2015 Annual Meeting Remarks – Bret I. Parker

Bret I. Parker

Thanks Debby. And thanks Tom again for all of your hard work. Good evening, I’m Bret Parker, executive director of the New York City Bar and I am so pleased to be here tonight. The Annual Meeting is not just an important annual event at the City Bar, but this year it marks my second anniversary having the best job I’ve ever had. I feel incredibly lucky to be working with our members and our talented staff.

This has been another year of exciting changes at the City Bar.

For example, we now have a Customer Service Department, under the direction of Locksley Green, which serves as a one-stop shop for members or the public to get assistance on everything from CLE to membership dues to booking a room in our small law firm center. We know that attorneys and law students have choices when they decide where to spend their time and money on bar associations and we not only want to meet their needs but we want to exceed their expectations.

Also, as you may have noticed when you walked into the building, we’ve added electronic displays in the lobby to help you find your meeting or program.

And in keeping with the technology theme, and proving that even after 145 years of history we can still be modern, we have rolled out City Bar Central, which is a new password-protected online community where each committee can continue its dialogue between meetings, share files, collaborate on reports and more. Soon, all City Bar members will be able to start and/or join a discussion in our Open Forum, or in one of the Practice Forums. And as another electronic benefit for members, we’ve added free remote access to Casemaker, a comprehensive legal research library.

Now in case you think we’ve forgotten about the brick and mortar world, we created some new committees this past year for new lawyers and they have been organizing actual real events in the physical world where human beings interact in person.

For example, the Public Service committee held a blood drive and participated in a Martin Luther King Jr. day of service event at a public middle school in Crown Heights. The Social Events and Networking Committee held a variety of events, including a wine tasting and a holiday party with the new lawyer committees of other bar associations. They also co-sponsored Poker Night as part of our Lawyer’s Connect series.

And of course our Moot Court committee organized another year of one of the longest-running and most prestigious competitions in the country.

In keeping with the philosophy that we’re here for all kinds of practice types, including our in-house members (which Debby will talk about), our new Virtual Law Firm program offers members a brick and mortar presence in the building with over 75 solo or small firm attorneys using the City Bar to receive mail, have calls answered, hold meetings and more.

Now last year at the Annual Meeting, I touted one of my smallest but proudest accomplishments – the repair of the Meeting Room door right back there, which no longer squeaks and gets stuck. And now this year, I am pleased to announce that we have addressed another one of the historical idiosyncrasies of the City Bar which is the annual City Bar committee chair and secretary pilgrimage to various banks to change the signature cards for our committees’ bank accounts. Committees now can have the City Bar finance group administer the collection of committee dues, payment of catering, etc. Kudos to Tom Halter and his staff for making that happen.

One of the most important barometers of success in my mind is membership. And as you heard we have over 25,000 members (including students) – that’s the most members we’ve had in at least the past decade. My sincere thanks to Arlene Bein and the entire membership and marketing department because I know that there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears – and some laughter – that goes into attracting and keeping every single one of those members.

One of the reasons people belong the City Bar is to participate on one of our 160 our committees. Debby will talk about some of the amazing work of our committees, but in order to make all of that advocacy, reporting and programming happen we need people to participate. We’ve always expected the highest level of quality from our committee members – at this association, you don’t just check a box to join a committee, add it to your resume and sit back. Because of that, our committees do work and their results have an impact. And our efforts to make committee opportunities available to more people – while still maintaining quality – are making great progress.

Number of Applicants
2013/14 = 616 2014/15 = 943 Went up 53%
Number of committee seats filled:
2013/14 = 4,326 2014/15 = 4,602
Number of affiliate members:
2013/14 = 172 2014/15 = 368


And the leadership of our committees continues to become more diverse in every sense of the word. And that’s no accident. Of the 36 new chairs that were just appointed, half are men and half are women. And 25% are people of color. And the incoming executive committee of the Association – our most senior leadership – is incredibly diverse. Of the 22 members, 12 are male and 10 are female; and just over 40% (9 of the 22) are from historically under-represented groups.

Looking at the portraits in this room it’s hard to believe that, but we’re actively working on ways to make the walls of the House of the Association more fully reflect the diversity of the talent of our profession and the amazing people who are involved in this amazing organization.

Looking inward at the City Bar, we’ve had some changes in our own staff and leadership – our new head of Human Resources, Tecca Williams, has already implemented some process improvements and has been working with a number of departments on hiring.

The most notable staff change at the City Bar hasn’t happened yet, but it’s coming. Alan Rothstein, our general counsel who has been here at the City Bar almost 30 years, announced his retirement. I’m a little angry with him, but I suppose he’s earned a chance to enjoy time with his wonderful wife, Claire, and the rest of his family. As Elchi mentioned, there will be time to honor Alan and his incredible career later this summer, and kudos to Debby (with help from Eric Friedman) for the column about Alan in the 44th Street Notes Newsletter that just came out), but since I’ve got a mic and a captive audience (meaning Alan is captive and can’t get away) I want to publicly thank you, Alan, for helping guide this association and the profession over the past 3 decades with such a conscience and sense of what’s right. On a selfish note, you’ve made my first two years an easy transition and I’ve learned a ton, and we’ve even laughed along the way.

Luckily, we have an incredibly deep bench of talent here at the City Bar to pick up where Alan leaves off.

Maria Cilenti will assume the role of Senior Policy Counsel, overseeing all of the City Bar’s policy work and advocacy, as communicated through our committees’ reports, policy statements, amicus briefs, public comments and letters to public officials and heads of state.

Thomas Halter will assume an expanded role as Chief Administrative Officer, with primary responsibility for the sound financial and technical operations of the City Bar.

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. She will work with the Executive Committee of the Association and will continue to spearhead our career management activities.

Ann Rappleye will assume the role of Director of Programs to coordinate all CLE and non-CLE programming activity of our committees, allowing us to plan more strategically, best leverage the efforts of our volunteers and coordinate our calendar of events to offer the widest array of programming to our members and the public.

Finally, many thanks to the members of the Executive Committee, both the ones whose terms are ending and the ones who are continuing. I have to give a special shout out to Elchi Nowrojee who ends his term as Chair of our Executive Committee (but remains on the Committee as a Vice President). Congratulations to the new Executive Committee members and to the new Chair, Hallie Levin. Thanks to Judge Allan Gropper for all of his hard work as our Treasurer and congratulations to him on his retirement from the bench.

And to Debby, mazel tov for making it halfway through your term — I’m so looking forward to the second half of this great adventure. Thank you.