City Bar Working Groups and Task Forces: What Are They and How Do They Work?
The City Bar’s 150+ committees shape and drive our policy work. As we like to say, if there’s an area of expertise in the legal field, the City Bar has a committee dedicated to it. Our committees run the gamut from A to Z – from Administrative Law to Land Use Planning and Zoning – and address a myriad of topics ranging from International Human Rights, Securities Regulation, Hospitality Law, Criminal Justice, Environmental Law, Health Law, Technology, Cyber and Privacy Law, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Professional Ethics, Immigration, Disability Law, and Civil Rights, to name a few.
Over 5,000 City Bar members participate on our committees at any one point in time, which produce nearly 200 policy positions a year in the form of legislative reports, letters to public officials, op-eds, amicus briefs, oral and written testimony, white papers, and comments on rules and regulations. The committees also regularly organize, moderate and participate in panels, CLE programs, and events on a host of legal issues of importance to their members, the legal profession, and the public. It is not unusual for committee members to maintain significant involvement with the City Bar after their 3-year term is up, often by requesting to join another committee, a working group or a task force.
So, what are Working Groups and Task Forces? Why do we have them, how are they formed, how long do they last, and how do they coordinate with and/or complement the work of the City Bar’s committees?
A working group is typically put together to address a single issue that either (1) does not squarely fall within the jurisdiction of any committee, or (2) overlaps with so many committees that it should be a coordinated effort from the outset. Working groups are comprised of members of existing committees; working group members are expected to be active liaisons between the working group and their respective committees. All committees involved in the working group should have an opportunity to participate in the working group’s deliberations and drafting of work product as they see fit, typically through the committee member who sits on the working group acting as liaison. Working groups should not supplant committee input or jurisdiction. In other words, working groups should not be set up to “get around” committees. Depending on how formally the group operates, some working groups elect to have a chair and secretary in order to provide leadership and administrative support. It is the responsibility of the working group leadership to ensure that the members are consulting with their committees throughout the process.
Like a working group, a task force is typically put together to address a single issue that either (1) does not squarely fall within the jurisdiction of any committee, or (2) overlaps with so many committees that it should be a coordinated effort from the outset. Unlike a working group, which may have longevity because it can go on as long as there is a need to coordinate among City Bar committees on a particular issue, a task force typically disbands when its mission is fulfilled and its work completed. Also unlike a working group, a task force’s members may include both members from City Bar committees with relevant knowledge or interest as well as others who do not sit on City Bar committees but who may bring a particular expertise. (Note: to preserve confidentiality and for other reasons, we strongly encourage all task force members to be, or become, City Bar members, even if they do not sit on a committee.) As with working groups, task force members who are on City Bar committees are expected to be active liaisons between the task force and their respective committees. And, as with working groups, all committees involved in the task force should have an opportunity to participate in the task force’s deliberations and drafting of work product as they see fit, typically through the committee member who sits on the working group acting as liaison. Most task forces have a chair and secretary in order to provide leadership and administrative support. It is the responsibility of the task force leadership to ensure that members who are committee members are consulting with their committees throughout the process.
How is a Working Group or Task Force Formed?
A working group or task force is formed by submitting a proposal in writing to Maria Cilenti, Senior Policy Counsel (email@example.com) and Martha Harris, Senior Director of Programs and Committee Engagement (firstname.lastname@example.org), which ultimately must be approved by the City Bar President. (Specific issues that should be addressed in the proposal are outlined below.)
I think we need to form a Working Group or Task Force. Now what?
If you think a working group or task force is needed to address a particular issue, please contact a member of the Policy Department to discuss (contact information listed below). We can advise you on factors and considerations that should be addressed in your written proposal.
How do Working Groups and Task Forces Take Positions and Issue Reports?
Policy positions and reports issued by the City Bar’s working groups and task forces go through a review and approval process similar to the protocol followed by City Bar committees, with the additional step that committees participating in the working group or task force must have an opportunity to review and comment on the report, with the goal that all participating committees endorse the report before it is submitted to the Policy Department for review and then approval by the President. If there is conflict, it should be brought to the attention of the Policy Department as soon as possible.
Can Working Groups and Task Forces Plan Events and CLE Programs?
A working group or task force can organize events and CLE programs and must go through the same process followed by committees. When a working group or task force has an idea for an event or CLE they should reach out to the Program Department and submit an outline of the program for review and approval and to discuss the timing of the program as well. They are encouraged to think broadly about what other City Bar committees might also be interested in the topic and reach out to collaborate on the program.
What are some examples of City Bar Working Groups and Task Forces?
When we wanted to comment on whether New York State should hold a constitutional convention in 2018, we created a Task Force on the New York State Constitutional Convention, comprised of members of committees such as Election Law and Government Ethics, as well as at-large members. When we wanted to bring together members, including committee members, interested in considering and advocating for ways to end mass incarceration, we created a Mass Incarceration Task Force. And, we have been in the process of creating a Task Force on Digital Technologies which, given the breadth of issues associated with that topic, is comprised largely of members across several committees, including those who have been examining legal issues around cryptocurrency.
A Working Group on Three Private International Law Treaties was formed in recent months to analyze: (1) Hague Convention of 30 June 2005 on Choice of Court Agreements; (2) Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters; and (3) United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation. The working group consists of members from the City Bar’s ADR Committee, African Affairs Committee, Arbitration Committee, Commercial Law & Uniform State Laws Committee, Inter-American Affairs Committee, Council on Judicial Administration and Council on International Affairs. We also have a Business and Human Rights Working Group, which was formed to help develop and implement a strategy to educate and engage the legal community and the broader public with regard to business and human rights. The working group consists of members from the Corporation Law Committee, Foreign & Comparative Law Committee, International Environmental Law Committee, International Human Rights Committee, International Law Committee, and United Nations Committee.
And that’s the scoop on Working Groups and Task Forces. We hope this answers some of the questions we receive about these different formats. If you have additional questions, please feel free to be in touch with the appropriate staff member listed below. As always, we are here to help the City Bar’s committees and members work creatively and collaboratively to produce well-reasoned, informative and insightful policy positions that, in turn, further the City Bar’s mission to “equip and mobilize a diverse legal profession to practice with excellence, promote reform of the law, and uphold the rule of law and access to justice in support of a fair society and the public interest in our community, our nation, and throughout the world.”
Maria Cilenti, Senior Policy Counsel | 212.382.6655 | email@example.com
Elizabeth Kocienda, Director of Advocacy | 212.382.4788 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Margulis-Ohnuma, Policy Counsel | 212.382.6767 | email@example.com
Martha Harris, Senior Director of Programs and Committee Engagement | firstname.lastname@example.org
 The City Bar also has a number of Councils made up of constituent committee chairs as well as other members, i.e., the Council on Children, Council on Judicial Administration, Council on International Affairs, Council on the Profession, and Council on Intellectual Property. These operate effectively as permanent working groups for certain committees as well as function alongside committees in their respective subject areas.