This is certainly a time of change, and it seems to be coming from every direction. We just completed a national election that will bring change. We don’t know what that change will be, and that makes many of us anxious. We feel more comfortable when we know what to expect and we can prepare for it.
The disruption in the legal profession from multiple sources has been a topic of much discussion at the IndyBar and all around the country. The entry of companies like LegalZoom, Avvo and other online providers of legal forms, legal information and legal advice into the legal market has changed how we do business. It has caused lawyers to re-examine how potential clients find us, how we can be more efficient, how online lawyers might be regulated across state lines, and many other unknowns.
The Marion Circuit and Superior Courts have now migrated to e-filing. It seems like only yesterday when the Clerk’s office transitioned from manual docket entries to electronic docket entries on computers. We were all worried about that change, but now we can’t imagine doing business without computers. E-filing has been years in the making, but I hear very positive feedback from practitioners. The transition was made easier by the intense study, planning, implementation and training by the State Office of Judicial Administration and the Court Administrator’s office of the Marion Superior Court.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals changed how judges will be selected in Marion County with a decision that found the prior selection method unconstitutional. This put into motion many meetings among judges and the IndyBar over the past year to consider an alternative method of selection. There is understandably much angst among our judges, who have served our county well, about how the selection method will affect them and their families. There is also angst among the lawyers who feel comfortable with the judges we have and how they were selected. We don’t know exactly what the new selection method will be, but many feel it will be a merit-selection system with a selection committee appointed by many different constituencies, including the IndyBar.
We have had unprecedented change in our state’s highest court. Four new justices were appointed to our Indiana Supreme Court during the past six years, after a 17-year period of complete stability in our highest court. Our newest justice, Justice Geoffrey Slaughter, was appointed just five months ago. We have a new chief justice after 25 years of leadership by Chief Justice Randy Shepard, and the brief tenure of Chief Justice Brent Dickson. And, we’re likely to have another new justice appointed in the next year.
The State Court Administrator’s Office has undergone a complete reorganization, and Judge Mary Willis is now the Chief Administrative Officer for the state courts, having replaced Lilia Judson, who was the Executive Director of State Court Administration for 18 years before her recent retirement.
This month marks the beginning of Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson’s seven-year tenure as chief of the district court, replacing Judge Richard Young. It’s a big job to perform while carrying a full caseload, but she will lead us all well. I’ve served with Judge Magnus-Stinson in administrative capacities before, and no one is better at getting things done right.
With a new mayor sworn in last January, the topic of how our county addresses civil and criminal justice has arisen again. The current administration has engaged the IndyBar and many other stakeholders in discussions about how to make the justice system more efficient, more cost effective and safer for all users. The mayor is looking at processes first, and I would guess his team will look at how a new justice center would fit into those efficiencies before the end of the year. We’ve been in the City County Building since 1962. It took two years to build at a cost of $22 million. Times have really changed. The referendum on mass transit that just passed will raise about $56 million a year to expand mass transit in Indianapolis. A dollar doesn’t go as far as it did in 1962!
We recently celebrated the lives of 19 Indianapolis lawyers who passed away during the last 12 months. Several of the deaths were sudden and unexpected. The ages of the attorneys we honored ranged from 34 years old to 101 years old. It was a solemn ceremony, opened by Justice Mark Massa in the Indiana Supreme Court courtroom. I hope the IndyBar continues this tradition and that even more people are there next year to honor the lives of our friends and colleagues.
So, that brings us to the question of how we will deal with change in our lives. As they say, change is constant. We can resist and deny the change, thereby suffering the consequences of not being prepared. Or, we can be alert to coming change and be ready to adapt. At the IndyBar, we’re trying to foreshadow what’s coming nationally so we can help local lawyers adapt successfully.
The IndyBar decided the best way we can serve our members is to help them see what’s coming and to be prepared to make the most of it. We do that primarily through education. This education is not just through substantive legal seminars, but that’s part of it. We provide a lot of practice management tools and information. IndyLawyerFinder.com is an online tool where lawyers can compete with the big online legal providers, and we offer that service for free for six months to our members. Call the IndyBar or visit indybar.org/freeprofile if you want to learn more about this.
Our digital document bank lets you see and use documents that have been carefully drafted by experts and used hundreds of times. It’s foolish to reinvent the wheel and it can do a disservice to your client and to your bottom line. You can find the document bank on our website at indybar.org/forms.
We recently brought all of the e-filing providers to the IndyBar offices to tell members what their services are, the benefits of their product and how much they charge so our members will be informed consumers. Additional live programs are coming up on Nov. 22 and Dec. 13. Registration and additional details can be found at indybar.org/events. We’ve also added online recordings of previous sessions to our Online CLE catalog. To access these programs, visit indybar.org/onlinecle and then browse the online CLE courses in the E-Filing category.
We invite you to be part of the change by participating in forums, such as the one recently held at our offices with the mayor’s criminal justice team. We can’t stop change but we can affect the change and we can manage how we deal with it.
The IndyBar is preparing to undergo change in our leadership, too. This month, the new section, division and committee chairs and officers will meet in French Lick for a two-day leadership transition retreat. We’ll talk about our new strategic plan, our efforts to drive and manage change, and how we can help our members address the changes that are coming to our community and to the legal profession. I hope you’ll take advantage of this time of year and volunteer within the bar or chair a program. We’re an association powered by our members, and we depend on your energy and ideas to fuel our path into the future.
As we reflect on the changes we have experienced and the changes yet to come, I am confident that we can join as a profession and community to turn what might feel different or uncomfortable into opportunities for growth and transformation. Together, we have the power—and the responsibility—to navigate this unfamiliar terrain to reach even greater heights as lawyers and as citizens.