By the time you are reading this article, I will be on my way to the 21st Annual Bench Bar in Cincinnati, Ohio. So, I asked myself when I attended my first Bench Bar, what is a Benesch commercial real estate lawyer going to do at a Bench Bar Conference? The answer? Lots of things.
The Bench Bar Committee routinely provides quality CLE for all of us. I enjoy listening to some of the speakers even as a commercial real estate lawyer. I have the opportunity to reminisce with judges who were in law school with me but with whom I have very little contact anymore as a result of our separate paths in the legal profession. We talk about our kids. We talk about some recollections during law school and embarrassing moments. We talk about some of the people and where they are today. This is all very worthy of our time.
I mingle with other lawyers and while they are primarily litigators, they are still very nice people. I meet family law attorneys, prosecutors, public defenders, other government attorneys, criminal defense attorneys, general practice litigators, solo practitioners, small firm owners, and individuals from all walks of life in our professional community. I meet new people every time that I go to a Bench Bar, and I am much better off for the opportunity to get to know the individuals who have chosen the legal profession for their career. I have opportunities to answer questions about the IndyBar and how it might be able to help their practice. I have the opportunity to connect lawyers with other lawyers who might be able to help them with a particular problem.
I talk with our county, appellate and state Supreme Court judges and justices. How many other situations do we find ourselves in with this incredible opportunity to mingle with our judiciary and learn more about each of them? Conversations include their family, their interests outside sitting on the bench and some interesting insight on how they manage their court. All of this information has helped me as a person and even as a practicing commercial real estate attorney at Benesch, where we have a litigation practice that works with Indy litigators and appears before all of these judges.
When my real estate clients have disputes, the last thing they want is to spend money in litigation. It has been a challenging discussion to explain to a developer, a lender, a landlord, a tenant or a commercial broker that the unfortunate experience in court is the price of doing business in today’s complex business environment. In a perfect world, we would not have disputes, but it does not work that way. We are trained to write documents as carefully and clearly as possible, but even in the best of times, there are two or more interpretations of a document which leads to disputes. Understanding how a judge looks at commercial disputes has been incredibly enlightening and beneficial to my practice.
During Bench Bar there is also time for relaxation, or for some of us, frustration. There is a golf tournament on Thursday where lawyers and judges get to spend four-plus hours hitting a little golf ball around and talking about things totally unrelated to practicing law. But if a “what if” or “how do I” question is posed, I am confident that the lawyers and judges trying to concentrate on playing quality golf still take the time to answer the question and help out a young, aspiring attorney trying to understand the nuances of an area of the law or how the judicial system works.
These are all the great experiences that avail themselves at Bench Bar, and I hope by the time you are reading this article, you also are on your way to Cincinnati. It will be a great few days.