The Law Firm Challenge Guest post By Jeremy Cooney & William Lowe

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For the first time, the annual Campaign for Justice features a new component—the Law Firm Challenge—a competition among participating local law firms and public sector entities with the goal of increasing participation among young attorneys (under 40) while increasing awareness regarding the Campaign’s ultimate purpose, raising funds to provide legal services to the low-income residents of Monroe County.

In existence since 1986, the Campaign for Justice is the greater Rochester area legal community’s annual fundraising campaign, aimed at raising much-needed funding to provide critical legal services to residents of Monroe County.  Specifically, all funds raised through the Campaign for Justice are distributed to the Volunteer Legal Services Project (VLSP), Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY), and the Legal Aid Society of Rochester—three local organizations that provide a variety of legal services to individuals who would otherwise be without the means to gain access to such services. Thanks to the generosity and volunteers of hundreds throughout the area’s legal community, the Campaign for Justice successfully raises over $200,000 each year.  But the need is growing and more funds are needed to help those in our community.

The Law Firm Challenge is a new initiative for 2014 with two key goals: increasing the number of young attorney-donors (under age 40) to the Campaign for Justice, and raising awareness regarding the mission of the Campaign’s three benefiting agencies.  To achieve these goals, participating law firms and public sector practice groups will be divided into one of four categories with similar sized and practice-type entities (Large firms, midsize firms, small firms, and public sector entities), for a two-week competition to engage the highest number of attorneys under age 40 to contribute to the Campaign.  The firm/public sector entity with the largest percentage of donors—regardless of contribution amount—within its category will be the winner.  A social event will be held at the conclusion of the competition for all participants where the winning organizations will be recognized and given a prize.

The Campaign for Justice raises critical funds to ensure our community’s poor have access to the legal system, and it is the hope that the Law Firm Challenge will not only help to insure that VLSP, LawNY, and the Legal Aid Society of Rochester continue to receive necessary funding, but will also engage a significant number of young attorney-donors in the Campaign to ensure its future success.

Jeremy A. Cooney, Esq.

City of Rochester

William Q. Lowe, Esq.

Harris Beach PLLC

 

My Tortilla Soup reminds me of our MCBA members…

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As I recently discovered while making a big pot of Tortilla Soup. There are many similarities between this particular soup and our members. Nothing better than hot soup on cold nights. I will make a big pot on a weekend, and enjoy it throughout the week. One of my favorite recipes is my Chicken Tortilla Soup. It is a hearty soup with lots of personality — just like our members. It is a diverse soup, in terms of flavors, textures, ingredients, just like my job and the people I work with. Some recipes I will follow exactly, more when it comes to baking. But my day-to-day cooking rarely follows a recipe. I am all about taste, and what appeals to me. Family and friends can vouch for me since when invited, they all willingly show up and no one appears to leave hungry. What I love about this particular recipe, every time I make it, is different. Ingredients may vary, and if they do, the flavor will vary as well. As you read on, you will see why this very special soup reminds me of all of you — our very special members.

spicy tortilla soup

For a BIG Pot Mary Style — The Recipe

  1. First step — pour a nice glass of wine. It inspires the chef in me…and clearly makes for a better outcome. Love nothing more than cooking on a Saturday afternoon, with the music going, and a glass of wine as I season the soup. I prefer bold reds: cabernet’s, syrah’s, blends. Yes, even when cooking fish and chicken. If it is 95 degrees, I will enjoy a nice albarino. I only keep a white on hand for those friends that I have yet to convert to the dark side of reds. Anyway, getting back to the recipe. Our members are diverse in their beverages of choice as well.
  1. Poach 4 – 6 chicken breasts in a large flat sauté pan. I poach in chicken broth to enhance the flavor. If you don’t know how to poach chicken, Google or YouTube It. No time for it here. When the chicken is done, let it cool and set aside. Once cool, shred the chicken with two forks into small bites. Never cube it, looks boring an unappealing. You want it tender like so many of our sweet and wonderful members, but if you overcook it, it can become tough and stressed. This can also be like some of our members when we over tax you and you get tired and stressed. Lesson here — never over tax your chicken or your members.
  2. In the large soup kettle, pour “about” a tablespoon or two of olive oil, heat on very low heat. Add 4-5 cloves of chopped garlic (be careful not to burn that garlic — if you do, throw it out and start over) and 4-6 of the small “hot” peppers. I have already grilled the hot peppers on the grill or over the flame of my gas stove to get that charred flavor and look. When I am prepping the pepper, I do love to add some of the seeds into the soup because it really adds “the heat” that makes this soup so incredibly good. I also found a random jalapeño in my dry box, so of course I added that. Of the friends and family I cook for, I know some like it hot and some don’t. Some like cilantro, some don’t. I will never compromise the integrity of this soup and make it wimpy, but I will modify and tone it down, ever so slightly in order to accommodate my guests. Then will offer side dishes of cilantro, more green onions and peppers for those that like to live on the wild side with me. Adding the garlic and the hot peppers also reminds me of members. Some like to heat things up at the bar, and create some controversy, while others like to keep things more on the calm and not so spicy side. Some members believe we should be involved in issues that other members do not. In some cases, those members become non-members in order to make their point. Others never become members and claim it is because things are too hot and spicy. In those cases, my response is always an invitation to the table to join in the dialogue and allow their voice to be heard. But if not a member, you don’t have a seat at the hot and spicy table with an ability to subdue some of the spice. Like my friends that don’t like a lot of cilantro. They don’t stop coming to the table, they come and simply say, can we talk about the amount of cilantro you put in your soup? And good friend and chef that I am, I modify to please my guests (members). Red and Yellow Peppers
  3. Once all of this yummy is soft and translucent, add 2-3 boxes of chicken broth. Again, depends on how big a pot you wish to make. I am really trying to do organic right now, so this was organic chicken broth. I like a hearty soup, so I want to know that with every spoonful, and I am also getting a spoonful of all the ingredients. When I get down to nothing but broth, that becomes a note to self — too much chicken broth. My tip here is you can always add more broth if it becomes more like a thick stew. The other trick here is you just learn three more people are joining the festivities, and another box of broth makes this manageable as long as you can also add a few other ingredients like corn and beans to keep everything in balance. This is also the trick when managing a bar event. Suddenly you have 50 more people coming, and you have to be ready with some quick additions.
  4. Next are 2 large cans (organic in my case) of whole tomatoes in juice. Watch that you don’t get the whole tomatoes in basil, garlic or purée. Just plain whole tomatoes in juice. I throw them in my blender for a minute as Tortilla soup is not meant to have large chunks of tomatoes, but I do like small bits, so I am careful not to pulverize this red gift. Again, this is where I modify. If I am using three boxes of broth, I would use two cans of tomatoes, etc. This becomes a taste preference. This point serves to remind me about how much food we serve at the MCBA. For meetings, for CLE’s, for bribery purposes when we are pushing our 27 member Judiciary Committee to do 8 interviews within 2 four-hour interview sessions. We must provide sustenance to this hard-working group. But it never fails. “Mary, would you tell your sandwich maker that we prefer the tuna without onion?” Next member may say, “Mary, tell your place that this tuna is dull, it needs some onion and celery.” No two palates are alike.
  5. Next are the black beans. Strain 2-3 cans of this wonderful and healthy food. In a recent blog from the Cleveland Clinic, they stated that black beans are one of the 8 healthiest foods you can eat. Packed with good protein and lots of other nutritional benefits. But as we all know, beans can affect people very differently. So beans also serve to remind me how similar they can be to our members, and how different our members are. But most importantly, how our members respond to different things. One issue may fire up a member and they really become passionate and a bit explosive over an issue. That same issue will have no effect on another member. I guess it just depends on the issue, the member and the bean.
  6. And in this pot of hot, spicy and zing, you need a touch of sweetness, and that is where the corn comes in. When I can get it, I will buy fresh corn on the cob, grill it, and then shave it off the cob or if a can 2 cans. That grilled flavor is the secret ingredient to this soup. I am telling you it is worth the extra steps. When I have to go with canned corn, I drain it, then sauté it in a hot, dry pan which also gives it the charred look and flavor — I am all about the burn! This sweet corn ingredient is such a reflection of our members as we are gifted with so many sweet and kind members. Members that make a point of stopping in and thanking us for something that did not require thanks. Or we will receive notes and emails after an event or about a matter that provide a simple thanks for the support we provide to members. Never necessary, but always appreciated.

Reminder about my gauge in terms of the balance of ingredients, when I scoop a spoonful, I want to see a little bit of everything. If I get no chicken, 8 beans, and 1 kernel of corn, I need to balance it up. But that’s just me. For those that know me, I like harmony in my life. I don’t always get it, but I like to strive for it.

The toppings…and this is where it gets fun! Have a few small bowls of the following available, and allow your guests to customize their bowl of soup.

  • Cilantro — adds this fresh and unique flavor when sprinkled over the soup. I do add some to the big pot, but this is one of those ingredients not everyone likes, so I respect that…to a point!
  • Scallions/Green Onions — the addition of these bright green and white onions, raw, over the top of the soup bowl, add a bright flash of color, yet another intriguing flavor, and freshness.
  • Red Onions — another gift of the gods. Sautéed red onions. With no need to add sugar, a sautéed red onion develops its own natural sugar. I provide a bowl of these and encourage guests to throw a little fresh scallion on top along with a few strands of the sautéed red — together they are heavenly.
  • Lime — oh man, this is like the best. That touch of citrus squeezed over the bowl just enhances the flavor even more. I do place about half a lime in the big pot while cooking. But always have some cut up for your guests.
  • Avocado — there is no Tortilla Soup without this nectar of the gods. The secret to picking a good avocado is by touch. If you give it a gentle squeeze, and it is hard as a rock, it is not ready. If serving a crowd, I have lots of avocado to go around because this is always popular. Remember, though a fat, avocado is considered a healthy fat.
  • Cheese and Sour Cream — some recipes call for a Monterey Jack, others a cheddar, which is what I prefer. Not a strong cheddar, but not mild either. Something in the middle. Plus, don’t forget the sour cream, and “only a dollop will do!” I have chosen to allow only one dairy in my bowl in an ongoing effort to be as healthy as I can be, but if you don’t offer the sour cream, no harm in the low-fat version, someone will ask for it. Best to provide. The touch of dairy from the cheese or the sour cream does add an even richer flavor to the soup in terms of texture, while cutting back some of the zing-power in this soup for those that want to have this effect.
  • Tortilla Strips or Chips — some recipes call for cutting up a flour tortilla into strips, and then cooking them really quickly in a skillet with light oil till crispy. This is the best way as they really enhance the texture of the soup giving it the crunch that it needs. When in a rush, there is no harm in grabbing a bag of corn tortilla chips off the rack. As long as you have that crunch factor in the meal.

So in the end, you have this rich, robust, spicy, zingy, creamy, flavorful, crunchy, colorful soup — and every bowl at the table is as diverse in personality as the members of the MCBA. Perhaps one day I will need to bring in a big crockpot of this soup, and if you happen to be so lucky to be there, you might be so lucky to grab a bowl.

And last but not least, some like beer with this soup; others may prefer a red, while someone at the table will opt for a white wine, or some sparkling water. So as you gather at the table surrounded by your family and friends, getting ready to enjoy this wonderful soup, recognize that you never all agree about everything because you are all diverse in experiences and opinions, but in the end because you love and respect each other, harmony will prevail, just like our MCBA members.

Thanks for checking in. Bon appétit,

Mary

October is the month…Guest Post by Liz Novak

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I was out and about at the end of last week and had a moment of noticing all of the beautiful colors of autumn – which is rare for me. I’m not always good at being in the present, always thinking two steps ahead, and I had somehow missed the colors prior to that. And I thought – of course the leaves are changing, it’s October. Then I thought: How is it already October?

October is to the six month period of July to December as Wednesday is to the work week…but without the same wonderful anticipatory feeling of a weekend at the end of it.

October is the month when the air changes. It’s as if Mother Nature flips a switch and says get ready kids, winter will soon be here. Come on, you felt it in the air this week. We had two glorious weeks of a late summer, but this week, it feels different.

October is the month for realizing the cold, hard truth, and that it’s time for some serious and important decisions: Shovel? Snow blower? Or snow plow service? Last year, our household made an erroneous decision — based on length of driveway and robustness of its two residents (and one beagle). We made the decision to shovel — wrong move!

zakk no shoveling
Zakk the beagle says, please, no shoveling. So, this year, we’re going with a snow blower.

October is the month when we finish all of the fall gardening – getting the last bit of tomatoes, pulling up our annuals, raking leaves and doing any other last minute duties needed before the winter months.

Here at the MCBA, October is the month when the first two quarters of CLEs are well underway, and Louise Spinelli and her team are already making plans for 2015. Check out CLEs through December on the MCBA’s calendar.

October is the month when MCBA President Steve Modica reflects back on his first 90 days and is planning for the rest of the year. Check out his column in today’s Daily Record in which he writes about what he’s learned so far.

October is the month when the Lawyers for Learning Program is in full gear, recruiting mentors and pairing those who have already signed up. Click here to sign-up to become a Lawyers for Learning mentor.

October is the month when we’re realizing that the one year anniversary of BarSTOP is just around the corner! We started this monthly member social last year in November. This month’s BarSTOP is on October 16, 5-7 p.m., Label 7. Don’t miss the fun!

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October also is the month when the MCBA’s Memorial Committee is hard at work, led by the Hon. Frank Geraci, gathering tributes and photos to honor those attorneys and judges who passed away this past year at the MCBA’s Annual Memorial Ceremony on Friday, November 14, 12:30 p.m., at the Hall of Justice.

And as we reflect upon lives lost too soon, October is also the month for some to welcome new life into this world as MCBA Marketing Specialist Merritt Smith and his wife (and MCBA member) Laura Smith are making last minute preparations to welcome in their new baby girl due later this month.

October is the month when we get into the nitty-gritty planning for our Annual Bench & Bar Holiday Party on Thursday, December 4, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the Wintergarden. Invites will be coming out soon!

October is the month when the MCBA’s Board of Trustees are busy reaching out to those attorneys who have not yet renewed their dues, as we try to close the gap on membership.

October also is the month for the ABA’s National Pro Bono Celebration, October 19-25. Look for guest blogger Sheila Gaddis, Volunteer Legal Services Project, to write about this topic in the October 23 issue of Bar View.

Yes — October is a big month! Oh, it might not have the pizzazz of having the first day of school or the first day of fall, but October is the month for planning and prepping, culminating with that final night (for those of you with kids) of massive sugar consumption known as Halloween.

What is October to you? Maybe it’s the month when the slow cooker gets pulled out, and ingredients for stews, chili, and soups get put into it.

stew

Or maybe it’s none of the above. Maybe it’s the month when you ignore that winter is coming, and you still wear your flip flops and shorts, and you say that magical phrase: I’ll worry about it tomorrow.

After all, we still have the whole month!

Thanks for checking in.

Liz

How do MCBA members and staff unwind after work? Guest Post by Dajaneé Parrish

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For many of us, the work day is filled with deadlines, phone calls and emails. After a long workday finding ways to relax and recharge is a must.

We wanted to know, what MCBA members and staff do to unwind after work. Do you prefer to socialize after work or spend a quiet night at home? Are there certain activities that you always do after an especially stressful day?

After work, I spend my time watching YouTube videos. The original content and YouTube vloggers are entertaining. It’s so easy to just click on one video and then two hours later I find myself in the YouTube black hole of cat videos.

Photo Credit: http://www.technobuffalo.com/2012/06/22/youtube-could-net-google-billions-in-gross-revenue-this-year/
Photo Credit: http://www.technobuffalo.com/2012/06/22/youtube-could-net-google-billions-in-gross-revenue-this-year/

Here’s what we found out…

For Liz Novak, MCBA Membership, Communications and Foundation Manager, starting the practice of yoga recently is how she unwinds and gets her mind off of work:

“I recently started taking yoga at my gym. Sometimes it’s in the morning, which sets me up for a great day, or sometimes it’s in the evening, which helps to brush off the day’s work. A friend of mine convinced me to take a class. It’s completely out of my comfort zone, but because you have to focus on each of the moves, it allows me to be present instead of focusing on what I have to do later in the day or tomorrow, etc.”

Photo Credit: http://beyogaandwellness.com/
Photo Credit: http://beyogaandwellness.com/

For Steve Modica, MCBA President, unwinding with family is the best medicine. “I enjoy spending time with my bride of 28 years, playing golf, walking my dogs and watching sports (especially professional baseball and hockey).”

For Amanda Dwyer, Chair, Lawyers for Learning Committee, spending time in nature with her family gets her mind off of work.” In my down time I like to spend time with friends and family, especially my husband and two-year old son. We often enjoy walks in some of Monroe County’s amazing parks. Lately I have become something of a bird watcher. I like to spot different kinds in my yard and out in the wild.”

Bird watching
Photo Credit: http://www.centralpark.com/photos/show/668/bird-watching

For Neil Rowe, MCBA President-Elect, getting in some cardio and enjoying the company of fellow MCBA members is all he needs to unwind.

“I used to compete in bicycle racing, but now limit myself to invigorating rides of 30 or so miles 3 or 4 days a week.  On the alternating days I swim about 1/2 mile and otherwise enjoy my pool and backyard.  As we get to the colder seasons, I switch to the indoor gym and pool at the Webster Y.  With my retirement from government service, my teaching schedule with Keuka College should allow more time to travel, particularly to historic sights; but for the time being I am relaxing with my fellow MCBA members at a plethora of bar sponsored activities and events.”

Photo Credit: http://visit-hungary.com/active-holiday/cycling
Photo Credit: http://visit-hungary.com/active-holiday/cycling

For Ginny LaCour, MCBA Executive Assistant, faith and a little bit of Downton Abbey help her relax.

“Well – as far as taking care of myself – Church is very important to me. Spending time with my family is most valuable.  I love to read, watch HGTV, and yes, “Downton Abbey” and other similar PBS programs.  I live near the lake, so I enjoy walking on the pier at Charlotte and of course, Abbott’s!  And if I could, I would travel, travel, travel!”

Tell us what you like to do to unwind after work.

What will we look like in 2024?

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I remember that as a child I could not wait to grow up. Do you remember that feeling as a kid? “Why does life seem so slow?” “I feel as though I have been 11 forever, will I ever turn 12?” Ah’, those were the days. Now fast forward and our response sounds more  like: “No, it can’t possibly be my birthday already, I just had it…”. What we learn as we age is that life is moving faster than ever before.

I was reminded of this “aging reality” this past weekend while in attendance at a bar meeting, Conference of Metro Bar Associations (COMBA). I have written about COMBA before, but as a refresher, this particular conference is a favorite of both bar executives and presidents because it is small, and the attendees are all from local bars with anywhere from 1,000 to 8,000 members.

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Our keynote speaker was Mary Byers, author of several books about associations, Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes for Associations and Road to Relevance. I have read both of these books, along with many others, about the evolution underway for associations, and from each I receive insightful and thoughtful information to ponder throughout my days and nights. One of the themes that is running through all these books is that change is coming — we cannot deny it or stop it. So the question becomes, what do we do?

Mary challenged us to consider not what we are doing in 2014, but instead to be thinking about 2024, ten years out. Though I agree with Mary that we need to be looking 10 years out, I also believe we need to be looking 1, 3 and 5 years out.

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One of the other realities of bar association life is that we are creatures of habit. Our cultures are about retaining programs that we have managed forever simply because they have been around forever, with no thought or reflection about what impact we may be having in present day. How many members are utilizing these programs or services? Are the programs and services relevant? Are we creating impact? If associations are not moving to make change, but instead are locked in a time mode of doing everything like we have always done, Mary describes this as “association fear factor.” Association fear factor is when our failure to act on sun-setting a program or service is due to fear of offending a bar president or committee or section even though the program is no longer relevant.

Mary’s caution was that our associations will be evolving in the years to come and her challenge to us was, how will we respond to this evolution?

We will be facing a shift in these generational members in the coming years. For the MCBA, our largest population of members is in the Baby-Boomer group. Over the next 5-10 years, a large portion of this group will be looking to retire.

Some of the questions Mary has me asking about the MCBA:

What will we look like in 5 years? In 10 years?

Will our membership decline? If so, by how much?

What will our members want and expect from the MCBA?

What types of programs and services will members wants?

Will value-added programs for members outweigh programs for community?

Will the traditional dues model continue to exist or will the model evolve more into “menu type” model of fee for service?

Do we continue to support large committee and section infrastructures or do we develop “strike force teams” to assume a specific charge, do their work and get out, thus, relieving members of unnecessary meetings and giving them back the gift of time?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I do believe this is a dialogue we should be encouraging at the Board level and at the Committee and Section levels. What do you think? Should we be talking about it? Are you interested in perhaps joining a small group to talk about the possible evolution of this association? If so, please send me a quick email at mloewenguth@mcba.org and let’s see what might transpire.

There were several “walk aways” for me. I heard many of my fellow conference go-ers speak about their challenges with young lawyers that are not engaged with the Association. This is not a challenge for us at the MCBA. We have a 20% participation rate from our young lawyers. Their section is vibrant and engaged in both educational programming as well as community service. They are seeking leadership opportunities, and once there, delivering on them. So I caution those of you that do not believe the young lawyers are engaged with the Association. The “Momma Bear” in me will come out in a very protective way to correct this misunderstanding.

YLS Group

Happy Fall! Thanks for checking in,

Mary

Is it Friday yet?

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This week will end up a “5 nighter”. I am exhausted, and its only Thursday morning. I returned home last night about 9:40 pm from the Young Lawyers Section Boat Cruise. It was a great night on the River surrounded by youthful energy. Once home, I was asleep within 20 minutes and never moved till 4:30 this morning. For a fleeting moment I thought I could get up and go to the gym…nah’. Rolled over, pulled the blankets up and snuggled in for 90 more minutes before I had to get ready for my 8:00 am meeting with MCBA and Foundation leadership.

YLS Group

Then…DARN IT…my eyes popped open when I realized that  Dajaneé Parrish, our Communications Coordinator, will be looking for my Thursday blog. UGH!! No extra 90 minutes of sleep today. I dragged myself out of bed, down to make a very strong pot of coffee, seated in my chair and writing. I hope you are not reading this and scolding me for procrastinating on this blog. I actually had the theme of it outlined on Monday, but have not had time to get to it.

Geez, I am so whining right now. I am sorry;I don’t mean to. In fact, if you know me, you know I love this part of the job. I love talking with you about your work, your challenges, your life. In the end, I enjoy this life.

Here is the week so far:

Monday — we had the 21st Annual Lawyers for Learning Golf Tournament. A great day with about 84 golfers all committed to helping the kids at School #29. The day ends with a dinner and awards. LFL Chair Amanda Dwyer did a great job rallying her Golf Committee and ensuring a perfect golf day. It was a perfect 75 degrees!

Amanda Golf

Tuesday — I attended the members only reception GRAWA held for Federal Court Judge Elizabeth Wolford. It was a great evening as we celebrated Judge Wolford. GRAWA President Tiffany Lee hosted a lovely event for her members.  (I am a proud card-carrying GRAWA member, thanks to their invitation.) It was nice to meet and greet so many of the wonderful GRAWA members. MCBA President Steve Modica, and GRAWA member, was also in attendance spreading his own good wishes.

Wednesday — I joined our beloved Young Lawyers Section as they cruised the Genesee River on one of our great river boats. Organized by Mike Geraci and Kurt Odenbach, under the leadership of YLS President, Jennifer Lunsford. It is always fun to be with this group of young attorneys. Some of them are brand new, or within a year or two new, while others are 5+ years. As we talked last night, some are now 10+ years and wanting to talk about the long discussed creation of a “Tween Section”.

YLS Harbor Town Belle Crusie

Thursday — I am joining John and Mary Crowe, their family, and a few close friends as we celebrate his retirement and his extraordinary career. I am honored to have been on the invite list to celebrate John’s retirement from the practice of law. John may be retiring from the practice, but what John will never be allowed to retire from is his ability to mentor young attorneys on how to be a better lawyer.

Friday — It is not usual that there is a Friday night commitment, but in this case, I can never say no to Elaine Cole. As you may know, Elaine is our President-Elect of the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar, and one member I can never say “no” to. If Elaine had the chance to respond to this allegation she would also tell you, she can never say no to me. So it is mutual, we cannot say no to each other. Elaine called to tell me that she is meeting on Friday after work at the Flight Wine Bar with some folks about the pre-planning for Jazz For Justice 2015. She said I was invited, but not required to attend. Of course I am going. I love Jazz For Justice and Friday night with wine with a few good friends will be fun even if in a planning mode.

JFJ 2014 Blog

It is now 6:30 AM, and I can’t seem to keep my eyes open. I need more coffee. I am confident the shower will get me moving again. After the 8:00 am the rest of the day is like the week, many, many meetings. A meeting with one of my managers, followed by a meeting with one of the out of town boss’s of one of our underwriters, followed by a Membership Committee meeting, and then a staff meeting.

The common denominator at so many of these meetings and events is so many of you — our dedicated MCBA members. Yesterday Jeff Harradine, Diversity Committee Chair, was here for a conference call on our Diversity Program, and had about an hour before he was heading downstairs to attend the Ethics & Social Media in Commercial Cases CLE in the Rubin Center. He asked if he could hang out in the Board Room to catch up on some lawyer work before heading down. We said “of course” and encouraged him to look through the fridge (since he had not had lunch) for anything that looked good. Jeff is a great example of a hard working bar leader wearing many hats for not only the MCBA, but also for NYSBA. Like so many of you, being a good bar leader is in Jeff’s DNA.

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My 82 year old mom, Joan, attempts to talk with me each day if only for a few minutes. Some days she reaches me via cell, and when she does not hear back, she will call Diane Hill at the front desk to confirm that I am still alive because it has been all of 48 hours. After all these years, she continues to ask, “what are you all constantly meeting about?” And, “What are you all celebrating this week?” Difficult to explain.

I attempt to explain to Joanie that we have very, very dedicated lawyers in Rochester. Best in the country. Having been a receptionist at the old Nixon Hargrave firm more than 60 years ago, mom responds to me with, “I know how busy lawyers are, remember, my law firm was Nixon Hargrave where I worked for Mr. T. Carl Nixon…he was always very busy.”

So, now sitting in T. Carl’s old office, I wonder what he would say about the business of lawyering now.  Are we busier now than before? Are we spending the time in the right places? Are lawyers the same? How has the practice of law changed? How have bar associations changed? Probably safe to say — it has all changed. But one thing that I am pretty confident that has not changed and that is attorneys commitments to their clients.

Happy Friday-Eve. I do look forward to Saturday morning :)

Thanks for checking in,

Mary

Renewed energy…

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As summer was coming to a close some weeks ago, I realized that I had not taken a full week’s vacation yet this summer. I had 2 days in New York City in early summer, and two days with Claire in Boston tacked on to the ABA meeting. But not a single week along the way. So several weeks ago I decided to take the last week of August going into Labor Day for some downtime. With no travel plans, I decided I was going to enjoy a “stay-cation” at home. It was lovely and I recommend everyone try it. I had a long list of projects I was going to attempt — some gardening (which really translates to weeding in my yard), painting my front door, repainting the window in my bathroom, taking a drive into the country for some antiquing, etc. But we all know how that goes!

Mary's Porch

This is actually how the week played out. The mornings began early, because I have never been a late sleeper, on the porch with coffee. Several mornings I actually was able to watch the sunrise which made it even better. Around 7, I would sign on and check email from the day before, and try to be off again by the time the office was open. I know, we are not supposed to work on vacation, but we had quite a bit underway, and honestly, it helped me avoid the email glut upon my return.

The rest of the day was spent at the gym, running a few errands, reading, napping, and once the friends found out I was home, hosting a few happy hours and dinners on the porch as well. It was great but as you can see from above, not really the plan I had laid out. That was fine because I really enjoyed it. By Monday of Labor Day night, I was really ready to head back to the MCBA and looking forward to seeing everyone.

My first meeting of the day was also a great way to return. The Solo & Small Firm Committee, chaired by the very dedicated and creative Brad Kammholz, of Kammholz Messina, LLP. The Nixon Board Room was packed.

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Brad opened the meeting with introductions, and asked the 25+ people in the room to go around the room and share their name, where they work, and in the event someone has a referral to send, what would be their ideal case?

There was a lot of laughter throughout the meeting, but the best laugh came when Deborah Field, MCBA Trustee Liaison to the Committee, stated that she would take any case that you were going to refer to Brad.  The group found this exercise extremely valuable, and it was agreed that we would create a roster with this information in order that committee members would be able to refer to this resource when necessary. This is an example of a value-added member benefit — direct referrals. But in order to participate, you need to sign up with the Solo & Small Committee.

Brad then steered the dialogue to discussion around his proposed goals for the committee.

Goal #1 — How do we grow and develop our client base?

Second #2 — What practice management issues do you need assistance with?

On Goal #1, the discussion was about the philosophy behind referrals to colleagues. Do attorneys have “short lists” that they refer to based on reputation of work product, friendship, trust, etc.? But how do we build a “longer lists” as a referral source, giving those interested in growing their practice, or young attorneys (hungry for the experience) the opportunity to gain some experience. There was some friendly debate on this point, but my thinking was, with some willing counsel through our Mentor for a Moment Program, it seems to me that this is a great opportunity.

The suggestion was made that we need to improve communication between the various committees and sections, and to be certain that the sections know about the talent that also exists on the Solo & Small Firm Committee.

We then began talking about potential CLE’s. One suggestion made was the potential collaboration between attorneys that do criminal defense and those that handle immigration matters. One attendee stated that this is type of example is very real and more attorneys need to understand all aspects of a immigration matter that involves a potential criminal component.

Also on the table for discussion. What businesses do the members want to do business networking with? There were a number of banks mentioned, and the suggestion was made that we reach out to the banks and brokers to explore networking opportunities. Everyone was reminded that the MCBA BarSTOP’s are also a great place to network with colleagues, friends, and underwriters that attend.

On Goal #2 Brad asked about the types of issues that members were facing in managing their practices. The number #1 issue around the table was technology. This is not the first time I have heard this issue, and I guarantee, this will be for the rest of eternity as technology is changing at warp speed.

So, how do we help in this area? One new step we are taking this fall is by providing some “free” social media training sessions in the Nixon Board Room. Now before you declare you are not interested in social media, I would strongly urge you to read the following short post with a wealth of good information attached to it.

http://www.americanbar.org/groups/departments_offices/legal_technology_resources/resources/social_media.html

So please plan to join our very talented Dajaneé Parrish in the Nixon Board Room on Friday, September 26 at 12:15 p.m. to learn first hand why LinkedIn is important for attorneys; how to set up your own LinkedIn profile; and best of all, how to utilize it to your advantage. Dajaneé will also be presenting programs on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in the coming months. Come and learn! What do you have to lose. Contact Dajaneé at dparrish@mcba.org if you’re interested in attending. It is more fun to learn with a room full of fun people.

Back to the meeting discussion. Other questions asked that Brad assured everyone we would address in this bar year:

How do we help members manage their cases?

What practice management issue bugs us the most?

What are the human resource challenges?

What happens when you go on vacation? Some responded that they just don’t go on vacation. That’s not good!

One of Brad’s suggestions, do we establish an “Angie’s List” type service for the bar members? All agreed a great idea but that some of this is already occurring with the Listserv.

Budgeting and accounting? Billing and collecting?

Retirement planning?

Succession planning? We reminded folks that we have in place a Lawyer Succession Registry. I spoke for a few minutes about the importance of having someone designated in the event you are suddenly unable to practice anymore either from illness or death. The MCBA handles inquiries from the courts, local and out of town attorneys every week. Email Kathy Fico at kfico@mcba.org to learn more about the Registry. You do have a responsibility to your clients and your families not to leave this question unanswered.

It was a great meeting and the energy was just what I needed for my first day back in. I was listening intently to the discussion and to what our solo and small firm attorneys need. I then ask myself: What can the MCBA do to provide more of these types of resources and services to not only our solo and small firms, but to mid and large firm members as well? Government attorneys?

Our membership is diverse and comprised of attorneys of all ages, genders and practice settings. So the question is — how can the MCBA better serve you in this new bar year? I really want to know.

And as I close, I wish to extend my sincere appreciation to Eileen Buholtz, past Chair, for almost 3 years, to the Solo & Small Firm Committee. Eileen started this party, and worked so very hard at it bringing it to the great success that it is today.

Thanks for checking in and a very BIG thank you for always keeping me energized,

Mary