4 Cybersecurity Tips For Lawyers

This week’s Bar View guest author is Nicole Black. The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and are not intended to represent those of the MCBA or its board of trustees.

By Nicole Black, Esq.
Nicole black

In the 21st century, technology has changed at an incredible rate. Sometimes the pace of change can seem overwhelming, especially for lawyers trying to manage their busy practices. Learning about and implementing new technologies into law practices can often be a difficult task–one that is complicated by ethical obligations which require that clients’ confidential information remain secure.

The good new is that there are steps you can take to increase your firm’s cybersecurity. Here are a few tips to get you on the path to having a more secure law firm.

1. Update your law firm’s software regularly

It’s imperative to update your software regularly in order to ensure that it is secure. Software updates often fix known security issues and if you fail to update your software, you may be unknowingly exposing all of your law firm’s data. That’s why it’s recommended that you enable automatic software updates for your firm’s software. And if you use cloud-based software for your law firm, you’re in luck! Your cloud-based software provider will automatically update your law firm software, ensuring that it is always up-to-date and secure.

2. Use secure communication tools

In the mid-90s, email was given the green light by legal ethics committees and lawyers began to use email to communicate confidential information to clients. That was then, this is now. Although it still is ethically permissible for lawyers to use email to share information that is not particularly sensitive, email is nevertheless outdated and unsecure by today’s standards.

Fortunately, there are far more secure alternatives these days when it comes to communicating with clients. Whether it’s using the client portals built into law practice management software, encrypted email, or using encrypted voice communication tools, you now have more secure options for sharing confidential client information.

3. Make sure to use encryption

Speaking of encryption, make sure to use it for every type of communication, across all of your devices. One option is to use Whats App for communicating with clients since it offers encrypted text and voice communications. Message on your iPhone is also encrypted and is more secure than traditional SMS messages. Similarly, Facetime on your iPhone provides encrypted voice communication features.

4. Ensure your mobile devices are secure

Finally, make sure to secure your mobile devices. For starters, always password protect your devices. Also, consider using a password manager such as LastPass to allow you to increase the complexity of passwords used while simultaneously increasing security. And last, but certainly not least, enable features on your devices that allow you to remotely wipe data from them should they be misplaced or stolen.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, a law practice management software company. She is the nationally-recognized author of “Cloud Computing for Lawyers” (2012) and co-authors “Social Media For Lawyers: The Next Frontier” (2010), both published by the American Bar Association. She also co-authors “Criminal Law in New York,” a Thomson West treatise. She writes a weekly column for The Daily Record, has authored hundreds of articles for other publications, and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law, mobile computing and Internet-based technology.

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First, Let’s Kill All Those Shallow Interpretations of Shakespeare

By Kevin Ryan, Esq.

You know that quotation from Shakespeare about killing all the lawyers? What are we to make of it? Critics of the legal profession (serious or half-joking) love to trot the phrase out to lend pedigree to their view that lawyers are all highly paid sharks bent on enriching themselves by impoverishing others, making everything worse (except their own bank accounts) through protracted litigation. Is there something bad and unwholesome about modern life? Well then, say the critics, blame it on lawyers. The phrase pops up at parties and political rallies, in the mouths of wannabe wits and candidates for office. The Eagles even stuck the line in a song, evidently because it captured Don Henley’s feelings towards people who look for a quick injection of cash for imagined injuries and the lawyers who take those cases to court. Even in Elizabethan times, so the critics would have it, lawyers were despised as mongrels seeking to steal your money through Machiavellian maneuverings. Generally, one hopes, these critics don’t really want to kill lawyers, let alone all of them, let alone “tonight,” as Henley’s lyrics urge. But they do want to convey the thought that the world would be a better place without lawyers, that there’s something sleazy, dirty, unsavory about the profession. And if you are in the legal profession, you’ve been overexposed to the phrase, often by acquaintances testing the waters of your sense of humor – you know the sort: a poke in the ribs, a wry smile, a comment about your line of work, “Shakespeare said we should kill all the lawyers,” ha-ha-ha.

From what we know of his life, it is likely that Shakespeare himself did not have particularly positive relationships with lawyers and the legal system: both he and his father were perpetually being dragged into court for one reason or another. Still, the idea that getting rid of lawyers would improve humankind is shallow and ignorant (we should not have to recite all the benefits lawyers have brought to us over the centuries) – and we should be very wary of attributing such an idea to a writer universally appreciated for his depth and intelligence.

The legal profession – filled with well-educated and competitive sorts – has not stood by while the quip from Shakespeare gets bandied about. And so we get the other side. Many employ the phrase in order to turn it on its head, using it as part of a defense of lawyers. The pro-lawyer faction wants us to consider not the words themselves, but the context in which they appear. The actual phrase is: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” and it’s from King Henry VI, Pt. II. You’ve read the play? No, you probably haven’t, for it’s not one of the Bard’s best loved works. (Yes, I have, since you asked.) One wag even commented that the play would have been entirely forgotten had it not been for this one line; that’s probably too strong, but there’s no doubt this play is seldom read, let alone performed. Anyway, Shakespeare, as literate readers know, put this phrase into the mouth of a villain, Dick the Butcher, a follower of the rebel Jack Cade, who hoped to become king by disrupting the social order.

And there you have it – the makings of an alternative interpretation, one in which context makes all the difference. Justice John Paul Stevens, in Walters v. Nat’l Assn. of Radiation Survivors (1985), gave classic expression to this view: “As a careful reading of that text will reveal, Shakespeare insightfully realized that disposing of lawyers is a step in the direction of a totalitarian form of government.” Shakespeare, Justice Stevens believes, is telling us that eliminating lawyers permits tyrants to run amok on the rights and liberties of people; that’s why the Bard put the words into the mouth of a bad guy, a rebel, an anarchist. Shakespeare, we are subtly invited to conclude, knew the fundamental value of lawyers to civilization. Thus, far from being an attack on the profession, the exchange serves as a not-too-subtle defense of law and those who practice it against those who would establish tyranny (or, worse, anarchy – if you could establish anarchy).

But is this really any better than the crude “Shakespeare as lawyer-hater” interpretation? Having spent many of my (many) years in the groves of academe, I can hear the teeth-gnashing that this interpretation provokes. The Bard has been the victim, perhaps more than any other writer, of people hijacking a phrase here and a phrase there (like this one about lawyers) in order to enlist him in support of whatever position they want to espouse. I think it’s a fair observation about lawyers that, of all professional groups, they may be one of the most likely to commit this offense. Further, interpreting great literature (the teeth-gnashers would say) is a difficult, controversial, and endless endeavor. (Yes, I know: the notion of “great literature” is pretty darn fuzzy and controversial itself). And Shakespeare is notoriously challenging to interpret: library shelves are filled with competing attempts to explain the “meaning” of his works, and the Shakespeare industry rumbles on into the twenty-first century unperturbed by the passage of time. How can we know for certain what he meant, especially in a relatively obscure line in an even more obscure play?

But inconclusiveness of interpretation aside, Justice Stevens’s use of Shakespeare suffers from a host of difficulties. For one, it is painfully anachronistic. Shakespeare would’ve had no idea what a “totalitarian form of government” might be – in fact, it’s not clear that we do either, given the ongoing disputes among scholars about exactly what totalitarianism is and isn’t. Writing hundreds of years before the 20th century (and without the “benefit” of all that scholarship), Shakespeare could have had no inkling of the depth to which dictatorial power could extend into the everyday lives of people. He was aware of the force of royal absolutism: Queen Elizabeth was not reluctant to use her power to destroy her internal enemies (both religious and political), and her successor, King James I, did have grand visions of himself as an “absolute” ruler. But neither came close to being a totalitarian dictator: Elizabeth was not Hitler in skirts; royal power, even under the assertive James, did not come close to extending its tentacles deep into the everyday lives of individuals; and, in any event, James I ruled some years after Shakespeare wrote Henry VI, Pt. II. In short, Shakespeare could not have been saying anything about totalitarian government at all.

Even assuming we could agree (which, as I say, we can’t) on what “totalitarian government” is – that it’s something like Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union – then we have to recognize the part played by lawyers in those very systems. Had it not been for the work of thousands of lawyers, those systems could not have functioned. And so the proper contrast may not be between totalitarianism on the one hand and the presence of lawyers on the other, as Stevens would have it, but between two kinds of systems, both of which make use of legal professionals (albeit in somewhat different ways). But that is not nearly so gratifying a portrait of lawyers as the Stevens camp likes to paint.

And finally, returning to the play itself, does it make any sense at all to refer to Cade and his anarchist henchmen as proponents of “totalitarian government”? Isn’t it rather the case that they proposed the elimination rather than the expansion of government? As for Shakespeare, he seems, if anything, to have been more disturbed by the threat of chaos represented by Cade and his band of thugs than worried about the prospect of a state that sees no limits to its power and that seeks to control every aspect of public and private life. He was, to be sure, wary of the royal power to shut him down (or worse), but it was the existing system that came closer to total power than anything the rude peasants tagging along with Cade might construct. If the views espoused by Dick the Butcher lay out a contrast to the rule of law, it depicts a world without law of any sort, not a world of total control by government.

Thus, even when we read the famous phrase in context, it is not all that clear what that context tells us. And it certainly doesn’t give us much insight into Shakespeare’s own views. Despite the comfort Justice Stevens offers a profession frequently laughed at, criticized, and even vilified, his interpretation of Shakespeare seems no sounder than those he opposes. Reading Shakespeare with Stevens may make us feel good, but that is hardly an appropriate standard of truth (certainly, we don’t use it as a standard in most other aspects of our lives). We may gain a feeling of superiority over those (other) “shallow” readers who cite the passage as if Shakespeare was endorsing the idea it expresses. But when examined more closely, this interpretation isn’t much deeper: it too just seems to be a way to snatch a line out of a play and make it mean whatever you want it to mean. And that, I suggest, falls short of the standards not just of critical interpretation, but of our profession as a whole.

Government 2.0

By Jimmy Paulino, Esq., Goldberg Segalla LLP

This week’s Bar View guest author is Jimmy Paulino. The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and are not intended to represent those of the MCBA or its board of trustees.

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To paraphrase the Declaration of Independence: Don’t hate the players; change the rules of the game. Thankfully, under both the New York and United States Constitutions, there is a mechanism for us to do just that, by updating the basic structure of our governmental systems to include additional protections against abuses of power by our public servants.  In a world where “updates” are a part of our daily lives—from cars to phones to watches to thermostats—and after centuries of technological and social advances—from mass transportation to instant communication to 24-hour news—isn’t it about time we contemplated an American and New York State Government 2.0?

For as long as I can remember, people have complained about our government, both in Washington DC and Albany.  As Election Day approaches, those complaints have taken a second seat to the national debate (aka dispute) over which candidates can help fix the problems plaguing both our state and federal systems.  But…if history is any teacher…do we honestly think that a new (or recycled) politician can foster comprehensive and permanent changes?  Or, is it time We the People took matters into our own hands, and updated the basic rules of the game to account for the realities of the 21st Century, like runaway spending, constant lobbying, billion-dollar campaigns, and representatives who work half as much as regular citizens?

In 1776, the first Americans realized that the problems they faced did not stem from George III’s abuses of power, but with the basic structure or “form” of the existing system—one that placed all government power in the hands of a select few, creating infinite opportunities for abuses or, 18th Century parlance, tyranny.  The solution, masterfully explained by Jefferson, was a “political” exodus from the British “Form of Government,” and an institution of a “new Government…organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”  Under the organizing documents for this new system, the ability to alter the form on a regular and ongoing basis was institutionalized, but for some reason we have failed to take full advantage of these tools and opportunities to form a “More Perfect Union.”

On November 7, 2017, New Yorkers have the opportunity to call such a Convention by ballot referendum, as our Constitution requires the following initiative every 20 years: “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?”  And, under Article V of the federal Constitution, the United States can call their own convention at any time, upon the request of 2/3 of the States (but it’s never been done before).  These tools provide a unique vehicle among modern democracies to improve the system, and solve some of the fundamental problems plaguing Albany and Washington DC.  In this author’s opinion, we must take full advantage of this process, if only to conduct a critical self-evaluation following centuries of social and technological change and confirm there is no room for improvement.

So…what might we change?  Term limits, spending limits, campaign finance limits, and streamlined judicial nominations are some standard proposals at both the state and federal level.  Our collective two centuries of experience can inform any proposed amendments, including the fact that politicians generally lack self-control when it comes to spending taxpayers’ dollars, and we can adopt penalties for failure to balance the budget such as ineligibility for re-election.  The sky is the limit, and we are constrained only by our imaginations…and a fundamental commitment to protecting inalienable rights.  But, until we seriously consider a convention, and spend time imagining a Government 2.0, there can be no change.

One proposal in New York is worth highlighting—an amendment to decentralize or regionalize State power, also known as a “home rule” amendment.  No one can deny that the divide between Upstate and New York City has expanded exponentially over the past two-hundred years, easily seen in bills from Albany applying only to cities with populations over one million.  More importantly, our experience has shown us that centralization of power breeds abuses, and that, in the modern “go local” movement, no two communities are the same, and laws and regulations are rarely one-size fits all.  Stated simply, the constitutional convention is the only way to consider this issue…and 2017 is the only opportunity to call a convention for another two decades.

Over the next year, we will hear more about the State Convention, which was derailed two decades ago by fears of eliminating guaranteed pensions.  As Jefferson commented, maintaining the status quo, even if riddled with abuses, is our default mentality—but, there comes a point in time where citizens must critically assess their situation, and take action in the name of justice.  November 7, 2017 is such an opportunity.

The American Revolution was not simply a war against the British Monarchy—it was an assault on any power structure not premised on the absolute and equal sovereignty of every citizen.  And, that assault was not intended to end with Independence Day, but to continue throughout the great American experiment in self-government.  That’s why Jefferson wrote of the right to “to alter or to abolish” forms of government, and why our Constitution, written by Gouverneur Morris (the most forgotten and brilliant Founding Father, and author of both the New York State and federal Constitutions) was adopted to form a “More Perfect Union.”  As Americans, and as people committed to liberty and justice for all, it is our duty to continue the work of our Founders in guarding against abuses of power in government, and to remain vigilant against tyranny in any form, whether from a royal or duly-elected representative.

As Election Day approaches, Americans must ask themselves whether the new crop of politicians really hold the keys to permanent improvements, or if we instead need an update to the basic blueprint for the entire system, and to formulate a streamlined and secure Government 2.0.

 

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“Shocked with Unexplainable Grief”

By Kevin Ryan, Esq.

I sometimes fear we have lost the “feel” for the rule of law in this country. Take, for instance, the dull reaction (not so much among lawyers, though it was muted enough there) to the recent mass killing of lawyers in Quetta, Pakistan. A couple of weeks ago, about sixty Pakistani lawyers were killed in a single attack. They were at a hospital emergency room, where they had gone to mourn the loss of a slain colleague (one of several individual incidents in the past few months). Then a suicide bomber blew himself up in the midst of the assembled mourners. In one afternoon, the city of Quetta lost what the Washington Post described as “an entire generation of lawyers.” That loss likely leaves Quetta, and the province of Baluchistan of which it is the capital (a province teetering on the brink of anarchy), literally lawless. The usual suspects claimed “credit” for the attack (a Taliban offshoot, the Islamic State) – these groups take great pride in asserting their responsibility for such inhumane actions, even when they had nothing to do with them. To the very limited extent to which the incident was covered by Western media, the storyline had to do with these groups (you know, “global terrorism”) not with the work being done by the dead and the consequences of their loss.

Karl Jaspers said, “Our usual condition is one of heartless unfeeling. The most frightful things can happen around us, the most hideous wrongs can be inflicted on men by men – we are seized with pity and no doubt with apprehension that such things may happen to us, but then we are caught up again in the business of existence, and in the main we forget and muffle our compassion. In regard to those who are anonymous and far away, we are not even touched by compassion.” In response to Quetta, though the State Department condemned the attack and the Clinton campaign released a brief statement, the U.S. media provided remarkably little coverage. No one (aside from a small handful of journalists) seemed to give the incident much thought, or expressed much concern over this direct attack on legal professionals – an indifference nearly as disturbing as the attack itself. It seems that American audiences are just not titillated by assaults on foreign lawyers on foreign soil. Could it be because they are Muslims? That would be appalling. Could it be because they were lawyers? Not much less appalling.

Tocqueville famously observed – in the 1830s – that the American judicial system and American lawyers served the important (indeed necessary) function of restraining the potential tyranny of the majority. Do we still live in that nation? Certainly, the public attitude toward lawyers, never particularly positive, has not improved over recent decades. And the silence that greeted the killing of the Pakistani lawyers may well reflect the general (however mistaken) view that the legal profession may be more parasite than protector. As American popular thought becomes pervaded by a kind of unrestricted populism, Dick the Butcher’s phrase (from Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Pt. II) “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” seems more and more to reflect one portion of the public mind – when it happens, when someone somewhere kills all the lawyers, nearly no one bats an eye.

I know one person from Pakistan. His name isZafarull ah Khan and he is Executive Director of the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services. I met Mr. Khan at an international civic education conference – the Asia Pacific Forum on Civic Education – held in Changwon, Korea in 2010. Mr. Khan’s outcry on Facebook immediately following the incident in Quetta spoke of being “shocked with unexplainable grief.”

I met many people like Mr. Khan at the Changwon conference, people concerned about the future of constitutional democracy in their countries, people deeply dedicated to the rule of law. It was inspiring to be among so many people who spent their lives fostering the kind of education necessary to make constitutional systems work. Many of the people I met in Changwon, like Mr. Khan, came from nations struggling with the forces of backwardness, tyranny, traditionalism, and authoritarianism, nations whose constitutional roots are not deep and whose commitment to the rule of law is tenuous. We come from a different place, an alien place. And so we can have no idea of the uneasiness, the despair, the utter horror and fear evoked by this incident in those who, like Mr. Khan, have devoted their lives to the nurture of what was exterminated in Quetta.

It is easy to praise the rule of law in the United States. It is easy because legality has deep roots in our history. It is easy because most of us don’t give it much thought, but do give it obeisance – and rattle off the words glibly. There is no one – well, nearly no one – in our society who would contend that the rule of law is not important. It is taken for granted here, much as democracy is taken for granted. These phrases slide easily off our tongues without taking up residence in our heads. But their very given-ness can be dangerous, for it means that the reality to which they (supposedly) refer can be lost while the words linger, hanging around much the way republican forms lingered on during the imperial period, when they no longer referred to anything in actual existence.

The general lack of thought about these matters is important, and perilous. As John Stuart Mill argued, people unused to having their ideas and beliefs regularly challenged and, therefore, unused to defending those ideas and beliefs with sound, rational arguments, may be ill-prepared to defend them when they are challenged. If we don’t know how to defend the rule of law, but only how to bow down before the phrase, it becomes a precarious possession. We cannot defend democracy (except in the most superficial, meaningless way) if we no longer know what democracy means, or can no longer defend the claim that it is good – let alone if we can’t make the case that we have one (it is not preposterous to claim that, if anything, we have rule in the name of the people rather than rule by the people).

Most people in the United States have heard about the rule of law, but how many have a deep understanding (or anything other than the most superficial understanding) of what it means? Probably most simply assume it must mean that we have a system of rules rather than arbitrary dictatorship – a condition better named “rule by law” rather than “rule of law,” a condition that does not distinguish us much from nations whose governmental systems we claim to dislike. We just take so much for granted. But because we never stop to think about what it is we say we believe in, what we say we proudly possess, our belief is superficial and our possession insecure.

In contrast, the people I met in Changwon must struggle every day to create a culture in which things like legality, impartial courts, and democratic structures can be attained and supported. My friend Zafarullah Khan hopes to strengthen constitutionalism, to foster the rule of law, to root democracy deep in the heart of a people. Events like those in Quetta make that task onerous indeed. And yet Mr. Khan struggles on, like his colleagues in other largely non-Western lands. He does so in the face of odds we cannot imagine, in circumstances with which we have no familiarity, within a cultural environment largely unsupportive of his efforts. If he is to achieve the rule of law (and not just rule by law), he must first begin the slow process of changing the circumstances in which he sows the idea. While we sit back and rest unthinkingly on our past achievements, he must struggle against drought and blight and pestilence. Sitting back is not an option.

There is a lesson to be learned here. Ideas can come into practice and go out of practice; they can give shape to deeds and, later, they can persist as empty forms unrelated to deeds. The ground may not yet be fertile, or it may no longer be fertile. When we turn a blind eye, when we forget and go more-or-less merrily on our way, we jeopardize our own heritage by taking it for granted. Instead of heartless indifference, we must call out that the rule of law is important, that lawyers are critical for its establishment and maintenance. And we must be able to explain why. It is a matter both of heart and mind. Can it remain in our heart if it is no longer in our mind?

Brave New World

By Kevin Ryan, Esq., Executive Director, MCBA

I could, of course, write a whole series of posts like my last one with the title “This Is Not About ____.” These posts would ostensibly not be about things like gin, Roman history, The Kinks, early 20th century German literature, neorealism in international relations, ethnomethodology, Mill’s “On Liberty,” Gadamer’s hermeneutics, and so on, but all would find ways to tie some heady message into the topic about which they are not. But wouldn’t that get old after a while? Wouldn’t it get old after the second installment? Sure it would be cute, but like many other cute things (kitten videos come to mind), it would quickly lose its ability to attract the thoughtful (that’s you, my reader).

So this post is not going to be about something about which it is not. And if you followed that, you might be ready for what it really is about.

A common theme (perhaps meme) of contemporary thought is the importance of flexibility and agility. How else explain the enormous growth in the popularity of yoga, a discipline rooted in the cultivation of flexibility and agility?

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Yoga, a common practice in Asian cultures, is no longer the avocation of a handful of people in the West. It has become a core practice in the lives of millions of American urbanites and suburbanites; it has entered the lives of professionals in the form of “mindfulness” meditation and other relaxation techniques. And as many coaches and “mental game” experts attest, yoga benefits athletes in all sports by helping them remain calm and in control when facing largely uncontrollable circumstances – you can’t control the umpires or the bad hops or the results, but you can control yourself, and doing so puts you in a position to benefit from the lousy officiating, the wretched field conditions, the skills of the opponents.

And isn’t that the world we live in today – an increasingly chaotic world over which we can exert relatively little control? In Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (2012), Nassim Nicholas Taleb (a former commodities trader who now fancies himself a flâneur) contends that “some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors.” These things “love adventure, risk, and uncertainty.” He calls them “antifragile,” the quality of getting better when shocked, disrupted, scrambled. It is the opposite of fragile, and different from (he says “beyond”) resilience and robustness.

I think that the postmodern organization – company, firm, association, team, what have you – must be flexible and agile in the face of ever-changing circumstances. It must be “antifragile” in Taleb’s sense, able to grow when confronted with chaos – because that is exactly what we face in the wildly spinning postmodern world.

At least some of the blame for the chaos of modern life can be placed on the internet. As Jared Cohen and Eric Schmidt of Google tell us, “The internet is among the few things human have built that they don’t truly understand … [It] is the largest experiment involving anarchy in history. Hundreds of millions of people are, each minute, creating and consuming an untold amount of digital content in an online world that is not truly bound by terrestrial laws.” The internet, they tell us, is “the world’s largest ungoverned space.”

Think of the implications of that for the practice of law. An ever-growing chunk of the population does not need a lawyer to tell it what the law is or how to get things done in the legal system – it’s all online in easily accessible places, often translated into real English. And if they do need legal help, they can find it online at minimal cost. And rather than going to the traditional legal system to solve their problems – because that system reminds them of the dark, dusty, dank, mystifying world of Bleak House (even if they haven’t read Dickens’ masterful depiction of the Victorian legal world) – they find other ways to resolve disputes, other ways to work out agreements, other more efficient ways to get things done. Yes, lawyers might be involved in the process somewhere – but it’s not traditional legal work, isn’t being done by a law firm, and isn’t costing what traditional legal services cost. (Don’t believe me? Compare the price of a simple incorporation through LegalZoom with what a corporate lawyer charges for the same solution). Lawyers need to be antifragile to survive in this brave new world; doing it “the way we’ve always done it” isn’t going to fly. And don’t imagine that all you need to do to “modernize” legal practice is to somehow “stick that paper form into the computer.” No, we’re looking at a major transformation – a transmogrification – of legal practice. It will be a different beast entirely, except in the handful of traditional firms still able to make a business out of what Richard Susskind describes as “bespoke” legal services. The rest of us will need to be agile, nimble, and wildly flexible, ready to respond to changes as (even before) they occur.

Think of the implications for the operation of a bar association. Ten years from now (when I still hope to be playing on the MCBA team), the bar association may be unrecognizable. Yes, there will probably still be CLE programs offered, but they will be vastly different from what we offer today, not just in terms of content but in terms of delivery, in terms of shape, in terms of effect on the lives of the attendees. (Actually, I think many bar associations are ready to go there now, but I’m not so sure about MCLE boards, traditional, conservative bodies professionally skeptical of anything new.) Bar associations will need to be online in a fuller, more robust way than they are today – and I don’t mean that they will simply take what they currently do and “online” it (just as modernizing legal practice and court process cannot be merely a matter of “sticking that form into the computer”). No, they will be in the cloud and might be virtual. They will interact with people doing legal work (not just traditional lawyers in traditional law firms) in many different arenas, arenas we can only barely imagine today (just as we can only barely imagine a court system that does not require bricks-and-mortar courthouses to conduct business). Where today bar associations are suppliers of stuff for traditional lawyers lodged in traditional practices, future bar associations (if we play our cards right – if, that is, we are antifragile) will be at the center of things for the new practices of law. Or, perhaps, the language here is wrong. There may not be a center of things; there may only be a decentered disarray in which we must insert ourselves at random but congenial and strategic spots.

Not clear about what this will really look like? Neither am I, but I’m pretty certain that’s where we’re headed. And since we don’t know exactly what it will be, we have to be able to grow and thrive in the face of shock, disruption, and disorder, flexible enough to try new things and blossom in failure, agile enough to keep moving with the fast-flowing current of postmodern life. We must embrace adventure, risk, and uncertainty, and greet the new day in the words of Shakespeare’s Miranda:

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!

 

 

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Off to Greener Pastures By Liz Novak Henderson

 

Last week I was able to take some much needed time away from the office. I did pretty well on not checking my emails – I only checked a few times while I was away. During one of those times, I opened an email from Ben Freeland, our enthusiastic communications coordinator. Now, I’m not sure if it is better or not to receive bad news after a day of relaxing at the beach, but that is when the following news arrived in my inbox: Ben is leaving the MCBA for “greener pastures,” with his last day being July 12

I returned to work on Tuesday, knowing our management team would be discussing next steps on how to handle the open position and Ben’s specific job duties. At one point during the day on my way back from our workroom, I saw Robin head into Kevin’s office and close the door. Alas, this week Robin DePoint, our diligent registrar, also gave her notice, with her last day being July 18.

While we are happy for their new opportunities in their careers, we are sad for us. After all, it is all about us!

Here just a little over a year, Ben has been an energetic, creative contributor on the communications team, handling social media, eblasts, event materials and so much more! He has accepted a position doing public relations work at Trillium Health.

During her time here, Robin has been a diligent and dedicated member of our team, handling dues processing, event registrations, and pitching in when needed! She has accepted a full-time position as a Patent Prosecution Assistant at LeClairRyan. Patent work is Robin’s real love and the area in which she has the most experience.

Both Ben and Robin are “moving up,” taking a step forward in their careers. We will miss both of them and feel fortunate to have worked with them. I hope you will all extend your own congratulations to them

At least for now, we will not be replacing either Ben or Robin. Our management team is taking a close, hard look at our staffing, at what we are doing and how we might do it more efficiently and effectively, and at our needs going forward in the changing legal and association market. Stay tuned for more details.

I look forward to seeing you all soon, and hope you have a wonderful summer

Liz

P.S. And because I can’t help myself – if you haven’t renewed your dues, please do so today!

 

 

Thoughts From Our Incoming Leaders

Hello Bar View readers! I know that it has been a while since our last post but things have been busy.

There are only a few months remaining until we pass the torch and swear in our new MCBA and Foundation leadership… but who is counting, right? We have been through many changes this year and are looking forward to our working with the MCBA’s new Executive Director (that blog is coming soon).

Many of you may already know our incoming MCBA President Mark Moretti and our incoming Foundation President Elaine Cole, but this post should help you learn a bit more about them and their vision for the MCBA and the Foundation.

Mark Moretti, 2016-17 MCBA President

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Mark Moretti received his Juris Doctorate from the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School in 1978 and currently practices in the areas of commercial, tort, construction and real property litigation, and property tax, title issues and condemnation. Moretti joined Phillips Lytle in 1980 and since then has been listed on Best Lawyer’s in America and Upstate New York, Super Lawyers and was named as Best Lawyer of the Year for 2012 in Construction Litigation. He also serves in the NYSBA House of Delegates and is a fellow of the American Bar and New York State Bar Foundations.

Please take a look at our Question and answer session below:

What is your Vision for the Bar?
My vision for the MCBA is one where all members of our legal community work together collaborating for the good of the profession we have chosen; making this community one in which justice for all is served; and to make the profession respected and appreciated by our community.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to the MCBA in the coming year and how do you plan to improve it?
Certainly one of the biggest challenges is to integrate our new Executive Director into the MCBA. After having Mary Loewenguth as Executive Director for more than 14 highly successful years, we are very pleased to welcome Kevin Ryan as our new Executive Director. It’s always a challenge to follow a highly accomplished leader, but I’m confident that Kevin brings his own unique skills and strengths to the table, and will be very successful. One of my main goals is to lay the foundation to put him in a position to succeed for many years to come.

Why did you decide to take this role at the MCBA?
I’m one of those individuals who has for many years been interested in the work of Bar Associations, both the NYSBA (where I formerly served as Chair of the Trial Section and continue to serve on its Executive Committee and for many years in the House of Delegates) and in work of the MCBA where I have served as Chair of several Committees and as a Trustee, Treasurer, and President-Elect. I enjoy it because lawyers and judges are involved, not for personal financial gain, but rather because they understand and appreciate the fact that the practice of law is a very special and distinguished profession and the vehicle by which each of us, in performing our own roles, serves justice and the greater good of our society.

What do you like to do outside of the Bar for fun?
I enjoy poker, swimming, pickleball, boating, fishing and reading as activities outside of the Bar Association and work. But, I must admit that I also still enjoy the excitement of representing people and entities in solving problems and developing and implementing a litigation strategy which prevails for them.

Elaine Cole, Foundation of the Monroe County Bar, President, 2016-17

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Elaine Cole attended the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and was admitted to practice in 1978. Cole served as the District Tax Attorney at the New York State Department of Taxation for over 22 years, and retired from this position in 2012. She is a past Chair of GRAWA’s Nominating and CLE Committees, a past Co-Chair of GRAWA’s Program Committee and championed the Foundation’s Jazz for Justice Campaign in both 2011 and 2012.

Read the Question and answer session below to learn more about Elaine:

What do you hope to happen during your time as President on the Foundation?
Thanks to the great leadership of Bruce Lawrence, the Foundation has completely rewritten its bylaws, launched a planned-giving initiative with all the other Telesca Center partners, and refocused our investment strategy.  That incredible list of accomplishments clears the way for our Directors to concentrate on our mission:  raise money to fill the unmet legal needs of our community.  The Foundation receives very generous contributions from approximately 10% of MCBA members.  But we need the support of the other 90%.  We know they are equally generous, but they are not receiving the message about the impact the Foundation’s grants have made.  So, my goal is to dramatically increase the number of supporters by getting our message out there.

What excites you about your new role at the Foundation?
Does being terrified constitute excitement?  I am following recent dynamic presidents, such as Judge Elizabeth Wolford, Audrey Peartree, and Bruce Lawrence.  While I feel that I cannot come close to their accomplishments, I am excited to take the Foundation to a higher level of awareness and participation by our terrific Bar members.

How would you encourage creative thinking within the Foundation?
Our Directors are talented and committed, but we’re not expert fundraisers.  So, we have begun to use outside consultants to give us the guidance we need to do our best work.   We will use the advice we receive to stimulate ourselves, and encourage each other, to think of approaches unique to each of us, to reach our colleagues.

What do you do outside of the Bar for fun?
Working with the incredibly talented people in our Bar is fun!  But, now that my husband I are retired, we travel both in and outside the country, often in the company of our family and friends.  We spend much of the winter in Florida, and love the fresh seafood all around us.  I golf VERY BADLY, so the company of my golfing buddies has to supply the fun on the course.

Thank you to Mark and Elaine for sharing some of their thoughts on their upcoming leadership roles. We look forward to seeing many of you on Thursday, June 23 in the evening when both Mark and Elaine will be installed as Presidents of their respective organizations.

Thanks for checking in

Ben Freeland

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 bfreeland@mcba.org.

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

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.

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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.

Liz

 

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.

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#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,

Ben