawyers, and if some doctors struggle to subsist, it is reasonable to consider that we may have many starving lawyers in Indiana as well.

The American Bar Association Commission on the Future of Legal Services is seeking comments from bar associations on its draft resolution and report of regulatory objectives or regulators of the delivery of legal services. Your officers and members of the Board of Governors care deeply about the long-term viability of the private practice of law in Indiana. For that reason, the Board of Governors resolved earlier this week to direct Carol Adinamis to insist that the regulatory objectives include protection of the integrity of lthe practice of law.

The notion of law practice regulation brings me to item 11 of your packet today. The ISBA’s lawyer advertising rules committee and legal ethics committee have worked very hard this year to propose improvements to our lawyer advertising rules. I urge you to pay careful attention to this matter today those committees have collaborated brilliantly to compose rule amendments that will make our advertising rules correspond more realistically to the world in which our clients and we live. After you have heard the full presentation by Mr. Mulvaney and received those committees’ latest recommendations, I urge you to approve those recommendations and send them to the Supreme Court Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure. Advertising rule changes will help clarify and improve how lawyers can advertise their services, but we will need much more dramatic changes in our rules of practice and procedure to promote the economically viable, professional practice of law by lawyers.

I am most proud of our pursuit of the fourth long-range planning objective, the enhancement of diversity and inclusion in ISBA, including on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, age, geography, and other differences. Many of our sections and committees have spontaneously reached out to the diversity committee for advice and resources to enhance the diversity and inclusiveness of their activities. A surprisingly large crowd attended our continuing legal education program last fall about disability as a diversity and inclusiveness parameter, and several people responded to that program and my written and spoken comments about the stigmatizing the mental and physical disabilities that we are increasingly discovering among our peers in the legal service community. We have seated our new members of the Board of Governors that the nominating committee has selected to enhance the board’s diversity. I pointed leaders and members of the ISBA’s new sexual orientation and gender identity committee, known as the SOGI Committee, which has already planned a cutting-edge continuing legal education program with our Probate and Family Law Sections for this coming December 4.

My initial remarks this morning included a partial account of how I have spent my time and resources as your president this year as an example of how hard your ISBA leaders work to serve our members. Unfortunately, it takes more than hard work to serve over 12,000 members and keep up with the competitive forces that I just finished describing – it takes money.

The Board of Governors budgeted deficits in recent years so that the ISBA could evaluate all of its revenue raising alternatives before asking the House of Delegates for a dues increase. I appointed a brain trust special revenue enhancement committee this year to look in every nook and cranny for ways to improve revenues, and the budget committee sharpened its pencils once again to find all reasonable costs-cutting efficiencies. The Board of Governors sent them back to the drawing board multiple times to discharge its stewardship responsibility faithfully. Believe me, these people busted their humps to give us the best possible recommendations, which Mr. Spurgeon will present to you later this morning. I urge you to adopt those recommendations as presented.

One last detail remains incomplete from the Vinovich/Dimos/Hawkins three-year plan: improvement of our governance systems. We will probably never perfect all ISBA governance issues because all human organizations are fallible institutions. However, I am very proud of the Articles and Bylaws Committee’s work product that Ms. Sylvia will present to you today. That committee’s recommendations to revise and improve the Association’s articles of incorporation and bylaws will clear up ambiguities and confusion that have appeared in recent years and reconcile healthy governance function with outdated procedures that no longer makes sense to anyone. I urge you to adopt that committee’s recommendations as presented.

My friends, my ISBA leadership journey has been an unforgettable experience of a lifetime. It seems like yesterday that Young Lawyers Section secretary Jeff Lind recruited me as a district representative to the YLS Council, more than twenty-two years ago. It is not always been easy to balance ISBA service with family, church, and law practice, but it has always been a labor of love.

I am grateful to our ISBA volunteers and staff for making this a wonderful year. Your President-Elect, Carol Adinamis, has stood with me as an outstanding leadership partner and dear friend, who will carry on the good work of this association with amazing grace, poise, and professionalism. As began my comments a few moments ago, the state of the Indiana state Bar Association is sound, but not stationary, and I have cherished the honor of leading its progressive movement as your president. Thank you for that privilege.

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