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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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?

Doing the COMBA

By Kevin Ryan, Esq.

Naples, Florida, is hot in mid-September, in case you were wondering. Daytime temperatures climb into the 90s, and the humidity creates a wall of dampness into which you crash each time you leave air-conditioned interiors (and has the incidental effect of making you a damp mess at the same time). At night it cools all the way down to the low 80s, permitting wonderful walks along the beach but making outside dining (something we northerners will do any chance we get) a steamy affair relieved only slightly by multiple orders from the bar. (I know what you’re thinking.) One can imagine oneself as a character in a Hemingway tale set in South Florida or the Keys (though would any of us really want to be one of those unsavory characters?) – or, for modern readers of lighter fiction, someone wandering through the pages of a Carl Hiaasen novel. The heat, the fans, the beach and the waves, all contribute to that daydream. Given the heat, daydreaming is a strenuous activity.

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MCBA President Mark Moretti and I spent several days in Naples recently, attending the Conference of Metropolitan Bar Associations (COMBA) and hobnobbing with other bar association leaders. It was the first time doing the COMBA for both of us. I had heard from others that this was a tremendous conference – and they were right. Mark and I came back inspired with new ideas, bursting with new enthusiasms, excited about new approaches to perennial bar association issues. (Mark has actually composed a lengthy list of things he’d like to try here in Rochester.)

It’s amazing what you can learn from conversations with others who do what you do. For one, you learn that they face many of the problems and issues you face. For another, you learn that many of the ideas you have for facing them have been tried by others, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. For yet another, you sometimes get a glimpse of the future when you learn that others have confronted something that has yet to appear on your radar – but as you listen to them you find that some of the advance warning signals they received are beginning to be faintly heard back home as well. Those have long been the benefits of professional development conferences. That’s why I am a big supporter of professional development: one comes back excited and filled with new ideas; one comes back having tapped the collective mind of the profession and taken away the best it has to offer (see Mark’s list).

There is no normal time for bar associations, and metropolitan bars nationwide are starting to take notice. Business as usual can no longer be permitted; it’s “business as unusual” that the times require. Things are going to change – indeed, things are changing – and bar associations must either get on board or get left behind. Much has been written about this – some of it by me. And this theme lay at the heart of COMBA this year: bar associations face a drastically changed environment and we need to figure out how to thrive in it – or face disaster (not too strong a word).

The eye of this particular hurricane is a change in the nature of membership. Lawyers no longer join their local bar association because “it’s what you do.” No, they pick and choose their commitments and must be shown why bar membership is valuable to their lives and careers. (I’ve had managing partners ask for my help in getting their younger attorneys more involved in the bar association.) What is the key benefit bar associations offer their members? I’ve had this conversation many times with bar leaders at the local, state, and national levels – and the most common answer is CLE, though sometimes the answer involves some variation on the word “networking.” But in a market featuring more and more suppliers of “free” CLE, a member’s discount on programs is no longer a draw – just as it has never been a draw for government attorneys. Discounts on things (especially things tangentially related to the life of a legal professional like rental cars and life insurance) may be nice, as add-ons to something more substantial, but they are not enough in themselves. And some of the things we have sold to members – for instance, printed things such as directories, magazines, or materials – resemble DVDs where they don’t resemble eight-track tapes: the need for them, their place in the life of a twenty-first century professional, is diminishing rapidly where it has not disappeared altogether. It won’t be long before our members don’t want or need these things at all.

In addition, in a world in which networking happens in dozens of newfangled ways, a world filled with people who have grown up (or grown accustomed to) connecting with others online or through apps of various sorts, the opportunity to enter a room with hundreds of other lawyers and be talked at by some series of speakers or set of panelists just doesn’t have the same cachet or seductiveness it once had. Don’t believe me? Check out the attendees at your next big “event.” My bet is that most of them will be people over fifty (maybe over sixty), people who have grown up in receptions and dinners and who have the money to pay the (usually sizable) entry fee. A world with Tinder and Uber and Yelp is fundamentally different from the world of annual dinners, and unless our big events give off the same vibe as Tinder and Uber and Yelp, we will find attendance and revenues dwindling – and members going elsewhere.

Newer generations expect their association to mimic the engagement experience they get in nearly all other aspects of their lives – the experience one gets from Google, Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb, Lyft, and a host of others in the new economy. They expect us to make the “membership experience” exceptional; they expect us to make it smooth and easy; they expect us to offer interesting ways in which they can connect with each other, offer opinions on products and services, and get tips from each other. They expect it to come at little or no cost, perhaps in a subscription format, and to come “just in time,” when they need it rather than when they don’t. They expect things to happen quickly, almost instantaneously. Spend hundreds on bar association dues and get . . . what? CLE programs where you go somewhere, sit in a chair, and listen to a panel of talking heads? Discounts on hotel rooms less than what you can get on Hotels.com? A “member’s price” on over-priced and under-flavored “banquet chicken” dinners at convention centers? A totally static print magazine or book of phone numbers and email addresses? A website designed years ago, cluttered with text and photos of the (gray-haired) attendees at that over-priced dinner, and requiring a series of clicks to get where you want to go (assuming you can figure that out)?

There are generations of people coming up who don’t want these things, at least not bad enough to shell out a big chunk of change each year without more. What they want has more to do with a sense of belonging to something they believe in, and with a need to further their careers and their lives. Indeed, they often see career and life as tightly integrated: my generation started thinking about work-life balance; this generation thinks about life as composed of closely connected experiences involving profession, family, and commitments – holistic rather than linear. And their views are influencing older generations as well. Simon Sinek, whose TED talk “Start with Why” (based on his bestselling book of the same title) has been seen by more than two million viewers (the third most-viewed video on the TED site, according to Wikipedia), insists that “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it” (emphasis added). That means, he argues, that “The goal is not to do business with people who desire what you have . . . [but] to do business with people who believe what you believe.” So just doing stuff, just providing stuff, no longer meets the needs of today’s members and won’t keep them tied to you. Rather, businesses and associations need to offer potential members a picture of why they do what they do – a vision that strikes a chord with potential members because they see themselves in it, a vision that jibes with what potential members think of themselves and who they’d like to be.

This is heady but important. If we want lawyers to see joining the bar association as “the thing to do,” we must show them how membership is part of their vision of themselves. They must come to feel (I use that verb intentionally, not as a flabby substitute for the verb “to think”) that the bar association is modern, hip, attuned to their needs, alive in the same atmosphere of the other sorts of (mostly online) interactions they have. The bar association needs to be felt to be more like Google than the Rotary Club, more like Amazon or Pandora than like Montgomery Ward or the Columbia Record Club. That requires a major refocusing of bar association work: a shift to a nimbler, online, member-driven kind of interaction – a shift away from providing things toward fitting into (even helping generate) a vision of professional and personal life, a shift from what to why.

So, while the sand no longer filters through my toes and the sweat no longer streams down my forehead upon setting foot outdoors, I have not forgotten my adventures in Naples. It’s taken me a while to distil the essence of what we learned in that chilly conference room on the Gulf, to strip away the incidental details from the underlying theme. But I think I’ve done it: it’s the theme I’ve written about before, the idea that we are hurtling toward a future we can’t yet see, and looking backward won’t help. It doesn’t hurt to repeat this message over and over again. Old habits die hard, and old institutional habits die even harder. That means that we live in interesting times. May we be up to the challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank you for the privilege…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye!

Mary

 

 

 

So many great bar moments…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for checking in…

Mary

Welcome to the 2015-16 Bar Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for checking in,

Liz

Spring…a time of renewal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for checking in,

Mary

It’s blog day…

Every Monday, I spend about 5-10 minutes with the Communications Team, Liz Novak and Dajaneé Parrish, to brainstorm topics for my blog that week. Dajaneé always brings a few topics to pitch, as does Liz. Might be about an event, a new program, or one in which I am seeking your feedback. Just last week we had one of our most popular to date — “The Babies of the Bar…” and we featured about 10 beautiful babies, young children and even a new grand baby. The blog, written by Dajaneé, was a huge success with over 200 people tuning in to read the blog and view these little miracles of the universe.

It was such a success that we are planning to do one on “The Puppies of the Bar…” (yes, these can also be full grown dogs). I have an allergy to cats, so we are sticking with canines for now. However, if there is a major member insurrection that we are bias to felines, we will go back to our 3-person editorial team and consider it.

Anyway, back to the blog. So at our team meeting, their hope is that if we have this discussion on Monday, it will be ready by Wednesday at the latest. I think that has happened once. Their parting word to me yesterday was, “So Mary, you all set with the blog for tomorrow morning?” This question is followed by a subtle look of doubt (or perhaps that is skepticism I see on their faces). I respond with, “No worries, it’s all up here. I just need time to write it.” But as they know, I like to write early in the morning, and usually have great inspiration at that hour while enjoying my morning coffee. Not so successful this morning, so it is 10:00 am on eDocket day, and I am just knocking this out, trying to avoid any eye-contact with the Communications Team.

The real topic for today’s blog is about the start of our Nominating Season. This Friday will be the first meeting of the Nominating Committee, chaired by Immediate Past President, Diane Cecero. In addition, to Diane, we will be joined by Steve Modica, MCBA President, and Neil Rowe, President-Elect. We will be selecting the President-Elect Nominee to Neil’s term as President which will begin on July 1st, 2015. In addition to President-Elect, we will be seeking a new Treasurer, as well as 5 new Trustees. The new Trustees serve one 3-year term.

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We will be selecting my 15th President, and my 15th Board since I started at the MCBA in 2001. With each new president, and 5 new trustees each year, the result becomes diversity of thoughts, opinions and actions. The other result is that no two years are alike. In recent years we have become very focused on strategic planning with the idea that we cannot simply adopt an endless list of new programs and committees, but instead, we have thoughtful dialogue about the resources necessary to support, and the level of member engagement.

The current board of trustees is dealing with a variety of matters of interest to our members, the public, and the profession. The profession is in the midst of a major evolution, so the challenge before the MCBA and the Board is how do we remain relevant to our diverse membership — diverse in terms of age, gender, race, orientation, practice area, beliefs, and the list goes on. We are looking for members who fit this description above. We are looking for members that are interested in a leadership opportunity, and with that opportunity, a willingness to take on some assignments. We are looking for members that wish to be a part of a Board team at what is considered to be one of the most progressive county bar associations in the country. These are not my words, but words others have used to describe the MCBA.

We are currently accepting nominations. Feel free to nominate yourself or a colleague or friend. Click here for nomination application. It should be completed and returned to Ginny LaCour by December 22.

If you are so intrigued by this invitation to consider a nomination, but have questions, please give me a ring, and let me put my persuasive powers to work on you.

Thanks for checking in,

Mary

October is the month…Guest Post by Liz Novak

I was out and about at the end of last week and had a moment of noticing all of the beautiful colors of autumn – which is rare for me. I’m not always good at being in the present, always thinking two steps ahead, and I had somehow missed the colors prior to that. And I thought – of course the leaves are changing, it’s October. Then I thought: How is it already October?

October is to the six month period of July to December as Wednesday is to the work week…but without the same wonderful anticipatory feeling of a weekend at the end of it.

October is the month when the air changes. It’s as if Mother Nature flips a switch and says get ready kids, winter will soon be here. Come on, you felt it in the air this week. We had two glorious weeks of a late summer, but this week, it feels different.

October is the month for realizing the cold, hard truth, and that it’s time for some serious and important decisions: Shovel? Snow blower? Or snow plow service? Last year, our household made an erroneous decision — based on length of driveway and robustness of its two residents (and one beagle). We made the decision to shovel — wrong move!

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Zakk the beagle says, please, no shoveling. So, this year, we’re going with a snow blower.

October is the month when we finish all of the fall gardening – getting the last bit of tomatoes, pulling up our annuals, raking leaves and doing any other last minute duties needed before the winter months.

Here at the MCBA, October is the month when the first two quarters of CLEs are well underway, and Louise Spinelli and her team are already making plans for 2015. Check out CLEs through December on the MCBA’s calendar.

October is the month when MCBA President Steve Modica reflects back on his first 90 days and is planning for the rest of the year. Check out his column in today’s Daily Record in which he writes about what he’s learned so far.

October is the month when the Lawyers for Learning Program is in full gear, recruiting mentors and pairing those who have already signed up. Click here to sign-up to become a Lawyers for Learning mentor.

October is the month when we’re realizing that the one year anniversary of BarSTOP is just around the corner! We started this monthly member social last year in November. This month’s BarSTOP is on October 16, 5-7 p.m., Label 7. Don’t miss the fun!

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October also is the month when the MCBA’s Memorial Committee is hard at work, led by the Hon. Frank Geraci, gathering tributes and photos to honor those attorneys and judges who passed away this past year at the MCBA’s Annual Memorial Ceremony on Friday, November 14, 12:30 p.m., at the Hall of Justice.

And as we reflect upon lives lost too soon, October is also the month for some to welcome new life into this world as MCBA Marketing Specialist Merritt Smith and his wife (and MCBA member) Laura Smith are making last minute preparations to welcome in their new baby girl due later this month.

October is the month when we get into the nitty-gritty planning for our Annual Bench & Bar Holiday Party on Thursday, December 4, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the Wintergarden. Invites will be coming out soon!

October is the month when the MCBA’s Board of Trustees are busy reaching out to those attorneys who have not yet renewed their dues, as we try to close the gap on membership.

October also is the month for the ABA’s National Pro Bono Celebration, October 19-25. Look for guest blogger Sheila Gaddis, Volunteer Legal Services Project, to write about this topic in the October 23 issue of Bar View.

Yes — October is a big month! Oh, it might not have the pizzazz of having the first day of school or the first day of fall, but October is the month for planning and prepping, culminating with that final night (for those of you with kids) of massive sugar consumption known as Halloween.

What is October to you? Maybe it’s the month when the slow cooker gets pulled out, and ingredients for stews, chili, and soups get put into it.

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Or maybe it’s none of the above. Maybe it’s the month when you ignore that winter is coming, and you still wear your flip flops and shorts, and you say that magical phrase: I’ll worry about it tomorrow.

After all, we still have the whole month!

Thanks for checking in.

Liz

Social Media — It’s not just a fad…

I know when Facebook was first born, I had some rules in my own house about when the kids could establish their own account. Like cell phones, I was always very conservative about giving permission too early. Brian did not get his first phone till he was driving at 16. But to have some fun with him that Christmas, I first gave him a walkie-talkie, and when he was crushed at not opening a package with a cell phone, I demonstrated how cool it would be that we would each have our walkie-talkie’s strapped onto our pants so we could reach each other at any time — afterall, he was never more than a mile away, and the talkies had a 3 mile radius on them. I allowed the teasing to go on for another 20 minutes or so before he opened the package with the real cell phone. Once again, I claimed the title of “great mom”.

In high school, they would not “friend me” on Facebook, however, I always made certain they would friend one of my brothers, who they thought were cool, and my 4 younger brothers ALWAYS knew when to report into their older sister about the actions of one of my children. Obviously, I reciprocated for them as their children came of age.

Once the kids arrived to college, it was much cooler to friend your parents, and so I was granted this very precious right. However, it came with rules – “Mom, please don’t say anything embarrassing and no embarrassing photos either!” Of course, I have broken that rule a few times but have been pretty good for the most part.

So one of the social media platforms I have yet to conquer is “Tweeting” – no, not twerking — that will never happen! With my “Twitter Tip Sheet” in front of me, I was sitting in a CLE yesterday on presentation skills. I took a photo of the speaker, MCC Professor Ilene Benz, and tweeted out what a great program it will be. I was quite proud of myself, as I have been determined to master this Twitter world. When I arrived upstairs, Communications Manager Liz Novak complimented my tweet, but suggested that next time I tweet as “Mary Loewenguth” not as the “MCBA.” Geez, really — thanks for the positive affirmation of this first step Liz.

This experiment followed a lively presentation at Tuesday’s Board meeting in which the Communications Team, Liz Novak and Dajaneé Parrish, provided a tour of the MCBA’s various social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. We started with a great message from Liz Novak about how communications with members has changed. Liz reported that:

Social Media is the direction Bar Associations are headed in. This is demonstrated simply by seeing how the programming at various Bar workshops and conferences has changed. It’s a reflection of how the landscape of communications has changed; and the landscape is comprised of social media.

And because of this changing landscape, our own communications here have changed. We moved away from print and towards e-communications, supplemented by social media.

At the meeting, with a show of hands, we learned that about half of the Trustees are on Facebook, more of them are on LinkedIn, and a few are on Twitter. One of the challenges of social media is trying to determine which medium you use for what purpose. From a past ABA Conference, we adapted a very cool tool that easily differentiates the best uses of the different social media platforms. And since we serve so many sub sandwiches here at the MCBA for both meetings and CLE’s, we decided to personalize this tool in a way that you can relate.

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Social Media is not a fad as many people continue to think. Social media is a part of society and it’s time that we (baby boomers) adapt this attitude. The fastest growing age bracket on Facebook is 45-54 and on Twitter the fastest growing age bracket is 55-64.

I challenge everyone to join or get involved in at least one social media platform:

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“Like” our Monroe County Bar Association page on Facebook, as well as the Young Lawyers Section page to get all of the latest updates and an inside look into MCBA events, programs and socials.

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Follow us on Twitter – @MCBA_NY for breaking MCBA news.

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Join the  Monroe County Bar Association Group page on LinkedIn to connect with other MCBA members and to engage in a dialog within the legal community.

Join and see what it can do for you – besides checking out your child’s latest “relationship status.”