Here’s to the dreamers…

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“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
— Harriet Tubman

There is something to be said for young, unbridled enthusiasm…and even more so when it’s focused on a subject you are passionate about.

On Monday, a few of our members – Steven Modica, Bruce Lawrence, Bill Bauer, Hon. Craig Doran, Leah Tarantino and the Hon. Michael Sciortino – had the opportunity to experience this firsthand as they…and I….participated in the Annual Student Awards Ceremony at The Rubin Center for Education at the Telesca Center for Justice.

The Awards Ceremony takes place each year around Law Day and celebrates the winners of the Sydney R. Rubin Mock Trial Tournament and Rochester Teen Court participants, and when possible the Law Explorers Mock Trial program.

This year Hilton High School won the Monroe County Sydney R. Rubin Mock Trial Tournament – it was first time that Hilton has ever won. And to say that these students were excited – well, it would be an understatement to say the least.cropped image

The Sydney R. Rubin Mock Trial program is a program of the Monroe County Bar Association, with special funding from the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar. Rochester Teen Court is a program of The Center for Youth, with some of its funding provided by the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar and the Young Lawyers Section of the Monroe County Bar Association. In addition, many members of the MCBA and Young Lawyers Section act as attorney mentors, like Leah Tarantino, to the Teen Court participants.

Teen court photo

Judge Doran presided over the event and talked to both groups about a passion for the law and encouraged them to pursuit it. He also thanked the parents of the students, the teachers who act as coaches as well as the attorney volunteers involved in these programs, such as Leah Tarantino, Hon. Michael Sciortino, Bianca D’Angelo, Bill Bauer and many others

The attorney volunteers are key to keeping these programs alive, as well as keeping that “young, unbridled enthusiasm” alive – to avoid the “cynicization” of the youth. But they are not the only ones – the MCBA’s Lawyers for Learning program pairs attorneys with young students (K-6) at School 29 and our Rochester Legal Diversity Clerkship program which pairs up first-year law students at firms and organizations.

All of these programs are examples of the Bar’s dedicated volunteers to not only the Association (which is great) but to the entire community and its future. And for every volunteer of time, there are those who donate dollars, whether to the Foundation’s Raise the Bar and Jazz For Justice event, the Young Lawyers Silent Auction benefiting Teen Court, or to the Lawyers for Learning Annual Golf Tournament in September to help these programs.

And these programs above don’t even include those attorneys whose day job has them working with the youth – whether it’s a family court or ACT For the Children attorney, a public defender, a judge presiding over a case- and so many others.

Watching the program on Monday evening — the excitement of the night – I felt proud of our members and our legal community, and I felt excited for our students and our future who benefit from it. And that feeling for me can be summed up with one quote:

“Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” – Rita Pierson

Thanks for checking in,


Special moments…

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As a parent, we have thousands and thousands and thousands, of special moments with our children in our lifetime. But let’s be honest here, we can also have very difficult moments as a parent, but that’s another blog for another day. I recall the day I brought Brian home from the hospital. He was 2 days old, and I had been able to rely on the nurses to feed him, change him, diaper him and above all else, not drop him.

But all of a sudden, I am sitting on the couch looking down at this incredible little person, and was completely overwhelmed by the responsibility that just washed over me. With his Dad, and my parents standing there and looking at me, I felt the crush of the world coming down on me. I did not know what to do. “Oh my god, I have to take care of this little being and make sure nothing ever happens to him, because he is the most precious gift in my life.”

Finally, I decided I would change his diaper. “Yes, that makes sense,” I said to myself. “Then I will nurse him.” “Great, now I have a plan; I can do this!” And those were the early moments of motherhood. It just kicks in; it becomes intuitive.

As you know, I went on to have this experience two more times with Aidan 2.5 years later, and Claire, about 15 months later. The good news is, I have never dropped any of them. Though Aidan did decide to ride a fast wheel down the basement steps and it left him without 4 teeth at the age of 2. One of my toughest nights as a mom. I carried the 4 teeth to the dentist, and not thinking, said, “Please put them back in!” That too is another blog on another day.

marys kids

Anyway, as a mom I have sat through sick nights with them, struggled through homework assignments, sat through hundreds of soccer and lacrosse games (wins and losses) as well as hiked the muddy slippery hills of Mendon to cheer Claire on her muddy cross-country meets, tried to listen and help them heal when their little and maturing hearts were broken from love, picked them up when they were defeated or beaten down or disappointed, and practiced very tough love (and I believe in this approach) when critically necessary, but that is also another blog for another day.

I have dropped them off to college in Erie PA, and Boston, MA. Welcomed Brian home, then packed him off for his first job at a golf course in Nashville, waving goodbye with tears in my eyes, and his, because I knew that if Brian accomplished his goal of becoming a PGA Professional, he would most likely NEVER be back in Rochester again. But NEVER say NEVER! On Saturday night, I heard someone coming through the back door, and turned to see Brian, one of the very newest PGA Professionals, walking through the door. What a moment! And on Sunday morning, he began his first day with his new gig, as Co-Assistant Golf Professional at the Country Club of Rochester. Yes, he is back in Rochester until the snow falls, then he will head south for his winter gig. I actually had a chance to see him dressed in his golf garb and leaving for work the other day…he is too darn cute!

brian back in town

And then earlier this week, Claire-Bear called to say, “It’s done, I accepted the job!!” This follows weeks and weeks and weeks of interviews for Claire, graduating from Bentley University on May 16th. As you will recall, this is a very stressful time for any college senior. Claire was fortunate and had several options. There have been lots and lots of phone calls, strategy sessions, highs and lows, of email drafts, and more discussion, but she is now officially employed as of June 8th! Great job; great city as she will be staying in Boston; great company, advertising/marketing firm — all good. Icing on the cake, she even has roommates and found an apartment in Brighton outside of Boston, with parking included!

I will soon be down to one in college. Aidan is a junior at Brockport preparing for a career in Finance, living on his own. Full-time student; part-time working man. He always was the strongest of any of us when it came to numbers. I have no doubt, he will have the same success of his siblings when the time comes. Aidan has walked a different path and has grown in a way that the other two have not. He has lived more than the other two, and for Aidan, is better for it.

But these are moments as a parent that make the lives of your children flash before you. Wait, stop, they are still only infants. How did this happen? It went too fast? They grew too fast? Did I take the time to watch them grow? Or was I moving too fast? Do they have issues with me? Probably – we have always been pretty open about that stuff. I believe in honest conversations, and when they say things like, “Mom, I am 21 or 23 or 25, I am not sure you can ask that question of me anymore?” To which I respond with a clever response, and then add in, “Well, if you don’t like my direct approach, add it to your future list titled, “Issues for the Therapist Down the Road About Life with Mom”.

I was the primary breadwinner for the family when the kids were growing, so I had to make all sorts of life choices, struggled with work-life balance, missed some events in their lives, was never there when they arrived home from school, and raised them to make their own breakfast and lunch (for which I do have a lot of guilt). But most nights I was there to gather with them for dinner, some nights, late dinners and to put them to bed. But I was there. I can look back and have regrets, but what purpose does that serve. There is no time, nor need for regrets. All we can do is our very best, and I would like to think I have done OK. They have all turned out great. I did not pamper or spoil them. They were raised with chores, jobs, and accountability.

So I am in a very “special moments” part of life with many, many more to come. I know so many of you can relate to these moments, past or present, and many of you have these moments in your future. For all of us, they are moments and memories to be cherished.

Thanks for checking in,


Oh, what a night!

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For those of you in attendance last night at The Strong, you know what I am talkin’ about. It was the “world” premiere of the short film, Dedicated to Justice:  Hon. Michael Telesca, and there was not an open seat in the house.

Telesca Film Image

Attendees arrived early, as the energy in the lobby grew in anticipation of the start of the film. But the energy went to a whole new level upon the arrival of the man of the hour, Judge Michael Telesca. Our efforts to seat our guests, shifted to the arrival of the Judge. He was his usual, charming and loving self, as he humbly greeted family, friends, colleagues and numerous fans.

I have had the privilege of getting to know Judge Telesca over the years as a result of the creation of the Telesca Center for Justice. Early on, Justin Vigdor, Partnership for Equal Justice Campaign Chair, and I would call on the Judge every few months to keep him apprised of efforts to co-locate the civil legal service partners under the same roof.


I loved these visits to the Judge’s chamber, where I would sit with these two giants of the profession, and witness their story-telling of the profession in the “old days”. These were priceless moments to witness these two old friends share mutual stories of admiration about each other. These visits, allowed me the ability to form my own relationship with Judge Telesca, and the ability to call him and visit on my own a few occasions as well.

When we finally put the Judge’s name in lights on the front of his building, he was in attendance at this very special event. It was an emotional evening for the Judge as he spoke of his immigrant parents that came to America from Italy, and how proud his father would be to see his name on this building and the work that took place inside the building.


The idea of the film was a collective brainstorm of Judge Jonathan Feldman and MCBA President Steve Modica. Together they began the conversation about the possibility of a film with Judge Telesca. The story shared last night was that when the Judge finally, and reluctantly, agreed to meet the young filmmaker, Matthew Spaull, he said, “OK, you can have 15 minutes.” And the rest is now history. This film was made more special as a result of the relationship formed between Judge Telesca and the young filmmaker, Matt.

What struck me was the scenes at the Judge’s desk. I have sat in that same chair across from his desk, and listened to Judge Telesca and his stories and philosophies. Matt captured these moments, and I felt as though I was again in the chair across from the desk.

Do not worry if you were unable to attend last night. You will have another opportunity on Friday, May 8th, when we will view the film in the Rubin Center for Education at 12:15 pm., please contact Liz Novak for more information. This is a complimentary viewing, feel free to bring your lunch. We will provide the beverages. If the room fills up, I am committed to scheduling another viewing. I want everyone to see the film, and to hear the powerful messages shared in the film. Very powerful!

In fact, if you would like, we are taking orders for copies of the film. You can purchase your own copy for duplication cost of $6, which includes tax and shipping. Please click here for the order form.

I wish to thank this very special man, Judge Michael Telesca, for sharing his life, his wisdom, his courage, his humor and heart, with all of us. I wish to thank Judge Feldman, Steve Modica, Joan Countryman, and Matt Spaull, for bringing it all to life in this powerful film that will forever preserve the legacy of this great man.

Oh, what a night…

Thanks for checking in!




Top 10 reasons I love my job…

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The list exceeds 10, but I figure I may only have your attention for the top 10…

#10 – I am never bored — Throughout any given week, I meet with a variety of attorneys, judges, and community leaders, and work on various projects. While it means I need to keep organized to do lists, it also means I am never bored. I have never been a clock watcher, in fact, the wall clock in my office had a dead battery in it for over 2 years till one of the team changed it, because it was driving them crazy. I’m not sure how I would do with the same task, day in and day out. Luckily for me, that is one aspect that I don’t have to worry about while working here.

#9 – My office — I have a great office. I have always made it a point to ensure my space is bright, and inspires creativity for me. I need artwork, photographs of those that I love, photos of those that inspire me, resource books and magazines that I am always tapping into for inspiration. Latest addition, and the first desk that the MCBA has ever purchased for me in all these years, a standing desk. Spending more than 1/2 of my days in meetings in a seated position, it was time to start standing more, per some people that love me and care for me. If you have not stopped in recently, please do. When members and visitors to my office remark about the view, I respond, “What view?” I rarely have time to look out the window.

View from office
The view from the 10th floor.

#8 – Meeting extraordinary people — ABA, NYSBA, NABE, COMBA, GRAWA, RBBA, RDDC & RBA — I have had the luxury over the years to attend conferences and meet with other fantastic bar executives and community leaders from around the county, city, state and country. It is often a great melting pot of creativity, venting and productivity. After attending one of these conferences, I always return to the MCBA inspired and full of great ideas, and solutions.

#7 – T. Carl Nixon Board Room — I have seen many beautiful board rooms over the years, but I have to tell you, I think we have one of the most beautiful in town. I love walking in with someone that has never seen the room before, and listen for their response, “Oh Wow!” “This is incredible!” “That is one BIG table!” The best part of the T. Carl Nixon Board Room is that it is the Board Room for all of the legal service partners in the building as well as various committee and board meetings for our members.

#6 – Love working downtown — I am a believer in downtown Rochester! I love the energy of downtown, I love the ability to walk to various meetings or other events. I love engaging with members on the street as I walk. I love the smells, especially the Zweigle hots in the summer), and the diversity of the people on the streets. I make it a point of saying hello to everyone I meet. Some do not expect a greeting, and it seems to bring a smile to their face as they respond to me. Others don’t respond at all, but maybe they will next time. Perhaps I will spend more time at Main and State this summer during lunch so I can catch up with more of you. I sit on the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation Board of Directors, where I am a broken record on the topic of appreciation to the legal community in downtown Rochester. If the lawyers continue to leave downtown, the impact will be devastating and fatal to our Center City. There are exciting developments underway in our city, and I am confident they will happen and our DT world will be the hot, happening place to be. I have thought about moving downtown to one of the increasingly popular lofts, but I need to be able to buy, not rent (as I am WAY too young to give up a mortgage) and I need outdoor space to replace the porch. I don’t think a new owner of my house would appreciate  finding me out on their porch nights and weekends. I should get a legal opinion on whether or not we could write that into the sale contract.

#5 – Engagement with the Judges — We have terrific judges in all of our courts in Rochester and Monroe County. I really appreciate those that demonstrate their dedication to the MCBA by joining the Association, and being actively engaged with the bar. I also appreciate the open dialogue that I have with those that may not be members, and wish to discuss the reasons. Our dialogues are always open and honest. 

#4 – Telesca Center for Justice — After 10 years of co-location I still get a thrill when I walk into the incredible lobby, where I no longer have to stare at the broken and dusty escalator. I used to think about how I could fill the esclator with plants in an effort to hide the multi-ton eye-sore. So nice to now have my mind at ease on that topic. I still get a thrill coming off the elevator on 10, and walking into our beautiful space, and on 5 as well. We are all very fortunate!

#3 – Great Team — We have a great group of dedicated people that work at the MCBA. Diane Hill, Mark Swail, Dianne Nash, Dajaneé Parrish, Ginny LaCour (for 4 more months only as she is retiring), Merritt Smith, Louise Spinelli, Liz Novak and Kathy Fico. They are hardworking, they are fun to be with and all have a sense of humor (see today’s email exchange from me), they are dedicated to our Boards and to all of you, our volunteers. We ask a lot of them, over many hours, and they deliver.

Funny Email Cropped Mary

Funny Email Cropped ginny

#2 – The Presidents — I am often asked by those that don’t understand bar associations, “Why do they only serve for 1 year?” What the presidents take on in a single year is extraordinary, while maintaining their practice, and trying to be present to their very patient families. One of the tips I give every new president is, let’s not fill your dance card, as “stuff happens” and your dance card will be filled automatically. Some listen, some don’t. That is where I build on my flexibility skill set!

#1 – The ability to be creative — This job is challenging, and associations are evolving. The trends in the practice of law are dynamic and evolving at an amazing pace. With four generations of members, and new leadership each year, my mind does not rest as I am constantly thinking of ways to increase our value to you as members, how to engage you with your colleagues, how to make it impossible for you to work, live and practice without us. I also appreciate that you, our loyal members, are always up for some creative dialogue and brainstorming.The challenge is daily, and it is what drives me. Some days I actually think I dream that I sent emails, as I will ask Ginny in the morning about the email I sent her last night. She will look at me and raise the eyebrow, doubting me, we will both go in search of the mystery email that does not exist, and I will then begin to wonder — did I dream that email? How powerful would it be if we could transfer those dreams to accomplish items on our task list? I know, this is sad. I am working at putting down technology earlier in the evening, and picking up a book. Right now I am reading, Dead Wake by Eric Larson.

Whether you are celebrating Passover or Easter or just a quiet weekend, enjoy these early days of spring. I plan to be on the porch tonight, after the gym and a meditation class with GRAWA, even if I am sitting under a fleece blanket, and with the outdoor heater on, and a nice glass of red wine, the porch will be open this evening by 8pm. Feel free to pop over, but knock hard as the door bell is broke. I really need to get that fixed.

Thanks for checking in…


Lawyer at @QuarlesandBrady the 1st in Arizona admitted under military-spouse rule

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Very cool…

Originally posted on AZ Attorney:

Rachel Schafer Rachel Schafer

In 2014, we were pleased to see the Arizona Supreme Court adopt a rule that eased admission for a certain category of attorneys: those who are already admitted and in good standing elsewhere but who find themselves in this state because of the transfer of their military spouse.

Author and attorney Rodney Glassman wrote about it here. (And I covered it in the blog here.) Essentially, spouses of military personnel are able to get quick, temporary licensing if their spouse is stationed in Arizona.

The rule-passage was a great accomplishment, but even better news came this month when an attorney availed herself of the rule. Rachel Schafer of Quarles & Brady has become the first person admitted under Rule 38(1). The commercial litigator practices in Quarles’ Tucson office; her husband, a pilot, is stationed at Davis–Monthan Air Force Base.

I will be interviewing Rachel this…

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I’ve got a beef with you…

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Several weeks ago, as the snow was still coming down on a daily basis, I suggested to Liz Novak and Dajaneé Parrish that perhaps we should think about throwing a picnic for the members. Dajaneé, master of social media, loved the idea so much, that we assigned it to her to explore with the direction to — find a food truck; download the beach music; and find some great pics of summer beaches and other vacation venues that we can put on the big screens in The Rubin Center for Education.

Dajaneé dug in and began talking with a variety of food trucks. She researched, experienced and conquered negotiations with the City about the legalities of parking a food truck outside the Telesca Center for Justice.

Dajaneé even designed a super easy process:

Step 1: Register online at — $10 bucks will get you a great lunch!

Step 2: Invite some friends and colleagues to come with you.

Step 3: Show up at The Rubin Center on Wednesday, April 15th @ 12:15 pm

Step 4:  Take a seat, and we will serve you your lunch.

Step 5: Eat and enjoy!

Step 6:  Following a relaxing lunch with friends, good music and good food, go back to work, more relaxed than when you came in.

The invite has been out there for almost 2 weeks now, and we have had a first ever experience — not one person has registered! Yes, I said it right, not one of you wants to come down to the MCBA for a cool, summer lunch!

So that’s my beef, no one wants any beef (or chicken, or vegetarian) for lunch that day!

My first thought was to cancel it. No one wants to come. That’s OK.

But Dajaneé and Liz, and Effortlessly Healthy food truck owner Shaina, have come up with a different option, and an easier option for you:

Step 1: No registration is required.

Step 2: Just show up on the Exchange St. side of the Telesca Center and you won’t miss the very large Effortlessly Healthy food truck parked right there.

Step 3: Get in line, order your lunch and drinks from a great array of options, and pay Shaina directly.

Step 4:  You have 2 options: The Rubin Center for Education on the 5th floor will be open for you to sit and eat your lunch on site, or you can go directly back to your office, and eat at your desk, while you get back to work. Odds of indigestion will greatly increase if you go directly back to work.

So there’s my beef! But here is your opportunity to say, “Mary, STOP!! We are doing too much. Too many programs, events, etc.” Please take a moment and let me know why this picnic is not on your radar:

1. It is still March. Too early to think of picnics!

2. Not a big food truck fan.

3. I was already at the MCBA 2x’s this week, and though I love all of you — it is simply too much!

4. I am fasting

5. _________________________

Thanks for checking in,


Do I owe you an apology?

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Did I not return an email?

Did I not return a phone call?

Do I owe you something I promised?

Did I offend you in some way?

Are you sick of blog reports on my kids?

Or is it something not covered in this list?

If so, I am so sorry, and I wish to apologize.

Last week I was in attendance at a Bar Leadership Institute in Chicago with Neil Rowe, our incoming president. One of the plenary speakers was Charlene Li, a bestselling author of Groundswell, and Founder of Alitmeter Group. Charlene’s latest book, Open Leadership:  How Social Technology Can Transform The Way You Lead, was presented to each of us as part of the conference.


Charlene’s talk was about transparent and open leadership, and all that this means. When it comes to openness, I think I am pretty open. I think my big challenge is my attempt to be responsive to all of you, our valued members. I don’t like saying no; I don’t like disappointing you; but the reality is that I have to say no, and I do disappoint.  I have written before about the diversity of our membership and your opinions and views on matters involving the bar. I try very hard to listen, and to be responsive. I always talk with our president about matters where I need their guidance or approval, and together, we work hard to manage expectations. But sometimes that does turn around to bite me, because my greatest expectations are on me, and what I expect and demand from myself.

I am in a constant mode of building my “task lists” that are erected in the early morning hours, through the drive, committee meetings, conference calls, meetings with the president, meetings with staff, and the list goes on. I work hard to capture those tasks as they are happening. And then I am always hopeful that throughout the day, I will have the ability to check these tasks off my lists. BUT, once again, reality is a cruel colleague in that it does not always happen.

My goal each day is to attempt, at every turn, to get through my email from that day, as well as the pile from days prior. No matter how hard I try, I can’t get it done. Sadly, I have fallen asleep many a nights, trying to tap out one more email before I… zzzzzzzz’

I have no doubt you struggle with the same realities. In this day and age, I think it would be rare to find someone that does not.

So anyway, the book, which I am still reading, has a lot to offer. My intent is to continue to be more open and transparent, and as always, be responsive to you. I have to better manage expectations of me, you as the volunteers, and the staff as well.

So, if I owe you an apology, please either accept this one, or call me up, and I will say it out loud. One thing I absolutely believe in — we need to own our stuff. In other words, when we mess up, we need to own it. No excuses. Thanks for checking in,