By Rebecca L. McClain, Office of the Attorney General
Opening night of the Bench Bar Conference featured a cocktail reception and horse race at Churchill Downs. A mix of bourbon and polite introductions filled the air along with the enthusiasm for transportation provided by SoberLink.
Friday morning opened with sessions for the whole group and in the afternoon split into several groups. The majority of litigators attending the conference joined the sessions featuring topics on jury selection, foundations of evidence and common mistakes in the courtroom. During the evidentiary session, the three-judge panel mentioned common issues young lawyers make when admitting evidence. These challenges included the relevancy and authenticity of technology evidence like text messages. It is the growing use of technology that not only creates a distance between people, but also between litigators and the rules of evidence. As litigators, we must observe the rules of evidence when seeking to admit text messages or emails. We must also know our audience, which includes the judge who weighs the relevancy of the evidence being admitted. The judges also mentioned that attorneys overlook a lot of the cues judges give us because we are too caught up in what we’d like to say. It’s important to follow the rules and listen to the judge and opposing counsel, not just talk our point into the ground.
After the evidentiary session, I was able to speak with one of the judges on the panel, Judge Chavis, regarding his experience and what makes the Bench Bar Conference attractive for members of the Litigation Section. Judge Chavis previously worked as a Deputy Attorney General at the Office of the Indiana Attorney General before private practice and now acts as Judge of the Marion Superior Court. He expressed that being a lawyer is not just about knowing the law it’s about the ability to give clients the opportunity to state their case. For many, litigation can be a very personal experience. It is our job as litigators to make our clients believe in the legal system and our ability to represent them. For some clients, we are the only ones who can provide them the opportunity to express their problems and come up with a potential solution.
As a first time attendee at the Bench Bar Conference and recipient of the Litigation Section’s Scholarship for the event, I was very pleased with the opportunity to meet attorneys and judges in the Indiana legal community. Next year, the Bench Bar Conference plans to return to Louisville. If you seek some of the same experiences, this is a great opportunity for litigators to meet and get to know the judges they appear before in the courtroom.
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