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.








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,


How do you define gratitude?

According to Webster, the definition of GRATITUDE is the acknowledgement of having received something good from another. So I started thinking about what I am grateful for in my own life, and here it is:

Grateful to be loved.

Grateful for my 3 children, my mom, and 4 brothers and large, large family.

Grateful for all my friends.

Grateful for all of our incredible volunteers, and especially the MCBA President Steve Modica and Foundation President Bruce Lawrence.

Grateful for my porch (I know you know that one!).

Grateful for our incredible team here at the MCBA: Ginny, Dajaneé, Dianne, Diane, Mark, Merritt, Liz, Louise and Kathy, and I am grateful they put up with me.

Grateful that I found my snow boots and that my garage is super clean and ready for my car at night.

Grateful for the influx of creative and fascinating technology in our world.

Grateful for red wine on cold nights.

Grateful for new found peace and quiet in my life when I want and need to claim it.

So now you know what I am grateful for.

What are you grateful for?

Steve Modica, MCBA President:

The list is LONG, however, here are my top 5:

  1. My immediate and extended family and my dogs.
  1. My hardworking and talented co-workers.
  1. My clients and those who kindly refer their friends and family to me.
  1. Our extraordinary legal community.
  1. Our MCBA staff and members.  I am especially grateful for the privilege to serve as your President.

John Crowe:

I am most grateful for having saved and supported a number of lawyers from alcohol disaster through Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers. In some instances, we not only made them feel better, we actually saved them. And for my beautiful wife, Mary, for her love and support of me.

Laura Myers, The Wolford Law Firm LLP:

I am thankful that I am back in Rochester surrounded by family, friends, a wonderful legal community, and have a great fiancé!

Merritt Smith, MCBA:

I am thankful for my family, especially Charlotte.

Neil Rowe, MCBA President-Elect:

That the Lake Erie snow belt ends 10 miles west of Rochester.

Dianne Nash, MCBA:

I am thankful for family, friends, home and job.

Brad Kammholz, Kammholz Messina, LLP:

I am thankful for our wonderful community … I came here 25 years ago after growing up in another city, and Rochester has blessed me and my family with a marvelous life ever since. I’m also very thankful for my lovely wife, my fabulous children, and the chance to use the gifts that God has given me every day of the week.

Richard Link, The Law Office of Richard Link:

I’m thankful for the MCBA Solo and Small Firm Committee and the help it’s providing me in my practice.

Karen Bailey Turner, Law Office of Karen Bailey Turner, Esq.:

I’m thankful for all the support that I’ve received in starting my new law practice. Thanks to my husband Robert and my other law office suitemates Rhian Jones and Shaina Kavolsky. I’m also thankful to my former firm Brown Hutchinson LLP and MCBA & RBBA for their continued support. Frankly, I’m thankful to be blessed every day in a million ways!!

Diane Hill, MCBA:

I am thankful, grateful and blessed to have my family together for this season of Thanksgiving (especially my Mom).

Christin Cornetta, U.S. District Court:

I am incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by people who constantly encourage, support and inspire me, including my friends, my family and my colleagues.  I am so thankful to have such amazing people in my life and am looking forward to spending time with them during the upcoming holiday season.  And of course, I am thankful to live and work in a legal community that has an innovative and dedicated bar association like the MCBA!

Mark Swail, MCBA:

I am thankful for my wonderful children, my girlfriend, my coworkers and a job that I enjoy. I am thankful for my health and faith.

Tiffany Lee, GRAWA President:

In addition to the usual list of things that I am always thankful for (health, family and friends), I am especially thankful this year for the opportunity to serve GRAWA as President, to work with GRAWA’s incredible board, and to witness the recognition of GRAWA’s amazing members.  I am also thankful for the opportunity to work with the bar leadership in our community: GRAWA’s President Elect Jill Paperno, the RBBA’s President Fatimat Reid and President-Elect Aaron Frazier, and the MCBA’s President Steve Modica and President-Elect Neil Rowe.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, we work in a great legal community!  Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Thank you for checking in and for being grateful this holiday season. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving,


October is the month…Guest Post by Liz Novak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

After all, we still have the whole month!

Thanks for checking in.


The birds woke me up….again

A sure sign of summer is the early morning sounds of the early morning birds doing their early morning chirping. My house has no A/C, something my kids repeatedly suggest I should get every summer when they visit for a few hot nights. I repeatedly ignore them.

My front yard has two good size trees right outside my windows, so at times I feel as though I am sleeping in a bird sanctuary — the chirping is so darn loud. I am a light sleeper anyway. So this morning, when I really would have loved a little more sleep, the chirping seemed to start a little earlier than usual.

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As soon as one eye is awake, my mind begins to move slowly, then as it picks up speed, I am picking up my iMary assistant (my iPhone) to begin responding to emails, reviewing tasks for the day, stalking my children on Facebook to be sure they did not do anything outrageous overnight, and reviewing my meetings for the day.

This particular morning, I decided to grab the fleece, the coffee and head to the porch to finalize my remarks for this evening’s installation dinner, and to write this blog since it is Thursday. As soon as Dajaneé Parrish, our incredible Communications Coordinator, arrives on the scene, there will be a knock on my door, and she will peek in with her big smile, saying, “good morning Mary! I just wanted to see how you are doing on the blog today…” Poor kid. She is so polite with me. Some days I need no inspiration, and other days, Dae and Liz Novak are feeding me ideas, and I have them right up against the wire. For Dae, when she receives the blog, it determines the rest of her day and when she will be able to hit the send button on the eDocket.

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I have written the blog from home, many from this porch at night or in this early morning hour, from the office, while waiting in a doctor’s office, while having a glass of wine with friends or in a meeting when a really great idea strikes, and I just need to get this quick thought down. But my porch has really become a place that I go to for thinking, processing or simply trying to be quiet.

The moment I am up in the day, the sliding door gets opened, and the porch is my main gathering space, even on a cool day. A jacket, fleece and the heater, make the porch this warm, quiet place to simply sit and be.

Today, I am thinking about tonight’s installation of our 119th President, Steve Modica. It seems as though it was only a few short months ago that we celebrated Diane Cecero as our 118th President, but, in fact, a full year has passed. This year has flown by like no other. Diane worked incredibly hard in her second job, while maintaining her primary gig as Counsel to the President of Monroe Community College. Diane has been a great and thoughtful president, but to hear more on Diane, and Steve, you will need to come to tonight’s installation dinner. If you have not registered, you can call Ginny LaCour at 402-7188, BUT do not tell her I told you to call this late, she will kill me.

Now that the sun is finally up, my final thought as I pack it all up to get ready for work is — I wonder if my yard is big enough to pull off a summer BarSTOP here? I would love to have you all over to the house and the porch. We would have to take turns in the porch, and I would probably have to get a port-a-potty since on top of no AC, I have one potty! LOL

What do you think? Should I try it? I think it would be a blast. Would you come?

Thanks for checking in. Hope to see you tonight. If not, see you around the MCBA, and if I don’t, where are you?


The BIG WOW Factor…

There are weeks at the Monroe County Bar Association that are slower than others, but this has NOT been one of those weeks. This was one of those weeks that makes me step back and say a BIG “WOW, what incredible attorneys we have in Rochester!”

My first BIG WOW came this past Tuesday evening at the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity  School, where we gathered for the 6th Annual Young Lawyers Section Silent Auction to benefit Rochester Teen Court. Our extraordinary young lawyers went out and successfully solicited almost 70 gift baskets, and with their own money, purchased some of the contents. With almost 100 people in attendance, they raised more than $14,000. A pretty incredible outcome. I am so very proud of this group of young leaders, lead by Wende Knapp, and their commitment to volunteerism and philanthropy. Her committee members were her YLS Board, along with several very dedicated members. Once again, we should all be grateful to this group of young leaders, and confident, that the future of the MCBA will be in very capable hands.

The Young Lawyers Section Board at the Sixth Annual Silent. Photo courtesy of The Daily Record

The Young Lawyers Section Board at the Sixth Annual Silent.

My second BIG WOW factor was another great day at the Telesca Center for Justice. It is always great when we have an opportunity to come together as the Telesca Center Partnership to share, boast, and tell our collective story of success. Together we have conducted so many tours of the TCFJ, that when I send the email out for a “call to organize a  tour and a lunch” my 5 colleagues know the routine. Sheila Gaddis, Executive Director of Volunteer Legal Services Project; Carla Palumbo, Chief Operating Officer, and Alan Harris, President, Legal Aid Society of Rochester; Lou Prieto, Managing Attorney, LawNY; and Bryan Hetherington, Chief Counsel, Empire Justice Center. So this time, we had the great honor of welcoming New York State Chief Administrative Judge Gail Prudenti to the Telesca Center. This was Judge Prudenti’s first visit and tour, and watching someone take it all in the first time reignites for me the passion I have for all that we have done, and will continue to do at the TCFJ.

Chief Administrative Judge for NYS, Hon A. Gail Prudenti visited the Telesca Center for Justice on Wednesday and met with leaders from the Monroe County Bar Association, Foundation of the Monroe County Bar and the Telesca Center for Justice partners.

Chief Administrative Judge for NYS, Hon A. Gail Prudenti visited the Telesca Center for Justice on Wednesday and met with leaders from the Monroe County Bar Association, Foundation of the Monroe County Bar and the Telesca Center for Justice partners.

Prior to Judge Prudenti, we have welcomed former Chief Judge Judith Kaye, many, many times. Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, many New York State Bar Presidents, and even a president of the American Bar Association. We have also welcomed bar leaders from other bar associations, interested in learning more about the Telesca Center for Justice.

We have been sharing our story for almost 9 years now. And I must tell you, it never gets dull. It never gets dull because the story is constantly evolving as a result of the work of my 5 passionate partner peers in the TCFJ: Carla, Alan, Sheila, Bryan and Lou, and what they do is incredible. They are saving lives, saving families, saving homes, saving children, saving victims, and preserving rights. And together, with support from me, the MCBA staff, MCBA Board, Foundation Board, and the Committee and Section Chairs, and all of you, we are all doing great work that we should be very proud of.

The third and final BIG WOW factor for the week was last night as we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the Rochester Legal Diversity Clerkship Program. With more than 60 people in attendance to welcome our 13 1L law students to the Telesca Center for Justice for the first time, it was a very special evening. Once again the Diversity Committee, chaired by Jeff Harradine, has succeeded in presenting another accomplished class of students for the summer of 2014. Following brief remarks from Jeff, Diane Cecero, MCBA President; Fatimat Reid, Rochester Black Bar Association President; and Tiffany Lee, President of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys, the students all took a few minutes to introduce themselves. This “group share” included their name, what firm or organization they are clerking for, their law school and their hometown. For some, it also included whether or not, they had attended the YLS Auction the night before, with a promise to attend next summer’s auction if they did not attend the prior evening’s event. Members from all three bar associations came together to celebrate the success of this award-winning program and the wonderful Class of 2014. Be sure you seize the opportunity to meet them in the weeks and months ahead. Tell them what a great place Rochester is to practice, and assure them that you will be there to support them when they return here to practice in two years.

13 Clerkship students for blog

The Rochester Legal Diversity Clerkship 2014 Summer Associates. Photo courtesy of The Daily Record.

The Foundation of the MCB provides a grant annually for one the of 1L law clerks to spend the summer with one of the four legal service partners in the Telesca Center; with an additional grant to the MCB to support the significant administrative aspects of the program, for which we are very grateful.

Though we are not yet there, the Diversity Clerkship Program is beginning to change the face of this legal community. We must all take part in encouraging diversity and inclusion, with the ultimate goal of retention, in all of our places of business. It is a shared responsibility and will make us a better legal community in which to serve your clients.

So three BIG WOW moments this week, and we have 3 more weeks to go yet before the end of the bar year. So many more BIG WOW moments to come, and I hope to see you at many of them with a BIG WOW on your face.

Thanks for checking in,


The Future is Now: Guest Post by Liz Novak

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at University of Pennsylvania (September 20, 1940)

A crop of more than 60 new Rochester lawyers will be admitted tomorrow, January 16, 2014, at 2 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency downtown with their family and friends cheering them on. I have attended this ceremony for the past several years since I’ve been the Membership Manager at the Association. We use the new admittee ceremony as a recruitment tool. We also make it a habit to encourage new lawyers to get involved with the Young Lawyers as a great way to meet other young lawyers, leaders and to get their toes wet with the Young Lawyers and dive off into the rest of the Association.


Here at the MCBA, we recognize that the new admittees also represent the future of the profession and of the Bar Association. There are not too many inevitables or certainties about the future – except getting older and maybe paying taxes – but whatever the future of the legal profession holds, there’s a good chance that this group of lawyers, and those who are part of the Young Lawyers, will be part of it.

As I think about some of our current leaders and active members, I think about how they began here at the MCBA. Take, for example, our President Diane Cecero, who will be speaking at tomorrow’s ceremony. Diane, who is General Counsel at MCC, has spoken to me about when she was admitted, joining the MCBA was simply what you did. She has been active from the start, joining the Young Lawyers Section and eventually became its Chair. From there she served in other leadership positions with the bar, secretary of the MCBA Board of Trustees, as well as the legal community as she was a founding member of Greater Association for Women Attorneys (GRAWA) and also served as President. And today she is President of the MCBA. She became involved young – a future leader who became one.


Another example is Amy Varel, a partner at McConville Considine Cooman Morin, P.C. Amy joined the MCBA when she was admitted and became involved in the Young Lawyers Section. Like Diane, she also chaired the section. Since then, Amy continued to stay involved in the MCBA and its committees and sections. She became Membership Committee chair, Business Law and today serves on the MCBA Board of Trustees as its Secretary.

In 2006, Tim Lyster, clerk to the Hon. Paul Warren, was admitted to the bar…he joined the Young Lawyers Section, met some folks, became involved and last year served as the Section’s Chair. Today, he is a member of the MCBA Board of Trustees.

Bar Stop Promo January

Tomorrow night marks our third BarSTOP to date at the Hyatt Regency’s Scene on Main, and with it falling on the day of the new admittee ceremony, we’re encouraging new admittees to attend. We’ve reached out those who are not members encouraging them to join the MCBA and attend BarSTOP, but if you have new admittees at your firms or in your courts, encourage them to attend – and head over with them. If you can’t attend tomorrow, no worries as over the next several months, there will many events at which you will meet new admittees or green young lawyers. At those events, I would encourage to you to reach out your hand, introduce yourself, find out what they’re interested in and talk to them about the path you took to get where you are and the path that you’re still walking on. Heck, you could even “friend” them on Facebook. Help them; encourage them; know them — they are the future of the profession.

The Young Lawyers Section is a busy, active group and today it boasts 185 members — a huge number. They are a section that always welcomes other bar members (young or seasoned) to its events so take advantage and come to one of their events – whether it’s a happy hour, community event or their signature Silent Auction for Teen Court. I’m not saying you have to go to all – but maybe there is one you can stop by at. For more information, go to the Young Lawyers Section’s webpage to find out what they’re up to:


Or if you’re part of a committee or section and have an idea for collaborating with the Young Lawyers, send an email to Chair Wende Knapp at Look around the table at your meetings, are there young lawyers represented? They offer a variety of backgrounds, cultures and, yes, even experience that could be helpful – with a little bit of coaching or mentoring. Add your name to our Mentoring for a Moment list in case a young attorney needs someone to call.

I’m sure Diane, Amy and Tim had at least one person who helped them along the way when they were first admitted – maybe you can be that for one of tomorrow’s new admittees.

Thanks for checking in…


With gratitude…

Gratitude…according to Webster’s Dictionary means….a feeling of appreciation or thanks. It’s a short definition that means so much, as I am grateful for much.

I am grateful for my president, Diane Cecero. The president is never quite ready for the demands of the job, and, frankly, how could one be?  It is very demanding, but I also like to think that it is very rewarding as well. Diane is doing a great job of keeping up with the many demands of her MCBA leadership position, asking good questions, all while serving as Counsel to the President of Monroe Community College.

I am also grateful to the president-elect, Steve Modica. Steve is a steady supporter of myself and the president, always willing to jump in and assist. He is spending much of his “learning year” as Chair of Strategic Planning. What better role for an incoming president?

Grateful for present and future, I’m also grateful for those who have come before them, such as Connie Walker, who is chairing our Nominating Committee, and Richard Rosenbloom and Mary Ross, who chair our Past President get-togethers like tomorrow’s luncheon.

I am also grateful to the MCBA Board of Trustees for their active and thoughtful engagement at the monthly Board meeting, and at the many requests for participation that we put them through. This includes a special call-out to our current Treasurer, Amy Varel, and her wonderful House Finance Committee that keeps us fiscally strong, and MCBA Secretary, Neil Rowe, a master at taking minutes.

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I am also grateful to all the committee and section chairs who dedicate their time and energy to this Association.

Thank you to  Beth McDonald, chair of the Awards Committee, and her committee for focusing on celebrating the accomplishments of our members by nominating them for not only MCBA and Foundation awards, but also ABA, NYSBA and many community awards. We are so grateful and proud of the work of this committee.

I am also very grateful for the Hon. Frank Geraci and his Memorial Committee that just last Friday celebrated the lives of 22 attorneys and judges who passed away over the past year. Some lived long and rich lives, and some were taken from us way too soon. As always, it was a touching ceremony, and at the end, each family member was called up to accept a rose and a copy of the tribute book. Always a profoundly touching event, reminding me how grateful I am for my family, while reminding me of the sadness for those gone too soon.

Geraci Memorial Committee

I am also grateful for Wende Knapp and the entire Young Lawyers Section for allowing me to feel young at heart and for showing all of us the bright future in store for this Association.

Special thanks to the Academy of Law for striving for and delivering excellence in the educational offerings we bring to our legal community — both in breadth of subject and high quality of programming.


I am grateful to the Foundation and its President Audrey Peartree and President-elect Bruce Lawrence for the support they provide to the MCBA and legal community through the many grants they award to various programs, like the A.C.T. For the Children Program (celebrating 15 years!), Rochester Diversity Clerkship Program, Rochester Teen Court, and more. I am also extremely grateful to the Foundation for its leadership role in the Telesca Center for Justice, from start to finish.

I am grateful to members of the Judiciary, past and present, whom we will be honoring on December 5 at the Bench & Bar Holiday party, for providing a unique perspective on how we can be a better Bar Association and for their daily work in administering justice for all.

Thank you to my staff, who show up every day ready to serve our members.

And last, but oh so not least, I’m grateful to all of you who proudly call yourself a member of the Monroe County Bar Association. You dedicate your time, your dollars and your wisdom to this organization and the legal community. As members, you are a diverse group of people, with diverse backgrounds and varying opinions on so many things, but we also have our commonality.

On the eve of his assassination, I’m reminded of one of the many wise and particularly poignant quotes from President John F. Kennedy:
“For in the final analysis, our most basic common link, is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children’s futures, and we are all mortal.”

For all that you do, every single day, I am very grateful. Happy Thanksgiving!

Welcome to the new bar year…

On July 1st, 2013 at 12:00 a.m., Diane Cecero assumed the role of President of the Monroe County Bar Association, while Connie Walker assumed the role of Immediate Past President. This annual transition of leadership is part of the proud tradition of this association. And so with this annual tradition comes annual processes such as membership renewal, the development of a strong CLE curriculum, events and other bar and community events.

diane cecero installation

As we are in the process of membership renewal, I cannot help but reflect on the 12 years of this renewal process. Each year we strategize on how best to secure your renewal commitment, and most importantly, how we do this in a timely manner. I am going to share a little secret — our bar year is only 12 months long, yet, the renewal process annually takes almost 9 of those 12 months to meet our member target. That is a significant amount of time; and most importantly, it is a significant use of the limited staff resources. In my mind, these very limited resources could be put to better use to create new benefits and services for our members; thus increasing the value of your dues dollar.

We are so grateful for your annual membership commitment, and your own service to the bar. Without your active engagement, confidence, financial support, and leadership, there would be no MCBA. I also recognize you are all incredibly busy in the practice of law, so I do appreciate the fact that I am asking you to do one more thing when you are busy at the office; or attempting to get out of the office for dinner with friends; a soccer game for one of the kids; for a few days or a week or two of much-needed vacation.

What I am asking, is that you help us reduce this 9 month membership renewal campaign to 3-4 months instead. Help us be more efficient; and help us complete the recruitment process in an abbreviated period of time by renewing your membership no later than July 31st. Put your investment in the MCBA to better use than sending repeat reminders. I promise, we can do more, but we need your help.

As a quick reminder, here are a few reminders as to why you want to do it by that date:

If you wish to participate on a committee or section, or receive an appointment from the President to either Judiciary or one of the Grievance Committees, you must renew by July 31st.

If you wish to take advantage of the TWO FREE CLE CREDITS, you must renew.

If you are a Verizon user, and wish to take advantage of a potential 18-22% discount, you must renew.

If you wish to take advantage of our health insurance products through the Ahrens Group, you must renew.

Finally, if you wish to have a seat at the table on issues that come before this legal community, to have your voice heard on those matters, then join the MCBA and be a part of solutions. If you wish to engage with your colleagues on doing good work for your colleagues and the community, then join the MCBA and be a part of creating impact.

If for any reason, you do not intend to renew due to financial or other personal circumstances, or your displeasure with a decision or action of the bar this year, then you really need to call me. Because without knowing, I am unable to respond.

To renew online, just go to Renew by July 31 so you don’t miss out on any of the benefits. If you need your login and password, contact Liz Novak at

Have a great summer. I am heading out on vacation next week, and look forward to coming back rested and renewed for a new bar year.

Thanks for checking in…


Today’s blog is about being too busy to blog…

Tomorrow is Installation Day…

We are finalizing name-tags which is always a little crazy, so if we get your name wrong, this one time, please forgive us. Our event schedule has been over the moon lately, as we roll from one event to the next. However, if you have not yet registered, call Ginny ASAP at 402-7188, and say the following:  “Ginny, this is (state your name), and I know I am so late with this call, but if I say pretty please, can I still register for the dinner? I promise, I will not ask to sit next to my favorite judge or any one else for that matter! Thank you Ginny  — do you like flowers or chocolate??”


Liz, Installation Event Extraordinaire, just learned there is a threat at the Hyatt about a possible strike by the wait staff, so we may be asking our Board of Trustees to assume a new responsibility as Wait Staff. Hope they are up for the task?


And this was the moment that Dajanee discovered the PowerPoint presentation she had been working on for days had not been saved.


Then this was the moment that Merritt learned that one of the underwriters that had pledged $3000 pulled out at the last minute. And he was trying to find the words to come tell me.


And this is me and one of my many coping mechanisms during stressful times.


Can you tell we are getting a little punchy here?? Obviously, this is all a joke, except for Ginny, you still need to bring her flowers or chocolate if you call tomorrow.

Hopefully, we will see you tomorrow at the Hyatt. Looking forward to this annual celebration.

What are you busy doing today?

Thanks for checking in…