Great Programs at the MCBA…Such as Lawyers for Learning

There are many great things happening right now at the Bar! Last night, we had our YLS New Admittee Night at the Amerks  I got the go-ahead to change up the design of the blog a bit; we’re in the midst of recruitment for our Rochester Legal Diversity Clerkship Program; and we have kicked up the Lawyers for Learning program!

For those of you who participated in the winter drive, thank you! So far a big need for hats, gloves and scarves has been filled as I was able to cart several bags and boxes to School 29 to those in need. The committee has also been able to grant more than $5,000 to School 29 for special education materials, physical education equipment and classroom supplies, thanks to the proceeds from this year’s Lawyers for Learning Golf Tournament.

L4L backpacks2015 001Christine Turnquist, our School 29 liaison, is passionate about the students, the school, the teachers and everything about Lawyers for Learning.  She continually proves to be a valuable asset when deciding how to allocate grant funding. The students and staff are always so friendly and grateful for all of the support that School 29 receives from the MCBA. And, for those of you who may not know, School 29 houses the majority of special needs children in the Rochester City School District. Many of the special education teachers purchase equipment and supplies from their own paychecks because the school does not have enough money to provide additional materials.


The needs are overwhelming, and here’s how you can help: While we are growing with mentors, we are still only at 36 to date. We need more, and continue to accept new mentors. Signing up as a mentor now gives you the opportunity to see what it is like before the end of the year. To sign up to become a mentor, click here.  And if you’re not sure about being a mentor, send me an email and I can set you up to visit the school with another mentor.

As one of the key volunteer opportunities here at the MCBA, Lawyers for Learning is always looking for volunteers to help at events or simply being part of the committee. In the spring, we hope to gain traction on a memorial garden to be built on the school property. It will house a fenced off area with herbs, vegetables and fruits. There will also be handicap accessible tables for those, who are unable to get down and dirty in the soil. Although part of my job here is as the liaison for the Lawyers for Learning committee, and I’m also planning to volunteer some of my time to help with the garden. If you are interested in volunteering at any events, field trips, performances or the garden, please reach out to me at

And, before I forget, we are still hoping to collect pictures for our next blog about the winter! If you have any photos of your winter hibernating or you’re like Louise and you were able to escape to Mexico, email me with your photos and a caption and I’ll feature you!



Until next time, Ben

YLS Tickets

Welcoming Our New Attorneys

By Liz Novak Henderson

At yesterday’s Admission Ceremony, nearly 70 new lawyers from the 7th Judicial District were admitted to the 4th Department. While I wasn’t able to be at the ceremony, based on past years, I can bet that excitement was all around as these bright, young diverse lawyers were officially admitted to practice law.

On hand, we had MCBA President Neil Rowe, Curtis Johnson, Chair of the Young Lawyers Section, Jennifer Tarolli, Co-Chair of Membership for the YLS Board, and Merritt Smith, Marketing Specialist and YLS liaison from the MCBA, to help connect with and encourage these new attorneys to join the MCBA, if they hadn’t already. In addition, we will be reaching out by mail to those new admittees who have yet to join the MCBA, and encourage them to get involved.

And we do have a number of ways for new attorneys to get involved with the MCBA and its Young Lawyers Section over the next couple of months.

On Wednesday, January 27, starting at 6 p.m., the Young Lawyers Section will be hosting its third Annual Newly Admitted Attorney Night at the Amerks. And thanks to underwriters like Counsel Press, The Daily Record, and Kammholz Messina, LLP, admission to the game is FREE with complimentary appetizers (albeit, there is a cash bar). Click here for more information on how to sign up. And let me be clear, it’s an opportunity for Monroe County attorneys to meet new admittees, and new admittees to meet our attorneys. All are welcome – whether you are young in age or young at heart.

YLS Tickets

And starting on Tuesday, February 16, the Young Lawyers Section and the Academy of Law are collaborating on a Practice Development Series. Co-chaired by Michael Geraci and Katerina Kramarchyk, the series has been developed to help newly-admitted attorneys fulfill their first or second year CLE requirements while being beneficial for other attorneys in all areas beyond their first biennial registration.

There are three parts to the series:

  • Part I: Cost Effective Legal Research – February 16
  • Part II: Effective Communication Skills – Avoiding Communication Blunders & Managing Expectations – March 3
  • Part III: The 12 Most Common Mistakes Made by Attorneys – March 16

With great speakers and topics, it’s an outstanding series that can be of benefit to attorneys across practice areas, office settings and years in practice. Click here for registration information.


The Young Lawyers Section is a busy, active group and today it boasts 175 members–and each year around this time, the section gets an influx of new admittees when they join the MCBA and the Young Lawyers Section. The Young Lawyers are a section that always welcomes other bar members (new or seasoned) to its events. Take advantage of your membership and come to one of the above events, and consider bringing a new lawyer with you or meet one at the event. If you’re a chair of a committee or section, or are simply a member who knows a few new lawyers, encourage them to get involved in the MCBA. Our new lawyers need encouragement and support as they venture out as practicing attorneys. Remember, they are the future of this Bar.

Thanks for checking in.



New Year’s Resolutions?

For those of you that are reading this blog, thank you! Let’s try to keep it alive in 2016 with some positive feedback, comments and lots of witty blog entries. We are planning to have guest writers throughout the year – some staff and some volunteers. If you have suggestions, please let us know. Now, onto the topic at hand…New Year’s Resolutions. One of my favorite shows on TV right now is called “Brooklyn Nine Nine.” If you’re not familiar with the show, you have to watch it! It is a short show about the 99th precinct at the NYPD and Andy Sandburg is hysterical. Anyhow, I was watching one of the most recent episodes and the topic of New Year’s Resolutions got brought up. My favorite character, Rosa said simply, “New Year’s resolutions are for the weak,” so I have not made any resolutions out of spite… until today when we discussed it as a potential blog entry.

Although 2015 was not the best year for me on the personal front, come December 31, I was more excited to ring in this New Year more than any previous years. One of those reasons is that I am incredibly excited for what is in store for our Bar future. Louise Spinelli has done an excellent job of planning some great CLEs. And Liz Novak Henderson has been great at stacking our events, so that our members have a chance to not only network but work on the betterment of themselves and others. It’s going to be a great year! Here is a short list of some potential New Year’s Resolutions and how the MCBA can help:

#1. – If getting in shape is your resolution, then Midtown Athletic Club is where it is at (slang for this gym is awesome). Right now, Midtown is offering MCBA members a $0 joining fee, and $50 gift card in January, but don’t “pull a Ben” and spend it at the juice Bar or ordering food. Contact Debbie Warren at 585-512-2776.


#2.  – Forget getting healthy, if having more fun is your New Year’s resolution, then check out our events calendar. Although you missed last night Young Lawyers Post-Holiday Party, we have social events next week for Family Law and Bankruptcy, plus another Young Lawyers Night at the Amerks at the end of the month. Don’t miss out, and have some fun!

#3. – If getting your arms around the whole Cybersecurity issue intrigues you, then the Cybersecurity: Privacy & Security Issues CLE on Jan. 28 is the answer. – Paul Greene, Jennifer Lazenby, and a Special Agent from the FBI will be speaking about what is a breach; how does it happen; and how to counsel your clients on it. Click here for more information.

#4—If one of your New Year’s resolution is to handle stress better, then the Wellness Skills Workshop: Building Tools to Effectively Deal With Stress in Ourselves and to Provide Support to Others on Friday, Jan. 29 is the answer. Stress is all around us. We never know when it will hit or something with happen and it’s good to be prepared. This is a free event for all members. Did you know that in 2014 a study produced by Stanford University showed that the Legal profession was number two in the list of most stressful/ anxiety ridden jobs? It even surpassed the medical field! The study also found that the stress leads to other problems that range from elevated cortisol from simple interactions to problems with addiction and alcohol use. You should know where to turn when you need it! Don’t forget that we do have the collaboration with Tree of Hope Counseling, which can help you with any problems that you may be facing. It is also a free service and it is completely confidential. Click here for more information about the workshop.

50 ways to take a break

If you’re looking for more resolutions, I have an entire list to share. Top ones on the list are finish my Chapstick without opening a new one; don’t be convinced by that 2am infomercial; be a part of the human journey; and take selfies that look like I’m an actual human being.

Feel free to email me or leave a comment!

Until next time,


Thank you for the privilege…

Several weeks have passed since the announcement about my impending departure from the Monroe County Bar Association. I have accepted a new position as Clerk of Court for the Western District of New York effective January 4th. In the weeks since the announcement, life has been a whirl-wind of mixed emotions.

Obviously, I am honored and humbled to have this incredible new opportunity that has me very excited, and admittedly, nervous as well. I have always been one to embrace a new challenge, and I find it to be a great opportunity to continue to grow both personally and professionally. This past Friday evening, I was invited to join the judges of the Western District at their holiday dinner, and was welcomed with genuine enthusiasm into the WDNY family. Earlier in the week, I also spent time meeting the Clerk’s office staff in both Rochester and Buffalo. They are a great group of people, dedicated to the Court and all that it represents. Once again, I received a robust welcome from the entire WDNY family.

At the other endRay security of my emotional spectrum is the thought of leaving this incredible bar association community. I know we have stated that I am not really leaving, as I will be remaining in the legal community, both here in Rochester, as well as in Buffalo. But it will be different. Each day, I will not be walking into the Telesca Center for Justice and being greeted by our incredible Ray Squila. Ray has been delivering either the weather forecast for the day, or announcing “TGIF all day Mary,” since I started.

As I then proceed to the 10th floor, one of my first stops every morning for 14+ years has been to the office of Kathy Fico. Some days, Kathy and I would share any quick updates on our kids, and then cover any hot topics for the day. Before I even had my coat off, Kath would pull a few documents or checks for me to sign, before she lost me to a day of meetings. With more than 21 years of MCBA experience, Kath would also take this moment to give me a heads up on either a staffing or budget matter. We worked like a well-oiled machine, and accomplished a lot in those 10-15 minutes. If I was coming in for an 8AM meeting, I might catch her before, if not, she would be my first stop after the meeting. I will miss my mornings with Kathy! Please be extra good to her in these months ahead.

Kathy was my primary routine, but throughout the day, I would have multiple visits from Liz Novak Henderson, or I would stop in on a variety of matters ranging from membership, to the Foundation, to an event, or to seek my opinion on a media question. Liz moves with great pace with lots of balls in the air. Like me, Liz enjoys the creative brainstorm when stuck on an issue, and will seek my counsel. Sometimes she may like it; other times she may regret that she ever asked me. Please support Liz in the months ahead by paying your dues if you have not yet paid for this year, or paying right on time in May when they come. Or if you have not yet made your donation to the Raise the Bar Campaign for the Foundation this year, go online today and make that happen.

Often, Louise may be in the CLE Room for a portion of the day, and we may not pass each other until later in the day. We have worked together for many, many years now. With Louise, I may have to push to learn more about what is going on in her bar world between CLE and the Diversity Committee. Please support Louise by following through if you are a Chair of a CLE Program, or a perhaps a speaker that owes her materials for a program that is on for the next week, or simply offering to take something off her plate instead of her volunteering to do what a volunteer should be doing. Or, finally, if you are one of the firms that will hire one of our 1L law clerks this summer, call Louise and tell her your firm is committed for the summer of 2016.

They are a very dedicated management team that will serve this Association well as they transition through the Search Committee and welcome a new Executive Director. Supporting the management team is the very dedicated staff of Suzanne Ventress, Diane Hill, Merritt Smith, Dianne Nash, Ben Freeland, Mark Swail and Robin DePoint. This is a time of uncertainty for all of them, however, they are receiving reassurance and support from MCBA President, Neil Rowe, and President-Elect, Mark Moretti.

The MCstaff photoBA Team has been my second family over the years. How this group has evolved has been pretty incredible. Their collective dedication to you and to the mission of the MCBA is evident every single day in the work they do. Please continue to be good to my bar family, as I know they will continue to be good to all of you.

Also on the MCBA bittersweet spectrum is all of you. I have decided I cannot begin to name those champions and leaders over the years as I know I would miss names, and that would be awful. But if you are one of the folks that has been showing up multiple times in a day or a week, or monthly for years on end, or even with periodic breaks, then I am talking to you — the extraordinarily dedicated members of the Monroe County Bar.

Past Presidents Lunch 017

You welcomed me 14 years ago with genuine enthusiasm, and we went to town as we began to rebuild and re-energize the MCBA. It truly has been an incredible ride with opportunities to knock down walls and escalators, while building a co-location model that does not exist anywhere in the country, and raising $2.6Million to accomplish it all. Challenges around community hot button issues, or internal hot-button issues, has further strengthened my ability to listen, learn and negotiate. I thank you for teaching me and for improving my skill set.

Many have stated, “Mary, you are the MCBA, what are we going to do?” And so now I wish to respond to this question for all to read, hear and understand. No one person is the MCBA, especially me! We are all replaceable, as am I. YOU as lawyers, judges, paralegals, law students, and affiliates ARE the MCBA. You are the dedicated members of this distinguished association, you are the real purpose behind the Association. As the very dedicated staff of the MCBA that supports all that we do has heard from me for many years, “YOU are the volunteers that pay your annual dues, volunteer your time on committees and sections, volunteer to chair or speak at CLE’s, pay to attend dozens of events or programs throughout the bar year.”

The other group I want to ensure you look out for are our young lawyers. I have  been accused of showing favoritism to them and  I will remind you one more time, they are the future of this So if you wish to keep this association alive and well for decades to come, I urge you to continue to support, nurture and celebrate these young people that have stepped up and accomplished so much on our behalf. They are the future leaders of this association. Other bars around the country are not having this same level of success that we are, so please do not lose site of this group.

I will miss this blog. I will miss the sharing of my life with you and finding ways to tie it back to some aspect of bar life. I will miss this quiet place where I could share and where you responded with fun and heartfelt comments over the years, or with challenges that would make me want to do better. As I mentioned last week, my three adult children are quite delighted the blog will come to an end. Frankly, the timing is good since they are now grown and all are turning out to be pretty successful in their life’s trek so far and have run out of good material on them. Over the years you have allowed me to write about the passing of my dad, Richard, and my brother, Peter, as well as other life challenges. What mattered to me is that you demonstrated how much you cared through cards, emails, hugs, visits and home deliveries of food and flowers.

I have loved the moments when you stop in for a visit to catch up; to share on an issue; to share some news about you; to gripe about a colleague or judge; or to talk about the challenges of the practice and of life. I loved your visits! I mean that. You were welcome distractions from 200 emails a day, or a delightful break between meetings. When I heard your voices, I would pop up to greet you and invite you in. If we spent 5 minutes or 30 minutes I always valued your insight, openness and honesty. We’d laugh; we’d speculate on politics; we’d think out loud; and for me, I always learned. You always gave me permission to speak honestly too!

I will miss you. Please continue to celebrate all that you have accomplished for the MCBA and I hope we never finish celebrating our success with the Telesca Center for Justice. There is still so much to be accomplished, so keep going, you have a lot to do yet.

Perhaps as I depart, I can take some liberty that perhaps I was unable to take before. There are 1,000 non-members in this community. Many opt out because they receive no tangible benefits. Some opt out for political reasons. Some opt out for financial or other personal reasons. My challenge to all of you and to those 1,000 non-members is that there is relevance here for everyone, and for those that require dues assistance, there is that opportunity as well. As many have heard from me over the years:

  • The MCBA is YOUR professional association. The MCBA provides the greatest opportunity to come together with your colleagues from all practice areas.
  • The MCBA is a place of dialogue and debate. By joining the MCBA, you are claiming a seat at the table where your voice can be heard.
  • The MCBA is an advocate for your profession, and for your community.

I have great confidence in our bar leadership Neil and Mark, and in the Search Committee, lead by Connie Walker, that you will find an incredible new Executive Director, and when you do, welcome this person with the same warmth and commitment you welcomed me all those years ago.

Thank you for the honor and privilege of being your bar exec for the past 14 years…it has been a great gig! To know you; to debate with you and to learn from you. I will see you around…






14 Years of Wrap-up is Daunting…

When I planned my week, I left myself no time to write the blog. So this blog will go down in history as my shortest to date. It’s very short because right now, I am attempting to wrap-up, transition and download my brain and all that resides in it from the last 14 years. I simply do not have time this week to write the thoughtful good-byes with the heartfelt thanks and appreciation that you are all due. I am saving that for next week… I hope?!

I have had to spend some time with my new colleagues at the WDNY, so I have been taking some PTO for those meetings as well. I spent yesterday afternoon at the Court in Buffalo and I met the large team that supports the Clerk’s office–great people welcoming me with wonderful enthusiasm and warmth. And I received the same treatment in Rochester, as I met the majority of the staff there on Monday.

As my days wind down and I begin my goodbyes (or “so longs” as I am not leaving the legal community), I am discovering that this is increasingly difficult. Last week’s Bench & Bar Holiday Party was wonderful and humbling as I was surrounded by words of encouragement, sadness, more encouragement, and many laughs of wonderful memories. I experienced this last night again with the fabulous women (and men) of GRAWA. Th12369066_10153801712284637_8463726739893812434_nis is always a fun holiday party that had more good wishes and words of encouragement.

Today, I bid my final adieu to the Foundation Board at this morning’s meeting and the emotions actually kicked in. I reminded them of the incredible Telesca Center for Justice that they have built with our partners. And how they need to own it, celebrate it and continue to support and nurture it. I was then presented with a farewell gift from the Foundation Board for a lifetime admission to the fabulous Jazz for Justice coming 2016. #JFJ2016.

I then attended my final House Finance Committee where five of my former Treasurers were present. They have guided me, counseled me, argued with me, allowed me to argue with them, and in the end, we had good decision-making due to their collective commitment. They have provided me with the wisdom to move on to the WDNY Court budget of $4-5 Million.

I just now realized this will most likely be my 2nd to last blog. That makes me sad. I have enjoyed writing these, late at night on the poMary and Kidsrch, or early, early morning when my life was quiet at home with my coffee. Most touching to me is the number of you that have shared with me over the years, and in recent weeks, how much you have enjoyed the blog, and of late, how many of you will miss the blog. To those regular readers, thank you for allowing me to share stories from my life, my family and some of my crazy thoughts. My attempts to tie my message back to the MCBA was not always spot on, but I tried.

I believe there will be a few people that are thrilled that my blogs will soon be history. First, my three children, Brian, Aidan and Claire, whom have grown up before your very eyes. No, I did not always seek their permission to share their lives, my lessons in parenting, and the such, but as I have said to them, I do believe that life with me has made them stronger. Second, a few blog readers and members that admitted through a survey and to me that they did not like my blogs. I was okay with that then and now.

All for now…see you next week!

Thanks for checking in,


The Pretty Much Lame Duck of the MCBA

(Though I will be here through the holiday getting things in good order and packing up some of my MCBA memories.) #Marysfinalcountdown






You’ve All Been Asking…


My MCBA life as your very proud Executive Director for 14 years has been pretty incredible. It has been full of great staff, great volunteers, great bar leaders, great friends, great causes, great moments and memories. I would be lying if I said there have not been any challenges along the way – there have been plenty. But challenges, debates, disagreements and roadblocks mean we are passionate for what we care about.

Let me clarify for so many that have asked the question, “Was I looking?” No, I was not looking. I was asked if I was interested in applying for the Clerk of the Court for the Western District of New York from someone that thought I might have both potential and interest.

My initial reactions were:

“I think you sent this to the wrong person?”

“Wish to remind you that though I like to play one sometimes, and I clearly have learned some of their best lines, I am not a lawyer!”

“Oh, so you think I could do this, hmmm?”

So from here, I talked with a few close friends, both in and out of the bar world; a few of my lifetime mentors; my brother, Tom; and Wally, the dog next door that wanders into my yard and just sits while I am out on the porch. I figure, if he is sitting, he can listen to my thoughts. Most of all, I have listened to my own heart and head. What an amazing new opportunity, with the chance to remain in the legal community in a new role with the ability to join the fabulous judges, clerks and staff in the Western District of New York, was simply something I should pursue.

I believe in risk-taking, not at a level of foolishness, but instead when it is well thought-out, and when you can be certain that, if you do not take the risk, you may live with self-doubt forever.

I knew I would totally be fine if I applied and did not get the job because I love what I currently do and totally envisioned my retirement another 10 or so years down the road. However, I was not certain I would be fine if I did not try. Would I be disappointed in myself for not testing my potential? I did not want to spend my future wondering.

So I applied, I interviewed, and then much to my incredible surprise, I received “the call”. “Mary, this is Judge Geraci, do you have a minute…”


As of January 4, 2016, I will be the Clerk of the Court for the Western District of New York. My primary base will be in the Jackson Courthouse in Buffalo, where I will spend at least 3-4 days per week. My second office will be down the street at the Keating Courthouse. Yes, I am planning to commute at least for now. My primary focus will be on the job in this first year. I think the 120-mile round-trip commute will bring some good quiet planning time coming and going. However, if I decide it is time to commute less, then I will consider a relocation to Buffalo, but for now, I am not taking on that decision. I’m just taking things one day at a time!


My 84 year old mom, Joan, is trying to grasp the change, as she is a little worried about the travel, and I decided that when she calls, I am merely going to say, “Yes Mom, I am downtown at the Courthouse…”, she will never know.

The other great aspect of all this is that I will be applying for an affiliate membership within both the MCBA and Bar Association of Erie County. Not sure what the Court will cover, but that is not important to me. I think this is most important for me in my new role as Clerk of the Court, and one way I plan to remain in touch with many of you, that is assuming both bars accept my membership application. ;)

It has been an incredible ride for 14 years. Thank you for the honor of working and playing hard in your incredible association. Thank you for allowing me to be both creative and passionate about what we believe in.

This will not be the final blog from me before I go. Today, I just wanted to answer the question.


Thanks for checking in,



This past Saturday morning, I had the pleasure of attending the funeral of the incredible Peggy Bauer, mother of MCBA member & trustee, Bill Bauer. Bill and I both grew up on Seneca Parkway, attended our parish school of Sacred Heart Cathedral, and on Sunday’s we were all marched into church by our parents. My family consisted of 2 parents and 6 children–but in the Bauer family there were 2 parents and 9 children. Bill’s younger sister, Bernadette, affectionately known as “Bern”, was one of my best friends on the street.

As I returned to Sacred Heart on Saturday with my mom, Joan Loewenguth, and celebrated the life of Peggy & Bob Bauer (who passed several years ago), I could not help but think back to our life as children, and the many communities we experienced.

Our community began on our street, Seneca Parkway, where life was lived in the big lush parkway that ran down the center of the street, and where the parents hosted the Annual Seneca Parkway Family Picnic. Our community extended to our backyards, especially those with pools in the summer months. Our community extended to the vast playground in the Aquinas fields, or even “The Woods” behind the AQ fields, where we ventured as young kids. As we grew older, The Woods became the place you may have gone for your first beer with some friends. No, I was not one of them, of course!

Our community extended to when it was time to walk to Sacred Heart. There were no buses that picked us up. It was just over 1 mile from Seneca to Sacred Heart, and in those days, we went home for lunch. So each day we were walking, as a BIG pack, 4 miles a day. We were a community of Seneca Parkway kids, of all ages, and we looked out for each other. This was such an incredible community event.


Our community extended to Aquinas for the boys and Nazareth for the girls. The boys had the shortest hike, as they cut thru the many yards and driveways, our’s being one of them, that gave them the quick access to Aquinas. However, once again the girls had the longer, uphill walk. So Bern would walk down, meet up with me and our good friend Mary Crilly. The three of us would make our way up to Nazareth.

The Bauer Family, all 11 of them, were clearly their own community. A home that was filled with warmth, love and laughter. It was a place I found community growing up. Mrs. Bauer, described by one of her son’s on Saturday as “steel wrapped in velvet,” represented the extraordinary group of mothers that watched over us night and day. One never knew who might show up at the dinner table at night, as we were always in and out of each other’s homes.

Also present for the Bauer celebration on Saturday was the Woods Oviatt community — all there to support Bill and his entire clan.

As we drove away from this walk down memory lane, I had to rally my 84 year-old mom who was experiencing a bit of the sweet memory blues. Mom misses her old communities, especially her six children. Only two of us reside here in town; three brothers live out of town, and as many of you know, we lost my oldest brother, Peter, seven years ago to cancer. Our own Loewenguth community has changed forever. But a little lunch for mom, and the promise that we will be gathering next week around the Thanksgiving table at my brother Tom’s house, brought a smile to her face. We will have the majority of our community in one place.

Later that night I finally had the chance to catch up on the tragedy that had unfolded in Paris over night. Images streamed in of strangers helping strangers. The poignant photo of the pregnant woman hanging and screaming for assistance from a second floor window caught my attention along with reports of people in apartments opening their doors to people running for their lives. In recent days we have seen not only the Paris community, but our entire world community come together as a sign of solidarity with the Paris community, as they did with our country on September 11.


Then bringing this message of community back home again, we have our community of justice champions that come to work every day at the Telesca Center for Justice. We are taking care of the community of the poor and under-served, also fighting to care for their families. After 11 years as partners in the TCFJ, as partners, we come to decisions in a matter of hours on some big topics that many years ago would have taken us weeks to months. We have found our groove at the Telesca Center.

And then up on the 10th floor of the Telesca Center for Justice, is the home or the community space of the 2,000 members of the Monroe County Bar Association. The MCBA community is the place you come to for meeting with colleagues in your area of practice, but perhaps from another firm, where perspectives and differences can be debated. The MCBA community is the place lawyers and many of our fine judges come to teach and learn from more of your very smart colleagues. The MCBA community is the place lawyers can come to celebrate the holiday season together as we will on Thursday, December 3rd at the Annual MCBA Holiday Bench & Bar Party in the beautiful Wintergarden. This is where members of the bench and bar come together to enjoy some holiday cheer, and to celebrate the profession that we are all so dedicated to.

The MCBA community is also a place where legal professionals can come for support for either themselves, a colleague or perhaps a family member. As we all know, the legal community recently lost Jerry Murphy. Jerry and his wife, Bonnie, heard about our Solace Program, and were encouraged to allow our community to support them. With the careful hand of Paul Leclair, our SOLACE Caretaker, our legal community made an incredible difference in the lives of Jerry, Bonnie and their family in these final months. They were overwhelmed by the incredible outpouring of messages and other symbols of support they received  from people they did not know. This is the MCBA community.

And when life does become simply a bit too overwhelming, the MCBA has started a new program called Health & Well-Being. Having penned an agreement with the good folks over at The Tree of Hope, and established a direct number to our good friends at the Tree of Hope. We now have a place for any member of the legal community, both members and non-members, paralegals, legal assistants, judges, clerks, PDs and DAs, and the list goes on, to call 585-353-1541, and with no worries about confidentiality or concern for paying the bill, you will be taken care of.

So where do you find community?

Thanks for checking in,




The beginning and ending of careers…

I really expected that with two of my three children (Brian in Jupiter, Florida and Claire in Boston) now living out of town and working, and one both working and finishing school (Aidan in Rochester) that the phone would ring less. I assumed that in time, because of their new and blessing careers and excitement over future careers, that I would hear less from them. As my own 84 year old mother, Joanie, would say: “Yes, they grow up and call less and less!” Mom says that with a raised brow sending me a clear message, “Yes, I am talking to you, young lady!!”


At this point they are calling for a variety of things:

  • “Mom, can you send me your ‘Kick Ass Chili’ recipe?”
  • “Mom, how do I get red wine out of a white blouse?” “Yes, Mom, I am 22 and can drink red wine!”
  • “Mom, what do I do with this bill from Dr. So & So?” To which I reply: “You pay it!”
  • “Mom, my house in Boston is really hilly, and I am terrified about the Boston winter, and how I will get up and down the hill, what do I do?” To which I replied: “Once the snow really starts falling, find a true Boston friend, and ask for some hilly-street lessons!”
  • “Mom, I had this email the other day at work about…what should I do?” To which I replied: “Get out from behind the email and go have a conversation.”
  • “Mom, I have this project team I have to work with on a class project, and they did not show up for our meeting, what do I do?” To which I replied: “Send them a message securing the next team meeting date, and if they fail to show up a second time, let them know, you will have to seek counsel from the Professor.”
  • “Mom, my money is a little tight this month, any ideas?” To which I replied: “Yes, stop going out, eat more cereal and be sure you take your multi-day vitamin.”
  • “Mom, do you have a minute?” To which I reply: “No, it is 10:30 pm and I was asleep. If you are safe, call me in the morning!”

I trust as the years go on, their careers progress, their lives become busier than they already are, they meet someone and fall in love, break-up (call Mom again for words of comfort and a hug or home-cooked meal for lucky Aidan), meet someone new again, really fall in love this time, and in time (many years from now because they are all way too young yet) perhaps marry and maybe even make me a grandmother (even more years from now) and the little ones will learn to call me, Marmi, after the beloved mother in Little Women.

Life goes by so incredibly fast. I was a young career woman once, and then a mom, and now I am still a “young at heart career woman” with many years of experience, and a much wiser mom to the young adults in my life. They are at the start of their lives, making career choices, making decisions (some with me; and most without me as I encourage their independence). It is a time of excitement and uncertainty — some of the best days of our lives, right?

I have the annual privilege of a sneak peak at the incredible memorials that have been prepared for our MCBA Memorial Service to be held tomorrow, Friday, November 13th at 12:30 pm in Courtroom 404 in the Hall of Justice. The Honorable Craig Doran, our Administrative Judge, will be presiding over this session of Court, with tributes being read by the dedicated members of the Memorial Committee, chaired by the Honorable Dandrea Ruhlmann. This year we will be honoring 20 extraordinary members of the profession that we have lost this past year.

memorial honoree

Extraordinary is really the best word to describe this very special group of people. Having just celebrated Veteran’s Day yesterday, so many of this group of honorees are veterans. For example, Al Boylan. Al was in Harvard Law when WWII started, and he was allowed to complete his final year of law school and take the bar exam. Then Al was immediately sent to Officer Candidate School. Be sure to read Al’s memorial to see where he was assigned to guard, and that as a result of this assignment, it provided Al with great story telling opportunities over the years.

Another sign of the extraordinary times was Helen Brooks. Helen received her law degree from Cornell Law, most likely one of few women in law school in that time. She went on to spend her entire career at Lawyers Co-op in Rochester. Helen became a well-known and much sought after volunteer by the Landmark Society, Ellwanger Garden’s. If you want to know where Helen lived when she first re-located to Rochester, I would encourage you to come to tomorrow’s service.

Another giant in this group is Jay Friedman. I remember meeting Jay when I first arrived at the MCBA, and he told me that we needed to resurrect the famous MCBA and Monroe County Medical Society Clambake/Picnic. Jay loved that event, and was one of the active participants in its organization. Having spent many years on the physician side of the community, Jay was convinced we could make this happen. I am disappointed that we never did get that initiative restarted. Perhaps it is not too late, and we re-launch the picnic in Jay’s honor. To find out the “scariest and most exciting thing” that Jay ever did in his life, I again invite you to attend tomorrow’s service.

A fierce advocate for giving back, David Merkel, did not require any kind of mandate or encouragement on taking pro bono cases. It came naturally, but David performed this service very quietly. In a family known for their big personalities, it sounds like this commitment to pro bono was the only thing David did quietly. Though not a veteran himself, learn how David was honored by the American Legion. To find out why David was honored, please join us for tomorrow’s service.

I could go on and on and on with more stories, teases and reasons as to why you should attend tomorrow’s Memorial Service. You are not required to know anyone on the list to attend, simply come and listen. You are not required to be in your own sunset years to attend. If you are a young attorney, or a mid-career attorney, I would encourage you to come, listen and learn.

There will be extraordinary life and law lessons learned tomorrow from an even more extraordinary group of dedicated professionals that deserve to have their life celebrated. I am planning to send each of my young adults a copy of this incredible tribute book so they can learn some life lessons.

Please join us tomorrow in this one hour of gratitude. I promise, it will be worth canceling the lunch or rescheduling the not-so-critical meeting.

Thanks for checking in,


So many great bar moments…

And one of the great moments is the weather right now! WOW — this weather is incredible! Today on Good Morning America  Rochester received a call-out on for hitting 78 degrees — which is the record in this area. We need to hold on to the memory of this week in our minds as we progress into the winter of 2016.

Yesterday morning, I was taking the quick route down the Pindle Alley. It was daylight, I felt very safe. But as I am exiting the Sister City Garage, walking on my cast and cane, another Sister City parker came up behind me, and said, “Mary? Are you Mary Loewenguth?” Of course I stopped, and was greeted with a warm smile and one of my favorite greetings, “I am one of your members, Reuben Ortenberg.” I had not met Reuben before, and am not sure how this had happened. But he shared that he had been with Fix Spindelman, and joined Woods Oviatt in the merger last year. Reuben told me that he had heard that Tony Palermo was going to be speaking to the Senior Attorneys Committee in November about his role in the story about the Abel case. This is the story that is now playing in theaters – Bridge of Spies starring Tom Hanks. Turns out Tony was one of the four Federal Prosecutors in this case.

Reuben mentioned that he has been thinking of joining the Senior Attorneys Committee, now chaired by the wonderful Joan Brimlow. Now with Tony, his law partner, one of the speakers, he was planning to attend this program. Reuben and I said farewell, and I thanked him for taking the time to introduce me. I was so grateful for the chance to meet Reuben. Thank you Reuben for making my day!

Perhaps I need to spend more time walking around the Four Corners, and greet more members, and invite them personally to attend a program, or to join a committee or section. A great bar moment…

Two weeks ago, I was in attendance at the Rochester Business Journal’s Small Business of the Year Award. As I was walking toward my seat at the D4 table, to celebrate John Holland, I saw Robert Galbraith, Davidson Fink. Rob and I stopped and talked for a few minutes, and with great enthusiasm he shared with me some exciting changes going on over at his firm. New thinking, new business strategy, new branding. I suggested to Rob that he take the time to attend a CLE that we were offering on that Friday in an ABA Leadership on Demand simulcast. I suggested to Rob that he make time on his calendar to join in this great program, and I walked in that Friday morning to be greeted by Rob saying, “See Mary, I took your advice, and am here!” It was an outstanding program on building your leadership skills for yourself, your clients, your firm and your community.

Leadership CLE

To learn more about a video replay of this program, contact Louise Spinelli at This program was so incredible especially because we had two incredible women co-chairs, Carolyn Nussbaum, Managing Partner at Nixon Peabody, and Gail Norris, Vice President & General Counsel at the University of Rochester. Another great bar moment…

Last week I joined our incredible Young Lawyers Section for their Annual Halloween Party at The Cub Room, one of Rochester’s cool & hip new restaurants. Guests were invited to bring a costume to donate, and from what I have heard from Curt Johnson, Section Chair, we collected more costumes than ever before.


One of the very cool experiences that night was learning that the good folks over at Leclair Korona have formed this wonderful connection with the good folks over at Pullano & Farrow. On several occasions, they have come together to hang-out, to celebrate the practice of law, to network and simply to have fun. I really loved this idea! And later in the evening, after their gathering, several of them came back to The Cub Room to join the YLS Celebration. Paul Leclair from Leclair came in as did Jason Livingston from Pullano & Farrow. I had never met Jason before, so enjoyed getting to know him, and hearing of the success of this great firm. Another great bar moment…

I know I am jumpin’ around a lot in this, but stay with me to hear about more great bar moments. Perhaps you are mentioned in one!

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of sitting in with the Solo & Small Firm Committee, energized by the Brad “The Energizer Bunny” Kammholz. Once again a great meeting planned by Brad. The Nixon Board Room was standing room only, with another action-packed agenda. These meetings are all about sharing ideas, tips, suggestions, practice management ideas, referrals, technology tools, and friendship. Another great bar moment…

This time of year I am busy working with members that have not yet renewed. Our membership invoices get lost on their desks or the desks of their assistants, or in their email backlog. I know you have heard this from me before. This time of year, we are chasing down members that have not yet renewed, members that may have an issue with us, or members that tell me they are either no longer practicing, so why join, or I rally don’t benefit from the MCBA. As you can imagine, some of these really break my heart. I do take it personally. How have I failed if I cannot demonstrate the value to members to join. For some members, we tend to be on more of a calendar renewal for them. One of my favorite every year is the chase for Vince Buzard, former MCBA and NYSBA President. Vince ALWAYS JOINS, but he does require a few reminders. Vince, a very dedicated bar leader, the kind of guy that bar executives love because he is devoted to the world of bar associations.


So the other afternoon, I happened to catch Vince at his computer and said that we really needed him to renew because without him we can’t be the MCBA without him. To which Vince acknowledged my gift of persuasion and that I got to him with that comment. I meant it! I do not use words like that lightly. I suggested that he call Liz Novak directly, who was standing by ready to take his call. In typical Vince humor he responded is this the MCBA or WXXI? Within moments Vince called Liz, and he not only renewed his MCBA membership, but he also joined the Presidents Circle, which is an additional contribution of $250.00 by many of our bar leaders. Vince is now serving on the Board of Governors for the American Bar Association. Thank you Vince for being such a good bar leader. Another great bar moment…

And last but not least, I had a highly energized Foundation Development Committee meeting this morning with President-Elect Elaine Cole, Development Co-Chairs Laura Myers and John Williams, along with fundraising guru Karen Higman, who is enlightening us on several levels. The passion that exists around the creation of the Telesca Center for Justice, the Foundation’s support of the Center, and the many other entities that the Foundation supports through its annual grants program is heartfelt. Each year they are raising more money, thanks to so many of you, and making a difference with so many programs that directly benefit members of the community, as well as our own attorneys, such as the Health & Well Being Program. Another great bar moment…

Continued thanks to all of you, that continue to give me so many great bar moments. These really are the moments that make me LOVE this gig!

Thanks for checking in…


Hal-LAW-een by Ben Freeland

In my family, Halloween wasn’t just a night for the kids to go out and gather candy from the neighbors. It was also a night for my parents to gallivant around to costume parties of their own. My brother Andy and my sister Ashley would habitually plan for Halloween in September. They would choose everything from our travel route, food supplies for the night, scary movies to watch after trick or treating and, of course, the costume. I was the youngest and couldn’t travel on my own, so I was left choosing a hand-me down outfit or creating one using various items from around the house (never worked out). One year, I wore my grandma’s dress stuffed with pillows with a few other attachments…my prognosis—A sofa. That year my brother was a superhero and probably his favorite year trick or treating (he had a place to sit when he was tired). I don’t remember a lot of “bad” or “strange” things happening but I definitely saw my fair share of questionable shenanigans.


This made think of the laws that surround Halloween and what cases are Halloween related, so without further ado, let’s get into it.

  1. I appreciate a house with character and history but… I can only imagine how a haunted house would be on All Hallows Eve. Many of you may be familiar with the case of Stambovsky v. Ackley, known as the Ghostbusters ruling, which involved a New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, declaring that a house was in fact haunted. The plaintiff filed an action to rescind a real estate purchase after he discovered that the house he bought was possessed by ghosts. The trial court dismissed the complaint saying that there was no proof of it. Arguably, the Appellate Court found that the “unusual facts . . . clearly warrant a grant of equitable relief to the buyer.” As a result, the Appellate Court found that as a matter of law, the house is haunted. The real estate transaction was then overturned.
  2. In certain towns, jurisdictions and cities in NY, the rules pertaining to adult trick or treaters vary. However, there are age restrictions in other places. For example, St. Louis has banned anyone with an education level above 8th grade from asking people for candy! In Westchester, NY and in White Plains, NY anyone over the age of 14 is not permitted to walk around town asking for candy.
  3. This next case was funny to me but I can see where it might cause an issue – Smith v. Taunton High School. This matter involved a mother and father that sued the High School after their son was scared by the science teacher. The teacher asked the 15-year-old student to answer a knock on the classroom door. The boy was startled when he came face to face with a man in a mask, who was carrying a running chainsaw. The student fell back, tripped and fractured a kneecap. The case is still ongoing because the parents are seeking damages amounting to more than $100,000 and the state cap on such law suits is $100,000.
  4. Be careful of those pesky haunted houses! An infamous case involving a scared haunted house-goer ended well for the attraction but left the customer with a fractured nose and lots of medical expenses. An attraction in NY was so great at their job of scaring people, that an attendee leapt back from the mangled-corpse-actor and ran into the cement block wall. The end result- a judge declared on the side of the attraction. Haunted house visitors “are expected to be surprised, startled and scared by the exhibits and the operator does not have a duty to guard against patrons reacting in bizarre, frightened and unpredictable ways,” according to the court.
  5. Granted you assume the risk of bumping in to things, getting grabbed and scared out of your wits upon entering a haunted house, but what if it is State-run for toddlers? In the case of Holman v. Illinois, The plaintiff was a 68-year old grandmother of two, who decided to take the age appropriate toddler to the State-run Museum “Haunted House.” The event is designed not as a frightful place but to allow toddlers and children under seven a safe way to gather candy. The dimly light museum was arranged so travelers would walk through rooms and have a cauldron of candy at each stop. The venue offered free flash lights to the public as well. Under normal conditions the room is arranged with tables and low-seated benches for children to use in the museum’s regular displays. These tables and benches had been moved into the upper-right-hand corner of the Discovery Room next to the wall. On this particular evening the grandmother, who is accustomed to the museum was making her way through the event when her grandson ran off to gather his candy and she ran to the opposite side to corral him. Upon doing so, she tripped over a bench, fell on her left arm and hit her head. She was rushed to the emergency room, sued the state of Illinois and won her case. The court decided that “The State did not exercise its duty of reasonable care. For the foregoing reasons, the Claimant is granted an award of $ 20,000.”

So there you have it folks, whether you’re a sofa, a superhero, or something else, there are always things to be aware of on Halloween.

That’s all for now,

Ben Freeland.