Bar Association Membership Has Been Very Good to Me – Bret I. Parker

Bret I. Parker

Winter 2014

Mindful of the many demands on lawyers, I believe it’s critical that each and every member’s experience with the New York City Bar Association be professionally and personally rewarding. This means different things for different members, but for me bar association involvement has shaped my career in ways I never anticipated and led to opportunities I never imagined when I graduated from Fordham Law School more than 20 years ago.

Joining the City Bar’s Trademarks and Unfair Competition Committee shortly after graduating from law school, I learned about the hot topics of the day and developed leadership skills. I helped shape CLE programs and eventually was able to speak on panels. This helped me hone my presentation skills, develop my own “voice,” and establish a name for myself. I also met people who have become lifelong friends, mentors and even employers!

I found my experience so satisfying that I became involved with other bar associations as well, most significantly the International Trademark Association (INTA). Little did I know that my involvement with INTA would lead to my leaving my law firm job. Through INTA conferences, I met many in-house lawyers, including the person who would eventually hire me to work at Colgate-Palmolive. Through committee work, I had been able to showcase my knowledge of trademark law as well as my leadership, organizational and interpersonal skills, leading me to receive a job offer I had not even been seeking.

Soon after, in large part based on my early committee work, I was asked to chair the City Bar’s Trademarks and Unfair Competition Committee. Although I didn’t supervise people during my first few years at Colgate-Palmolive, my role as a City Bar committee chair gave me experience that would prove critical to demonstrating my readiness for promotion at Colgate-Palmolive, eventually leading to my receiving an offer to head the Trademark and Copyright Department at Wyeth.

The City Bar has also helped me find wonderful pro bono opportunities, through which I have had my most personally fulfilling experiences as a lawyer. While at Wyeth, I joined the City Bar Pro Bono and Legal Services Committee and decided to launch a pro bono program at Wyeth. Naturally, I turned to the City Bar Justice Center for the protocols, forms and policies needed to start the Wyeth program, which allowed our lawyers and others in the legal department to assist in domestic violence, social security disability, copyright and other matters.

When the opportunity to become Executive Director of the City Bar presented itself, I jumped at it. Again, my extensive experience in bar associations gave me an edge. Working with large groups on committees, serving in leadership roles and getting to know the members of our profession—these experiences beyond my “day job” as an attorney made the difference for me. 

So when I’m asked, “Why should I join the New York City Bar Association?” I say, from experience, “You owe it to your future self to do it.”