4 Cybersecurity Tips For Lawyers

This week’s Bar View guest author is Nicole Black. The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and are not intended to represent those of the MCBA or its board of trustees.

By Nicole Black, Esq.
Nicole black

In the 21st century, technology has changed at an incredible rate. Sometimes the pace of change can seem overwhelming, especially for lawyers trying to manage their busy practices. Learning about and implementing new technologies into law practices can often be a difficult task–one that is complicated by ethical obligations which require that clients’ confidential information remain secure.

The good new is that there are steps you can take to increase your firm’s cybersecurity. Here are a few tips to get you on the path to having a more secure law firm.

1. Update your law firm’s software regularly

It’s imperative to update your software regularly in order to ensure that it is secure. Software updates often fix known security issues and if you fail to update your software, you may be unknowingly exposing all of your law firm’s data. That’s why it’s recommended that you enable automatic software updates for your firm’s software. And if you use cloud-based software for your law firm, you’re in luck! Your cloud-based software provider will automatically update your law firm software, ensuring that it is always up-to-date and secure.

2. Use secure communication tools

In the mid-90s, email was given the green light by legal ethics committees and lawyers began to use email to communicate confidential information to clients. That was then, this is now. Although it still is ethically permissible for lawyers to use email to share information that is not particularly sensitive, email is nevertheless outdated and unsecure by today’s standards.

Fortunately, there are far more secure alternatives these days when it comes to communicating with clients. Whether it’s using the client portals built into law practice management software, encrypted email, or using encrypted voice communication tools, you now have more secure options for sharing confidential client information.

3. Make sure to use encryption

Speaking of encryption, make sure to use it for every type of communication, across all of your devices. One option is to use Whats App for communicating with clients since it offers encrypted text and voice communications. Message on your iPhone is also encrypted and is more secure than traditional SMS messages. Similarly, Facetime on your iPhone provides encrypted voice communication features.

4. Ensure your mobile devices are secure

Finally, make sure to secure your mobile devices. For starters, always password protect your devices. Also, consider using a password manager such as LastPass to allow you to increase the complexity of passwords used while simultaneously increasing security. And last, but certainly not least, enable features on your devices that allow you to remotely wipe data from them should they be misplaced or stolen.

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.


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 Hotels.com? A “member’s price” on over-priced and under-flavored “banquet chicken” dinners at convention centers? A totally static print magazine or book of phone numbers and email addresses? A website designed years ago, cluttered with text and photos of the (gray-haired) attendees at that over-priced dinner, and requiring a series of clicks to get where you want to go (assuming you can figure that out)?

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

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

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








Welcoming Our New Attorneys

By Liz Novak Henderson

At yesterday’s Admission Ceremony, nearly 70 new lawyers from the 7th Judicial District were admitted to the 4th Department. While I wasn’t able to be at the ceremony, based on past years, I can bet that excitement was all around as these bright, young diverse lawyers were officially admitted to practice law.

On hand, we had MCBA President Neil Rowe, Curtis Johnson, Chair of the Young Lawyers Section, Jennifer Tarolli, Co-Chair of Membership for the YLS Board, and Merritt Smith, Marketing Specialist and YLS liaison from the MCBA, to help connect with and encourage these new attorneys to join the MCBA, if they hadn’t already. In addition, we will be reaching out by mail to those new admittees who have yet to join the MCBA, and encourage them to get involved.

And we do have a number of ways for new attorneys to get involved with the MCBA and its Young Lawyers Section over the next couple of months.

On Wednesday, January 27, starting at 6 p.m., the Young Lawyers Section will be hosting its third Annual Newly Admitted Attorney Night at the Amerks. And thanks to underwriters like Counsel Press, The Daily Record, and Kammholz Messina, LLP, admission to the game is FREE with complimentary appetizers (albeit, there is a cash bar). Click here for more information on how to sign up. And let me be clear, it’s an opportunity for Monroe County attorneys to meet new admittees, and new admittees to meet our attorneys. All are welcome – whether you are young in age or young at heart.

YLS Tickets

And starting on Tuesday, February 16, the Young Lawyers Section and the Academy of Law are collaborating on a Practice Development Series. Co-chaired by Michael Geraci and Katerina Kramarchyk, the series has been developed to help newly-admitted attorneys fulfill their first or second year CLE requirements while being beneficial for other attorneys in all areas beyond their first biennial registration.

There are three parts to the series:

  • Part I: Cost Effective Legal Research – February 16
  • Part II: Effective Communication Skills – Avoiding Communication Blunders & Managing Expectations – March 3
  • Part III: The 12 Most Common Mistakes Made by Attorneys – March 16

With great speakers and topics, it’s an outstanding series that can be of benefit to attorneys across practice areas, office settings and years in practice. Click here for registration information.


The Young Lawyers Section is a busy, active group and today it boasts 175 members–and each year around this time, the section gets an influx of new admittees when they join the MCBA and the Young Lawyers Section. The Young Lawyers are a section that always welcomes other bar members (new or seasoned) to its events. Take advantage of your membership and come to one of the above events, and consider bringing a new lawyer with you or meet one at the event. If you’re a chair of a committee or section, or are simply a member who knows a few new lawyers, encourage them to get involved in the MCBA. Our new lawyers need encouragement and support as they venture out as practicing attorneys. Remember, they are the future of this Bar.

Thanks for checking in.



Thank you for the privilege…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Past Presidents Lunch 017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






A week of young, smart, successful, engaging women…

It is Sunday morning following a long week at the ABA Annual Meeting. Another wonderful conference that re-energizes me and fills my head with new ideas or new ways to look at things. I extended my travels a few days, and made a stop in Boston to check on my youngest, Claire Corbitt. I woke early this morning, started the writing of this blog, then grew tired again, so went back to bed for another 90 minutes, only to wake with a Iced Latte from Starbucks at my bedside delivered by Claire. Wow, this kid REALLY is growing up!!

mary and daughter

From the moment Claire pulled up in her car, looking like quite the young Boston hip kid that she is, I felt a mixture of pride, lonesomeness and nostalgia. I remember experiencing the same feeling on my first trip to Nashville to see Brian when he was just 22, and he pulled up in his car to greet me at the airport. In that instant, my mind can so clearly go back to the moment that I held them for the first time, and the immediacy of the love affair with this tiny little being, as you wrap them forever into your protective arms. And now they are living hundreds of miles away in large cities, driving cars, and starting their lives. All of that flashes in front of me in those moments before I once again hold her in my arms for a long hug.

This young millennial had our afternoon planned starting with sushi on a rooftop restaurant in the heart of Boston’s Seaport neighborhood. It was wonderful to sit there with Claire, and hear the stories of work and roommates in person and not via the phone. She looks happy and relaxed on this Saturday afternoon; it did my heart good to see her thriving.

Once back to the apartment, I was greeted warmly by the 2 roommates, Kristin “Kooie” Scime, Claire’s roommate and best buddy from college, and Kristin Karl, one of Claire’s best friends from high school, and as it happens, MCBA member Kate Karl’s niece. We were also joined by Kooie’s friend, Rachel. While Kooie and Rachel made their very healthy dinner, the rest of us sat at their kitchen table talking over a glass of wine.

Cooking Class

As we sat there, I asked the question that all parents want to know — are you enjoying your lives as young working professionals? Almost simultaneously, they all responded, “Yes, but I miss college!” Not sure why I was surprised by this response — Bentley was a magical place for Claire and her crew. When I asked why the answer was again unanimous, “the adjustment to lives that are 9-5pm, and missing their college families/friends.” All of them are already experiencing the pressure of deadlines, bosses and, as a result, overtime. But they do love coming home to each other to enjoy dinner together, or meeting up after work to go to a local pub for some down time. After all, it is Boston and there is no short supply of pubs and restaurants

They shared their angst about learning how to budget, make their rent payments, loan payments, car payments, phone bills, etc. I shared with them the decision making power of determining “want vs. need” when it came to shopping. I shared with them my own learning on this process over the years, and my best suggestion was to establish a budget. So together we opened our smart phones, and agreed on a highly rated app called, Mint. Mint allows you to build your budget, send bill reminders, plan for savings, emergencies, and retirement. But it also allows them to budget for their groceries, entertainment, beer supply, clothes, or even paying Mom back on a small loan! As they sat there discussing the app and its many capabilities, I suggested that perhaps they want to plan for a group dinner one night a week, with their laptops on hand, pay their bills, review and adjust their budgets, and plan for their week. Can we eat out once this week? Can we eat out and go to the beach this weekend? If you do this planning together, you will be supporting one another. All agreed and seemed to feel better as a result.

It was a wonderful 36 hours with Claire. I cherished our time alone to simply sit and listen to her talk about her life from bosses, co-workers and learning about her job, to friends in her life, to beaches and bars. I left with my arms once again wrapped protectively around her to keep her safe in her new world.

Last night, I hosted a group of women, both members of the Young Lawyer Section, and now alums of the Section on the porch. I had been promising this gathering for way too long, and so last night it finally happened. The group consisted of Penny Dentinger, Christin Cornetta, Laura Myers, Wende Knapp, Melanie Wolk and Carey Ann Denefrio. It was a perfect night on the porch to have this very special group of women over. Like my experience with Claire over the weekend, I could not help but sit and watch this group of dynamic women, and think back to the days when I first met them. They were young, eager go-getters, and I immediately latched on to them knowing that this group had the potential as future leaders, and in time, future presidents. Laura Myers was the YL Chair that really managed to get things moving, by capturing her friends to take on the work of the Section, where they made new friends, and began building new leaders.


As I looked at this group of six last night here is the tally:  Melanie has been on both the Board of Trustees, and resigned to assume the role of GRAWA President several years ago; Wende, also a former YL Chair, is now on the Board of Trustees, bringing her voice and making a difference; Laura, Penny and Carey Ann are all on the Foundation Board, where Penny is serving as Secretary; and Christin has just started her first term on the Foundation Board. All of them have supported in a BIG way, the Foundation’s Jazz For Justice over the past five years, ensuring the event’s success.

I sat there listening to them and recognizing that I was so right all those years ago. They are young bar leaders being recognized for their active engagement and participation in so many directions. In order to not be accused of not acknowledging the great young male bar leaders, Jim Paulino, along with Tim Lyster and now Curt Johnson, have all been integral in the success of the YL Section. Prior to Curt, it was Jenn Lunsford.

What really struck me though is that not only are these women great volunteers, but they are great lawyers. They are so smart, making their marks as litigators, law clerks, and corporate counsel attorneys. They are talking about the attorneys that trained them, mentored them, and yes, scared them along the way, but not afraid of speaking with their strong voices. When it comes to their MCBA involvement, they now wish to transition into more of the substantive committees and sections in terms of leadership opportunities. They want to learn how to work toward a seat on the Litigation or Business Law Section Counsels. I assured them that I would see the nomination process for the Sections would be circulated far and wide, for their applications. Please be ready to welcome these extraordinary members. As they departed, I realized that each and everyone of them have the potential to be nominated president one day of the MCBA because all of them are that good! YLShangout

In the end, it was another wonderful night on the porch with some amazing women, culminating a wonderful week with even more amazing young women in Boston.

In terms of my vacation this summer, I am getting ready to undertake a “Make Mary Better & Faster Improvement”, with an impending foot surgery next week. I have been delaying this surgery for several years now, and it has become a problem, slowing me down at the gym, unnecessary pain, etc. I decided the summer of 2015 was the time, before the snow began to fall again in late September, since I will be in a non-weight-bearing cast for 8 weeks, and a boot for 4 more. The real tragedy in all of this is that my contract as a shoe model has been revoked. They are not willing to work with shoe models that have had foot surgery. Can I get a legal opinion on this one folks — can they do this to me?

The gang from last night has told me to let them know when I am off the pain pills, and they will revisit the porch with wine in hand. In efforts to plan ahead for when I do return to work, I will have one of those scooters that you kneel on to help me zoom around and to give my arms a rest from the crutches. It has been suggested from some of my smart-aleck staff, that I might want to add a bicycle bell or horn since it resembles a little bike and for the safety of others at the office since we have many corners that I can be zipping around. I thought that idea was actually both funny and practical.


Please be careful driving down the corner of Main and State, go slow in case you see me on my scooter. I may be moving slow now, but wait for the new and improved Mary, coming very soon to a bar association near you.

Thanks for checking in,


Here’s to the dreamers…

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
— Harriet Tubman

There is something to be said for young, unbridled enthusiasm…and even more so when it’s focused on a subject you are passionate about.

On Monday, a few of our members – Steven Modica, Bruce Lawrence, Bill Bauer, Hon. Craig Doran, Leah Tarantino and the Hon. Michael Sciortino – had the opportunity to experience this firsthand as they…and I….participated in the Annual Student Awards Ceremony at The Rubin Center for Education at the Telesca Center for Justice.

The Awards Ceremony takes place each year around Law Day and celebrates the winners of the Sydney R. Rubin Mock Trial Tournament and Rochester Teen Court participants, and when possible the Law Explorers Mock Trial program.

This year Hilton High School won the Monroe County Sydney R. Rubin Mock Trial Tournament – it was first time that Hilton has ever won. And to say that these students were excited – well, it would be an understatement to say the least.cropped image

The Sydney R. Rubin Mock Trial program is a program of the Monroe County Bar Association, with special funding from the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar. Rochester Teen Court is a program of The Center for Youth, with some of its funding provided by the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar and the Young Lawyers Section of the Monroe County Bar Association. In addition, many members of the MCBA and Young Lawyers Section act as attorney mentors, like Leah Tarantino, to the Teen Court participants.

Teen court photo

Judge Doran presided over the event and talked to both groups about a passion for the law and encouraged them to pursuit it. He also thanked the parents of the students, the teachers who act as coaches as well as the attorney volunteers involved in these programs, such as Leah Tarantino, Hon. Michael Sciortino, Bianca D’Angelo, Bill Bauer and many others

The attorney volunteers are key to keeping these programs alive, as well as keeping that “young, unbridled enthusiasm” alive – to avoid the “cynicization” of the youth. But they are not the only ones – the MCBA’s Lawyers for Learning program pairs attorneys with young students (K-6) at School 29 and our Rochester Legal Diversity Clerkship program which pairs up first-year law students at firms and organizations.

All of these programs are examples of the Bar’s dedicated volunteers to not only the Association (which is great) but to the entire community and its future. And for every volunteer of time, there are those who donate dollars, whether to the Foundation’s Raise the Bar and Jazz For Justice event, the Young Lawyers Silent Auction benefiting Teen Court, or to the Lawyers for Learning Annual Golf Tournament in September to help these programs.

And these programs above don’t even include those attorneys whose day job has them working with the youth – whether it’s a family court or ACT For the Children attorney, a public defender, a judge presiding over a case- and so many others.

Watching the program on Monday evening — the excitement of the night – I felt proud of our members and our legal community, and I felt excited for our students and our future who benefit from it. And that feeling for me can be summed up with one quote:

“Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” – Rita Pierson

Thanks for checking in,


Guest Post by Dajaneé Parrish: Let’s Have Some Fun!

Summer may be coming to an end, but there is still time to have some fun with the MCBA.

PicMonkey Collagelfl

  •   I’m sure many of you got to golf a bit this summer. So show us your skills at the Lawyers for Learning Thomas & Solomon LLP 21st Annual Golf Tournament on Monday, September 8 at Eagle Vale Golf Course. Tee time is 12:30 p.m. and lunch and dinner are provided. Click here to register or send an email to Liz Novak at lnovak@mcba.org.

YLS Sunset Cruise on the Harbor Town Belle

  •   Join the MCBA Young Lawyers’ Section for a cruise along the Genesee River and Lake Ontario on September 10. Free appetizers and a cash bar, only $10!  Click here to cruise on the Harbor Town Belle or send an email to Ginny LaCour at valacour@mcba.org.
  •   Are you interested in a fun, rewarding experience? Become a Lawyers for Learning mentor. Join a passionate, enthusiastic community of mentors for the 2014 -15 school year.  Click here to learn more.

Bar Stop Promo September 2014 No Local

  •   Join us for MCBA BarSTOP. Our monthly member social on Thursday, September 18. The location has yet to be determined.
  •   Put a smile on a child’s face and help the Lawyers for Learning Program and local law firm LeClairRyan distribute backpacks filled with new school supplies to all the students at School 29  on Thursday, September 4 at 9:30 a.m.  If you interested send an email to Dajaneé Parrish at dparrish@mcba.org.

– Dajaneé


Recognizing all the bar champions…

I remember as a child feeling like the passing of a year was always sooooo slow. Will I ever turn 10, or will I be 9 forever? And will that all important 18 ever happen, and then it seemed to come quicker than 10. As I grew, I began to recognize that the years were picking up speed. And now, I feel as though they are moving at warp speed.

We are just about 10 weeks to the end of another bar year. You have heard me refer to this time of a year as it is a period that I affectionately call, “the dance of the presidents.” The President, Diane Cecero, begins to count the number of meetings she has left to chair. “I have two Board meetings left…” Meanwhile, the President-Elect, Steve Modica, is busy planning for the start of his term. This year, we will also be transitioning a new Foundation President as Audrey Peartree’s two-year term ends, and Bruce Lawrence begins his two-year term.

But as we all know, though we have presidents, bar associations also have so many other bar leaders in the form of committee and section chairs. The MCBA has been most fortunate to have so many great leaders this year, and I wish to take a moment to recognize a few of them that have done such incredible work.

What would a volunteer association be without a hard-working Membership Committee. This year I am pleased to report that under the leadership of Shannon O’Keefe Pero, the MCBA hit its membership budget goal ahead of schedule. Shannon has been a great champion on making that goal, as well as spearheading our new Mentor for a Moment Program. Shannon is in year one of a two year term. We expect more great things in her second year.

Another Champion has been Hilary Merkel McMillan. Hilary has served as Dean of the Academy of Law, the committee that oversees the delivery of all of our CLE programming. Hilary and her Dean-Elect, Mary Jo Korona, have been working to continue to support the fine-tuning of our CLE Curriculum Guide. By the end of this year, we will have produced almost 75 live CLE’s. That is a record year for the MCBA.

Judge Richard Dollinger and Candace Curran have served as Co-Chair Champions of the Litigation Section. We started the bar year with a Litigation Council Celebration as his house, and together they have been delivering some outstanding CLE’s. In the year ahead, Judge Dollinger is going to be stepping aside as Co-Chair, while we welcome Justice Dan Doyle as the new Co-Chair. We are very excited to have Justice Doyle joining the ranks of great bar judges.

Litigation Section Blog

One of the real Champions over the past 2.5 years has been Eileen Buholtz, who assumed the role of Chair of the Solo & Small Firm Committee. Eileen has a gift of bringing people together that need to know each other, and to learn new things. She has delivered two years of incredible programming from groups, professionals and organizations that have a product or service that our solo and small firm members may want to learn about. Plus her oversight of the Committee Listserv has been invaluable.  Brad Kammholz, will be stepping in as Chair of the Committee in the new bar year.

Paul MacAulay has done an outstanding job as Chair of the Criminal Justice Section. In this capacity, he has put in some incredible hours into the MCBA’s work on the Assigned Counsel Plan renegotiation with President Diane Cecero, Jon Getz, AEP Advisory Committee Chair, and Monroe County.


The Awards Committee, chaired by Beth McDonald, is one of the hardest working committees of the MCBA. A small group of champions that review award criteria from the MCBA, NYSBA, ABA and other organizations, and then begin the tedious work of securing applications and letters of support for their worthy colleagues.

The Diversity Committee, under the leadership of Jeff Harradine, is getting ready to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Rochester Legal Diversity Clerkship Program. In May we will welcome __ more 1L law students to Rochester.

Diversity Blog

Keeping the MCBA organization fiscally sound is a shared effort, led by Amy Varel, as Treasurer. The $1.4M budget has its challenges, and Amy does a great job focusing on the budget lines that require another look or added attention.

Jennifer Sommers, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, has a very big job that entails bringing 26 of her colleagues together annually to facilitate the Judicial Evaluation Process for the MCBA. Depending on the election year, there may be 4 candidates or there may be 12. There may be controversy, or there may be none. Jenn’s job is to ensure that we follow the Judiciary Rules, and to determine final ratings for all of the candidates. She does an incredible job!

Terry Emmens is passionate about his attorney colleagues and the clients served. Terry’s job as Chair of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers is to assist those attorneys or other law related professionals, that find their life in turmoil due to the use of alcohol or drug abuse. Terry and his small, confidential army of volunteers, are listening and watching for their colleagues that may need help, or be asking for help. When the time is right, or if someone is asking for help, Terry is there to assist.

Elena Renner is another passionate chair. Her area of interest is the Lawyers for Learning Committee. Elena is deeply committed to the children of School #29, and a fierce advocate for the fact that we need more mentors and more support. At a time when we are witnessing so many challenges and needs in our City School District, it is so important we not give up on these children. Elena’s message is clear — they need us. Elena is in her second term, and Amanda Dwyer will be assuming the Chair position for next year.


One of the final task any president has for the bar is their role of Chair of the Nominating Committee in the year they are Immediate Past President. This year we have Past-President Connie Walker to thank for her great work on facilitating the nomination of our next slate of officers.

Mark Bezinque has done an outstanding job for 3 years now as Chair of the Professional Performance Committee. This is also a difficult task to take on that requires sensitivity and care of both the clients and the attorneys involved.

Mort Bittker is the Chair of the Senior Attorneys Committee, and like those that went before him, he has delivered a robust line-up of interesting speakers for his term. Everyone has enjoyed them.


If you have never attended the MCBA Memorial Service, you missed the brilliant leadership of the Honorable Frank Geraci as Chair of this dedicated group. Sadly, we have more attorneys that passed this year, and so the judge wrote and produced a video remembering all of these deceased colleagues, and delivered it in such a way that it was an incredible tribute to all of these incredible women and men.

Kelly Ciccone is the Chair of the Family Law Section, and also can claim the sole singer at Jazz For Justice this year when she let out an incredible version of Summertime. In her spare time, Kelly has ensured good CLE’s and is also leading the section in exploring the impact of the Unlawful Practice of Law and divorce.


Under Maureen Garvey’s leadership as Chair of the Real Estate Section, the Section just delivered a standing room only CLE with regard to Review of New Residential Purchase & Sale Contracts. In addition, the Section has been hard at work finalizing the next edition of the Real Estate Guide. It will be available for purchase very soon in emails near you!

One of the groups on the move all the time is our incredibly outstanding Young Lawyers Section, chaired this year by the equally incredible, Wende Knapp. If you think this group is only about “happy hours,” you are way off base. They are philanthropists that can manage running the food and auction facilitation at Jazz For Justice, like Jenn Meldrum did this year. They are planning their own Silent Auction, and for a 5th year in a row, our very special guest, Judge Judith Kaye, will be coming to Rochester to help us celebrate our young lawyer collaboration with Teen Court. In addition, they are riding for diabetes, building houses, planning CLE’s for their peers, supporting puppies and kittens at Lollypop Farm, and making my head spin with all of their good work.

And to everyone else not mentioned above, I wish to say a thank you to you for your leadership as well…

Louis Prieto, Presidents Commission on Access to Justice Committee

Devin Palmer, Bankruptcy Committee

Jon Getz, Conflict Defender Advisory Committee

Sue Laluk & Scott Rogoff, Disability, Labor & Employment Committee

Kristin Jonsson, Elder Law Committee

Alan Knauff & Arthur James, Environmental Law Committee

Andrew Burns, Ethics Committee

Brian Pelkey, Fee Arbitration Committee

Brian DeCarolis, Lawyer Referrral Service Committee

Johanna Brennan and Patrick Malgieri, Municipal Attorneys Committee

Sara Visingard, School Attorneys Committee

Timothy Muck, Business Law Section

Ed Daniel, Tax Section

Christen Bruu, Tax & Estate Section

We are the great bar association that we are because we have great leaders that come in and out each and every day. For all that you do, I wish to say “THANK YOU.” You, your commitment and your colleagues really make a difference in the life of this bar and of our community.

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: http://www.mcba.org/Members/CommitteesSections/YLS/.


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 wknapp@hselaw.com. 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.

IMG_7619 cropped

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!