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.


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 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.








Get To Know The MCBA Internal Team

It has been a while since our last post, and we’re excited to be bringing back the Bar View blog. Since our last installment, there have been a few changes, but we’re looking forward to the year to come. Due to the changes with our team, we thought that introducing you to our newest members and reminding you of the ones still here, would be a great place to start.

Mary Beth Feindt


First and foremost, please join me in welcoming Mary Beth Feindt, Esq. to the MCBA!

Mary Beth received her BA in History in 1986 from Wittenberg University. She attended the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School, graduating in 1990. Mary Beth’s legal experience is divided between criminal law and family law, specifically in the area of Law Guardian/child advocacy.  She spent 11 years in the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor where she focused on cases of domestic violence and child abuse. In 2015, the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office presented her with the Excellence in Representation of Adult Indigent Clients in Family Court award. She is also an adjunct professor at Nazareth College.

In her new role as the Programs Manager, Mary Beth will work with the Academy of Law and MCBA sections and committees to deliver quality live and online educational programs.

Fun Fact: She has traveled to Novgorod, Russia six times to teach at seminars on various legal topics including jury selection, child witnesses, juvenile delinquency proceedings, and family court.

Kevin Ryan

Ryan_Kevin_7493_ppKevin Ryan, Esq., comes to us from the Vermont Bar Association, where he served as the Assistant Executive Director. He is the outgoing chair of the Webinar Committee at NABE, a former professor of law at Vermont Law school and of political science at Norwich University, and an avid (two options: reader or Broncos fan)….. You will notice that I typed the abbreviation Esq. next to his name (not a typo). Kevin has his undergrad from Regis University, his Masters from Princeton University and his J.D. from University of Denver and is a member of the Colorado Bar.

In his new role as the Executive Director, he is responsible for overseeing the administration, programs and strategic plan of the MCBA and the Foundation of the MCB. Other key duties include fundraising, marketing, community outreach, and strategic vision.

Fun Fact: Kevin was assistant varsity baseball coach at Northfield High School for 14 years, during which time the team won 7 state championships!


So here is information about the rest of us:

Robin DePoint 







Robin collects, records and organizes registrations for CLE programs and MCBA events.  She also assists staff with CLE programs as needed.

Fun Fact: Robin grew up on the waterfront and loves boating, water-skiing, and camping!

Kathy Fico




Kathy is responsible for oversight of all financial operations of the MCBA, MCBCFE and MCBF.  She handles human resource functions and office management.  Kathy is responsible for supervision of the Lawyer Referral Service, DEAFund and Lawyer Succession Registry among other programs.

Fun Fact: She loves the summer months because it means she can break out her Harley and ride her motorcycle.


Ben Freeland





I execute the various bar communications, including the three eDockets, eblasts, website updates,  social media as well as  event materials, such as programs, presentations and posters.. I’d like to think that all facts about me are fun, but the true

Fun Fact that I am willing to share: I had the opportunity to sing for Pope Benedict while at an Easter ceremony at Vatican Square.


Diane Hill




Diane is normally stationed at the reception desk and is responsible for scheduling meetings in the various MCBA conference rooms, processing Foundation donations and Attorney and Court Directory sales. You will immediately feel welcomed by her effervescent personality upon entering the 10th floor.

Fun Fact –She makes the best rum cake in the world–this has been proven accurate on 4 Floors of the Telesca Center and has yet to be tested nationwide.

Liz Novak Henderson




Liz oversees the MCBA’s membership renewal process and communicating member benefits and events to members.  In addition, she manages the logistics of the various member events throughout the year, such as the Bench & Bar Holiday Party, Law Day and the Installation Dinner, and is the primary liaison for the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar.

Fun Fact: In her spare time, she loves taking photos of her adorable beagle Zakk and of her garden.

Dianne Nash






Dianne supports the CLE Programs Manager to produce each CLE event from creating the flyer, compiling speakers and summarizing evaluations, through uploading the recorded program for online viewing.

Fun Fact: I am told that she “allegedly” has two of the cutest grandchildren on the planet.

Merritt Smith






Merritt is responsible for sales, advertisings and sponsorships that support MCBA programs, publications, and events, and is the staff liaison to multiple sections and committees.

Fun facts: Merritt plays the bagpipes and is an avid woodworker.


Mark Swail





Mark coordinates the Lawyer Referral Service, grievances and is the administrator of the fee dispute resolution program. He is also the Liaison to the President’s commission on Access to Justice, the lawyers concerned for lawyers committee and the newly formed Veterans Committee.

Fun Fact: Mark loves traveling and snow-boarding with his daughter!

Suzanne Ventress


Trying to sum up what Suzanne does in a few sentences is like trying to fit the glass slipper on an ugly stepsister’s fat foot.

She is the Executive Assistant to our new Executive Director, Kevin Ryan working closely with our Board of Trustees, Judiciary Committee and Senior Attorneys Committee. Suzanne also supports Kathy Fico, our Operations & Finance Manager, and is your go-to-person if you need your information updated in our database.

Fun Fact: She loves to photograph nature because it calms her and makes her appreciate the basic beauty of life.


I hope this helps you get better acquainted with us!

Until next week,


New Year’s Resolutions?

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

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

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


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

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

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

50 ways to take a break

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

Feel free to email me or leave a comment!

Until next time,


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.


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!

food shot

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

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!

West Edge

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.

clerkship orientation
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,


The Art of Membership

I am always juggling a few good reads. My current pleasure read is In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. I just finished his other sensational read, Dead Wake, about the final crossing of the Lusitania. I recommend both!

On the bar front, I am always juggling a few books. I am currently reading Open Leadership by Charlene Li. This read is about how social technology can transform us as leaders. I am always looking for professional, and quite honestly personal, ideas on improving me as an Executive Director, and always working on me as a person.

The second bar book I have just started is The Art of Membership by Sheri Jacobs. I started reading this one last night, which typically is a tough time for me to read, as I am battling the “sleep villains” that begin to creep into my house around 10 pm. But it was a good read, so I actually made it to around 11:30 pm, and still made it to the gym this morning by 5:30 am, I will have you know (just in case you were wondering).

Anyway, The Art of Membership, is a very interesting read. From the outset it states that I should be asking two very simple questions:

  1. Why did you join the MCBA?
  2. Why do you renew?

I found these two simple questions very interesting as they have the potential to offer a real variety of answers for some of you. Over the years I have heard why many of you join: professional obligation, CLE, health insurance, networking, “because I was told to on my first day as a lawyer”, “the MCBA makes me a better lawyer”, and the list goes on. From many government attorneys that leave their current positions, I have heard, “I should have joined earlier, because the networking is invaluable”.

Bottom-line, everyone has different reasons. And as your Executive Director, it is important that I not assume I know why you join. What is important is that I understand, and respect, that you all join for different reasons. If I do not know your reasons, then I am unable to see if we can deliver what it is you need, and most likely, some of your colleagues are looking for in terms of “membership value”.

So as we enter this annual membership renewal cycle, I am really interested in hearing from you? The membership renewal forms have hit your mailboxes by now or will be in the next day or so. And so in the coming weeks, and I am hoping not months, we are going to be nagging, pestering, nudging, reminding, and nagging some more so that you RENEW TODAY to take advantage of the 2 FREE CLE Credits (a $66 value) that come with this renewal period but only when you renew by June 30, 2015.

This is one of those blogs that I would really appreciate a short email back to me with your responses to both. A quick response is all I am looking for from you. So ask yourself:

  1. Why did you join the MCBA?
  2. Why do you renew?

Please email me directly at

There is an “art” to membership, and I want to become an expert, so please help me out here by providing some thoughtful ideas and suggestions.

Thanks for checking in…e-mail please


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?”

snow photo house

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.

blog snow photo

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?


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,


It is that time of year…

…when there is so much going on that it makes my head spin. No doubt, your head is spinning as well.

Last week we had an incredible Law Day Luncheon. If you missed it, check out our YouTube channel for our 10 year Telesca Center for Justice celebration video along with videos of some of the award recipients. Click here to see photos from the annual luncheon. It was a great day celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Telesca Center for Justice…complete with birthday cake!

Law Day Blog

But as one event ends, another half-dozen are right around the corner. While at the same time, it is time to rake the yard, mow the lawn, open the porch, and enjoy this warm and wonderful sunshine. It’s starting to feel like summer! But summer cannot officially begin before the official conclusion of this bar year on June 30. I know for a fact, one First Lady of the MCBA, Lorrie Modica, is counting the day’s until she has her incredibly dedicated husband, and my president, back full-time. Lorrie actually showed me the countdown she has going on her phone, and understandably. Steve has been a remarkable bar president, and has not slowed down, nor will he till that final hour. But when the time comes, Steve totally deserves the right to slow down, but I know Steve, and I know he will always be there for the MCBA.

So in the final weeks, here is what lies ahead for you and me:

New Opportunity to View the Film — Dedicated to Justice: Hon. Michael Telesca

If you were unable to join us for the film premiere of Dedicated to Justice: Hon. Michael A. Telesca, you have another chance tomorrow, Friday, May 8th at 12:15 pm in the Rubin Center for Education on the 5th Floor. Do not miss the chance to view this remarkable film, which was produced by our Foundation, about the life of our beloved Judge Michael Telesca. Bring your lunch, we will provide the soda and water, and in addition to watching the 30 minute film, you will meet the  the filmmaker, Matthew Spaull. He will be joined by MCBA President Steve Modica and Judge Jonathan Feldman to share a bit about the making of the film.

Film Premier Blog

Court of Appeals Reception — Wednesday, May 20th

If you are free that evening, plan to join us out at Woodcliff to welcome our two new Court of Appeals Judges, the Honorable Leslie Stein and the Honorable Eugene Fahey. The reception will begin at 5:30 pm and conclude at 7:30 pm. Pre-registration is required for this very special event, so please visit here.

Empire Justice Center’s — A Celebration of Leadership Reception

I am both humbled and honored to be joining Joe Casion, of Harter Secrest & Emery fame, in being one of the two recipients of their leadership awards. This very special evening will be held on Thursday, May 21st from 5:30 – 8:30 pm at the Strathallan on East Ave. This award is especially meaningful because of my admiration of the incredible people that comprise this very dynamic organization. The dedication and commitment to ensuring access and advocacy to those that are unable throughout Rochester and all of New York State is extraordinary. If you are not real familiar with Empire Justice, I would encourage you to join in this very special evening.

Meetings, meetings and more meetings…

This is no surprise to anyone — we host many, many, many meetings at the MCBA. So of late, it has been many Foundation meetings including the establishment of the Legacy Society, a planned giving program, as well as the launch of its Raise the Bar Annual Campaign that should be hitting your mailbox any day now. Plus, the Member Focus Committee which is a new Board Committee which is busy reviewing programs of the bar that directly impact and benefit our members. Then we have the Health and Well-Being Task Force, that is meeting with regularity in order to put in place a solution to assist our members dealing with work life balance, stress, depression, PTSD issues, and other mental health matters. This was a big discussion point at Law Day. Mental health issues are on the rise in the profession and as your local bar association, we are working to develop a confidential solution that will assist those attorneys in need. Earlier this week the T. Carl Nixon Board Room was packed with more than 28 solo and small firm practitioners that convene on the first Tuesday of every month to meet, network, share questions and ideas, learn about a new area of practice, share referrals, and most of all support one another. It is like a big law firm meeting! If you wish learn more about this high energy group, contact Brad Kammholz, the Chair, or Liz Novak, the manager liaison.

Time to Renew Your Commitment to the MCBA

In between all of the events and meetings, Liz Novak, our membership manager, is busy preparing for the next membership renewal cycle. Yes, for the vast majority of you, it has been a year since you made that renewal. My hope is that you will once again renew your commitment to your MCBA, your peers, and the profession, by taking this action as soon as that reminder hits your inbox. For so many of you, it is automatic. For others, it sometimes requires multiple friendly nudges from Liz, me, and even the Board as they are assigned to make calls. What we hear most often is “Oh, did I not do that yet, I’m sorry, I will take care of that right now,” and most of you do. But frequently, it becomes displaced again, which requires more of our time to make the connection again. Not that I don’t mind, but I would so much prefer to be putting my time and the Board’s time on matters that will create greater impact and benefit to you directly. Does this make sense? But if I have to, I will respectfully chase you down, because we are a better bar with you! Thank you in advance.

Need any CLE credits?

If so, do we have a CLE for you. It will be another banner year of CLE activity thanks to Academy Dean Mary Jo Korona, Dean-Elect Cindy Snodgrass and CLE Manager, Louise Spinelli. I have lost count, but I think we will end the year with 60+/- CLEs. That is a big number! And approximately one-third of those are delivered in this last quarter of the bar year. In addition to the live programming, visit our website for many online CLE viewing options.

CLe Credits Blog

Welcoming the Summer 2015 Diversity Clerks to Rochester

Always an exciting time of year as we welcome 8 new 1L law students to Rochester for their 10 week experience. Once again, we have an incredible class of young people that will be making Rochester their home for the summer. We hope that if you have an opportunity to meet these young people, that you will regale them with stories about the wonderful practice of law in Rochester. Special thanks to Diversity Clerkship Chair, Jeff Harradine for his work on this important program, with great support from Louise Spinelli.

Valor Day — June 13
Rochester has a thriving military and veteran population. Valor Day is FREE event for ALL Veterans, Active Duty or Reserve Service Members and Immediate Family featuring over 30 service providers and legal services professionals. It’s on Saturday, June 13, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at MCC. If you’re interested in participating as an attorney, click here. For more information about the day, please visit the Valor Day website.

Annual Award Dinner — June 25th — The Hyatt Regency

We are very excited to have former Chief Judge Sol Wachtler joining us as our Keynote Speaker at the Annual Dinner this year. Judge Wachtler will be sharing his very painful journey with mental health, and that with assistance and education, one can turn their life around. His story is incredible and we hope that you will plan to join us for this very important evening.

As we do each year around this time, we will be gathering to celebrate our next President, Neil Rowe. Neil has been hard at work, probably feeling, “have I not already served my year?”, while I am here to remind him that he has not. The real fun lies ahead. In addition, we will be extending our very special thanks to Steve Modica as his action-packed year draws to a close. Like Steve, I have known Neil for many years as he has served in several capacities over the years.

Watch for this invitation coming very soon to a mailbox near you.

Summer Plans & Vacation

Spring is in the air, and so is LOVE! I do have some fun weddings coming up. MCBA members Laura Myers and Curt Johnson are tying the knot, and since they met at Jazz for Justice, and I was there on that first very special evening, I am invited and can’t wait to celebrate these two good friends. One week later our very own Dajaneé Parrish, will be tying the knot with a really lovely and fun man, Gregory Hoyos. I still like Gregory despite the fact that he is taking Dajaneé from us and relocating to Delaware for his work. Dajaneé has been a real gift to the MCBA, and we are very sad to see her go. But we do look forward to celebrating with this great young couple.

And did you know, Ginny LaCour, my very special Executive Assistant, is retiring after 10 years with me? Ten years is a long time. Ginny deserves this retirement. She has worked hard all her life, and Ginny would be the first to tell you she has worked “really hard” these last 10 years.

In terms of vacation, none planned so far, but I do need to get on that…

Thanks for checking in…


It’s exhausting, but exciting…

Like so many of you, I had some days off over the holidays, as did the whole MCBA team. This mid-year bar break gives all of us time to rest, renew and re-energize for the second half of the bar year. I have been heard over the years saying, “We have the busiest 6 months that we have ever had ahead of us right now.” But then, another year happens, and I find myself repeating myself. And the first half of 2015 is no exception. In fact, this may in fact be the busiest year to date.

2015 Calendar

Why is that you ask? Here is a good visual. This is the whiteboard in my office that I am now using in order to have a quick look at the 6 months ahead. The items on the upper portion are all major events, starting with the Judicial Robing Ceremony next Thursday, January 15th. If you have not yet registered, I would encourage you to take a moment and do that now. Please visit our homepage at

The next big event after that will be a very special evening with the premier of a 30 minute documentary that has been produced through some generous donors about the life of Judge Michael Telesca. We are working on a date, and will be sharing more very soon.

While that is underway, we will be conducting our annual Judicial Evaluation Process, with what I have heard may be anywhere from 6-10 candidates. That is a big number that requires many hours of planning and organization to convene the Judiciary Committee of 27 for multiple days of interviews.

On Friday, March 20th, we will be celebrating the 5th Anniversary of Jazz For Justice. This incredible event hosted by the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar will once again be at Harro East, with incredible talent from the Eastman School of Music. If you have yet to attend this event, now is the time to mark your calendar. Invites will be out in early February, but no need to wait till then to add it to your calendar. Bring your best date, friends, family and clients. We are already receiving delicious commitments from caterers and restaurants that want to come share their tasteful and tantalizing treats with you. Friday, March 20th — please write that date down.

Between that JFJ and the next event which is Law Day (May 1st), we also will be preparing the 2015-16 Bar Budget, gearing up for the busiest portion of our CLE calendar, beginning to plan and transition the new president, and appoint new committee and section chairs, where terms will be up in June.

This is also the time frame for the Foundation’s launch of the Annual Raise the Bar 2015 Appeal. As we close 2014, we are literally a few hundred dollars below the $35,000 mark. In 2015, I would love to see us make a nice round number like $50,000. Soon you will be hearing about a new MCBA program to assist our members, and the good news is, the Foundation is enthusiastically supporting the program concept. I am confident when you hear about this program, you will also want to support it through your gift to the foundation.

Let’s not forget the Annual Young Lawyers Section Silent Auction that for 5 of our 6 years, has been graced by our beloved Judge Judith Kaye. Judge Kaye’s participation in this great event over the year has assisted us in raising awareness for the Rochester Teen Court Program, which is the beneficiary of the auction proceeds. No date has yet to be set for this event, but we are looking at a mid-May time frame.

On May 20th, we will be repeating a very special event that was held almost 2 years ago now when the MCBA hosted a reception out at Woodcliff to welcome the Court of Appeals judges to upstate New York, along with our colleagues from the Bar Association of Erie County, the Onondaga County Bar Association and the New York Trial Lawyers Association. We look forward to welcoming the two newest judges in the spring. Please note May 20th to your calendar as well.

Then the final big event of the year is the Annual Dinner on Thursday, June 25th. I can’t disclose too many details just yet, but I can tell you this is one dinner you will not want to miss. Something unique and very worthwhile; not to be missed. No, don’t ask me for more just yet, I’m sworn to secrecy for now. Write this date down again too!

In between all of the above mentioned events we will also be:

  • planning an additional 4-5 monthly BarSTOPs
  • conducting probably 25-30 more CLE’s for the year
  • coordinating 5-8 Committee and Section year end events
  • preparing for the next dues cycle. Each year, we spend quite a bit of time trying to determine how to once again
  • concluding all of the year end board business
  • beginning to ramp up for the annual audit
  • and whatever else hits the deck…

One of the other ideas on the table is that 2015 represents the 10th anniversary of co-location, so the question being asked is how do we celebrate this historic and unprecedented event that brought our four civil legal service partners under the same roof with the MCBA and the Foundation. If you have ideas on how we should celebrate, please let me know your thoughts. But I warn you, I believe in the concept that if you have an idea, and it garners support, you become the “Idea Chair”. This may be one event we plan for 2015-16 since I am not certain where we would even begin to fit it on the calendar.

I do LOVE this job, and all the action above with all of you is why I love this job!

Thanks for checking in and the warmest of a Happy New Year to you and yours,


Is it really going on 10 years?

MCBA President Steve Modica, in one of our monthly leadership meetings, reminded me that in 2015 we would be celebrating 10 years of co-location in the Telesca Center for Justice. REALLY…10 years!? Already? It feels like it just happened, this can’t be.

So I went back and checked. We signed the leases on June 27, 2005. The next 6 months began the construction phase of co-location. Since the Monroe County Bar Association offices were already located in the Four Corners Building, and in order to vacate for the future home of VLSP, the MCBA’s construction began immediately. We moved into our beautiful new space in September of 2005.

Telesca Center Sign Outside Close Up

Meanwhile, the 8th and 9th floor was undergoing a major transformation in order to make way for the largest partner in the building, the Legal Aid Society. Simultaneous to LAS, construction was underway on the 3rd floor, the future home of Empire Justice Center.

Between January 2005 and January 2006, VLSP, LAS and EJC would be officially moved into their new spaces. LawNY (formerly MCLAC) would be another year out as they were relocating to the 4th floor, and the current tenant would remain in that space for another year.

VLSP Lobby Front

To refresh your recall, we had set out to raise $700K, in order to reimburse the landlord for assuming the cost of the construction of the respective space. Then we raised it to $1,000,000 to provide each of the partners with funds for the actual relocation expenses since this was a non-budgeted event for everyone. We had three years to raise these funds, and just in case you forgot, we not only raised the $1,000,000 mark, in the end, we exceeded it by an additional $1,700,000.

With the reimbursement to the landlord, this payment also secured the future of the partners home in the Telesca Center for Justice through 2020 at a below market rate of $10/SF.

The most spectacular and stunning outcome of the $2.7M was the start of Phase II of Co-Location which was the 1st floor lobby transformation. A transformation that would remove the enormous and non-functioning escalator (and collector of dust), replacing it with beautiful space to welcome our thousands of guests each year, as well as to honor the donors and bar leaders that made the Partnership for Equal Justice Campaign so very successful. We honor Hon. Michael Telesca, our beloved Federal Court Judge; Justin Vigdor, Chair of the Campaign; the late William McKnight, former Nixon attorney and a great champion of civil legal services; and finally, we honor Hanna Cohn, the former Executive Director of VLSP and the person that had the co-location vision more than 30 years ago now.

IMG_6578 cropped

Both co-location and phase II with the lobby renovation would not have been possible had it not been for the support of Assemblyman David Gantt. Assemblyman Gantt provided the seed money to launch the Partnership Campaign, and when the lobby became Phase II in order to create a more welcoming place for the clients we serve, he came through again.

In addition to all of the champions we mention above, the lobby also serves to honor all of the donors that made this imagined vision a true reality in the form of the Telesca Center for Justice. The Telesca Center remains the only one of its kind in the nation, despite bar leaders, judges, and other law related groups visiting and touring the Center over the years to learn how we accomplished what we did.

Once the lobby was completed, the additional funds went on to provide a desperately needed new phone system to replace the phone system that was invented by Alexander Graham Bell (Although some argue that Innocenzo Manzetti considered the idea of a telephone as early as 1844, and may have made one in 1864, as an enhancement to an automaton built by him in 1849. He is considered by many as the inventor of the telephone.) — but who am I to argue the identity of the actual inventor.  I did not want to risk that one of you was a telephone historian and would take issue with my fact. The point is, our phone system was close to being that old.


In terms of the activity underway at the Telesca Center, the partners are all busting out of their respective offices as a result of the additional funding made available through funding for civil legal services made possible by Chief Judge of the State of New York Jonathan Lippman. In fact, LawNY was in such dire straights for space that they have recently relocated part of their team next door in the Union Trust Building on the first floor. This has resulted in the start of new dialogue among the partners about more space in that building as well.

In addition, The Rubin Center for Education recently underwent a complete makeover thanks to Senator Joe Robach for the technology and furniture upgrades that have made this great resource room even more useful. No more negative complaints on the CLE evaluation forms because everyone loves the comfortably, padded furniture. And with three big screens across the front of the room, and an improved sound system, there is not a bad seat in the house.

CLE Room Speakers Table

The Telesca Center for Justice is what it is today, nearly 10 years later, because of the cooperation and willingness of the four legal service partners – Empire Justice Center, LawNY, Legal Aid Society of Rochester, and Volunteer Legal Services Project – along with the MCBA and the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar. Each day, the Telesca Center starts buzzing with activity by 8AM with meetings and visitors — from clients to attorneys and staff.


There is not a day that I walk in, and still not take pause in my head about — “Wow, look what we did!” As I pass Hanna’s portrait, I wish her good morning, and at night when I leave, feeling a wee bit draggy some days, I swear I hear her tell me, “It was another good day Mary!” And she is right, it was another good day, made better just by being part of the Telesca Center for Justice.

Thank you for checking in,



Is it Friday yet?

This week will end up a “5 nighter”. I am exhausted, and its only Thursday morning. I returned home last night about 9:40 pm from the Young Lawyers Section Boat Cruise. It was a great night on the River surrounded by youthful energy. Once home, I was asleep within 20 minutes and never moved till 4:30 this morning. For a fleeting moment I thought I could get up and go to the gym…nah’. Rolled over, pulled the blankets up and snuggled in for 90 more minutes before I had to get ready for my 8:00 am meeting with MCBA and Foundation leadership.

YLS Group

Then…DARN IT…my eyes popped open when I realized that  Dajaneé Parrish, our Communications Coordinator, will be looking for my Thursday blog. UGH!! No extra 90 minutes of sleep today. I dragged myself out of bed, down to make a very strong pot of coffee, seated in my chair and writing. I hope you are not reading this and scolding me for procrastinating on this blog. I actually had the theme of it outlined on Monday, but have not had time to get to it.

Geez, I am so whining right now. I am sorry;I don’t mean to. In fact, if you know me, you know I love this part of the job. I love talking with you about your work, your challenges, your life. In the end, I enjoy this life.

Here is the week so far:

Monday — we had the 21st Annual Lawyers for Learning Golf Tournament. A great day with about 84 golfers all committed to helping the kids at School #29. The day ends with a dinner and awards. LFL Chair Amanda Dwyer did a great job rallying her Golf Committee and ensuring a perfect golf day. It was a perfect 75 degrees!

Amanda Golf

Tuesday — I attended the members only reception GRAWA held for Federal Court Judge Elizabeth Wolford. It was a great evening as we celebrated Judge Wolford. GRAWA President Tiffany Lee hosted a lovely event for her members.  (I am a proud card-carrying GRAWA member, thanks to their invitation.) It was nice to meet and greet so many of the wonderful GRAWA members. MCBA President Steve Modica, and GRAWA member, was also in attendance spreading his own good wishes.

Wednesday — I joined our beloved Young Lawyers Section as they cruised the Genesee River on one of our great river boats. Organized by Mike Geraci and Kurt Odenbach, under the leadership of YLS President, Jennifer Lunsford. It is always fun to be with this group of young attorneys. Some of them are brand new, or within a year or two new, while others are 5+ years. As we talked last night, some are now 10+ years and wanting to talk about the long discussed creation of a “Tween Section”.

YLS Harbor Town Belle Crusie

Thursday — I am joining John and Mary Crowe, their family, and a few close friends as we celebrate his retirement and his extraordinary career. I am honored to have been on the invite list to celebrate John’s retirement from the practice of law. John may be retiring from the practice, but what John will never be allowed to retire from is his ability to mentor young attorneys on how to be a better lawyer.

Friday — It is not usual that there is a Friday night commitment, but in this case, I can never say no to Elaine Cole. As you may know, Elaine is our President-Elect of the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar, and one member I can never say “no” to. If Elaine had the chance to respond to this allegation she would also tell you, she can never say no to me. So it is mutual, we cannot say no to each other. Elaine called to tell me that she is meeting on Friday after work at the Flight Wine Bar with some folks about the pre-planning for Jazz For Justice 2015. She said I was invited, but not required to attend. Of course I am going. I love Jazz For Justice and Friday night with wine with a few good friends will be fun even if in a planning mode.

JFJ 2014 Blog

It is now 6:30 AM, and I can’t seem to keep my eyes open. I need more coffee. I am confident the shower will get me moving again. After the 8:00 am the rest of the day is like the week, many, many meetings. A meeting with one of my managers, followed by a meeting with one of the out of town boss’s of one of our underwriters, followed by a Membership Committee meeting, and then a staff meeting.

The common denominator at so many of these meetings and events is so many of you — our dedicated MCBA members. Yesterday Jeff Harradine, Diversity Committee Chair, was here for a conference call on our Diversity Program, and had about an hour before he was heading downstairs to attend the Ethics & Social Media in Commercial Cases CLE in the Rubin Center. He asked if he could hang out in the Board Room to catch up on some lawyer work before heading down. We said “of course” and encouraged him to look through the fridge (since he had not had lunch) for anything that looked good. Jeff is a great example of a hard working bar leader wearing many hats for not only the MCBA, but also for NYSBA. Like so many of you, being a good bar leader is in Jeff’s DNA.


My 82 year old mom, Joan, attempts to talk with me each day if only for a few minutes. Some days she reaches me via cell, and when she does not hear back, she will call Diane Hill at the front desk to confirm that I am still alive because it has been all of 48 hours. After all these years, she continues to ask, “what are you all constantly meeting about?” And, “What are you all celebrating this week?” Difficult to explain.

I attempt to explain to Joanie that we have very, very dedicated lawyers in Rochester. Best in the country. Having been a receptionist at the old Nixon Hargrave firm more than 60 years ago, mom responds to me with, “I know how busy lawyers are, remember, my law firm was Nixon Hargrave where I worked for Mr. T. Carl Nixon…he was always very busy.”

So, now sitting in T. Carl’s old office, I wonder what he would say about the business of lawyering now.  Are we busier now than before? Are we spending the time in the right places? Are lawyers the same? How has the practice of law changed? How have bar associations changed? Probably safe to say — it has all changed. But one thing that I am pretty confident that has not changed and that is attorneys commitments to their clients.

Happy Friday-Eve. I do look forward to Saturday morning 🙂

Thanks for checking in,