The New York City Bar Association has announced the results of its annual election to fill its leadership positions:

Debra L. Raskin, Vladeck Waldman Elias & Englehard PC, returns as President.

David M. Brodsky, Brodsky ADR LLC, returns as Vice President and is joined by Hon. Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Associate Judge, New York Court of Appeals and Eruch (“Elchi”) P. Nowrojee, the Carlyle Group.

Damian Schaible, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, joins the Executive Committee as Treasurer.

Ona T. Wang, Baker & Hostetler LLP, returns as Secretary of the Association.

The Executive Committee Class of 2019 is: Jordan Backman, Sony Corporation of America; Pui Chi (P.C.) Cheng, Law Offices of Cheng & Associates PLLC; Muhammad Faridi, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP; Hon. Edgardo Ramos, Judge, United States District Court, Southern District of New York.

Elected to the Executive Committee Class of 2018 is Sarah L. Cave, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, who previously had been appointed to the Executive Committee to fill a vacancy in the Class of 2015.

Hallie B. Levin, Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman LLP, will serve as Chair of the Executive Committee and Carmelyn Malalis, Commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, will serve as Secretary of the Executive Committee.

The City Bar’s Executive Committee consists of 16 elected members, and six officers (who are ex officio members). The elected members of the Executive Committee are divided into four classes of four members each, with each class holding office for four years.

In keeping with the City Bar’s diversity objectives, of the 22 members, 12 are male and 10 are female; and just over 40% (9 of the 22) are from historically underrepresented groups.

View the officers and members of the Executive Committee here.

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The New York City Bar Association has written to the American Bar Association urging that the prohibition on law schools giving academic credit to students who work for private employers be eliminated, primarily because “it greatly restricts the number of opportunities for experiential learning, prevents the student from being paid for valuable work and lacks justification.” The Council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar sets accreditation standards for law schools in the United States.

As the letter states, law school applications have substantially decreased over the past ten years, while tuition and student debt have risen. Law school revenue has been declining, as have job prospects for law students. In response to this crisis, the City Bar created the Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession, which, among its recommendations, suggested that law schools focus on the goal of training more “practice-ready” graduates, by experimenting with different changes to the curriculum. The Task Force urged the development of “Bridge to Practice” programs that provide dynamic, practical experience for third-year law students.

“It is self-evident that employment prospects for graduating third-year law students would be substantially enhanced if students, in addition to their classroom education, had greater opportunities to work for legal employers in a supervised, academically-linked setting before graduation,” states the letter. “The program would be designed to assist students in building real lawyering skills, becoming more marketable after graduation, creating jobs with employers who might otherwise hire only laterally, compensating students in some instances, and in any event ultimately helping to mitigate the high cost of law school.”

Still, despite the expressed willingness of several private employers to participate in Bridge to Practice programs, efforts to implement them in the private sector have been greatly limited due to ABA Standard 305 and Interpretation 305-2, which states that “A law school may not grant credit to a student for participation in a field placement program for which the student receives compensation.”

Yet, as the letter explains, “under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) private employers are (practically speaking) required to pay student interns. Thus, a law student can work for a government or non-profit law office, which is not subject to the FLSA, and can gain both academic credit and valuable experience with the potential for future employment with that employer. However, that same student cannot have the same experience working for a private sector employer who, to avoid violating the FLSA, would have to pay the student, thereby preventing that student from receiving academic credit for the employment experience.”

A well structured program involving private employers, notes the letter, “would provide the experiential learning opportunities so needed by law students without undercutting any of the objectives of a sound legal education,” as each individual law school would have the discretion to assess whether the placement is sufficiently educational to earn academic credit, or whether to implement a program such as this at all.

The letter concludes, “We respectfully recommend that the ABA eliminate this prohibition completely and allow a student who works for an employer in an approved program to receive both academic credit and compensation.”

The letter may be read here: http://bit.ly/1PpvYwx

 

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The New York City Bar Association has announced the winners of this year’s Kathryn A. McDonald Awards, which are presented annually for excellence in service to the Family Court.

This year’s honorees, Stephanie Jill Gendell and Brian Zimmerman, have dedicated their abilities and leadership skills throughout their careers to the Family Court and the population that it serves.

Gendell currently serves as the Associate Executive Director for Policy and Government Relations at the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, Inc. (CCC). Zimmerman is an attorney practicing in New York City Family Court, including as Assigned Counsel.

The awards will be presented at a City Bar reception on May 26th at 6 p.m., by Hon. Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals. The reception also honors the judges of the New York City Family Court for their dedicated work.

The Kathryn A. McDonald Award is named in honor of the former Supervising Judge of the New York City Family Court and is sponsored by the City Bar’s Committees on Children and the Law; Family Court and Family Law; Juvenile Justice; Domestic Violence and its Council on Children.

 

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The New York City Bar Association commends Representative Hakeem Jeffries and cosponsors for reintroducing H.R. 1700, the Vulnerable Immigrant Voice Act (“VIVA”). The bill would address an astounding due process gap:  under existing law, unaccompanied children routinely appear in immigration court without counsel. According to government data analyzed by Politico, about 59 percent of all unaccompanied children appearing in immigration court since July 2014 were unrepresented. The City Bar strongly supports the effort to ensure fair procedures for children and for adults with mental disabilities, and urges the passage of this bill.

Americans are proud of their judicial system which grants indigent defendants in criminal trials the right to government-appointed counsel. The consequences of immigration removal hearings can be as severe as those of criminal trials, literally resulting in life or death. In a recent study, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees found that at least 58 percent of children arriving from Mexico and Central America had claims to international protection based upon violence or harm experienced in their countries of origin. Yet, asylum-seekers and others seeking protection from violence abroad too often have no access to counsel.

Recent reports have highlighted the absurdity of asking a child to represent herself in a complex court proceeding, while facing off against trained government counsel. Politico found that only seven percent of unaccompanied children who are unrepresented win their cases or have them administratively closed, as compared with 69 percent of children with counsel. Counsel assist children in navigating exceedingly complex legal requirements and procedures and help immigration judges make correct decisions under the law. Attorneys spend many hours building trust and preparing children to recount deeply traumatic experiences to prove their right to asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, or other protection.

Counsel is a critical component of due process in all removal proceedings. Deporting children or people with serious mental disabilities without legal representation is fundamentally unfair and violates basic American values.

Counsel also makes a difference in the efficiency of court proceedings: The Immigration Policy Center found that children who are represented by an attorney are almost three times more likely to appear in court than those without counsel. The National Economic Research Associates (NERA) has found that appointed counsel in removal proceedings would result in more efficient proceedings, reduced detention, and lower foster care and transportation outlays—savings that could equal the cost of the program. Providing appointed counsel for all persons in removal proceedings thus makes proceedings faster and fairer without increasing the cost to taxpayers.

The City Bar supports a right to appointed counsel in removal proceedings, and VIVA is an important first step.

 

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The New York City Bar Association will present its 2015 Diversity & Inclusion Champion Awards at the Diversity and Inclusion Celebration Dinner on June 11th. The award recognizes the critical role individual attorneys have played in initiating and sustaining change within their organizations and the overall New York legal community. The award recipients embody the New York City Bar’s Statement of Diversity Principles, which defines diversity as an inclusive concept, encompassing race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion, nationality, age, disability and marital and parental status. This year marks a decade of recognizing Diversity and Inclusion Champions.

The 2015 Diversity & Inclusion Champion Award winners are:

Kathy Hirata ChinPartner, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP
Kathy Hirata Chin is a partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP. She is a member of the litigation group specializing in healthcare and real estate issues. Ms. Chin graduated from Princeton University magna cum laude and Columbia Law School, where she was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Trasnational Law. She served as Commissioner on the New York City Planning Commission from 1995-2001 and is currently a Commissioner on the New York City Commission to Combat Police Corruption, a position she has held since Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed her in August 2003. She has served on Governor Mario Cuomo’s Judicial Screening Committee for the First Department, the Gender Bias Committee of the Second Circuit Task Force, former Chief Judge Judith Kaye’s Commission to Promote Public Confidence in Judicial Elections, and the Second Circuit Judicial Conference Planning and Program Committee. She currently serves on the Attorney Emeritus Advisory Council and the Commercial Division Advisory Council, appointed to both by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, and on the Board of Directors of the Medicare Rights Center, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping older adults and people with disabilities access affordable health care. In December 2012 and again in December 2014, she was nominated for appointment to the New York State Court of Appeals by the New York State Commission on Judicial Nomination.

Hon. Fern Fisher – Deputy Chief Administrative Judge, New York City Courts and Director, New York State Courts Access to Justice Program
Justice Fisher’s career started in the Civil Court as a Legal Services attorney practicing in Manhattan Housing Court. She served as Deputy Director of Harlem Legal Services, Inc. and as an Assistant Attorney General of the New York State Department of Law. For four years, she provided pro bono legal services to Harlem-based community organizations as a project director of the National Conference of Black Lawyers. In 1989, she was appointed Judge of the Housing Part of the Civil Court, and later, in 1990, was elected to the Civil Court where she served as Deputy Supervising Judge. Judge Fisher was elected in 1993 to the Supreme Court of the State of New York. After serving in both the City and the Matrimonial Parts of Supreme Court, in December 1996 she was appointed Administrative Judge of the Civil Court where she served until March 2009 when she was appointed to her current position. Justice Fisher is a founding member of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, a member and past Board member of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and the New York County Lawyers Association. In 2006, Harvard Law School awarded her the Gary Bellow Public Service Award. In 2008, she was appointed to the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services. Justice Fisher received her B.A. summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in 1975 from Howard University and received her J.D. in 1978 from Harvard Law School.                  

Darryl Gibbs – Lead Director and Associate General Counsel, AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company
Darryl W. Gibbs is a Lead Director & Associate General Counsel at AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company, a financial services company. He leads the legal department’s internship and mentoring program and activities and he is a major strategic supporter and influencer of AXA’s overall diversity and inclusion efforts both inside and outside the legal department. Prior to AXA, Darryl worked at the New York law firm Proskauer Rose as an associate in the corporate department. He later worked as an Assistant General Counsel in the law department of Safe Horizon, Inc., the nation’s leading victims assistance agency. Darryl is a 2009 alumnus of the Executive Leadership Council – Strengthening the Pipeline Program and a member of Council of Urban Professionals (CUP). He is also a Board Member of several organizations, including The Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development at St. John’s University School of Law, the Metropolitan Black Bar Association (New York City), and St. John’s University School of Law Alumni Association. Darryl is the recipient of the New York State Bar Association 2014 Diversity Trailblazer Award. He earned his undergraduate degree in marketing at the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University and his law degree from St. John’s University School of Law

Taa Grays – Assistant General Counsel and Chief of Staff to the General Counsel, MetLife
Taa has served as the Chief of Staff to MetLife’s General Counsel since 2010, where she works closely with him and his leadership team to identify, document and communicate Legal Affairs’ initiatives. She also manages a team responsible for providing a wide-range of operational support for the Legal Affairs department. She is active in several committees at MetLife, including the Legal Affairs Diversity Committee. Taa started with MetLife in 2003 in the Litigation Section, where her practice handled various federal and state lawsuits and regulatory complaints stemming from MetLife’s US Business and Investment activities. She also coordinated and oversaw MetLife’s e-discovery responses to regulatory, pre-litigation and litigation matters as the eDiscovery Counsel and managed a cross-functional team that managed MetLife’s discovery obligations. Prior to MetLife, Taa was an Assistant District Attorney with the Bronx District Attorney’s Office in its Rackets Bureau for five and a half years. She is also very active in the legal community and holds leadership positions with several organizations, including president of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association. Taa received her A.B. from Harvard College and her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.

The 2015 Trailblazer award winner is:

Anna L. Brown Special Attorney/Director of Global Diversity & Inclusion, Shearman & Sterling LLP
As Special Attorney/Director of Global Diversity & Inclusion, Anna L. Brown is responsible for the development and implementation of the firm’s global diversity and inclusion initiative, and serves as the Executive Director of Shearman & Sterling’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Ms. Brown is a frequent lecturer and panelist on topics related to diversity and inclusion in the legal profession; including serving, for the past eight consecutive years, as the Program Co-Chair of the Practising Law Institute Annual Law Firm Diversity Symposium, and at the NALP Annual Conference, New York City Bar Association Diversity Conference, NALP Diversity Summit, Minority Corporate Counsel Association Creating Pathways to Diversity Conference, the American Conference Institute, ACLEA Annual Conference, Equal Justice Conference, Women In Law Empowerment Forum, New York Law Journal Diversity Roundtable, and ALI-ABA Professional Development Institute, among other speaking engagements. Ms. Brown is the co-author of “Diversity in Action: A Manual for Diversity Professionals in Law,” a new publication designed as a resource and educational tool for those performing diversity roles in law firms and corporate legal departments. She is a graduate cum laude of Howard University School of Law and is admitted to practice in New York and New Jersey.

Tickets to the Celebration Dinner may be purchased on the City Bar’s website. For further information please contact Clare Plunkett at (212) 382-6772 or cplunkett@nycbar.org.

 

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The New York City Bar Legal Referral Service, together with the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program, will host a free legal information fair in observance of National Law Day, on May 1st from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Collect Pond Park (Leonard Street between Centre and Lafayette) in Manhattan.

Community leaders and representatives from the New York State Courts and social service organizations will be available to answer questions and provide information about their services. At the fair, residents will have the opportunity to:

  • Learn about their legal rights and how to be proactive in addressing legal issues they may confront
  • Pick up helpful brochures, forms, and other materials that discuss common legal topics
  • Get a free consultation with an experienced lawyer who can help answer questions
  • Discover whether they have a legal issue and find out whether they need a lawyer
  • Find out if they should seek help from a local, state, or federal agency and, if so, which one
  • Learn about other legal services providers that can handle their specific issue

Lawyers will be available to provide basic information and advice on such issues as landlord/tenant law, consumer law, estate planning/elder law, foreclosure, bankruptcy prevention, small claims court, divorce and family law, and more. For additional information, please call Julia Schnurr at 212-382-6789 or email her here.

 

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Alan Rothstein, the General Counsel of the New York City Bar Association, will retire in July after nearly 30 years of service, the City Bar announced today.

During his time at the City Bar, Rothstein has served as the primary source of advice and counsel to the association’s presidents and committees as they prepared reports, policy statements, amicus briefs and letters to public officials and heads of state on matters of policy and law reform.

“The modern history of the New York City Bar Association could not be written without prominent mention of Alan Rothstein’s contributions,” said City Bar President Debra L. Raskin. “He has been a guiding force in our work, particularly in the areas of civil liberties and government reform. And as anyone who has had the pleasure of working with him knows, he is just a wonderful human being whose presence will be greatly missed here.”

“I have been incredibly lucky to work in an organization of such high integrity that is so focused on serving the legal profession and, to me more significantly, the public interest,” Rothstein said. “I will miss the terrific staff and the many, many volunteers who completely dispel the notion that lawyers do not give back to their community.”

Rothstein’s responsibilities will be handled by a combination of current staff and new hires. Maria Cilenti, currently the City Bar’s Director of Legislative Affairs, will become Senior Policy Counsel, overseeing all of the City Bar’s policy work through its committees. Ann Rappleye, currently Director of CLE, will add the role of Program Director, overseeing the hundreds of CLE and non-CLE programs produced by the City Bar’s committees each year. Martha Harris will expand her responsibility as Director of Career Development and Committee Engagement, becoming the point person for committee governance issues and overseeing the process of committee appointments. Thomas Halter, currently Chief Financial Officer, will assume an expanded role as Chief Administrative Officer, with primary responsibility for the sound financial and technical operations of the City Bar.

 

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One of my goals during my presidency of the New York City Bar Association is to ensure and strengthen its “big tent” diversity, which means diversity not just in demographic terms but with respect to our members’ practices. If our committees and program panels are effective, one big reason is that they are made up of a true cross-section of the legal community. We recently adjusted our dues structure to encourage more lawyers doing different types of legal work to join our association.

I think the in-house perspective has never been more critical to the success of a bar association. The 2013 report by our Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession found that one of the important changes the legal profession is undergoing is a shift of resources in-house. A 2012 survey showed that over 80% of companies planned to maintain or increase their legal staff who in many cases “will do work that associates used to do.” And as more companies are realizing that they can hire talented attorneys to work exclusively and cost-effectively for them as employees, more attorneys are deciding to trade rainmaking expectations for an exciting and varied role at a single client where there is a guarantee of new matters every day.

We recognize that in-house lawyers have not been as large a cohort of our membership as we would like. We need to change the perception of the value that in-house counsel receive for being part of this Association. That’s why in-house counsel is one of the categories we lowered dues for, and why, last year, I asked City Bar Vice President Nancy Louden (Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Estee Lauder) to lead an effort to increase our focus on in-house counsel. It’s also auspicious that Bret Parker, our Executive Director, was previously Vice President and Associate General Counsel at Elizabeth Arden. Ms. Arden’s loss was our gain, not only for Bret’s management skills but for his comprehensive understanding of and connections in the world of in-house legal practice.

Today we’re providing a greater number of programs targeted to inside counsel, and we’re seeing more in-house lawyers get involved in committee work and pro bono. IBM, which was honored earlier this month with the annual City Bar Justice Award for its commitment to pro bono and access to justice, is a great example. While in-house counsel generally used to partner with their law firm counterparts on pro bono, we’re seeing more and more in-house lawyers at companies like IBM take on pro bono cases themselves.

The City Bar has launched an annual in-house counsel reception, which last year included a free ethics CLE featuring New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman as one of the speakers. Throughout the year we have roundtables and other programs geared specifically toward General Counsels and other in-house staff.

It is also important to have in-house lawyers actively participate in our committees.  Committee work is the heart of the Association, and that’s where our legal and public policy positions are established. It is essential that in-house counsel be at the table, and that their perspectives are reflected in shaping those policies, which are then articulated on a local, national, and international level.

On the CLE front, people wonder why in-house counsel would want to come to the City Bar for CLE when the firms are tripping over themselves to provide it for free. The firms do provide great educational opportunities, but here at the City Bar our programs are intended for a broad audience and are presented with expert speakers with diverse viewpoints. Participate in a networking break during one of the City Bar’s CLE programs and you might find yourself chatting with attorneys from multiple firms, judges, prosecutors, and other government officials, as well as your counterparts at companies all around the city.  And, we are providing an increasing number of CLE courses for free to members.

If you’re an in-house attorney, now is the perfect time to get involved, as we’re adding members to committees, planning programs, and developing activities for the fall.  And if you’re not an in-house counsel, now is the perfect time to get involved and meet all of these interesting in-house counsel attending City Bar events. Wherever you practice, we look forward to working with you and trust that you will find a lot that is both useful and fun at the City Bar.

Debra L. Raskin is President of the New York City Bar Association

 

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