Picking up, cleaning up…and saying goodbye

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It is amazing “the stuff” we all accumulate in our lives in a year’s time. The closets and drawers swell, garages and basements become a little more cluttered, and that’s the way we roll. We are busy, and sometimes just easier to open the kitchen drawer and throw the screwdriver in this random drawer than to walk it back to the basement’s tool box.

We have the same issue at the Monroe County Bar Association. We host hundreds and hundreds of meetings each year, close to 70 CLE’s each year, two dozen events in our MCBA offices each year, and welcome our 2,000 members throughout the year.

And so stuff accumulates here in the MCBA offices. In closets, storage rooms, conference rooms, desk drawers and file cabinets, nooks and crannies, corners and lost spaces. Stuff piles up. For example, Jazz for Justice happened in March of this year, and in the President’s Office, we still had a couple of containers that had to be relocated next door (The Union Trust Building) into our small storage room. We just don’t get to it.

In the midst of cleaning. You should see our workroom now, this photo doesn’t do it justice.
Look at all that garbage. Excuse the blurry photo.
Look at all that garbage. Excuse the blurry photo.

So once a summer we declare one day an office clean up day. Everyone comes dressed in work clothes (jeans) and is ready to roll up their sleeves. Kathy Fico assigns tasks, and in a few hours, we fill large garbage and recycling bins, fill boxes and create piles for the dumpster. At noon, we took a break and came together for a great lunch, and then we were back at it. We also visited the storage space next door and literally removed a ton of old information that no longer qualified for “file it for 7 years”. For that information, we have the shredding service pull up to the curb and we cart it out so we can witness its demise.

Everyone worked really hard — men and women alike. As the end of the day approached, we were all commenting on how much nicer everything looked. We still have some portraits and other wall pieces that need to be restored to their proper walls that were painted some time ago. And with that task done, the new carpet down, the place will be stunning once again.

Ginny cleaned and organized the kitchen.

As lunch concluded, there was a comment that we really should have planned for dessert. Everyone returned to work, and I returned to my office. A few short minutes later, Galina Nazarenko and Louise Spinelli walked in. What I have come to know about Galina that is when the topic is serious, it is evident on her face. On this day, she looked both serious and sad. Galina was coming in to tell me that she is resigning because she and her husband, Ivan, are moving to Los Angeles, California. Ivan is a very specialized kind of engineer, and has just accepted a wonderful new position there. Galina has been with the bar 13 years, just a few months ahead of my arrival. Galina has been our CLE Registrar for many, many years. She has ensured that thousands of you are registered for your CLE programs, and that lunch is on time, as well as your CLE certificates.

We will miss you Galina.
We will miss you Galina.

So once we had our sad, teary moment in my office, it was agreed that we now needed to share the news with the rest of the team, and that in fact, we did need ice cream. Louise offered to go hunt some down, and 20 minutes later, with ice cream in hand, we shared the news about Galina’s next big adventure. This has been her home since she and her family arrived here from Russia in July of 1998. She and Ivan brought their two young children and made a home for their family here. Pretty brave. So now, her next adventure is to move across the country, and to make a new life with Ivan. Sadly, in addition to leaving all of us, the one person in their life that they are very sad about leaving is their 1 year old grandson, Peter. Nothing brightens Galina’s face like the question, “Galina, how is Peter?” To which you will hear, “Oh, he is sooo good!”

Galina with her grandson Peter.
Galina with her grandson Peter.

So the day was bittersweet. We cleaned out things that were taking up space, and serving no purpose anymore. But then we also learned that Galina will be leaving, and this makes us very sad. She made us all promise we would come to visit. And with Peter back here in Rochester, we can be certain we will be seeing more of Galina. The good news is, there are great bar associations throughout the LA area, so when Galina is ready, I will connect her to the bar executives with a letter of support.

Watch for an announcement about a farewell reception for Galina in the month ahead. Please plan to stop in and wish her well.

Thanks for checking in,




To Find the Words…

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Robin Williams

Several days have passed since the world learned the tragic news about the death of the incredibly gifted Robin Williams.

Like so many of us, I grew up watching Mork & Mindy. One of my younger, and annoying brothers, used to love walking around pretending to be Mork. I became a fan of his dozens and dozens of movies as they rolled out over the last few decades. I believe it is safe to say that Robin was one of the most talented and diverse actors in our history. He could make us laugh, cry, feel and wonder. The world wide grieving that is universally heartfelt.

The loss of Robin, like so many whose lives are over way too early, is opening up a dialogue about depression and mental health issues. It is not the first national dialogue, nor will it be the last. The same can be said about the use of drugs, and the many tragedies we hear about as a result of drug addiction. In the case of mental health issues and depression, some critics say it is not real. While many know this is very real, and not a “made up disease.” It is real. It is real in all demographics. It is real at all income levels. It is real in both the white collar population and in the blue collar population. It is real across all professions. And it is very real in the legal profession. Depression does not discriminate.

The problem is, we don’t talk about it. We don’t want to hear about it; we don’t want to see it; we don’t want to admit that we have it or perhaps someone that we love is living with it. I think the bottom line is — we don’t understand it. Perhaps it scares us. Hiding the truth becomes the challenge, while failure is the deep-seeded fear.

MCBA President Steve Modica has already started this conversation. He started with a conversation with Terry Emmens, Chair of the Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Committee. Terry and Steve both agree, we need a working solution, but LCFL does not feel equipped to take on the mental health piece, but instead to focus on helping lawyers that are dealing with drug and alcohol issues. We completely understand that position. They are doing great work and we need them to continue to do that work.

For now, we are going to expand this conversation and invite some dialogue with some of the good people at the 4th Department Grievance Committee, as well as with our own Grievance Committee leaders. We are concerned that we have members that may need our assistance, and want to have a discussion about how best to support them.  How do we allow members to feel safe, and not judged by their profession?  How do we recognize the signs and symptoms? How do we reach out to them, provide reassurance and a safe environment that allows them to talk about what is going on in their life? How can we help them, their families, their practice?

Many of my bar colleagues share their stories of attending the funeral of a member that could no longer manage their life, and chose to end it. They report the heartbreak that surges through their legal community as they ask:  “Did you know?” “Why didn’t we know?” “What could we have done better to intervene and to save this life?” This bar community has experienced this kind of loss, but to the best of my knowledge, not in many, many years. I hope we never have to live through that experience again.

There are many programs and things in the bar world that we are reactive to. On this subject of supporting our members on mental health issues, I would love to see us be proactive. Steve is determined to have a solution or some kind of community partnership in place for us to access for assistance expeditiously when necessary. But in the meantime, we need to start talking about this. We need to get comfortable with the subject and recognize it is a disease.

One of my favorite Robin lines is from Dead Poet Society:  “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change this world.”

Help us find our words, share our ideas, and help our friends and colleagues.

Thanks for checking in,










The many faces of learning…

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This afternoon, I am sitting in a room hoping for some new ideas on marketing our CLE programs. I remember when I first came to the MCBA 13 years ago, everything was videotaped with an old camera perched on top of an even older tripod. The tripod was awkwardly positioned in the room, and my biggest fear in those early days is that if it came down on top of someone, we would then have a liability issue.

However, good progress has been made over the years, and for many years now, we have had the camera securely attached to the wall at the back of the room and operated by Louise Spinelli, our CLE Program Manager, from the side of the room.

In those early days, we were also one of the few CLE providers in the city. But now, many of the large and mid-size firms are CLE certified, as are the civil and criminal legal service offices in town. Add to that is the fact that online CLE has been born, and attorneys are able to find CLE wherever they turn, on whatever topic they prefer. They have plenty of options for free, not so free (but cheaper), and for a price.

All that being said, the MCBA continues to be a significant CLE provider in New York State. And from the many surveys we have conducted over the years you have told us that you appreciate the following:

1. The local speakers — you appreciate learning from your local colleauges

2. The location — you appreciate the convenience of The Rubin Center for Education at the Telesca Center for Justice with all of the new technology and furniture making the room more user friendly.

3. The networking opportunity — you appreciate the chance to come to the MCBA to meet your friends and colleagues over a “free lunch” while securing your CLE credit.

In the meantime, CLE is now available 24/7 online, and we are well-positioned to meet that need through our relationships with Thomson Reuters and Peach New Media. Check out the many, many options available to you. And of course, if you still prefer popping a DVD into your TV on a rainy Sunday afternoon, or a CD in your car while you make a long drive, we can accommodate that need as well.

So what is next for CLE and for the MCBA? I think we are in the process of figuring that out. We are interested in working with our local law firms, other key collaborative partners, and other interested groups that want the opportunity to work with the MCBA.

I would like to see us explore other learning modalities. I am a big fan of the “Ted Talk” model, and have enjoyed many Ted lectures since it launched. Not necessarily for CLE, but simply for personal and professional development. We have our ever popular Speakers Forums that everyone always enjoys as well.

What else is out there? How do you like to learn? And how can we help?

Lots of learning in Boston…

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It is Monday afternoon and I am attending the ACLEA (Association for Continuing Legal Education) Conference in Boston. Our CLE Program Manager, Louise Spinelli, is here as well. This is a conference Louise usually attends, but because the ABA Annual Meeting is here this week, I decided to “slip” into some of the sessions to listen for some of the trends that are underway in CLE delivery.

I have heard several new ideas that I think we will be bringing back. Stay tuned.

The bonus to this week, Claire is working in Boston this summer. So I was able to arrive early and crash with Claire and my sister-in-law’s family. Very convenient.

Several good sessions today. This afternoon a meeting with our good friends over at Thomson Reuters about our online programming. A valued relationship!!

So at the request of Liz Novak, Membership & Communication Manager, I am going to be “blogging my way thru the week”. Aren’t you thrilled??!!

On Thursday I will be welcoming MCBA. President, Steve Modica, and Foundation President Elect, Elaine Cole, for their sessions. It is a busy, but great, week ahead.

So stay tuned, please…

Stepping back…

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In all my years I am not sure I have ever witnessed the monsoon rain we experienced in Rochester on Monday — all day Monday. From my 10th floor office, I don’t believe I ever saw a break in the rain. Walking out that evening with Merritt Smith, we were talking about the weather, and I asked him if he had ever experienced water in the basement due to weather? Happily, we both reported no history of water.

Driving home thinking about a couple of friends anticipated that evening for a catch up,  I was thinking of the prepping I needed to do when I hit the house. Fifteen minutes later as I was descending into the basement for some laundry and a bottle of wine, I was getting ready to take my final step when I heard what sounded like “lapping water”. OMG — I HAVE WATER IN MY HOUSE! Two to three inches. And my first thought was — this is unfair.

Mary's Flooded Basement

Now I have about an 1,100 SF house, so the basement footprint is pretty small. I keep a very neat house, and a very neat basement, so the good news was that what I do have down there is in plastic containers. Though most of the containers belong to my mom who really has a hard time separating from her past now that she is living at St. John’s in the apartments. When I spoke to mom about an hour later her immediate response was not at all about me or the house — but instead, “are my things ruined?” To which I responded, “No mom, your things are fine and in case you are wondering, my house is okay too!!” She giggled, realizing how it came across, and remarked, “Oh sorry, how are you and the house?”

So back to the flood. I sat down and thought about next steps.

First, was I willing to bail water? No.

Second, who do I call to bail the water?

So I began to consult the professional wizard in my life — Google — who is all knowing about most of what I need. First to appear to my search was Roto Rooter, followed by Serv Pro and a variety of unknown plumbers. Placed calls to Roto Rooter and Serv Pro. Obviously both were slammed with no promise that they could be there before 10:00 pm, or even the next day. Serv Pro cautioned me about stepping into the water in the event there were live wires. My first thought here was, “oh my, the friends are coming over and the wine is in the basement! Hmm?” Serv Pro would call me back. Fortunately for me, Mr. Roto happened to be in the neighborhood and arrived within 30 minutes.

A charming fellow by the name of Sam trekked down to the basement in his heavy boots, while I contemplated where those boots were earlier in the day, with a note to self, “mop basement steps.” Anyway, Mr. Roto inquired as to whether I had a sump-pump. I am embarrassed to say, I did not know. Now before you judge me, I have only been in the house 5 years with no water issues. Do I really need to know whether or not I know where the sump pump is? I know where my electrical box is, and I actually know how to flip a switch on the box. I take all of this house-hold business on a “need to know” basis. If there has been no water, I don’t need to know where the sump pump is.

Anyway Mr. Roto walks down and wades into the water. I said with alarm, “Don’t you need to check for electricity first?” I guess not. He begins wading through the water talking about the rain that had come down and the mess it was creating around town. Since he was wading in the water, I did say, “Could I ask a favor (thinking of my friends that were heading over) do you mind grabbing that bottle of wine over on the table?” With good humor he helped me out by rescuing the bottle of wine for my friends.

After the sump pump inquiry, I said, “I do know there is a small drain in that corner” pointing to what I suspected might be a drain. Sure enough with a few twists of the wrench, the cap was off and the drainage began.  Within less than 10 minutes the water was gone. I retrieved a large fan from the 2nd floor, and began the drying out process.

Mr. Roto went on to theorize where the water came from. My biggest concern was that it was not rain water, but the other kind of water none of us want in our homes. Mr. Roto had no clear answer, so as you can imagine that kind of freaked me out. Having observed that he did not wear rubber gloves throughout this exercise, I washed my credit card with a Clorox wipe after he returned it to me at the conclusion of our transaction.

With the basement now free of water and the fan doing its thing, I turned to getting ready for my friends to come by, while listening to the national news.

The floods, tornadoes, and fires ravaging all parts of the United States.

The Middle East conflict, and the loss of innocent lives.

In  Africa, where terror continues to reign in some parts, while disease and starvation reigns throughout.

The tragedy in the Ukraine, and more loss of innocent lives.

The unrest between Russia and the rest of the world

The endless stories of poverty, unemployment, and crime in our country.

The loss of the 41 year old woman here in town to a drunk driver.

The injustices around our globe. The earth is angry. And so are many of the earths citizens.

So as I stepped back and reviewed all of these thoughts with my gathering of friends on the porch later that night, I realized that my life is not unfair because of a few inches of water in the basement. My life is a gift. I have my 3 incredible children — all living their lives. I have my beautiful, though tonight slightly damp, house. I have a great job where I get to spend my day with great staff and volunteers. I have my freedom. And most of all, I am loved.

Mary and Kids

Yes, there have been challenges. We all have challenges in our life. As my children have heard me say many, many times, it is the challenges that make us strong, build our character, and teach us about empathy for others.

But none of my challenges will ever compare to some of the heartache we witness in our world, our nation, our city, and just walking down the street outside of the Telesca Center for Justice. I find myself wondering about the power of the universe. How was I so lucky to have been born to the life I was given?

Thanks for checking in…


P.S. Just in case you were wondering. Serv Pro came by the next day and confirmed it was ONLY rain water, none of the nasty, dreaded other water. Just so you know…



We’ve got nothing…Guest Post by Dajaneé Parrish

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We've got nothing

Every Monday, I rack my brain trying to think of blog topics for Thursday’s blog. I will pass them on to Mary for her consideration because sometimes she is stuck. Well, this week I couldn’t think of a single thing. If I can’t think of anything I turn to Liz, who usually always has a topic. No, not this week.  Liz was fresh out of ideas too. Mary wanted to write a blog this week that was thoughtful and might even tug at your heartstrings, but we just couldn’t think of anything. (Does this mean that we are all due for a vacation?)

It’s quiet here at the MCBA office which could be due to our downed phone system. Okay, so the phone system is up and running, but you get what I was trying to do there. The MCBA staff is still busy at work, but since there aren’t a lot of meetings, the foot traffic by my desk has significantly decreased.  And, it’s all quiet in the lives of Mary’s kids, so no new story telling options there.

So we are giving you a BLOG BREAK.

You can practice your swing… so that you can be the best golfer at the Lawyers for Learning Thomas & Solomon 21st Annual Golf Tournament on Monday, September 8.

Playing golf Blog

Or, you can look through photos of our most recent BarSTOP to get even more excited for August’s BarSTOP which will be held Thursday, August 21 at City Grill.

July BarSTOP

Or, you can stay tuned next Thursday for an even better blog post. Your choice.

As always, thanks for checking in.

- Dajaneé

Celebrations of summer…

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With all the partner-ears in the Telesca Center for Justice, we heard that Ray Squilla, our dedicated guardian that watches over all of us and all of you as you come to the Telesca Center for Justice was celebrating 20 years in this position this week. So we spread the word to everyone in the building to show up in the lobby at 10:30 AM on Tuesday, the 15th. A big sheet cake was ordered, and as we rode down the elevator, I suspected there would be 25-30 folks at best since it was the middle of the morning. But much to everyone’s surprise, there was more like 80-100. Poor Ray was standing in the midst of it all, wondering why everyone was congregating in the lobby. Adding to his state of wonderment, I approached Ray to ask if I had missed a fire drill? Were the police on the way? “Ray, what is going on?” To which Ray responded, “Mary, I don’t know. I am asking everybody and no one seems to know.” With that I announced that we were all there to celebrate Ray’s 20th Anniversary as our trusted guardian in the Telesca Center. In addition to knowing everyone in the building by name, I know he knows pretty much the whole bar membership by name as well. We all agreed, Ray is a gift to downtown Rochester, and particularly to everyone who works and visits the Telesca Center. Following a few more brief remarks, Ray was greeted with congratulatory hugs, kisses, handshakes and cake!

Ray w_cake

Last night the MCBA hosted a welcome reception to our new substantive law LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Committee last night. We had a nice turnout of members of the LGBT community as well as allies of the LGBT community from the Board of Trustees and the Foundation Board. The primary focus of the LGBT Committee is to assist the MCBA and our members in being better educated and informed on the multitude of legal issues facing LGBT people. Secondarily, the LGBT Committee will provide a comfortable place for our LGBT members and allies to gather and foster a supportive community locally. Supporting the formation of an LGBT Committee further supports the MCBA’s commitment to encouraging diversity and inclusion within the association and the practice of law in Rochester. The first formal meeting of the LGBT Committee will be Monday, September 15th at 12:15 pm in the Nixon Board Room. MCBA members are welcome to join. If you are interested in joining, please contact Ginny LaCour at valacour@mcba.org. Join early and be part of the early planning.

Also this week is tonight’s July BarSTOP at a NEW location. The City Grill, the cool new place at the corner of East & Alexander. Coming from downtown, just past Alexander, on East, the entrance will be your very first left. Pull right in, and you will be greeted by their complimentary valet service. BarSTOP continues to be a great success with all generations showing up for this informal, no speeches, just fun event from 5:00 – 7:00 pm on the 3rd Thursday of every month. Drink specials and complimentary food courtesy of Alliance Advisory Group and Counsel Press. If you don’t take advantage, you can’t very well say, “the MCBA does not provide any social networking…” can you?! I invite you to come and check out this really laid back event at one of the new places in town.

Bar STOP no red eye

We have so much to celebrate and to be grateful for at the MCBA, and at the Telesca Center for Justice.

Thanks for celebrating and for checking in,