It’s blog day…

Posted on Updated on

Every Monday, I spend about 5-10 minutes with the Communications Team, Liz Novak and Dajaneé Parrish, to brainstorm topics for my blog that week. Dajaneé always brings a few topics to pitch, as does Liz. Might be about an event, a new program, or one in which I am seeking your feedback. Just last week we had one of our most popular to date — “The Babies of the Bar…” and we featured about 10 beautiful babies, young children and even a new grand baby. The blog, written by Dajaneé, was a huge success with over 200 people tuning in to read the blog and view these little miracles of the universe.

It was such a success that we are planning to do one on “The Puppies of the Bar…” (yes, these can also be full grown dogs). I have an allergy to cats, so we are sticking with canines for now. However, if there is a major member insurrection that we are bias to felines, we will go back to our 3-person editorial team and consider it.

Anyway, back to the blog. So at our team meeting, their hope is that if we have this discussion on Monday, it will be ready by Wednesday at the latest. I think that has happened once. Their parting word to me yesterday was, “So Mary, you all set with the blog for tomorrow morning?” This question is followed by a subtle look of doubt (or perhaps that is skepticism I see on their faces). I respond with, “No worries, it’s all up here. I just need time to write it.” But as they know, I like to write early in the morning, and usually have great inspiration at that hour while enjoying my morning coffee. Not so successful this morning, so it is 10:00 am on eDocket day, and I am just knocking this out, trying to avoid any eye-contact with the Communications Team.

The real topic for today’s blog is about the start of our Nominating Season. This Friday will be the first meeting of the Nominating Committee, chaired by Immediate Past President, Diane Cecero. In addition, to Diane, we will be joined by Steve Modica, MCBA President, and Neil Rowe, President-Elect. We will be selecting the President-Elect Nominee to Neil’s term as President which will begin on July 1st, 2015. In addition to President-Elect, we will be seeking a new Treasurer, as well as 5 new Trustees. The new Trustees serve one 3-year term.

BOT 1138x290

We will be selecting my 15th President, and my 15th Board since I started at the MCBA in 2001. With each new president, and 5 new trustees each year, the result becomes diversity of thoughts, opinions and actions. The other result is that no two years are alike. In recent years we have become very focused on strategic planning with the idea that we cannot simply adopt an endless list of new programs and committees, but instead, we have thoughtful dialogue about the resources necessary to support, and the level of member engagement.

The current board of trustees is dealing with a variety of matters of interest to our members, the public, and the profession. The profession is in the midst of a major evolution, so the challenge before the MCBA and the Board is how do we remain relevant to our diverse membership — diverse in terms of age, gender, race, orientation, practice area, beliefs, and the list goes on. We are looking for members who fit this description above. We are looking for members that are interested in a leadership opportunity, and with that opportunity, a willingness to take on some assignments. We are looking for members that wish to be a part of a Board team at what is considered to be one of the most progressive county bar associations in the country. These are not my words, but words others have used to describe the MCBA.

We are currently accepting nominations. Feel free to nominate yourself or a colleague or friend. Click here for nomination application. It should be completed and returned to Ginny LaCour by December 22.

If you are so intrigued by this invitation to consider a nomination, but have questions, please give me a ring, and let me put my persuasive powers to work on you.

Thanks for checking in,


Guest Post by Dajaneé Parrish: Meet the Babies of the Bar

Posted on Updated on

With Thanksgiving just completed and the holiday season upon us, there is much to be grateful for. For some of our members, there is a little bit more with new additions to their families this past year.

So please take a moment to meet them.

Say hello to Amelia, Abby, and Emma (from left), daughters of Amy and Edward Varel.

Varel Children

Aren’t they cute? Amelia enjoys playing with her older sisters Abby and Emma. Abby enjoys playing with her Monster High dolls and fishing. Emma enjoys playing with her toys from the hit Disney film Frozen and dancing.

Say hello to Tate Patrick Denefrio Lyster, the baby of Carey Ann Denefrio & Timothy Lyster
Denefrio Lyster Child

Doesn’t he make the cutest kangaroo? Tate’s favorite food is macaroni and cheese which is a personal favorite of mine. He loves playing with his mom and dad and mega blocks.

Say hello to Mia and Mateo Marin, children of Amy Reichhart.

Marin Reichhart Children

Look at these two having fun in the leaves. Do you remember playing in the leaves as a child?

Say Hello to the X-Men, Xander Kayden and Xavier Harrison, sons of Duwaine and Sonnette Bascoe.

X-Men Bascoe

Love that nickname! The X-Men love milk as most babies do. They enjoying playing with anything that they can put in their mouths.

Say hello to Avi Schreter, 1st grandchild of Barb Orenstein and Jim Present.

Avi Schreter Orenstein


He is so adorable! Congratulations Barb on your 1st grandchild.

Say hello to Redmond (Red) Menter Wolk, son of Jeremy and Melanie Wolk.

Wolk Son

I spy with my little eye a future lacrosse player.

Say hello to daddy’s little girl Charlotte Rose Smith, daughter of Merritt and Laura Smith.

20141122_143831_resized (4)

Like the X-Men, Charlotte loves her milk. Charlotte also loves to cuddle and play on her playmat.

If you would like to show your baby/grandchild then please send an email to and we will include your baby/grandchild in the next installment.

- Dajaneé

How do you define gratitude?

Posted on Updated on

According to Webster, the definition of GRATITUDE is the acknowledgement of having received something good from another. So I started thinking about what I am grateful for in my own life, and here it is:

Grateful to be loved.

Grateful for my 3 children, my mom, and 4 brothers and large, large family.

Grateful for all my friends.

Grateful for all of our incredible volunteers, and especially the MCBA President Steve Modica and Foundation President Bruce Lawrence.

Grateful for my porch (I know you know that one!).

Grateful for our incredible team here at the MCBA: Ginny, Dajaneé, Dianne, Diane, Mark, Merritt, Liz, Louise and Kathy, and I am grateful they put up with me.

Grateful that I found my snow boots and that my garage is super clean and ready for my car at night.

Grateful for the influx of creative and fascinating technology in our world.

Grateful for red wine on cold nights.

Grateful for new found peace and quiet in my life when I want and need to claim it.

So now you know what I am grateful for.

What are you grateful for?

Steve Modica, MCBA President:

The list is LONG, however, here are my top 5:

  1. My immediate and extended family and my dogs.
  1. My hardworking and talented co-workers.
  1. My clients and those who kindly refer their friends and family to me.
  1. Our extraordinary legal community.
  1. Our MCBA staff and members.  I am especially grateful for the privilege to serve as your President.

John Crowe:

I am most grateful for having saved and supported a number of lawyers from alcohol disaster through Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers. In some instances, we not only made them feel better, we actually saved them. And for my beautiful wife, Mary, for her love and support of me.

Laura Myers, The Wolford Law Firm LLP:

I am thankful that I am back in Rochester surrounded by family, friends, a wonderful legal community, and have a great fiancé!

Merritt Smith, MCBA:

I am thankful for my family, especially Charlotte.

Neil Rowe, MCBA President-Elect:

That the Lake Erie snow belt ends 10 miles west of Rochester.

Dianne Nash, MCBA:

I am thankful for family, friends, home and job.

Brad Kammholz, Kammholz Messina, LLP:

I am thankful for our wonderful community … I came here 25 years ago after growing up in another city, and Rochester has blessed me and my family with a marvelous life ever since. I’m also very thankful for my lovely wife, my fabulous children, and the chance to use the gifts that God has given me every day of the week.

Richard Link, The Law Office of Richard Link:

I’m thankful for the MCBA Solo and Small Firm Committee and the help it’s providing me in my practice.

Karen Bailey Turner, Law Office of Karen Bailey Turner, Esq.:

I’m thankful for all the support that I’ve received in starting my new law practice. Thanks to my husband Robert and my other law office suitemates Rhian Jones and Shaina Kavolsky. I’m also thankful to my former firm Brown Hutchinson LLP and MCBA & RBBA for their continued support. Frankly, I’m thankful to be blessed every day in a million ways!!

Diane Hill, MCBA:

I am thankful, grateful and blessed to have my family together for this season of Thanksgiving (especially my Mom).

Christin Cornetta, U.S. District Court:

I am incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by people who constantly encourage, support and inspire me, including my friends, my family and my colleagues.  I am so thankful to have such amazing people in my life and am looking forward to spending time with them during the upcoming holiday season.  And of course, I am thankful to live and work in a legal community that has an innovative and dedicated bar association like the MCBA!

Mark Swail, MCBA:

I am thankful for my wonderful children, my girlfriend, my coworkers and a job that I enjoy. I am thankful for my health and faith.

Tiffany Lee, GRAWA President:

In addition to the usual list of things that I am always thankful for (health, family and friends), I am especially thankful this year for the opportunity to serve GRAWA as President, to work with GRAWA’s incredible board, and to witness the recognition of GRAWA’s amazing members.  I am also thankful for the opportunity to work with the bar leadership in our community: GRAWA’s President Elect Jill Paperno, the RBBA’s President Fatimat Reid and President-Elect Aaron Frazier, and the MCBA’s President Steve Modica and President-Elect Neil Rowe.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, we work in a great legal community!  Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Thank you for checking in and for being grateful this holiday season. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving,


Is it really going on 10 years?

Posted on Updated on

MCBA President Steve Modica, in one of our monthly leadership meetings, reminded me that in 2015 we would be celebrating 10 years of co-location in the Telesca Center for Justice. REALLY…10 years!? Already? It feels like it just happened, this can’t be.

So I went back and checked. We signed the leases on June 27, 2005. The next 6 months began the construction phase of co-location. Since the Monroe County Bar Association offices were already located in the Four Corners Building, and in order to vacate for the future home of VLSP, the MCBA’s construction began immediately. We moved into our beautiful new space in September of 2005.

Telesca Center Sign Outside Close Up

Meanwhile, the 8th and 9th floor was undergoing a major transformation in order to make way for the largest partner in the building, the Legal Aid Society. Simultaneous to LAS, construction was underway on the 3rd floor, the future home of Empire Justice Center.

Between January 2005 and January 2006, VLSP, LAS and EJC would be officially moved into their new spaces. LawNY (formerly MCLAC) would be another year out as they were relocating to the 4th floor, and the current tenant would remain in that space for another year.

VLSP Lobby Front

To refresh your recall, we had set out to raise $700K, in order to reimburse the landlord for assuming the cost of the construction of the respective space. Then we raised it to $1,000,000 to provide each of the partners with funds for the actual relocation expenses since this was a non-budgeted event for everyone. We had three years to raise these funds, and just in case you forgot, we not only raised the $1,000,000 mark, in the end, we exceeded it by an additional $1,700,000.

With the reimbursement to the landlord, this payment also secured the future of the partners home in the Telesca Center for Justice through 2020 at a below market rate of $10/SF.

The most spectacular and stunning outcome of the $2.7M was the start of Phase II of Co-Location which was the 1st floor lobby transformation. A transformation that would remove the enormous and non-functioning escalator (and collector of dust), replacing it with beautiful space to welcome our thousands of guests each year, as well as to honor the donors and bar leaders that made the Partnership for Equal Justice Campaign so very successful. We honor Hon. Michael Telesca, our beloved Federal Court Judge; Justin Vigdor, Chair of the Campaign; the late William McKnight, former Nixon attorney and a great champion of civil legal services; and finally, we honor Hanna Cohn, the former Executive Director of VLSP and the person that had the co-location vision more than 30 years ago now.

IMG_6578 cropped

Both co-location and phase II with the lobby renovation would not have been possible had it not been for the support of Assemblyman David Gantt. Assemblyman Gantt provided the seed money to launch the Partnership Campaign, and when the lobby became Phase II in order to create a more welcoming place for the clients we serve, he came through again.

In addition to all of the champions we mention above, the lobby also serves to honor all of the donors that made this imagined vision a true reality in the form of the Telesca Center for Justice. The Telesca Center remains the only one of its kind in the nation, despite bar leaders, judges, and other law related groups visiting and touring the Center over the years to learn how we accomplished what we did.

Once the lobby was completed, the additional funds went on to provide a desperately needed new phone system to replace the phone system that was invented by Alexander Graham Bell (Although some argue that Innocenzo Manzetti considered the idea of a telephone as early as 1844, and may have made one in 1864, as an enhancement to an automaton built by him in 1849. He is considered by many as the inventor of the telephone.) — but who am I to argue the identity of the actual inventor.  I did not want to risk that one of you was a telephone historian and would take issue with my fact. The point is, our phone system was close to being that old.


In terms of the activity underway at the Telesca Center, the partners are all busting out of their respective offices as a result of the additional funding made available through funding for civil legal services made possible by Chief Judge of the State of New York Jonathan Lippman. In fact, LawNY was in such dire straights for space that they have recently relocated part of their team next door in the Union Trust Building on the first floor. This has resulted in the start of new dialogue among the partners about more space in that building as well.

In addition, The Rubin Center for Education recently underwent a complete makeover thanks to Senator Joe Robach for the technology and furniture upgrades that have made this great resource room even more useful. No more negative complaints on the CLE evaluation forms because everyone loves the comfortably, padded furniture. And with three big screens across the front of the room, and an improved sound system, there is not a bad seat in the house.

CLE Room Speakers Table

The Telesca Center for Justice is what it is today, nearly 10 years later, because of the cooperation and willingness of the four legal service partners – Empire Justice Center, LawNY, Legal Aid Society of Rochester, and Volunteer Legal Services Project – along with the MCBA and the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar. Each day, the Telesca Center starts buzzing with activity by 8AM with meetings and visitors — from clients to attorneys and staff.


There is not a day that I walk in, and still not take pause in my head about — “Wow, look what we did!” As I pass Hanna’s portrait, I wish her good morning, and at night when I leave, feeling a wee bit draggy some days, I swear I hear her tell me, “It was another good day Mary!” And she is right, it was another good day, made better just by being part of the Telesca Center for Justice.

Thank you for checking in,



My secret fantasy…

Posted on Updated on

Yesterday I attended the Rochester Business Alliance’s Top 100 Awards Luncheon along with MCBA Business & Office Manager, Kathy Fico. But when I walked into the room, I had this wild fantasy moment! There were 1800 people in the room, under a single roof, at the Convention Center. The energy in the room was electric, with music cranking, the room draped in billowy fabric and lights, and an incredible AV show happening around us. It felt like a mid-day dance party. In fact, at the pre-reception I did witness what appeared to be mimosa’s and women wearing some kind of trapeze costumes leaving as we were arriving since we did not attend the pre-party. Turns out, there was a trapeze show!

RBI Top 100 3
Photo courtesy of the Rochester Business Alliance’s Facebook page:
RBI Top 100 1
Photo courtesy of the Rochester Business Alliance’s Facebook page:

Taking it all in, I lean over to Kathy and say, “With 1800 people in this room right now, do you realize this is 200 people less than the MCBA membership?” Kathy paused, looked around and said, “You’re right!”

RBI Top 100 2
Photo courtesy of the Rochester Business Alliance’s Facebook page:


Photo courtesy of Mary Loewenguth
Photo courtesy of Mary Loewenguth

So while trying to focus on the remainder of the lunch, my mind did wander into this wild imagining of what it would be like to have all of our 2,000 members under a single roof. Yes, every single one of you. I found myself asking a series of questions in my head:

What kind of event would it take to get a commitment from all 2,000?

Is it a meeting?

Is it a social event?

What would the incentive be? A free CLE with a US Supreme Court Justice?

If we had all 2,000 of you in the room, what kind of energy would exist?

Would there be a sense of belonging to something great?

Would it give you a sense of pride in the profession?

Would you see old friends, and meet new ones?

Are we celebrating something, or debating something?

I am simply unable to get past imagining 2,000 of you in the same place at the same time.

In my 13 years, the biggest crowd we have had to date was the year we installed T. Andrew Brown as President, with our very special guest, the then NYS Chief Judge Judith Kaye. As I recall, we reached 430 attendees; many of whom are not members, or even attorneys, but family members and champions of award winners. So perhaps that year, we hit 325 actual members. It was a fun evening!

My secret fantasy does not have to take place at the Installation Dinner or even Law Day. I am completely open to suggestions. Think out of the box. Be creative. In fact it just occurred to me that in 2017, the MCBA will be celebrating it’s 125th Anniversary. Just over 2 years away. 125 years is a big celebration. Is that worthy of a gathering of 2,000 MCBA members? I think so.

Besides I am pretty confident I won’t be here for the 150th Celebration. So if you want to aid in making my fantasy come true, let me know, and we can talk!

Thanks for checking in,





Playing nice in the sandbox…

Posted on Updated on

A life lesson that we begin to learn at a young age is how to play nice in the sandbox with our friends. I believe some mothers and fathers pass this lesson on better than others. But I do believe that all the mothers and fathers of all of the presidents of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys (GRAWA), the Rochester Black Bar Association (RBBA), and the Monroe County Bar Association (MCBA), did an excellent job of passing on this life lesson to their young children, and future bar presidents.



Yesterday, the three bar presidents, Tiffany Lee, GRAWA President, and Jill Paperno, GRAWA President-Elect; Fatimat Reid, RBBA President, and Aaron Frazier, RBBA President-Elect; Steve Modica, MCBA President, and Neil Rowe, President-Elect; Margaret Sanchez, GRAWA’s Administrator and me all met over lunch.

We started these meetings several years ago, with the intent to meet quarterly. But as life in the bar world goes for all the presidents — life as a bar president becomes very busy. We have been unsuccessful on the quarterly goal, but we still manage to stay in touch, and obviously see each other at all of the respective bar events.

Typically we each bring a topic or two to the table, but yesterday, our primary conversation was about our Rochester Diversity Clerkship Program. Both the RBBA and GRAWA have participated and supported this program since the very beginning. We had a very good discussion about the values of the program, and also discussed some of the challenges. All agreed, more dialogue on the improvement of diversity in the Rochester legal community is critical.

In addition, we always have a number of topics on our agenda including judicial evaluations, topics from the courts, and other matters raised by any of the three bars. Yesterday Steve also shared that we are beginning some dialogue about assistance for attorneys dealing with depression and mental health issues. Currently, these challenges are not being addressed by our Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Committee, as they are not equipped or informed enough to deal with depression and mental health issues. All agreed this was a most important issue for our entire legal community, and one that all of the bar leaders want continued dialogue.

We all concluded at the end that we are very fortunate in Rochester to have this kind of positive, collaborative relationship with each other. There is not a sense of competition, but instead an incredible commitment to cooperation, collaboration and mutual support. Little known fact, we are all members of the respective bars. And a very special celebration will occur this Saturday evening, when we all gather to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Rochester Black Bar Association at the Convention Center. We are very proud of the RBBA, their leaders, their membership and their many successes and contributions to the practice of law in Rochester over the past 20 years. Most of all we look forward to their continued success and all that the future holds for the RBBA.

Together, GRAWA, RBBA and the MCBA make Rochester a great place to practice law.

Thanks for checking in,

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

Posted on

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