Top Ten Highlights of My First Year – Bret I. Parker

Bret I. Parker

Spring 2014

As I end my first year as Executive Director of the New York City Bar Association, I wanted to look back at some of the highlights for me. I hesitate to pick so few given how much incredible activity there is in a year, and I don’t mean to say that there aren’t other amazing programs and events here at the Association, but for me these jump out:

  1. The Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Distinguished Lecture on Women and the Law:  Getting to hear Justices Ginsburg and Kagan both speak at the City Bar (and to meet both of them) may end up being one of the highlights of my career. I greatly admire both of them and, based on the sold-out crowd, I’m clearly not alone.
  2. The City Bar Justice Center Annual Gala and Volunteering for Monday Night Law: This year’s Gala was a great success – a fun evening catching up with friends while raising a record amount for the City Bar Justice Center to help fund the fantastic work that our staff and volunteers do to help thousands of poor and underserved New Yorkers. I also volunteered for Monday Night Law and experienced the first-hand satisfaction of providing free legal advice and meeting my ethical obligations within a discrete and predictable timetable.
  3. Diversity GC Panel: General Counsels from several companies that are leaders in diversity spoke on a panel about their efforts and best practices to create a more diverse and inclusive legal profession. The conversation was incredibly candid and approximately 200 attendees braved the weather. As the panel discussed, we all need to play a significant role in efforts to enhance diversity, especially through mentoring.
  4. CLE Anytime: When I first became Executive Director, one of my first thoughts (as nerdy as it sounds) was that I would attend unlimited CLE all day long in the building where I would be working. And while the work has definitely interfered with that fantasy, in just this year I’ve attended numerous programs (or parts of programs) on a wide variety of topics such as white collar crime, 3D printers, trademarks, non-profit law and litigation, as well as our year-end Corporate Counsel Institute.
  5. Stimson Awards: Each year we hold an event at which we honor federal prosecutors from the criminal and civil divisions of the S.D.N.Y. and the E.D.N.Y. The U.S. Attorney for each office attends along with a large number of the Assistant U.S. Attorneys and other staff. Hearing about the work and sacrifice of each award recipient, many of whom believe strongly in public service and bring their family to the ceremony, is extremely inspiring.
  6. Committee Chair Meetings and Dinner: Each spring, each committee chair meets with the City Bar President, me and General Counsel Alan Rothstein (sometimes along with other staff). Sitting through my first round of those meetings helped me see the incredible volume and breadth of topics we address, reports we publish and programs we hold. In September, at our annual dinner for committee chairs, I had a chance to meet many of them again in a more relaxed setting and conveyed my thoughts on how their work helps make our Association so strong.
  7. Mayor’s Forum: Last year two dozen of our committees collaborated so the City Bar could issue a report with a wide range of policy recommendations for New York City’s next Mayor, followed by a public standing-room-only forum at the City Bar attended by most of the Mayoral candidates, including the eventual winner of the election, Mayor Bill de Blasio.
  8. International Encounters: Even though we are the New York City Bar Association, we attract members, speakers and visitors from around the world.  Last year, following Moldova Prime Minister Iurie Leanca’s speech to the UN General Assembly, the City Bar’s Committee on European Affairs and the Council on International Affairs hosted a luncheon here in his honor. Also last year, the Hon. Dr. Willy Mutunga, Chief Justice/President of the Supreme Court of Kenya, gave a presentation focusing on the implementation of Kenya’s current constitution and the role of the Kenyan judiciary in the transformation of Kenya. The event was sponsored by the African Affairs Committee, the Council on International Affairs and the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice.
  9. Moot Court: Every year, over 150 law schools compete in the regional rounds of the National Moot Court Competition throughout the U.S., and the winners advance to the final rounds held at the City Bar. This widely–recognized competition allows law students to hone their appellate advocacy skills by arguing before prominent judges and lawyers. In this 64th year of the competition, I was able to observe the incredible talent of future members of our profession.
  10. New Social Events: As part of our efforts to create additional networking opportunities, we launched two initiatives. First, we started the Bar @ the Bar, a monthly casual and relatively inexpensive happy hour for members. The experiment was so successful that we’ll be continuing it in the fall, on the second Tuesday of every month. Second, as part of our continuing focus on providing resources for our members who work on the company side, we hosted a free reception for in-house counsel.