Friends and Festivity: A Time to Celebrate Together

By Kevin Ryan, Esq., Executive Director

This Thursday, members of the bench and of the bar come together for the MCBA’s annual holiday party. Festivities start at 5:30 p.m. at the Wintergarden in Legacy Tower (you know, the old Bausch & Lomb building). We’re expecting a big crowd and hope to see you there.

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This year’s event has a special importance, and not just because it’s my first time. Many of you know that MCBA President Mark Moretti has worked hard to improve the relationship between the local bench and the bar association. Both judges and lawyers are in the business of providing justice for the citizens of the area. Both have a stake in making the courts run smoothly and efficiently. Both have a stake in fostering a productive courtroom environment. Both have to work together daily and surely would prefer amicable rather than tense relations. In short, both judges and lawyers inhabit the same legal community, work in the same space, and depend upon each other in many ways. The holiday party gives us a chance to toast our close professional friendship, our fellowship, our appreciation for the work we do together.

It’s not just litigators who have a stake in bench-bar relations. Every member of the bar benefits from a sound, effective, and professional court system, whether you practice in the Hall of Justice or in your office. The courts provide the framework within which all legal work gets done – just think what would happen to your sales contract, your lease, your corporate documents if the court system collapsed or was roundly rejected by the public. The bar association as a whole also has a significant interest in the judiciary: judges are lawyers, potential members, fellow travelers in the halls (and Hall) of justice. Judges are experts and leaders with much to share. We need judges to sit on our CLE panels, to participate in our events (bringing their staff with them), to sit on committees, boards, and councils, to assist us in improving the law for all. A close, friendly relationship between the bench and bar serves everyone’s interest. We are all, in fact, members of the same legal family.

All family relationships have their moments, of course. Occasionally tensions emerge. When I arrived, we were in one of those “moments.” Fewer judges were joining the bar association, and fewer were encouraging their staff members to join. Fewer judges attended MCBA events, and fewer sat on CLE panels or joined us in board and committee meetings. But this situation, while unfortunate, must be seen as temporary. Close-knit families, like the bench-bar family we inhabit, grow beyond such moments because they recognize the long-term importance of the relationship. And, thanks to Mark’s work and the very positive response from our sisters and brothers in bar and bench, today we look forward to a sounder, more supportive, more collaborative family relationship.

You may know that the MCBA Board approved a moratorium on evaluations of judges running for office while a specially selected task force – headed by past president Steve Modica and filled with representatives from the judiciary, the bar, and, most importantly, the three major political parties – reviews the process and makes recommendations to the MCBA Board. Mark has breathed new life into the Bench-Bar Committee, which sponsored a well-attended “meet and greet” event with me as guest of honor in the Hall of Justice. Today, more judges are participating in bar affairs – sitting on panels and participating in sections and committees – and, while membership numbers have yet to increase, there is reason to think they will, slowly but steadily, over the coming years. The courts have invited the bar to be an early and active participant in discussions about the Excellence Initiative and the rollout of e-filing in Monroe County courts. The judiciary – from Judges Doran and Rosenbaum to the many other judges I have had the pleasure to meet and speak with since my arrival – has welcomed me warmly with a friendliness that speaks to the health of our familial relationship.

The annual Bench-Bar Holiday Party is a great opportunity for judges and lawyers to get together to recognize our mutual commitment to justice, to greet old friends and renew acquaintances, to demonstrate and celebrate our connections with one another. We hope to see you there, whether you wear a robe or not, whether you sit in front of the bench or behind it, no matter what political party you’re in, no matter what you’ve thought about what’s gone on before. Today we are walking together into a more productive and collaborative future. Come help us celebrate!

See you there.

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Thanks

By Kevin Ryan, Esq., Executive Director

T.S. Eliot thought April is the cruelest month, but I think it’s November, when everything is dead or dying, the days grow shorter and darker, and the temperatures dip below freezing while flurries dance in the air. Maybe that’s why Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday.

Thanksgiving Day gravitates around cooking, sharing food with family and friends, and relaxing (read: falling asleep after eating too much). When you get right down to it, there’s not much more than that happening on Thanksgiving. There’s the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while you’re getting the turkey in the oven. Later, there’s a string of football games in the background. But the parade can be tedious if you’re not seeing it live (then, it’s fun even when it’s cold) and the games rarely mean much and generally involve teams we neither love nor hate (though I admit to always rooting against the Dallas Cowboys). There might be a drink or two – New York Gewürztraminer is especially good with turkey – or, for teetotalers, some special non-alcoholic concoction. And oh so much food! Hors d’oeuvres, side dishes, things you don’t eat the rest of the year. The smell of turkey roasting away in the oven pervades the house.

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Later, after way too much turkey and stuffing and potatoes, desserts abound. We end up stuffed, rotund, and deeply gratified. Best of all, there’s not really anything else you have to do: no piles of gifts to unwrap, no particular reason to get all dressed up (‘cuz there’s no place to go), no religious services demanding attendance, no requirements to do much more than praise the cook(s) and eat (more than we should) of their offerings. Just put your feet up and nod off, defying the effects of the caffeine and sugar you dumped into your system just moments before. Altogether a happy, relaxing sort of day, just the thing for the cruel hours of November.

Yes, of course, we are supposed to be “thankful” on this day – for the love and food we share with others, for the other joys in our lives, for the fact that we do not live in want. We do not agree about the recipient of our thanks, but the feeling (and isn’t thankfulness a feeling more than anything else?) is much the same, I suspect, whether we thank a divinity, a nation, our parents, families, and friends, or children and grandchildren, or all those around us who contribute to making our lives what they are. We feel that for nearly all of what makes life worth living, we are beholden to others. And we are. We should never, ever, forget that.

Thank you. For everything.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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Short and Sweet

By Kevin Ryan, Esq., Executive Director, MCBA

So Liz, I learn, thinks that my blog posts are too long, too wordy, too scholarly, too filled with big words – in a word, “too.” (OK, that’s not a word, at least not used that way – but it should be.) She may have a point: after all, this is supposed to be a blog, not a treatise or one of those law review articles with more footnotes than text. Yes, it’s true, I tend to wax philosophical, to go scholarly on you. I tend to develop my ideas in my writing, not toss something out there that is, in the words of the Dean of Bar PR, “short and sweet.” And I like to think deep thoughts. Sure enough, that’s probably not the best approach to blog writing, no matter how much it displays who I am. It’s just “too.”

Then I imagine the following conversation.

Ms. Short says: “Hey Kev, it’s not just your blogs that go on and on until all focus and consciousness is lost. Want to know something else that is ‘too’? Those long, long events filled with talking heads, awards, and not enough wine to ease the pain. Bar associations – or at least a certain generation of bar leaders – like such things, perhaps because they fit the image of professional events embraced by the Boomers and their parents. Follow a reception with a dinner and ruin (er, accompany) dessert with a program. The program features a passel of notable bar leaders (presidents, famous folk, partner types) all talking (too long) about each other, patting each other on the back, giving each other awards (and throwing in a stray young lawyer or poverty lawyer for good measure and good PR), and sucking the air out of the room as they drone on and on.”

Ms. Short goes on: “What if we decided to explode this old, tired concept of a bar event? What if we decided to liven things up, to cut the speeches (which nobody pays much attention to anyway), hand out awards without expecting (permitting) lengthy accolade-laden speeches from the presenters or ‘I want to thank everybody I’ve ever met’ speeches filled with plenty of mock humility from the recipients?”

Before she can go on, Mr. Sweet, clearly loving this exercise, jumps in: “What if we got people up and moving and away from their plates of banquet chicken? What if we made the events really fun and not just ‘that was a nice event’ (kind-speak for ‘that was as dull as ever’)? Imagine the possibilities! Mingling and hanging out. Some fun video clips and catchy music. Dance. An award or two, given without all the pomp and circumstance of the usual awards ceremony (no Elgar, no traipsing up the steps to the stage, no tedious speeches). Opportunities right there to do something for the community – things that bring the profession into the limelight in a positive way rather than all that self-congratulation, things like a clinic for the elderly or veterans or teachers. Tweeting!! [Now I have Liz’s attention.] Snapchatting!!! Live links to others who aren’t there through Periscope or Facebook Live, turning it into a true legal community event. Too cool!!!!”

Inspired, Ms. Short interrupts: “You could even throw in some ‘outside the box’ CLE programs before or after. Or do some cool tech demos. Or some TED talk presentations. But the key is, ‘short.’”

Mr. Sweet, not to be outdone, simply says: “Sweet!”

Is it time to be short and sweet?

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.

Not sick, I am healing thanks to endless acts of kindness…

Four weeks into the foot healing as a result of elective surgery, and on my first evening out with friends, heading into Lucano’s for dinner, I had a serious miscalculation which resulted in a trip to the ground and a complex wrist fracture. Talk about a moment as I am sitting on the ground, recognizing my wrist was seriously broken, and recognizing what this would mean to my day to day life for the next weeks 4 weeks, and most importantly, what it would mean to the family and friends that love me and would be providing the bulk of the care-taking.

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So many acts of kindness are unfolding each day, so I want to share a few:

#1 — The Waiter from Lucano’s that created a splint to stabilize my badly deformed and painful wrist with a piece of cardboard and a restaurant napkin. It felt safer and more comfortable.

#2 — The great Dr. Balial that did the preliminary setting of the wrist and those early shots that make you happy again.


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#3 — The wonderful nurses and aides on Highland 600E where I was cared for by some amazing caregivers: Stephanie Michaels, Dianna Lyko, Mary, Gwen, Dyana, and the casting team of Anthony, Roger, & Mike who began to refer to me as a “frequent flier” to the Cast Room.

#4 — A visit from my president, Neil Rowe, with a funny card and a reassuring smile on Sunday when I sorely needed some distraction. As well as calls from Justin Vigdor, Steve Modica & Connie Walker. 

#5 — Dr. Catherine Humphrey, Chief of Orthopedics at Highland Hospital, and a wrist and hand trauma surgeon, for adding me to her Tuesday morning schedule at the last minute. I was so reassured to be in the hands of someone who knew wrists and hands.

#6 — A spontaneous visit from my MCBA buddy Penny Dentinger, with a delicious iced tea and a bag of treats from Hedonist Chocolate. It meant so much to me to have this visit!

#7 — My special caretakers: Elaine, Trilby, Nancy, Margaret, Jill, Brian, Aidan and Claire. Not to mention the home health care aides, Kathy, Lisa and Candace.

#8 — And to those looking out for my nourishment: Jill, Susan and Bryan, Curt, Helen and Marian, Carol, Shaina, Elaine, Trilby and Nancy again, Margaret, and a delicious iced Latte from Liz.

#9 — And to those that have have sent acts of kindness: flowers from Bruce and Susan, Neil and Ed, my mom and brother Tom, a funny card from Jenn Sommers that suggested i would go to extremes to miss a board discussion on judicial evaluations. Not true! And a really nice email from Josie Sheppard about my positive thought on healing, and encouragement that I use this time for quiet meditation…and anyone else I may have missed.

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#10 — And to so many others that are wishing me positive thoughts via Facebook, and responding to my crazy photos of my plight on Facebook. I appreciate the support. Special thanks to my entire team for being there for me. As always, they are working hard, and I am working hard to keep up with them from my Healing Chair Office at Home.

Bonus mention — I am learning how to use the dictation function on my computer, it is very useful as I am not super successful at one handed key boarding.

Thanks for checking in, for the good thoughts, and for the many acts of kindness as I heal…

Mary

Simple lessons from my 2 weeks in a cast…

The surgery was elective and one that I have held off for several years, but when it had begun to impact my workouts and become a serious annoyance in my life, I decided it was time to get it done. My doctor, Judith Baumhauer, the Foot Master of Rochester, scheduled surgery for Tuesday, August 11th. The doctor reconfirmed with me that it would mean 8 weeks in a non-weightbearing cast, followed by 4 weeks in a boot, assuming all goes well and heals as planned. Ugh!

Lessons Learned after 2 short weeks:

Good Doctor — Dr Baumhauer is not only a great surgeon, but a great surgeon with a sense of humor. She has wonderful bed side manner as represented today when the cast came off, she reviewed the foot, and said, “This looks great!! Stitches coming out.” I asked about some of my recent clumsy moments and she reassured I would be fine. “After 3 months though I am no longer responsible” she said with a grin. Lesson learned — find the best doctor with a sense of humor!!

Nerve blocks — if you ever have to have orthopedic surgery, ask for a nerve block. It puts you in a very happy place for almost 36 hours after the surgery. No pain!! Unfortunately, the block does wear off, about 36 hours later. But then you have the back-up meds to manage the rest. Lesson learned — always go for the nerve block.

Chatty nurse & cute doctor —  I had two nurses tending to me. I am sure it is no surprise to many of you, I really enjoy talking with people, getting to know them, and learning about their job and life. So I was chatting it up, asking detailed questions about my procedure when one of the two nurses cut me off and said, “It’s my turn to talk now!!” Ouch — that hurt more than the needles they just stuck me with. My anesthesiologist was an adorable doctor from England, Dr. Duncan McLean. Between his charming accent, his cute face, and his reassurance, I went off to la-la land with a smile on my face. Lesson learned — have the nerve block with nice people.

Listen to the doctor — Dr. Baumhauer had three things to say to me post-op. First, “I am happy we did this now, it was bad, your life will be much better.” This was great news considering what was to come. Second, “you are to put ABSOLUTELY NO WEIGHT on it for 8 weeks!” Third, “once the nerve block seems to be wearing off, and you will know that by the onset of the pain, start the pain meds…do not delay, or you won’t catch up.”

With regard to the final prognosis, I am looking forward to my new foot. With regard to non-weight bearing, what I failed to realize is how careful you have to be about tripping on the crutches because our natural reaction is to catch ourselves, with the bad foot, it hurts and causes a temporary set back. And I hate pain Meds and thought Tylenol could manage it. Wrong! Lesson learned — listen to the doctor on all counts, they know what they are talking about.

Beautiful cast creations — when the first trip occurred within 48 hours, they decided it was time to remove the splint and put me in a cast to keep me safer.  I was told to select a color, and of course, I did not want just one color, I wanted two. It is the child in me. When I was told they only allowed one color, I pressed and said, “Come on, I have had a really difficult 24 hours, this would make my day.” My guy, Roger, came through. When he said he might get fired for it, I reassured him that I would call his boss and send incredible kudos to Roger and the whole cast room team. Which Lesson learned — be open to the child in you and find other naughty people, like Roger, that gets it!

FullSizeRender        Being humbled and empathetic — the greatest lesson I have learned in just these two short weeks is about the challenges of living with one leg. When all limbs are fully functioning, life is pretty easy from getting ready in the morning to cooking, to driving, to trips to the store, to walking up the steps to the bathroom and to bed at night. We don’t have to think about it. With a cast and crutches, or a scooter, or wheel chair, you really need to plan every step you take, and determine where the barriers are in advance.

I am not handicapped. This is a temporary state of life for me. It will be over in another 10 weeks or so. But it has opened my eyes to the challenges faced by so many thousands of people with permanent handicaps of all kinds. Every move they make needs to be strategically managed in one way or another. I have been most fortunate to have a group of caretakers ready to jump in and help, good friends, my two boys (who actually cleaned and hosed the garage) and my mom who folds the laundry. My MCBA Team that have armed my scooter with a bell for everyone’s safety as I turn those corners. So I am have been lucky on this front. But there are so many that are less fortunate. I see so many of them on my way to work, at work, and going home each day. How do they manage on their own?

Just yesterday, I went to the office for the first time in two weeks for a few morning meetings. I was dropped off in front of the  Telesca Center by a friend, hopped on my scooter, and began my scoot into the building through our handicap doors.

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One of the immediate barriers I encountered was at the entrance to the door. The sidewalk at the entry point of the door is severely pock-marked, which I have noted for years now, but walking over the damaged sidewalk and trying to wheel over the damaged sidewalk are two very different experiences. This was one of many, I suspect, eye-opening moments I will discover in the coming months about the challenges of having one less limb to rely on. Lesson learned — keep learning and find a way to replace the sidewalk in the front of the Telesca Center for Justice where we are committed to ensuring access to justice. Repair of the sidewalk may require some new funds, if you are interested in donating to the “Improve Access to the TCFJ Sidewalk Fund”, please send your donation to the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar.

Thanks for checking in,

Mary

A week of young, smart, successful, engaging women…

It is Sunday morning following a long week at the ABA Annual Meeting. Another wonderful conference that re-energizes me and fills my head with new ideas or new ways to look at things. I extended my travels a few days, and made a stop in Boston to check on my youngest, Claire Corbitt. I woke early this morning, started the writing of this blog, then grew tired again, so went back to bed for another 90 minutes, only to wake with a Iced Latte from Starbucks at my bedside delivered by Claire. Wow, this kid REALLY is growing up!!

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From the moment Claire pulled up in her car, looking like quite the young Boston hip kid that she is, I felt a mixture of pride, lonesomeness and nostalgia. I remember experiencing the same feeling on my first trip to Nashville to see Brian when he was just 22, and he pulled up in his car to greet me at the airport. In that instant, my mind can so clearly go back to the moment that I held them for the first time, and the immediacy of the love affair with this tiny little being, as you wrap them forever into your protective arms. And now they are living hundreds of miles away in large cities, driving cars, and starting their lives. All of that flashes in front of me in those moments before I once again hold her in my arms for a long hug.

This young millennial had our afternoon planned starting with sushi on a rooftop restaurant in the heart of Boston’s Seaport neighborhood. It was wonderful to sit there with Claire, and hear the stories of work and roommates in person and not via the phone. She looks happy and relaxed on this Saturday afternoon; it did my heart good to see her thriving.

Once back to the apartment, I was greeted warmly by the 2 roommates, Kristin “Kooie” Scime, Claire’s roommate and best buddy from college, and Kristin Karl, one of Claire’s best friends from high school, and as it happens, MCBA member Kate Karl’s niece. We were also joined by Kooie’s friend, Rachel. While Kooie and Rachel made their very healthy dinner, the rest of us sat at their kitchen table talking over a glass of wine.

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As we sat there, I asked the question that all parents want to know — are you enjoying your lives as young working professionals? Almost simultaneously, they all responded, “Yes, but I miss college!” Not sure why I was surprised by this response — Bentley was a magical place for Claire and her crew. When I asked why the answer was again unanimous, “the adjustment to lives that are 9-5pm, and missing their college families/friends.” All of them are already experiencing the pressure of deadlines, bosses and, as a result, overtime. But they do love coming home to each other to enjoy dinner together, or meeting up after work to go to a local pub for some down time. After all, it is Boston and there is no short supply of pubs and restaurants

They shared their angst about learning how to budget, make their rent payments, loan payments, car payments, phone bills, etc. I shared with them the decision making power of determining “want vs. need” when it came to shopping. I shared with them my own learning on this process over the years, and my best suggestion was to establish a budget. So together we opened our smart phones, and agreed on a highly rated app called, Mint. Mint allows you to build your budget, send bill reminders, plan for savings, emergencies, and retirement. But it also allows them to budget for their groceries, entertainment, beer supply, clothes, or even paying Mom back on a small loan! As they sat there discussing the app and its many capabilities, I suggested that perhaps they want to plan for a group dinner one night a week, with their laptops on hand, pay their bills, review and adjust their budgets, and plan for their week. Can we eat out once this week? Can we eat out and go to the beach this weekend? If you do this planning together, you will be supporting one another. All agreed and seemed to feel better as a result.

It was a wonderful 36 hours with Claire. I cherished our time alone to simply sit and listen to her talk about her life from bosses, co-workers and learning about her job, to friends in her life, to beaches and bars. I left with my arms once again wrapped protectively around her to keep her safe in her new world.

Last night, I hosted a group of women, both members of the Young Lawyer Section, and now alums of the Section on the porch. I had been promising this gathering for way too long, and so last night it finally happened. The group consisted of Penny Dentinger, Christin Cornetta, Laura Myers, Wende Knapp, Melanie Wolk and Carey Ann Denefrio. It was a perfect night on the porch to have this very special group of women over. Like my experience with Claire over the weekend, I could not help but sit and watch this group of dynamic women, and think back to the days when I first met them. They were young, eager go-getters, and I immediately latched on to them knowing that this group had the potential as future leaders, and in time, future presidents. Laura Myers was the YL Chair that really managed to get things moving, by capturing her friends to take on the work of the Section, where they made new friends, and began building new leaders.

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As I looked at this group of six last night here is the tally:  Melanie has been on both the Board of Trustees, and resigned to assume the role of GRAWA President several years ago; Wende, also a former YL Chair, is now on the Board of Trustees, bringing her voice and making a difference; Laura, Penny and Carey Ann are all on the Foundation Board, where Penny is serving as Secretary; and Christin has just started her first term on the Foundation Board. All of them have supported in a BIG way, the Foundation’s Jazz For Justice over the past five years, ensuring the event’s success.

I sat there listening to them and recognizing that I was so right all those years ago. They are young bar leaders being recognized for their active engagement and participation in so many directions. In order to not be accused of not acknowledging the great young male bar leaders, Jim Paulino, along with Tim Lyster and now Curt Johnson, have all been integral in the success of the YL Section. Prior to Curt, it was Jenn Lunsford.

What really struck me though is that not only are these women great volunteers, but they are great lawyers. They are so smart, making their marks as litigators, law clerks, and corporate counsel attorneys. They are talking about the attorneys that trained them, mentored them, and yes, scared them along the way, but not afraid of speaking with their strong voices. When it comes to their MCBA involvement, they now wish to transition into more of the substantive committees and sections in terms of leadership opportunities. They want to learn how to work toward a seat on the Litigation or Business Law Section Counsels. I assured them that I would see the nomination process for the Sections would be circulated far and wide, for their applications. Please be ready to welcome these extraordinary members. As they departed, I realized that each and everyone of them have the potential to be nominated president one day of the MCBA because all of them are that good! YLShangout

In the end, it was another wonderful night on the porch with some amazing women, culminating a wonderful week with even more amazing young women in Boston.

In terms of my vacation this summer, I am getting ready to undertake a “Make Mary Better & Faster Improvement”, with an impending foot surgery next week. I have been delaying this surgery for several years now, and it has become a problem, slowing me down at the gym, unnecessary pain, etc. I decided the summer of 2015 was the time, before the snow began to fall again in late September, since I will be in a non-weight-bearing cast for 8 weeks, and a boot for 4 more. The real tragedy in all of this is that my contract as a shoe model has been revoked. They are not willing to work with shoe models that have had foot surgery. Can I get a legal opinion on this one folks — can they do this to me?

The gang from last night has told me to let them know when I am off the pain pills, and they will revisit the porch with wine in hand. In efforts to plan ahead for when I do return to work, I will have one of those scooters that you kneel on to help me zoom around and to give my arms a rest from the crutches. It has been suggested from some of my smart-aleck staff, that I might want to add a bicycle bell or horn since it resembles a little bike and for the safety of others at the office since we have many corners that I can be zipping around. I thought that idea was actually both funny and practical.

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Please be careful driving down the corner of Main and State, go slow in case you see me on my scooter. I may be moving slow now, but wait for the new and improved Mary, coming very soon to a bar association near you.

Thanks for checking in,

Mary

Fun Events Fatigue…

So last week’s blog showed some of the pre-installation hysteria that was underway here at the MCBA. We really enjoyed all the feedback we received from the blog titled, “Today’s blog is about being to busy too blog…” I understand that some of you thought the reported incidents in the blog were true, and I even had a few trustees not show up because they thought they were going to have to serve as waiters and waitresses at the Installation Dinner — just kidding. (If you are not following along on this blog, you need to read last week’s blog).

In the blog, I suggested to anyone that may be calling Ginny with a late registration, you best say, “pretty please”, and follow-up by sending chocolates or flowers. Well, she did get the flowers from her sister with a cute note. Her sister had read the blog, and told Ginny to breathe, and for all of us to do the same. So the flowers did arrive, but we are still awaiting some chocolate, because we did get some late registrations (you know who you are.)

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Anyway, since last Thursday, we had an incredible reception on Monday, the 17th, for the two new Court of Appeals judges, Judge Jenny Rivera and Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam. The two judges accepted our invitation to come early for lunch and a tour of the Telesca Center for Justice. Both are former civil legal service attorneys, and so really enjoyed hearing our story, and hearing about the value of the TCFJ from the Executive Director partners.

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From there they went up to the Appellate Court for a private reception with the Appellate judges, before arriving at Woodcliff for the reception. The reception was a joint event sponsored by the Monroe, Erie, and Onondaga Bar Associations, as well as the NYS Academy of Trial Lawyers. With more than 200 people in attendance, it was a great event, and a wonderful opportunity to have so many lawyers and judges from across upstate New York present. The presidents of the bars presented the two judges with a framed map of New York State as a gift.

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As the Court of Appeals judges were departing, I was at the airport Tuesday morning welcoming retired Chief Judge Judith Kaye back to Rochester for her 24 hour Rochester vacation. Upon her arrival, we headed to the Starbucks on Monroe Avenue for a cup of coffee and a brief catch-up. She loves this routine that we have established. From there, we arrive at the Telesca Center, where Judge Kaye stood in awe of the new lobby.

We then joined about 35 attorneys, from all four generations, awaiting her arrival in the Rubin Center to talk about “Lawyers in Transition”. In addition to Judge Kaye, the distinguished panel included Tony Palermo, Gene Clifford, Mary Jane Angelone, Elaine Cole and Judge Gerard Alonzo. Each shared a few minutes about their own story of transition, and how they went about planning for the transition. Every story was unique, and spoke of both the past, and what they are doing now. A pleasant surprise to all of us, was the number of young people present at the dialogue. It was great!

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From there Judge Craig Doran escorted Judge Kaye up to the Hall of Justice for a brief visit with so many of her friends. By 3:30pm the Judge was back at the Telesca Center to meet with several young people and staff from the Teen Court Program at the Center for Youth. Teen Court is one of Judge Kaye’s passions, and one of the reasons she comes to Rochester every year. An inspiring conversation with two young people working really hard to turn their life around.

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From there, we each had one quiet hour to get some work done before heading over to the Young Lawyers Section Silent Auction. All I can say is WOW! This event that is now 5 years old, and grew from maybe 40 people to more than 130 people was a huge success. We do not have the final numbers on monies raised, but I can say this, there were a lot of items and people were spending money. Proceeds go to the support the Teen Court Program. In addition to the Auction, members of the YLS are also volunteering their time at Teen Court and coaching the student lawyers that represent their peers in the program.

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I am so very proud of this group of young lawyers. We have grown from a section of 60 or so members to over 200 as of this writing. I am the envy of some of my bar colleagues that are struggling with how to rejuvenate their own YL sections.

What I find most interesting is that we now have two generations within the section. There are the more “senior” young lawyers, and the more “junior” young lawyers. And what I am observing is the mentoring of the “juniors” by the “senior” members. They are beginning to pass the torch to the new lawyers, as they have them actively engaged in the section.

Following the auction, Judge Kaye and I go to dinner. Since it was a nice evening, the Judge announced, “let’s go somewhere where we can sit outside.” Since she was staying at the Strathallan, it was a perfect destination for dinner with the patio and the new fire pit. We arrived there just before 9, and said our farewell’s just after 11:00 pm. What an honor it has been over the years to sit and listen to Judge Kaye while she generously shares her life experiences with me. We catch-up on the bar world, and on our families.

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After a short sleep, I picked  up the Judge at 7:30 am and whisked her off to her annual Breakfast with GRAWA at Nixon Peabody. Judge Kaye loves this event as well because she feels so at home with this wonderful group of women, and a few special men that were present. Since GRAWA President Melanie Wolk had given birth the day before, Judge Kaye was welcomed by President-Elect Tiffany Lee, who used to clerk for Judge Kaye in the Court of Appeals.

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Judge Kaye delivered some inspiring remarks around the theme of the book, “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Judge Kaye is masterful at weaving in the stories of her past, to her present day life, and always posing questions about what we can do to support women in the profession. Again, the room was full of four generations of women, all appreciating the inspiring message from Judge Kaye. She shared that 2013 represents her 50th anniversary as a lawyer. Many of us including Deb Martin and myself promised to go purchase the book that very day. I actually purchased a copy for me, and for my 20-year-old daughter, Claire.

From there, I sadly returned Judge Kaye to the airport. We hugged goodbye and talked about planning for the 6th Rochester Vacation one year from now.

By last night, “fun event fatigue” of the last 2 months had caught up with me. I climbed into bed at 8:30 pm last night, and woke this morning at 7:30 am. That is a very long night of sleep for me, and for those that know me for late night emails, I did not send one email all night because I never woke up!!

With all the big events over for the bar year, the only remaining activities are: the Bankruptcy CLE in Batavia on Friday that we do with the Erie Bar. This is Louise’s final CLE for the bar year, for a total of 68!

And then next Tuesday we hold the Orientation for the new Board of Trustees, as well as the final Board meeting of the year, followed by a joint board dinner. And then on June 27th, the Family Law Section will be gathering for their annual event out at Deb Indivino’s house to celebrate another great year.

The very last event of this busy year will be on Friday, June 28th on my porch, where I will gather with my great bar team to celebrate them, and their hard work and our collective accomplishments. Though I have not yet decided what to serve, I guarantee, we will not be eating any pizza or subs!!

Thank you for a great year and for all you have done to make it a success!

Thanks for checking in…

Mary

Top 5 Things Activities for all the MCBA’ers

Last night at the Litigation Section Annual meeting a few of us were joking that we had just seen each other the night before at the Rochester Legal Diversity Clerkship Program welcome reception on Tuesday night.

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So for those of you that just LOVE your MCBA time, and simply can’t get enough of me, your colleagues and fellow MCBA members, here are the top 5 things to do in the closing weeks of this bar year.

First, we have the installation of our 118th President Diane Cecero, with gratitude to our outgoing president Connie Walker on Thursday, June 13th at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at 6:00 pm.

Second, how often will you have the opportunity to schmooze with the Judges from the New York State Court of Appeals, in upstate New York? This is probably a one-time deal! So take advantage of joining the lawyers and judges of the Monroe, Erie and Onondaga County Bar Associations, and the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers and gather with us on Monday, June 17th at the Woodcliff Hotel & Spa at 5:30 pm. Click here for more information. Please RSVP to Ginny LaCour at valacour@mcba.org or at 585-546-1817.

Third, on Tuesday, June 18th we are very excited to have former Chief Judge Judith Kaye back at the Telesca Center at 12:15 pm for some dialogue about lawyers in transition. This event is informal, and free and open to all MCBA members. Light lunch will be served. Seating is limited!! Come join us, even if your transition is 5 or 25 years away. Please RSVP to Diane Hill at dhill@mcba.org or at 585-546-1817.

Fourth, then just hours later at 6:00 pm we will be gathering with Judge Kaye and all of our young lawyers at the 5th Annual Silent Auction to benefit Rochester Teen Court at Colgate Rochester Divinity School. Don’t miss! Come cheer on these extraordinary young leaders. Click here for a registration form.

And finally, just before the Bar year ends, on Thursday, June 27th is the Family Law Section’s Annual Summer Party at Debbie Indivino’s house at 5:30 pm. Some say, this is the party to be at! Click here for the registration form.

And between now and June 28, we have 6 CLEs, including the annual Bankruptcy Conference! Click here for the full list.

That’s a wrap on the 2012-13 Bar Year! Thank you to all of you that made it happen.

Thx for checking in…

Mary

Let’s expand our dance cards…

Thinking back over the events of Law Week, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on messages from Vernā Myers, our incredible keynote speaker at the Law Day Luncheon. Vernā’s message was about diversity, inclusion,  and retention. And simply put, the secret to retention is inclusion.

One of the ways that Vernā suggested we do this is by “expanding our dance card.” Reach out of your inner or safe circle, and engage with people not typically on your dance card; begin to listen and to get know and learn more about others; learn about what makes you different, but also be open to learning about what makes you the same.

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The weekend before Law Week I was invited to attend WDKX’s Women for Women Conference. Monroe County Bar Association President Connie Walker was speaking and my friend and colleague, Margaret Sanchez were moderating the panels, and I wanted to be there to support them. I was one of a handful of Caucasian women amidst a group of talented and successful women of color.

The two panels I heard shared wonderful pearls of wisdom directed to all of us in the room. Here are but a few:

  • “Learn to value my time, because if I don’t, know one else will.”
  • “Develop a “stick-to-itness” — stay with my convictions.”
  • “A good leader has to be a good follower.”
  • “That’s not the kind of boss I want to be.”
  • “Learn to always smile; it changes your disposition.”
  • “You keep moving forward. You don’t even go back to push yourself forward.”
  • “Tell me who you’re walking with, and I will tell you who you are.”
  • “Have strategic meetings with God, and together you can develop the strategy that works best for her life.”
  • “Have enough confidence in the truth of who you are, that when you walk into a room, you understand that the atmosphere shifts because you are there.”

The common denominator running through this room was that we were a room full of grandmothers, mothers, daughters, aunts, sisters, wives, married women, divorced women, single mom’s, single women, and widows. But the one common denominator that did not escape any of us was that as women, all of us were caretakers in some capacity, whether it be at home, at work, or in our communities. It was an incredible experience for me, and one that I was most grateful to have been given the opportunity. It struck me that as the minority in the room, I felt welcomed and included. It made me think about whether I was always as welcoming and inclusive.

I was expanding my dance card, and I was being invited to dance.  And because of that very brief experience, I made some new friends and acquaintances. On my radar will be more of these opportunities that help me expand my dance card.

It has been a few great weeks of listening and learning, and I am working on expanding my own dance card. What have you done lately to expand yours?

Thanks for checking in…

Mary