Some members, former leaders, and friends shared with us their City Bar Stories and their thoughts on the City Bar and its Role – Past, Present and Future. See excerpts below and click through to read their full stories.

  • Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

  • Chief Judge Janet DiFiore

    Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals and the State of New York

  • Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann

    Chief Judge of the U.S Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

    This video is available exclusively to City Bar Members here.

  • Russ Bleemer

    Program Coordinator, Monday Night Law
    Editor, Alternatives to the High Cost of Litigation

    The Association connects the members of the legal community to the people of New York through the association’s City Bar Justice Center (CBJC) — helping our fellow citizens across communities while at the same time broadening members’ own legal practices. Among the many CBJC projects and programs, the Monday Night Law (MNL) program provides a singular opportunity for these communities to connect each week. MNL allows New Yorkers to visit the bar association and discuss their legal problems with volunteers who are trained to help. Under the CBJC’s auspices and directed by the Association’s Legal Referral Service, MNL has connected the legal community with the public, for free, for 29 years, attempting to assist people in sorting out their issues and take positive steps toward resolution.

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  • Donald T. Fox

    Former Treasurer and Executive Committee Member
    Co-Founder, Fox Horan & Camerini, LLP

    From my current residence in the hills overlooking Managua, Nicaragua, I attended the virtual annual meeting on May 19, 2020, and was delighted to be introduced to the new President, Sheila Boston. So much has changed since I joined the Association in 1960, I decided to accept the offer to jot down a few of my experiences to explain my retrospective view of these changes.

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  • Jeh Charles Johnson

    Former City Bar Executive Committee Member
    Former Secretary of Homeland Security
    Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP

    Without a doubt my favorite and most meaningful service to the City Bar was as chair of the Judiciary Committee in 2001-2004….To be a member of the Judiciary Committee is also to experience the multiple legal communities throughout this big and diverse city, as we held many of our meetings in the courthouses and bar associations across the city. Through service on the committee, one quickly discovers that the courthouse communities in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island are all different and distinct; each has its own circle of colorful personalities, reputations, dialogues, and gossip.

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  • Gary Kalbaugh

    Chair, Future & Derivatives Regulation Committee
    Deputy General Counsel, ING Financial Holdings Corp.

    In the 150 years since the New York City Bar Association’s establishment, we have seen New York City rise from the preeminent domestic financial center to the preeminent global financial center. America itself transformed from a larger agricultural nation to one driven by – in addition to agriculture – manufacturing, technology, and financial services.

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  • Hon. Barry Kamins

    Former City Bar President
    Former New York State Supreme Court Judge
    Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins, PC

    One of my proudest moments during my tenure as City Bar President occurred on November 13, 2007. On that day, the City Bar sponsored a rally on the steps of 60 Centre Street to support attorneys in Pakistan who had been jailed or placed under house arrest after Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf declared emergency rule….The rally, which included about 600 attorneys, was co-sponsored by numerous bar groups in New York City and around the state. As I looked at the group on the steps of the New York County Supreme Court building and listened to my colleagues in the legal community, I could not have been prouder to be an attorney. In one hour, on a cloudy afternoon in November 2007, the legal profession demonstrated how it could come together almost immediately to show the world how attorneys can show their support for liberty and an independent legal system in another country thousands of miles away.

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  • Courtney Laidlaw

    Attorney, Law Department, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

    The Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program opened doors, and my eyes, into a world I knew very little about. During my two summers in the program I worked at a big law firm in the heart of Times Square. As a kid from Brooklyn who rarely traveled to Manhattan, having my first “real” office job be in the City gave me a true sense of self-confidence. I still remember the feeling of pride that I had going into work each morning. The best part of the program was being exposed to so many different and unique areas of the legal profession, which allowed me to learn what areas interested me the most. Ultimately, without this program, the support from program leadership, and the friendships made, I have reasonable doubt that I would be practicing law today.

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  • David McCraw

    Former Executive Committee Member
    Deputy General Counsel, The New York Times

    As a First Amendment lawyer I am pretty much required to remind people that the New York City Bar Association was the setting for one of the landmark battles for freedom of expression in America. In 1933, federal Judge John J. Woolsey, apparently less than pleased with the facilities found downtown at the Southern District courthouse, began hearing his cases at the City Bar in midtown. It was there on a Saturday morning in November 1933 that he heard The United States of America v. One Book Called “Ulysses” – a case that asked Woolsey to decide whether James Joyce’s landmark novel of life in Dublin on a single day in 1904 was obscene.

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  • Ayisha C. McHugh

    Proskauer Rose LLP

    I recently participated in a panel at the New York City Bar Association geared towards prospective law students, and it felt like a full-circle moment. As I looked up from the dais, I realized I was sitting across from a painting of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the man whose life and legacy transformed my life. As a senior in high school, I had participated in the City Bar’s Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program, a dynamic summer internship program for underprivileged and underrepresented students….I proudly share that I am the product of diversity pipeline programs because opportunities like those granted to me through this Program expanded my reality. For those of us who never imagined we could be lawyers, simply because we didn’t know the career path was a viable option, the intentional efforts and initiatives of diversity pipeline programs are instrumental in our development…. I am no longer a high school intern but a law clerk starting out on my legal career. Anytime I walk through the doors of the City Bar, I am filled with gratitude. For me, it is a place where my life changed and my legal professional journey began and continues.

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  • Cyrus Mehta

    Cyrus Mehta

    Immigration & Nationality Law Committee
    Managing Partner, Cyrus D. Mehta & Partners PLLC

    I was Chair of the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee when an immigration law provision, section 245(i), was set to sunset on April 30, 2001. It would help people who were undocumented to adjust their status in the US. We mobilized and trained lawyers to assist immigrants prior to the deadline. A seminar was held in the Great Hall for the immigrant community, and the hall was packed and there was a line to get in on 44th street. Then the September 11 attacks happened, and two days later in our committee meeting we mobilized again to assist immigrants who would get impacted. I am proud that through the City Bar we served thousands of immigrants who needed help in their hour of need.

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  • Amber Melville-Brown

    Partner, Withersworldwide

    A line from the poet Robert Browning has guided me throughout my professional career, "Ah, but a man's aim should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" The City Bar's mission to promote the reform of law, uphold the rule of law and access to justice in support of a fair society and the public interest may at times appear at the very edge of our grasp. But as American attorneys (and English lawyers) we continue to aim high as Browning suggests, and I look forward to doing so as a new member of the New York City Bar Association, wishing it a very happy birthday, as I do so. 

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  • Shanice Naidu-Jimenez

    Diversity Pipeline Initiatives Committee
    Assistant Corporate Counsel, New York City Law Department

    What I love most about the City Bar is its focus on volunteering and community. For example, the City Bar encourages its members to engage with New York City students, academia, and legal professionals. I am very grateful for the frequent opportunities to give back, whether as a college or law school student talking with high school students about my career path or currently being an attorney member of the same committee that runs the summer internship program that first introduced me to the City Bar 15 years ago. As we celebrate the City Bar’s 150th anniversary, I would like to thank the City Bar for the knowledge and experiences I gained throughout the past fifteen years that guided my academic and professional development. I wish for many more years of its outreach, growth, and strong sense of community and service.

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  • Barbara Berger Opotowsky

    Former City Bar Executive Director

    9/11 was a defining moment for the New York City Bar Association and for me. It was a time when we had an opportunity to provide service and affect policy. At a time when so many felt helpless, we were privileged to have an opportunity to help. It was a time when there was a clarity of purpose, when we knew what truly mattered and everything else was put aside. We, New York’s lawyers, the country, and much of the world, were united. As dark as those days were, we felt we had a common purpose.

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  • Christopher Pioch

    Co-Chair, Task Force on the Independence of Lawyers & Judges
    Venable LLP

    Lawyers should be able to represent clients, and judges should be able to independently decide cases, without fearing for either their own or their loved ones’ safety or careers…. In the course of our work, we have connected, worked with, and met lawyers around the world who, with similar day jobs, strongly believe in protecting the integrity of the legal system. As a committee we have conferenced with members of foreign governments, met with leaders of foreign bar associations, and been involved in high-level discussions about the efficacy of current protections for lawyers and judges. Given our proximity to the United Nations, we have also developed a strong relationship with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

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  • Bettina (Betsy) B. Plevan

    Former City Bar President
    Proskauer Rose LLP

    First, the Association has made an enormous contribution to enhancing and celebrating diversity in the legal profession…. Another important contribution of the Association has been its sponsorship of and support for legal services for people in need through many programs and initiatives now consolidated under the umbrella of the City Bar Justice Center…. Finally, we can all take great pride in the Association’s long-standing commitment to the rule of law and in particular its courage in speaking out when our government has overstepped its authority and upset the balance between national security and individual rights.

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  • Raabia Qasim

    Civil Rights Committee Member
    NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services

    I first walked through the marble hallways of the City Bar in 2006 as a high school intern. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. As a high school student interested in pursuing a legal career, without any knowledge of what that would entail, I participated in its Office for Diversity and Inclusion’s Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program…. Today, I am an active member of the City Bar, serving on its Civil Rights Committee. A big part of the reason I have stayed involved is that it is the gathering place for the people who helped me in every step of my journey to joining the legal profession…. It has been my home through the long and difficult journey to becoming a lawyer. It is where I still go to remind myself how far I have come and why I became a lawyer.

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  • Barbara Paul Robinson

    Former City Bar President
    Debevoise & Plimpton

    During the 125th Anniversary, which I was privileged to be part of and seems only minutes ago in this long history, I said, “If Central Park can be said to be the lungs of New York, the Association of the Bar is its conscience.”….True to its founders, the City Bar promotes and recommends improvements in the law, integrity in government and the judiciary, and human rights around the world. Because the City Bar speaks with courage, reason, and independence, its voice continues to be highly respected and has a strong impact locally, nationally, and internationally.

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  • Alan Rothstein

    Former City Bar General Counsel

    When I think back on my 30 years as counsel at the City Bar, I most marvel at the scope of what I got to work on. During my tenure, we always had at least 150 committees hard at work, covering the full range of the law. If an aspect wasn’t being covered, no problem: we created a committee for that. I felt my legal knowledge was a mile wide and an inch deep, having a passing knowledge of fields I had no idea existed. I felt that if there was a contest for who knew the most anagrams of agencies, I’d be a good contestant.

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  • Thomas R. Slome

    City Bar Treasurer
    Cullen & Dykman LLP

    Eventually, I was given the opportunity to chair the Bankruptcy Committee and it was based not on who I knew but the work I had done. The experience was both challenging and rewarding. A successful Bankruptcy Committee chair experience led to a nomination and election as the current Treasurer of the City Bar (and its sister organization, the City Bar Fund)….The City Bar and the City Bar Fund are about hard work and the opportunities it creates for the City’s legal community as well as for the people of the City and, indeed, the world. I’ve experienced it firsthand and I recommend that you take advantage of its many ways in which you can get involved.

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