Welcome to the 2015-16 Bar Year!

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Our new MCBA year has begun as of yesterday! So today marks Neil Rowe’s second day on the job, and Steve Modica’s second day of Presidential retirement. It was a great year under Steve’s leadership, and we’re all looking forward here at the MCBA to working with Neil Rowe and President-elect Mark Moretti.

All in attendance seemed to enjoy last Thursday’s Annual Dinner with the installation of our MCBA Board of Trustees and our Foundation Board of Directors; the celebration of our 50 year honorees; and the recognition to our many worthy award recipients – despite the unexpected absence of our keynote speaker Hon. Sol Wachtler due to travel complications.


The next day, our staff did have some downtime as we closed the office early and headed off to Mary’s Serenity Porch for a feast from Sticky Lips!

food shot

But now, with the start of the new year, it is back to the business of the Bar.

As you may have heard, we are in the midst of our “dues renewal season.” Suzanne Ventress is busy processing dues each day – from large law firms to solo practitioners to members of the judiciary. So if you haven’t sent in your dues renewal, please do so today. Dues were *technically” due on Tuesday, June 30, but what’s a technicality? So we’ve extended the deadline for both dues and the two free CLE credits to Friday, July 10, but you must send in both your dues renewal and the registration form for the two free CLE credits that came with your dues. If you need another copy of either, please contact me at lnovak@mcba.org.

Before we were even done with the 65+ CLEs from this past year, plans were already underway for CLEs in the new year, under the leadership of new Dean of the Academy Cynthia Snodgrass and Program Manager Louise Spinelli. Visit our CLE calendar to see programs already planned. And take a look at our CLE Summer Fest, which is a series of Video Replays every Wednesday starting July 22.

Bar Stop is back! Our next one is scheduled for Thursday, July 16, 5:00-7:00 p.m. at West Edge Restaurant and Grill — a cool new place in Corn Hill Landing. (Actually, I don’t know if it’s “cool” but the new guy Ben says it is, so we’re going with it.) There will be complimentary appetizers thanks to our friends at Canandaigua National Bank. So please stop by and mingle for a few minutes with your colleagues!

West Edge

In addition, our 2015 class of Rochester Legal Diversity Clerkship Students are in full gear at various firms and organizations. Throughout the summer, there are events and workshops that are being hosted for them so they can meet all of our wonderful attorneys at the MCBA, RBBA and GRAWA, and learn what a great legal community Rochester has.

clerkship orientation
Although we certainly have less meetings over the summer, we still hope you will stop in or that we will see you at an upcoming event. Here’s to a great 2015-16 year!

Thanks for checking in,


Mary’s Top 10 List from the 2014-15 Bar Year

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Another great year is just days away from closing. It is memorable on many levels, but here is my top 10 list:

  • #10 – Meeting interesting people. Today I will be picking up Judge Sol Wachtler, former Chief Judge of New York State Court of Appeals, at the airport in preparation for tonight’s Annual Dinner. Judge Wachtler will be sharing his personal story about mental health and the impact on his personal and professional life. I am looking forward to “chauffeuring” the Judge around Rochester over the next 24 hours. I have toured former Chief Judge Judith Kaye through the Telesca Center, as well as current Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, and later this afternoon, I will be touring Judge Wachtler as well.
  • #9 — The production of the film documentary about the always amazing Judge Michael Telesca — ” Dedicated to Justice: Hon. Michael Telesca.” To have come to know this incredible man over the last 10 years and then to see his life story unfold in 30 minutes in his own words was pretty special. Even more special was the “world premiere” at the Strong Museum to a sold-out crowd, with the man himself, Judge Telesca, in the house and enjoying every minute of it. Special thanks to the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar as its producer, Judge Jon Feldman and Steve Modica for their idea to develop the film, Matthew Spaull for making the film, and their collective genius to make it happen.
MCBA President Steve Modica, the Hon. Michael A. Telesca, the Hon. Jonathan Feldman and Matt Spaull at The Strong (National Museum of Play) in Rochester on Wednesday, April 8, 2015.
MCBA President Steve Modica, the Hon. Michael A. Telesca, the Hon. Jonathan Feldman and Matt Spaull at The Strong (National Museum of Play) in Rochester on Wednesday, April 8, 2015.
  • #8 — The Inaugural Judicial Robing Ceremony was a wonderful event to celebrate the important relationship between the Bench and Bar. Celebrating the Honorable John Owens, our new Surrogate, and our newest City Court Judge, the Honorable Leticia Astacio, made this first time event even more special. We could not have made it happen without the support of our dedicated Administrative Judge Craig Doran, who is always a champion of the MCBA.
The Hon. Craig Doran, the Hon. Leticia Astacio and the Hon. John Owens.
The Hon. Craig Doran, the Hon. Leticia Astacio and the Hon. John Owens.
  • #7 — Last summer, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Rochester Diversity Clerkship Program. This award winning program established in Mike Wolford’s term has brought 8 young and diverse 1L law students to Rochester this summer for 10 weeks to experience first hand, our wonderful legal community. Over the years, we have successfully recruited alum of the program to actually join our community upon their admission to the bar. Now we have to work to retain this wonderful talent through improved efforts around inclusion and retention.
  • #6 — Witnessing the love and marriage of two members, Laura Myers (The Wolford Firm) and Curt Johnson (Davidson Fink). They met at Jazz For Justice several years ago in the post party at Abilene’s. I was there the night of the first meeting, and honored to have been in attendance at the moment when they said, “I do!” It was a beautiful day.
  • FullSizeRender#5 — The 5th Annual Jazz for Justice, chaired by the incomparable Elaine Cole, president-elect of the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar, raised just over $30,000 to benefit the many programs funded through grants from the Foundation. JFJ is an incredible collaboration with the musical phenoms at the Eastman School of Music. It is always a great party.
  • #4 — After many years of dialogue, debate and determination, we are finally launching a Health & Well Being Committee to assist attorneys living with stress, work life balance and mental health issues. It is time that we understand, accept and talk about mental health. With the support of Co-Chairs, Bradley Kammholz and Cheryl Heller, we have a committed Task Force, a community partner in place, and a plan to take care of attorneys in need.
  • #3 — Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the creation of the Telesca Center for Justice this year at Law Day complete with birthday cakes. It is so hard to believe that a decade has passed since we started this amazing journey. The ride only gets better and better as we continue to experience new opportunities for collaboration.
  • #2 — Celebrating the impending retirement of my long time (almost the same decade) Executive Assistant, Ginny LaCour. Though she continues to have a blast, Ginny has decided it is time, and will be wrapping up her time at the MCBA at the end of July. It has been bittersweet to watch Ginny on this “decision making” journey, and no, it has nothing to do with the current president making the year too hard. In Ginny’s own words, “It is time!”
  • #1 — The very best part of the  2014-15 bar year was quite simply…Steve Modica, our president. I have known, and worked with Steve, for so many years now, so I thought I knew the kind of president he would be. But in the end, I had no idea what a truly great president he would be. Steve was always accessible, and what I appreciated the most, Steve was open to dialogue. He listened to the opinions of others, including mine, and the staff’s. Steve was dedicated to his term, pushing so hard to make the most of this one year term–and did he ever! Thanks to Steve and Judge Feldman, we have the Telesca film. Thanks to Steve fearless determination and incredible generosity of “seed money”, we are launching the Health & Well Being Program to assist lawyers living with and dealing with mental health issues. Thanks to Steve, we successfully launched the first Robing Ceremony. Thanks to Steve, and his support of Neil Rowe, our president-elect, we are taking a bold step with a new governance structure.


And there it is, my “Top 10″ list for this bar year. Special thanks to all of you for making this another great year. Without you there is no MCBA. After 14 years, your commitment to the MCBA continues to leave me in awe. Thank you for checking in… Mary

Welcoming new MCBA’ers…

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Though I am always sad to see MCBA’ers depart, it presents an opportunity to welcome new MCBA’ers, with new skill sets and personalities. As you know, we are losing Ginny LaCour to a well-deserved retirement fast approaching, not fast enough for Ginny, at the end of July. Stepping in to Ginny’s big shoes is Suzanne Ventress. Suzanne is now in her second week and arriving just in time to learn how to enter membership renewals, coordinate board meetings, register members for events, and keep up with me. Suzanne will be providing administrative support to me and Kathy Fico, Business & Operations Manager.

Already having flown the coup is Dajanee Parrish (now Hoyos), as she has left New York for Delaware in her new married state to Greg Hoyos. The wedding was wonderful, and Dae was beautiful as can be attested by Liz Novak, Diane Hill and me. Before Dae left town, and as dozens of resumes for her position were flowing in to the office, she suggested we talk to a college friend of her’s Ben Freeland. And so we did; and we instantly fell for Ben and all of his talents.

So for today’s blog, I have asked Suzanne and Ben to introduce themselves in their own words. Please take a moment to read about and welcome them to the MCBA. Though we miss Dae, we are very happy for her. And when it comes to saying goodbye to Ginny, well, I am simply not going there yet. WOW, is she ready for this transition as Suzanne is receiving excellent coaching and instruction! Ginny has been building a “transition manual” over the last 3+ years, and this incredible tool will make Suzanne’s job so much easier.

blog 003 blog 002


Ben Freeland

Hello Cyber-lawyers, readers, legal enthusiasts and MCBA members!

I am incredibly excited to join the Monroe County Bar Association as the new Communications Coordinator! I am here to offer support for the MCBA and Foundation communications, membership reinforcement, and special events. Dajanee left big shoes for me to fill but I hope to add to the organization as much as she has and to continue to make MCBA a premiere bar association.

Now for a little about me:

Before joining MCBA, I owned my own communication and public relations business, worked for the Philipson group, which is a creative marketing firm and acted as the Directors Assistant for the Greentopia Festival of Rochester. One of my favorite special event productions was a roaring 20’s themed gala for the Lollypop farm entitled The Great Catsby. It featured period festivities like cigar rolling, live music, silent movies and lawn entertainment. Aside from that, I have worked at Universities, small companies and I have an extremely diverse skill set.

I have been a part of the Rochester community for my entire life and love to give back in any way possible—most recently, I embarked on the Color Run, which is a 5k race and donated my time cleaning up the Genesee Valley Park. I am an outgoing, enthusiastic, energetic person and I hope to meet you all soon! If you ever need anything, ask Mary because I probably won’t be able to answer your question (joke). I am always here to help!

Ben and Suzanne

Suzanne Ventress

Some of you may have spoken to me already. Although I am fairly new, this is my second week as the Executive Assistant and I will be permanently replacing Ginny upon her retirement in July.

Previously to this position, I was the Sr. Assessment Coordinator for Rochester Works, where I worked for two years and was able to build upon a longstanding reputation of excellent client service. Prior to my position at Rochester Works, I was an office manager at Nazareth College. In that role, I organized and supervised the Chartwell Dining Services.

My husband Mark and I live in Spencerport with our son Garrett, who is twelve, and our two tuxedo cats Jackson and Oreo. I love the outdoors, enjoy camping (in a cabin) and I love to photograph everything that is worth sharing with others. I am always here to help and I am only a phone call away.

Monroe County Bar Blog| Bar Association| Law Blog

The Spirit of Collaboration

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This morning at the final meeting of the Foundation Board for this bar year, I witnessed another wonderful moment of collaboration. The Foundation Board had just completed their approval of grants for the bar year at its final board meeting of this fiscal year. One of the more significant grants was for $8,000 towards the new Health & Well Being initiative started by MCBA President Steve Modica, and whole-heartedly supported by Foundation President Bruce Lawrence, and frankly the entire Foundation Board. Upon receiving the grant, Steve then presented a substantial gift to the Foundation as a donation to go towards the Health & Well Being program through the Foundation, from Steve and his wife, Lorrie Modica, also an attorney in Rochester.

steve bruce check

We have been talking about a solution for attorneys dealing with mental wellness issues for years and years. Their issues are different than those responded to by the Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Committee which only supports attorneys dealing with drug and alcohol related issues. Though we all recognize that there can, and will, be cross-over between the two efforts, as quite often people living with depression will self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Likewise, people living drug and alcohol issues frequently deal with bouts of depression.

But here is what will be different this time. This time, we have asked Cheryl Heller and Brad Kammholz, to co-chair this dialogue, and together they have convened a really smart group of compassionate and dedicated members that want to help. We have found a collaborative community partner, Tree of Hope Counseling that will provide us the professional support we need to support those attorneys in need. Tree of Hope is really a collaborative network of private practitioners offering individual, group and family therapy, psychiatry, training, education and consultations. We look forward to rolling out more information and programming details on this really important initiative.

In addition to the Foundation’s support on the Health & Well Being program, they also supported the Diversity Clerkship Program, the Rubin Mock Trial Program, Rochester Teen Court, the DEAFund, Law Explorers, Annual Memorial Ceremony, Solo & Small Firm Resource Center, and another new initiative, Valor Day. Valor Day is a collaborative program between VLSP, LawNY, and the MCBA to bring a host of community and legal resources to one place, Monroe Community College, this Saturday, June 13th from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for the benefit of Veterans and their families with many of the issues that face our military families.

If you have not yet sent in your own donation to the Foundation, or have never considered a donation to the Foundation, I would encourage you to consider it now. We are helping attorneys in need, as well as Veterans and military personnel, and guiding the youth of our community in introducing them to our justice system.

Thanks for checking in,


The Art of Membership

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I am always juggling a few good reads. My current pleasure read is In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. I just finished his other sensational read, Dead Wake, about the final crossing of the Lusitania. I recommend both!

On the bar front, I am always juggling a few books. I am currently reading Open Leadership by Charlene Li. This read is about how social technology can transform us as leaders. I am always looking for professional, and quite honestly personal, ideas on improving me as an Executive Director, and always working on me as a person.

The second bar book I have just started is The Art of Membership by Sheri Jacobs. I started reading this one last night, which typically is a tough time for me to read, as I am battling the “sleep villains” that begin to creep into my house around 10 pm. But it was a good read, so I actually made it to around 11:30 pm, and still made it to the gym this morning by 5:30 am, I will have you know (just in case you were wondering).

Anyway, The Art of Membership, is a very interesting read. From the outset it states that I should be asking two very simple questions:

  1. Why did you join the MCBA?
  2. Why do you renew?

I found these two simple questions very interesting as they have the potential to offer a real variety of answers for some of you. Over the years I have heard why many of you join: professional obligation, CLE, health insurance, networking, “because I was told to on my first day as a lawyer”, “the MCBA makes me a better lawyer”, and the list goes on. From many government attorneys that leave their current positions, I have heard, “I should have joined earlier, because the networking is invaluable”.

Bottom-line, everyone has different reasons. And as your Executive Director, it is important that I not assume I know why you join. What is important is that I understand, and respect, that you all join for different reasons. If I do not know your reasons, then I am unable to see if we can deliver what it is you need, and most likely, some of your colleagues are looking for in terms of “membership value”.

So as we enter this annual membership renewal cycle, I am really interested in hearing from you? The membership renewal forms have hit your mailboxes by now or will be in the next day or so. And so in the coming weeks, and I am hoping not months, we are going to be nagging, pestering, nudging, reminding, and nagging some more so that you RENEW TODAY to take advantage of the 2 FREE CLE Credits (a $66 value) that come with this renewal period but only when you renew by June 30, 2015.

This is one of those blogs that I would really appreciate a short email back to me with your responses to both. A quick response is all I am looking for from you. So ask yourself:

  1. Why did you join the MCBA?
  2. Why do you renew?

Please email me directly at mloewenguth@mcba.org.

There is an “art” to membership, and I want to become an expert, so please help me out here by providing some thoughtful ideas and suggestions.

Thanks for checking in…e-mail please


Spring…a time of renewal

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Following one of the most intense winters I can recall, these last few weeks of spring have been such a gift. No more boots, or heavy winter clothing; no more shoveling or negotiating with the plow guy as to why he has to hit your house first in the morning over his other clients; and no more grumbling of people everywhere you go about the weather.

What I do find amusing is that with a few days already in the high 80’s, I have actually heard people grumbling about the heat. “Wait a minute, just less than 2 months ago, we had snow on the ground…so why are we complaining?”

snow photo house

But I get it. Spring follows winter for many reasons. The primary one is that it is a time of renewal. Buds begin to emerge on the barren trees, and in time bring signs of spring in the form of blossoms and leaves. The sun seems to be out more, resulting in a happier Rochester, and even the air feels cleaner. In addition, I am noticing our dedicated members are appearing at some of these early morning and noon time meetings with a bigger smile. The commute to the MCBA offices, whether by boots or snow tires, was a hassle this winter.

To their credit, not the snow, or rain, or ice or arctic blast would keep a dedicated MCBA member down. Your spirit and commitment to the MCBA, the Center for Education, and the Foundation was always clear. You delivered, and for this we are grateful.

blog snow photo

So now that we all survived the memorable Winter of 2015, and are enjoying this time of renewal, I write to ask you to keep up with your spirit of renewal, and renew your MCBA membership when you receive it next week. In a recent Membership Report from the ABA, I read with interest that for the majority of bar associations it takes 7-12 interactions/requests/connections to secure a renewal from a member. We are somewhere in the middle.

My hope in sending this message of renewal today is that you will do your own internal processing about the value of the MCBA in your own life and practice.

Did you take advantage of one or more of the following:

Elizabeth Randisi, Robin Marable, Jere Fletcher and Meredith Lamb.

  1. Join or lead a substantive committee or section;
  2. Distinguish yourself by presenting at one of our 60+ CLEs;
  3. Attend either the Holiday Bench & Bar or the Inaugural Robing Ceremony to network with the judiciary;
  4. Participate and learn at one of our highly rated CLEs;
  5. Join the Lawyer Referral Service panel to assist in growing your practice;
  6. Take part in one of our monthly, informal and fun MCBA BarSTOPS to share the end of day with a colleague;
  7. Utilize one of our two Member Workstations complete with phone, desktop (thank you to the Foundation) and now, Fastcase Legal Research thanks to a gift of two licences from NYSBA;
  8. Did you either reach out to be a mentor, or reach out seeking a mentor through our Mentor for a Moment program;
  9. Sign up to utilize one of the MCBA Conference Rooms to meet with a client;
  10. Or did you reach out in one of dozens of other ways with the MCBA this year that provided you with meaningful engagement with friends and colleagues, in a way that enhanced your life both personally and professionally?


If so, all I ask is that when your renewal comes in the mail in the week ahead, please make my day by renewing immediately. My goal is to reduce the renewal cycle of 7-8 months, down to two months, in order that we can get back to the business of delivering to you a bountiful number of membership advantages.

Lastly, renew by June 30, and take advantage of the 2 Free CLE credits through a video replay — a total value of $66. This is too significant not to take advantage.

I appreciate your consideration and attention to this request as we don’t take your membership for granted.

Thanks for checking in,


To All My Wonderful Colleagues – Thank You!

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thank you!

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

– Seneca the Younger.

You may or may not know, but I am leaving my position at the Monroe County Bar Association to start a new and exciting chapter of my life in Delaware. It has been a most meaningful two years and nine months here at the MCBA (August would have made three years). I want you all to know that I am truly leaving here with mixed feelings; happy about a new career opportunity, but sad to be leaving such a great organization.

I would like to thank my wonderful colleagues:

Mary, Liz, Diane, Dianne, Galina, Ginny, Kathy, Louise, Merritt and Mark. Thank you for being such an awesome team and for helping me grow both professionally and personally. I have enjoyed my time here and will miss the team. Thank you for all the support, insights, and help you have provided me over the past two years and nine months.

Thank you for all being so thoughtful, and making me feel appreciated. Hopefully I won’t have a full on Kim Kardashian meltdown next Thursday at the farewell party.

kim k cryface

While it’s common practice to acknowledge the work of a colleague when they leave, I’d like to take this time to acknowledge your continued hard work and the impression that all of you have imprinted on me. There is a great sense of community within the MCBA that isn’t found in a lot of workplaces.

To my Lawyers for Learning committee colleagues:

The great work that you do for School 29 does not go unnoticed. Thank you for your time, hard work and dedication to the Lawyers for Learning program. Never underestimate the difference that you can make in the lives of the children.

LFL Commitee

I look forward to celebrating the committee members, mentors and School 29 teachers at the appreciation social on Tuesday, May 19 at Tapas.

And finally to everyone I have not mentioned, do not think that I have forgotten you. You have each inspired me and taught me valuable lessons. You have all played your part in shaping me into the person I am today.

The last two years and nine months as the communications coordinator has been the best period of my career so far. I learned a great deal and worked with many great people. I can only wish that my new job will give me such rewarding experiences.

With gratitude,

– Dajaneé