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:
- My immediate and extended family and my dogs.
- My hardworking and talented co-workers.
- My clients and those who kindly refer their friends and family to me.
- Our extraordinary legal community.
- Our MCBA staff and members. I am especially grateful for the privilege to serve as your President.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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!
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!”
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,
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,
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.
City of Rochester
Harris Beach PLLC
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.
For a BIG Pot Mary Style — The Recipe
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,