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Member Feature


Nicole Farbes LyonsNicole Farbes-Lyons Performing at the Opera House & the Court House

After performing in theaters across the country, receiving an MFA from the Peabody Conservatory, and an opera fellowship at the University of Oklahoma, Nicole Farbes-Lyons came to New York to further her opera career.  Since then, Nicole has served as the DiCapo Opera’s Resident Artist and performed abroad in France, Belgium, and Hungary.  Although still performing professionally, Nicole’s main gig these days is practicing law at CNA Insurance.  When asked about her unusual career transition from the performing arts to the law, Nicole says, “I wanted to write well and understand legal analysis. I didn’t actually intend to practice.”  But an internship in the Sixth Circuit Court while in her first year at St. John’s University School of Law sparked Nicole’s interest in a legal career.  In an effort to seek opportunities to gain more legal experience and contacts within the legal community, Nicole was drawn to the New York City Bar Association.  Nicole became a student member of the Career & Advancement Management Committee (CAM) and, after law school graduation, continued to serve on the committee.

Q: What made you want to join the City Bar?

For law students, one advantage of being in New York City is the location:  New York City is the greatest metropolis in the world, and the City Bar is one of its premiere bar associations. The two go hand in hand. Once I found out that students could join the City Bar, membership was an opportunity I definitely wanted to take advantage of.

Q: Did you have any specific goals or expectations when you first joined the City Bar and, later, the Career Advancement & Management Committee?

I expected that there would be good networking opportunities, and opportunities for me to feel like I was contributing to the legal profession.

When I first joined CAM, I was hoping that I would be able to take away information that I could share with law students at my school: ideas for creating networking, events, interviewing, and information about how to interview and network more successfully. I was hoping to gain those skills both for students at my school and also to provide better career advice for other law student groups.

Q: What learning experiences did you take from your time as a student member and now as a member?

As a student member, being on the CAM Committee made me much more familiar and involved with the City Bar; I got to know people—the staff and the board—and felt more a part of the City Bar. Being an active member of a large City Bar Committee gave me insight to how much work the City Bar does to provide top-notch resources and programming.  As a law student, being able to participate on a panel with legal professionals was very helpful in career advancement.

Now that I’m transitioning from student to professional, I am in a position to help other junior associates learn the skills they need to pursue their career paths.

Q: What would you say was your best accomplishment thus far working with the Committee?

My best accomplishment has been the program I organized for CAM, on Careers in ADR. The program had a diverse panel: a retired Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court in New Jersey, a managing partner from a major real estate firm, an arbitrator from the EEOC, and mediators & arbitrators from various firms. To see so many attendees and receive feedback that the panel was helpful was very fulfilling.

Q: Have you been involved in any programs outside of CAM events?

I’m also a member of the Chamber Music Committee. That’s a unique committee because its purpose is cultivation and promotion of art and music rather than law and jurisprudence. This is my first year performing for them. I got involved by contacting the committee chair, sending my resume and bio and receiving an invitation to perform. I will be presenting a recital of operatic arias at one of their upcoming concerts.

Q: How did your City Bar experiences affected you as a law student, and now as a practicing attorney?

As a law student, the City Bar gave me a broader perspective of what I’d be able to accomplish. Law school, in some ways, can be myopic. To be a good law student, you have to be focused on such things as reading materials and class rank that can make you a bit self-obsessed. The City Bar allows you to step outside the classroom and interact with legal professionals, where the emphasis is not solely on personal success but also on problem-solving and analysis that benefits the public and the profession.  Being a law student and having a legal career are very different, and I believe the City Bar has definitely helped me develop a legal career perspective.

Being on a City Bar committee is something that really stands out on my resume. I am more marketable, and even though I am a recent graduate I have many contacts because of my connection with CAM. Additionally, the City Bar offers students and professionals so much support and so many resources.  There’s a sense of community at the City Bar.  I’ve met so many people who are rooting for your success, welcoming your contributions, and developing ways that they can be more helpful.

Q: Of all your non-Committee experiences at the City Bar, do any stand out as a favorite or memorable experience?

Nina Totenberg’s speech at the 2011 Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Distinguished Lecture on Women and the Law . That was fantastic! Ms. Totenberg’s speech was extraordinarily educational, engaging and inspiring, particularly her encouragements to continue progressing as women in the medical and legal fields.

Q: Do you feel that you’ve accomplished the goals you first set when you joined the City Bar?

I do. I think that the goals that I had when I first joined the City Bar were not as broad as they are now. When I first joined as a law student, my primary concern was what I could get from the City Bar. Now, my goal is to be a part of something that is meaningful and strong, and has history in the legal profession—to be somebody who keeps the tradition of the City Bar going.

Q: Do you have any advice to current or potential student members about opportunities at the City Bar?

My advice differs depending on a student’s year.  I recommend that 1Ls become City Bar members, attend programs in their areas of interest and utilize the Library. It’s a great resource.

For 2Ls & 3Ls: get involved! Though you’re still students, this is the start of your legal careers. The City Bar is your Bar Association; figure out what you can do to be a resource to the community. There are committees for every area of law at the City Bar. Even if there are no positions on a Committee, there are other opportunities to get involved.



Muhammad FaridiMuhammad Faridi—

Growing with the City Bar: from Law Student to Lawyer

Muhammad Faridi has been admitted to the bar for five years, but his relationship with the New York City Bar began long before his legal career. Soon after beginning his legal education at CUNY School of Law, he was selected as a City Bar Diversity Fellow and received a summer associate position with MetLife after his 1L year.

After graduating, Muhammad clerked for Judge Jack B. Weinstein (EDNY) before going to Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP where he practices commercial litigation and business reorganization & creditors rights. In addition to his practice, Muhammad is involved in taking on pro bonocases, which include advocating as guardian ad litem for a mentally disabled client and representing a death-row inmate in Missouri. The City Bar has helped Muhammad create a venue to explore his passion for anti-death penalty advocacy.


Q: What made you want to join the City Bar? 
A: I met Steve Greenwald, then chair of the City Bar’s Capital Punishment Committee. He eventually became a mentor. He asked if I was interested in doing research on a report about developing a model statute for compensating people wrongfully convicted that the Capital Punishment and Corrections Committees were working on, which I was. The report was published in 2010 and recently re-published as a law review article.

Q: Did you have any specific goals or expectations when you first joined the City Bar or the Capital Punishment Committee?
A: I just wanted to help out. My goals were to learn about the issue, to do advocacy, and make sure I contributed to the effort to get rid of the death penalty.

Q: What learning experiences did you take from your time as a student member and later, as a chair?
A: As a student member, I became a specialist in one area of death penalty law. As the chair, I get to set the committee’s agenda. I want the committee to focus on the international aspect of the death penalty and other cruel forms of punishment, such as life without parole for juveniles.

Q: What would you say was your best accomplishment thus far working with the Committee?
A: This past summer, we put on an amazing training program for law students and attorneys interested in representing death-row inmates. The Committee also gave the Norman Redlich Capital Defense Distinguished Service and Pro Bono Awards to two people, David Herrington and Kevin Doyle, who have dedicated their professional careers to death penalty cases. [The Redlich Awards were named in honor of the late NYU Law School Dean Norman Redlich, a noted anti-death penalty advocate. This year was the first year the awards were given.] That was probably the most rewarding experience.

Q: How did your City Bar experiences affected you as a law student and now, as a practicing attorney? 
A: It’s allowed me to meet people who mentored me throughout law school and after. I was able to call on many of them for career advice. That has been one of the biggest personal benefits of my committee involvement.

Q: Of all your non-Committee experiences at the City Bar, do any stand out as a favorite or memorable experience?
A: Lectures given by important legal figures still resonate; I still remember a lecture by Justice Stephen Breyer focusing on civil liberties post-9/11 that was very moving.

Q: You’ve been a speaker at several City Bar programs. How has that affected your career?
A: I don’t think it’s directly affected my career, but it has given me a lot of confidence. I’m not shy about speaking in public any more. As a lawyer, you should take every opportunity to speak in public. It’s very helpful.

Q: Do you feel that you’ve accomplished the goals you first set when you joined the City Bar?
It is too early to tell; I have many things that I would like to accomplish. As you accomplish some of your goals, you have to be ambitious and continue adding to the list.

Q: Do you have any advice to current or potential student members about the possible opportunities and experiences at the City Bar?
A: Grab every opportunity that comes to them; don’t be shy about signing up for issues you’re passionate about. But always remember your grades and education take priority over everything else.

Q: Was there anything that you’d like to say about the City Bar that you haven’t had a chance to say yet?
A: The Bar’s recently done a great job in recruiting young lawyers, and under the guidance of veteran lawyers, I believe the young attorneys can really blossom.



donnaDonna Azoulay – My City Bar Year

The students who caught my attention in law school weren't the ones who could recite statutes and precedents off the top of their heads. I was much more impressed by the ones who would bring up, say, the public policy implications of a court’s ruling on “the best interests of a child.”

If law is both a science and an art, I would say the art lies in the big picture, where laws are understood in the context of their meaning and effect on society. And I can’t imagine any place where the art of law is practiced better than at the New York City Bar Association. For the past year I have been immersed in the City Bar, both as special assistant to City Bar President Sam Seymour and as a member of the City Bar’s Sex and Law Committee.

When you join one of the City Bar’s over 150 committees, you do not just gain experience and insight on the singular topic of the committee’s focus, but also an understanding of how various practice areas intersect. A matrimonial case can also be a trust & estate case, a children’s rights case, or a tax case. As a member of the Sex and Law Committee, I work with a spectacular group of attorneys who see the significance of being part of an effort that goes beyond the parameters of their everyday work. This past year, the Sex and Law Committee created presentations for high school students on teen dating violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, supported the Lesbian Gay Transgender & Bisexual Committee’s Marriage Equality report, and worked with the Matrimonial Law Committee on the new matrimonial maintenance laws.

For the past year, I’ve had the privilege of helping Mr. Seymour engage and recruit law students, recent law graduates, and young associates to join the Association. I accompanied him as he visited every law school in the New York area to convey to students the message that being involved in the New York City Bar—or any bar association, for that matter—is especially beneficial for young lawyers just starting to map out their careers. We found that many students were receptive to this message, and over the past year we have seen significant growth in our young lawyer and law student membership.

As a young lawyer myself, I can attest to the unique value of the City Bar. That it is a legal crossroads is well known. This year I attended presentations by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow, Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., Executive Director of United Nations Woman, Michelle Bachelet, and many others.

But the City Bar is also a place where attorneys who are just beginning their careers are also welcomed, and where even young attorneys can contribute ideas and play a part in shaping public policy.

Donna Azoulay is a 2010 Columbia Law graduate and is Special Assistant to Samuel W. Seymour, President of the New York City Bar Association.




Nicholas Curmi – The 44th Street Bridge to Malta

It’s not every day that you meet a lawyer from Malta, a southern European country in the Mediterranean off the coast of Italy . But it’s not surprising to meet one here at the City Bar, whose members come from all over the world.

Nicholas Curmi received his Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) and Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degrees from the University of Malta, and also studied maritime law at the Università degli Studi di Roma Tor Vergata in Rome, Italy . After completing his studies, Curmi joined Maltese law firm Ganado & Associates as a member of its financial services practice group, where he developed a keen interest in corporate, insurance and capital markets matters. Like lawyers everywhere, he traveled when he could, and he networked. While attending a conference in Europe, he met a lawyer from a New York firm. Curmi soon set his sights on a bigger stage.

“I wanted to be in the financial capital of the world,” says Curmi, who is now studying to get his Masters of Laws (LL.M.) degree from Fordham University School of Law, specializing in banking, corporate and finance law. He also serves as an Associate Editor of Fordham’s Journal of Corporate and Financial Law. “My decision to study in New York was motivated by a desire to gain a U.S. legal perspective and also to help raise awareness here about what Malta has to offer in the financial services sector,” says Curmi. He says Malta, a European Union member state, is becoming a prominent center for financial services within Europe, where a growing number of international financial institutions are opting to set up operations given several key advantages that the domicile has over other well-established European jurisdictions.

Continuing his networking in New York , last fall Curmi attended the City Bar’s reception for International LL.M. candidates, where he was encouraged to join the City Bar. After becoming a member, he joined the Insurance Law Committee, on which he has become actively involved in projects concerning current legal and regulatory issues affecting the insurance industry. Curmi recognizes the importance of being involved in a City Bar committee, particularly for having the opportunity to meet and work alongside leading attorneys in their field. He says that the Committee takes a very hands-on approach to its work, and organizes some outstanding CLE programs at the City Bar on a regular basis.

Upon joining the Insurance Law Committee, Curmi was surprised to learn that the New York lawyer he had met over a year earlier at the conference in Europe was also a member of the Committee. “A year ago I would never have imagined that I would end up on the same Committee as him and other practitioners at the forefront of the U.S. legal industry, discussing current issues in New York law,” says Curmi. “But this is why I came to the U.S. in the first place: to broaden my knowledge, get a global outlook and become a truly international lawyer – I am indebted to both Fordham and the City Bar, who have helped me tremendously in working towards these goals.”




William Vidal – Member Profile

Having grown up between Paris and the U.S., William Vidal had long sought a way to bridge the two. That ultimately led him to law school and a specialization in International Trade. And that led him to the City Bar, where he applied to join the Association’s International Trade Committee.

In joining the committee, Vidal had interests beyond immersing himself in the subject area and engaging in substantive discussions about international trade. He also wanted to meet practitioners to understand what the actual practice involved. "The meetings were great, said Vidal, I got to work with practitioners and discuss the latest developments in the Doha Development Round, the current trade-negotiation round of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and ongoing tariff related disputes. The meetings also had a nice social aspect. Often, after meetings, several of us would have a drink, which allowed me to get to know the committee members on a more personal level."

Now an attorney in the New York City Law Department’s Commercial and Real Estate Litigation Division, Vidal has found the City Bar to be a friendly, collegial place, where lawyers can gain invaluable experience. As he puts it, “the City Bar’s committees have offered a unique opportunity to explore and learn about specific practices in an environment with little outside pressures. This allows for productive and frank conversations in a relaxed setting, which is ideal for a young attorney.”

During law school, Vidal interned for the Department of Justice’s International Trade Field office and for Senior Judge Tsoucalas at the Court of International Trade. His other main interest in law school was human rights, which he pursued by working as a research assistant for Professor Ruti Teitel and the Justice Action Center at New York Law School and through his work with Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB), an international non-profit organization whose goal is to provide legal support to Rule of Law and human rights projects. As part of his work with LWOB, Vidal and a group of students started a monthly Human Rights publication entitled Global Human Rights Bulletin, to increase awareness of Human Rights related issues. According to Vidal, his experience on the City Bar’s committee and his internships and Research Assistant work allowed him to determine that he was actually interested in the interface of development and human rights.

After graduating from law school, he applied to be a fellow at the Center for New York City Law. During his fellowship, he became very interested in how the City functions, which led him to apply to the New York City Law Department and eventually to join the Administrative Law division, where he stayed for two years. This past July he transferred to the Law Department’s Commercial and Real Estate Litigation Division. At the Law Department, Vidal has taken a special interest in urban development and how land use policies can be used to promote social objectives. To explore this interest, Vidal joined the City Bar’s Land Use and Zoning Committee, where he has been able to interact with great land use practitioners and discuss interesting land use issues, such as revisions to the zoning resolution and recent community benefit agreements.

The road to finding one's role in the legal profession can be a winding one, but as Vidal's career makes evident, the City Bar can be a great guide on the journey.