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 end 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 MCBA 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.
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. 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…