By Deetta M. Steinmetz, Indianapolis Legal Aid Society
I'm a big baby, and despite practicing for 30 years (as of June 8 of this year, thank you), I'd never made the trek down to Bench Bar. ("I don't want to leave my kids. I'm an introvert. I'm busy. I don't enjoy those types of things. I don't have anyone to room with. I could go on and on and on. Trust me...and on.)
Finally, last summer, in an effort to drive up awareness of a great pro bono program that I'm responsible for (more about that another time), I shored up my courage and took the plunge. To my surprise, I had a delightful time. Here's a brief synopsis of "Why I'm Now Bench Bar and You Should Too." (Does Stephen Colbert ramble around in my head all the time? Maybe.)
First, the drive. Lord have mercy, the drive. Driving through southern Indiana in the summer is a beautiful, peaceful thing. Listen to an audio book, a podcast, your favorite music, or enjoy some silence, but take note of the down time. I drove down alone. I recommend it. Honestly, it's almost a spiritual experience to have that much time to yourself, in a car, in southern Indiana in the summer.
Next, sit with some strangers. I arrived late for dinner the first night. I was late because I'd procrastinated leaving home (please see paragraph one). Even after arriving, I almost skipped dinner because (a) I was late and (b) see paragraph one again; but I was j-u-s-t dedicated enough to promoting my program that I talked myself into going. I was clearly acting on that "lawyer superpower" thing that enables us to do horrifically difficult things that we would never otherwise be able to do, but we muster the strength to do out of a sense of duty or responsibility for others. Of course, because I was late, all of the seats with all of my girlfriends, and even the guys that I know, were taken. So, in total desperation, I did the unthinkable and sat with a table of strangers. Believe it or not, it was a good move. I didn't spill anything (very much), and I made some wonderful new acquaintances who practice in areas other than mine, and with whom I shared a surprising amount of common ground. Dinner wasn't just tolerable, it was really fun. Who knew?!
Bench Bar is also a good reminder that you're never too old to be a good Girl Scout. I remember rolling my eyes with cynicism and sarcasm (yes, even in 4th grade) when my troop had to sing, "Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other's gold." But Bench Bar made me a believer. I met some new attorney friends (who admittedly look like they haven't been long out of Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts), got reacquainted with a lot of old acquaintances, and had a chance to briefly but warmly reconnect with some old friends. I'm not much of a gambler or a drinker (obviously I'm the life of the party), but with the encouragement of a friend of similar limitations, she and I bravely played the slot machines and won enough money to buy a bottle of wine. Which we drank. Again, I surprised myself and had fun. Socializing at Bench Bar was (almost) enough to make me hum that happy little Girl Scout song in my head as I skipped along from one event to the next.
Speaking of surprises, I'd also recommend Bench Bar for the CLE opportunity. It's a great, convenient, pretty painless way to take in some very good CLE (and after 30 years, I know that about which I speak in regard to rating CLE). Seriously, I don't remember eye-rolling myself at all during any of the CLE at Bench Bar last year--and that's saying a lot.
One last fun fact that you might not know about Bench Bar is that they have some very good door prizes. I won a Fitbit in one of the drawings. How do you not love a weekend away where you win something cool? I may not be much of a gambler, but I Was a Winner at Bench Bar, and You Can Too!
Register now for the 2017 Bench Bar Conference here, held in Louisville June 15-18!
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