“Shocked with Unexplainable Grief”

By Kevin Ryan, Esq.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Edge

By Kevin Ryan, Esq.

I said last time that I would write a series of posts describing some of what I learned at the National Association of Bar Executives annual meeting in San Francisco last week. This was to fulfill a promise to the ever-vigilant Liz, who I think was concerned that, if I didn’t give some indication that I was actually awake in the substantive sessions, readers would think I was simply wandering the streets of San Francisco, reliving the Sixties (perhaps one toke over the line). I think she thought that I needed to prove that I picked up some useful stuff sitting in a chair, rather than by wearing out shoe leather, that I was not just a peripatetic in search of enlightenment outside the hotel conference rooms. OK, so here goes.

Conferences often feature big (or biggish) name plenary speakers with slick presentations designed to teach you something they have learned from whatever it is they do. You know the sort: people who have been successful in one kind of endeavor and are here to tell you that what they learned in, say, the tech industry or golf applies to whatever you do, no matter how dissimilar it may be. The so-called lessons tend to be simplistic and banal – on the order of “try hard,” or “keep a positive attitude.” Duh. And it is remarkable how alike the lessons taught by these speakers are – seldom, it seems, does anyone offer anything really original, though the colorful illustrative stories may differ. What the rest of us really learn, I suspect, is that one can make a ton of money saying things that have been said before (over and over).

Athletes are particularly common among such speakers – women and men who have done well at their sport, cashing in on fame after their playing career (or even during it) by telling us stuff we already know. Their hearers must get some thrill out of seeing and hearing a star, even if there’s nothing really new to learn from the star’s experience. I’ve been to coaches conventions where some unknown college coach says to take a deep breath before each pitch (a good practice, by the way) and the (sparse) audience merely nods. But when some major leaguer gets up and says exactly the same thing (usually not as well, and too often filtered through a war story or two), the (huge) audience sits up, takes note (and notes), and afterwards throngs the stage (stars are generally on stages, not just at the front of the room) for a brush with greatness. Star status forgives sins, especially the sin of having nothing new to say.

And so when I saw that the first plenary speaker at the NABE annual meeting in San Francisco was going to be a mountain climber, I thought, “Here we go again.” But I was wrong.

Alison Levine has climbed the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents – the so-called Seven Summits. She’s climbed Everest twice (long and touching story). She has skied to both the North and South poles, making her one of only thirty or so people to have completed the so-called Adventure Grand Slam (the seven peaks and the two poles). She speaks movingly about the lessons of mountain climbing, lessons that translate into life lessons, work lessons, organizational management lessons. (See her book, On the Edge.) Levine is a truly exceptional athlete, in some ways far more impressive than some dude who has simply learned to hit a curveball hard one out of every three times he’s thrown one. And I learned afterwards, when looking at her book, that she actually has considerable practical experience in the business world (Goldman Sachs), as well as graduate degrees and consulting experience, so she’s not just offering lessons for a world she doesn’t know, as so many of these athlete-orators do.

Alison Levine at the South Pole.

Alison Levine at the South Pole.

As could be expected, some of the principles Levine has gleaned from her experience on the mountain differ not a whit from the standard truisms that populate the leadership literature. Network – on Mt. Everest a good network of relationships can save your life, as she explains. Nobody gets to the top by themselves – we all depend for our success on other members of our team, on those not on our team but with whom we have developed positive relations, on those who are hired (like Sherpas) to carry our baggage and lay out our ladders. Be relentless in pursuit of your goals. We don’t need an extreme climber to tell us these things – we already know them; we hear them all the time; we say them to ourselves.

What struck me about Levine, however, was that some of her lessons were unorthodox, offbeat, edgy, counterintuitive. They were not – at least not all of them – the same lessons we could have heard from boxers, synchronized swimmers, or washed-up CEOs.

For instance . . . In a world in which organizations tend to be structured hierarchically, Levine contends that everyone on the team must be a leader. Success, she tells us, depends upon the ability and willingness of everyone to step up from time to time, to take charge when needed, to make the tough decisions. This is as important among citizens as it is among staff members, as crucial for lawyers as for mountain climbers. Sure, some people may have a title or a status, but when the chips are down, everybody on the team must be able to lead. The implications of this might be truly revolutionary, for if everyone is a leader, no one deserves to be treated as more special because of their title (as Levine puts it, “Your mother lied to you – you’re not special”). This is a call for true democracy. Following Levine’s idea, perhaps beyond where she would take it, one could end up with “holacracy,” the notion that structural hierarchy should be flattened to take advantage of the insights and leadership potential of everyone in an organization. Bye-bye CEO. Bye-bye executive director.

And what does it take to be a good leader? Levine points out that a real leader takes action based on the situation rather than based on some “plan” decided upon under different circumstances. This is important because, as she puts it, you have “zero control” over the circumstances. While you can’t control your environment, you can control how you react to the environment – a common theme among “mental game” coaches but one rarely heard outside the world of sports. It’s a theme that many business leaders and association executives fail to heed when they adhere rigorously to their “strategic plans” even in the face of significant changes in the circumstances. As association management expert Mary Byers puts it, we should think in terms of “strategic frameworks” that set guidelines for action, rather than strategic plans that specify what you will and won’t do under all circumstances.

But Levine pushes even closer to the edge on this point, for she doesn’t believe in rigorous adherence to the rules. There are always situations when you need to break the rules, Levine tells us. Of course, she doesn’t mean ethical rules, and she’s not counseling illegal activity. But she is calling into question our sheep-like tendency to follow the paths laid down. Rigidity, she argues, is dangerous. And leaders should not be the only ones permitted to break the rules to achieve better outcomes; that same freedom should be extended to the people on their teams, who must be given the power to be flexible when, in their judgment, it is for the good of the organization. Everyone on the team (remember, everyone is expected to be a leader) should use their judgment and do the right thing – no matter what the “rules” say. Rules, then, should be treated as guiding principles, as suggestions rather than absolutes. We are not robots (yet) and should not act like robots when the situation requires us to be nimble.

Mount everest

Of course, when team members have that kind of freedom, some mistakes will be made – one hopes not too many of them, especially at 28,000 feet. Mistakes, however, do not spell the end of the world; most are minor and, more importantly, they provide us with opportunities to learn. Great hitters might be fooled once or twice, might look like clowns at the plate sometimes, but they learn from their mistakes, adjust their approach, and hit the ball hard the next at-bat. The great performers in any context – mountain climbers, teachers, gymnasts, business leaders, administrative assistants, lawyers – are not people who don’t make mistakes; they make their fair share. Instead, they are people who “come back with a vengeance” from their mistakes. Leaders should give their team members the “freedom to fail” – a lesson Levine attributes to former Heisman Trophy winner, Rhodes scholar, combat leader, general, and CEO Pete Dawkins. People with perfect track records, she says, are people who haven’t pushed themselves. And don’t we prefer to work with people who regularly push themselves? If so, we need to accept their failures as well as their successes; we need to stop expecting perfection from others (and from ourselves).

Generally, we pursue progress, growth, development; we find them good. And Levine doesn’t disagree. But she points out that forward movement is often composed of many steps backward. She describes how, when scaling a mountain as imposing as Everest, the climbers slowly work their way up the mountain, returning to base camp after each increase in elevation, climbing back-and-forth as they acclimate themselves to the altitude. They go from base camp to camp 1 and back to base camp, then to camp 2 and back to base, then to camp 3 and back to base, and so on. So, climbing a mountain does not involve a steady progress upwards; at times it seems you spend more time climbing down than climbing up. Sometimes you need to back up to go further; sometimes you need to give up what you’ve accomplished so that you can go beyond it. And, contrary to most business and career advice, “backing up is not the same as backing down.”

Levine also makes the point that things may be riskiest when they seem to be going well. “Complacency,” she says, “will kill you.” In other words, when you think you’ve got it mastered, when you think you’ve got it under control, when things are calm and the sailing is smooth, that’s when you are most at risk. Partially, this stems from the ways complacency makes you lackadaisical and sloppy in your preparation. It makes you take your eye off the ball, like the shortstop who muffs an easy grounder or a wide receiver who drops a perfect pass in the open field. Partially, it stems from the ways complacency makes you mentally lazy and uncritical; it makes you “space out,” lose your focus, and lose your edge. It makes you switch into auto-pilot when attention to the controls is most needed.

As should be obvious, Levine offers principles for a nimble, agile, flexible organization capable of coping and thriving in an ever-changing environment – exactly the kind of organization most likely to succeed in the next decade. Her lessons apply to law firms and other businesses, to bar associations and sports teams. Unlike so many speakers I’ve heard, she really had something new to teach, something out of the ordinary, something that might sting you into rethinking your presuppositions about organizations, leadership, and the path to success. In short, this was not just another super-slick, star speaker. Alison Levine encourages us to live on the edge, just as she did on the way to the top of Everest.

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5 Tips To Supercharge Microsoft Office

Here at the MCBA, we’re trying to mix it up with our Bar View blog by presenting different perspectives and guest writers. This week’s Bar View guest writer is Nicole Black.

5 Tips To Supercharge Microsoft Office
By Nicole Black, Esq.

Nicole black

Years ago, the legal world was evenly divided between fans of WordPerfect and Word. Eventually, Microsoft Word won out, although there are still a few diehard lawyers who still use WordPerfect. Even so, most lawyers have switched to Microsoft Office, for better or for worse. If you’re one of those lawyers, you’re no doubt always on the lookout for ways to make the most of Office. If so, you’re in luck. Here are a few useful tips and tricks that will help you tailor Office to your firm’s unique needs.

  1. Create forms with TheFormTool

Because lawyers work with forms so often, any tool that streamlines that process is worth looking into. That’s where TheFormTool comes in. It’s a free add-on for Word that simplifies the process of creating and working on forms. You can download it here.

  1. Use Office Mix for more engaging presentations

Communicating effectively is a valuable skill for all lawyers to have. One way to do this is to create an unforgettable presentation using PowerPoint. A good rule of thumb with any presentation is that the more interactive your message, the better it will be received. Office Mix, a free add-on for Powerpoint that is designed to enhance PowerPoint presentations and create an even more interactive experience for your audience, helps you build interactivity into your presentations. Because Office Mix helps to make presentations so interesting, it’s popular with teachers who often use it in their classrooms. For tips from a teacher on using Office Mix to its fullest, check out this post. I have no doubt you’ll find that some of the ideas translate well from classroom to courtroom!

  1. Easily create Tables of Authorities with Best Authority

Another useful tool is Best Authority, which is software designed for lawyers that works with Word, making it a simple task to quickly create Tables of Authorities from a legal memorandum or brief. Using this software you’re able to avoid the time-consuming task pulling all of the citations out of the document manually. It’s not free, but if you’re a litigator with a document intensive practice, it’s definitely worth looking into.

  1. Manage Outlook attachments with EZDetach

For lawyers, email is often the bane of their existence. Managing incoming emails and their attachments can be a task in and of itself. In many cases, the attachments are the most important part of emails, but staying on top of and tracking attachments can be challenging. Enter EZDetach. It’s a reasonably priced add-on designed to work with Outlook and makes it easy for you to quickly and easily remove and file email attachments. So if managing your email inbox is a much-reviled daily chore, you definitely need to check out this tool.

  1. Control your email with SimplyFile

Last but not least, there’s SimplyFile, a tool that allows you to file emails in the correct folder with one click. There’s no need to drag and drop—it’s a one-stop shop for the tedious task of email filing. Another benefit is that it helps to increase your efficiency by allowing you to turn emails into tasks and appointments. Interested in saving even more time? You can find additional useful Outlook add-ins here.

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

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Brave New World

By Kevin Ryan, Esq., Executive Director, MCBA

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

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

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

yoga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Off to Greener Pastures By Liz Novak Henderson

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liz

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

 

 

That Smooth Jazz

Rochester_International_Jazz_Festival_logoThis week, I am lamenting the fact that I just bought a house outside of Rochester. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my house and my independence and yes, the fact that I am #adulting now, but I miss the charm of the City. I have lived in the South Wedge/Highland Park Neighborhood for five years and my favorite part was my nightly walk—particularly around this time of the year. We are very lucky to live in Rochester. We are a city rooted in culture, diversity and the arts, and I cannot wait to see the amazing transitions that are set to come. Yes, our inner-loop may be destroyed and our commutes may be longer as a result but our city will be growing and introducing many new, cutting-edge developments. At any given time, I can see fireworks, I can hear live jazz music, I can walk downtown and enjoy a great bar or restaurant or I can walk to The Little and watch a documentary.

Years ago, I worked with the event planners and helped to produce the Jazz Fest and I never really knew how great an impact it has had on the Rochester community. You don’t even have to like jazz! That may seem trivial to some of you, but to me it’s not. I love the atmosphere and the feel that the jazz festival brings; it’s the smell of brewing kettle corn, the loud-jazzy sforzando, the sense of community and the happy people that make me feel at home. This is the true Rochester that I know and love.

All of you, who attended the 2016 Annual Installation Dinner last week heard Curt’s shameless plug for the YLS end of the year bash at the jazz festival. Yes, you may have missed both events (tisk, tisk), but you still have time to enjoy Rochester and visit the festival. You can see a list of performers by following this link: http://www.rochesterjazz.com/artist_lineup/ I urge you to be spontaneous–simply walk downtown and discover a new artist or create an adventure; that’s always my unconventional method of choice.

Jazz for Justice 2015 0vb

Also, while you’re picking out performers and being won over by the musical swing or light airy jazz musician, do me a favor–get out your phone and save this date- Friday October 21@ 5:30p.m. If you’re reading this blog then I assume the Rochester legal community is important to you and, if it is, then you’ll at least consider attending our Jazz For Justice event. Jazz For Justice is an evening of great jazz, fine food and fun in collaboration with the Eastman School of Music to benefit the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar and the programs that matter the most to you as a legal professional.

When you’re out and about this weekend and you’re loving your newly discovered jazz flutist, listen carefully to the sounds of the jazz festival. Who knows? You may be hearing the same smooth sounds in October but you’ll never know unless you purchase a ticket to Jazz For Justice.

Until next time,
Ben

What Do You Want Us to Be?

“So, if you want to reinvigorate the blog, you’ll need to write something regularly. How about starting this week?” She meant last week, and she gave me a look that carefully hid her recognition that this was unlikely. I said, foolishly, “Sure, I can do that” – not at all getting the irony of her question. Well, as it turned out, that first post was late in starting and Ben rode to the rescue with a fun post on the MCBA staff – and I was left to come up with something this week.

But that’s easy. I want to share a vision of the future of bar associations in general – and of this bar association in particular. I believe strongly that the bar association of the future will differ significantly from the bar association we know today. This is in part due to larger changes in economy and society, and in part due to generational shift. The fast pace of technological development means that bar associations need to be nimble and, if they are to keep their members, they must ride on the crest of the wave of change rather than trailing behind. And everyone who has studied the characteristics of Generation Y – our next generation of lawyers – has concluded that they expect different things from their association than do the Baby Boomers and Generation X. If we are to survive as a professional association, we need to begin now to provide those things, and do so in the manner expected by a generation reared on the Internet, used to having things work online quickly and efficiently, and seeking a wider range of benefits from their associational activity than continuing education and a handful of price reductions on services and products.

As executive director of the Monroe County Bar Association I want to find ways to make the bar central to your success as a lawyer. This means a wide range of things. When you want legal education about the latest developments in your field of practice, you know the MCBA will provide that education. When you need basic training in a new practice area, you can find that training through the bar association. When you need training on office systems or new technological tools, the MCBA provides that training. When you have a question about how to manage your practice, the MCBA has the answer. When you need advice on what systems and technologies you should adopt in your practice, you can get that advice from the MCBA. When you need to do legal research, the MCBA provides a platform for you to do that research easily and at little or no cost. When you need forms or other resources to make your practice go more smoothly and meet your clients’ needs, you can find those forms and resources via the MCBA. When you need information or have concerns about your mental or physical health, you can turn to the MCBA for useful, timely, and accurate information and assistance. When you have concerns about the welfare of our community, you can count on the association to share those concerns and offer opportunities for you to address together with other professionals. When you want to explore new ways to advance your career, you can count on the MCBA to let you know what’s out there and help you take advantage of your chances. When you are looking for ways to expand your practice, the MCBA is the place you turn for help. And when you want to connect with other legal professionals, whether to network or just to have fun, the MCBA offers ways to make that possible.

I hope you will let us know how we can best help you in your professional (and to some extent your personal) life. We are open to all ideas, no matter how big, no matter how “out of the box” (a cliché I don’t usually employ, but it fits here), no matter how unusual or weird they might be at first glance. What do YOU want from the MCBA? How can we make you more successful? How can we make your life easier? I urge you particularly to think out into the future – for the profession and the nature of law practice are changing, and in order to be successful you need to accept that fact and, to the extent you can, step into the flowing stream.

So please tell us what we can do to help you achieve your goals in the coming years. Every member of the MCBA team – all those folks Ben introduced you to in our last post – is open to your ideas and will bring them to the rest of the group for discussion and planning. Of course we can’t promise to do everything you ask of us, budgets and time being what they are. But we can guarantee that your suggestions and ideas will be taken very, very seriously and that, if we can do so within the constraints provided by our overall mission, our budget, and our schedules, we will do what we can to make the Monroe County Bar Association all that you want and need it to be. We look forward to working with you in the days, months, and years to come.

So there, Liz, I wrote a blog post. We’ll keep this up, regular posts being the sine qua non of successful blogging. Oops, Latin. Must be that Jesuit education, which pokes its head up now and again. I used to tell my students (no matter what course it was) that one of the benefits of the class was they got to learn Latin. Same goes for readers of this blog.

Valete,

Kevin

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

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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 

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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,

Ben

Thoughts From Our Incoming Leaders

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

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

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

Mark Moretti, 2016-17 MCBA President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for checking in

Ben Freeland

A Book Review of “COMMERCIAL LITIGATION IN NEW YORK STATE COURTS, FOURTH EDITION”

Authored by Mark J. Moretti and Chad Flansburg of Phillips Lytle LLP

While legal professionals are well familiar with the aphorism, “less is more,” with the publication of Robert L. Haig’s Fourth Edition of Commercial Litigation in New York, more is undoubtedly better.  Building on the first three editions, published in 1995, 2005, and 2010, respectively, the Fourth Edition of Commercial Litigation in New York has grown into an encyclopedic collection of 127 chapters written by 182 principal authors, including 29 distinguished judges of the federal and state courts, as well as a who’s who of New York’s commercial litigation bar.  The Fourth Edition contains eight volumes (there were six volumes in the third edition).  Notably, twenty-two new chapters have been added in the Fourth Edition.  The following is a list of some of these new chapter titles: Internal Investigations; Mediation and Other Nonbinding ADR; International Arbitration; Social Media; Land Use Regulation; and Commercial Leasing.  In addition, the chapters carried forward from the Third Edition have been substantially expanded.

Commercial Litigation in New York provides in-depth treatment of practice and procedure in New York State courts, together with the substantive law most commonly encountered by commercial litigators. For example, the treatise contains 53 substantive law chapters, including contracts, insurance, sale of goods, banking, intellectual property, business torts, and many more commercial law topics.  This treatise is well organized and the chapters contain useful strategies, practice guides, checklists, sample forms, and jury charges.  All of which are contained on a CD-ROM that comes with the treatise, as does a separate Appendix (to be replaced annually) containing a table of laws and rules, table of cases, and an index.  Commercial Litigation in New York is organized to follow the life of a commercial case throughout its ligation, and then turns to substantive topics. These features make this treatise not only a valuable research tool, but a book filed with helpful practice wisdom and perspective that is only gained by years of experience in handling commercial cases.

The fact that this treatise is intended to be utilized as a practical aid in every day practice, rather than being an academic treatise is immediately apparent.  For example, Chapter 48 (Compensatory Damages) contains a detailed discussion of the various forms of compensatory damages recoverable in actions for breach of contract, including expectancy damages, reliance damages, and restitution.  The treatise also provides a unique discussion on the many ethical issues involved in commercial litigation, including chapters entitled ethical issues in commercial cases (Chapter 70) and civility (Chapter 71).  Another example of the significant practice aid offered by the treatise is Chapter 44 (Graphics and Other Demonstrative Evidence), which provides a wonderful overview regarding use and the foundational prerequisites for these often underutilized exhibits.

These few examples are only a sampling of what awaits the commercial litigator that turns to this edition.  It is hard to imagine anyone litigating in the Commercial Division without first consulting and seeking assistance from Commercial Litigation in New York.  In sum, this treatise is a must have for both experienced and new commercial litigators.  It provides a very thorough and detailed analysis on substantive and procedural aspects of New York commercial law.