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The Myths About the City Bar Association

Sep 1997

“The City Bar Association is only for large firm lawyers.?“The Bar Association is too expensive.?“It is impossible to get on a committee.?“What the Association says carries no weight.?As I begin my second term as President let me try to dispel these myths, and to explain the opportunities we have to make a difference in the world around us.

Myth 1: The Association is dominated by large law firms Fact: 75% of our members are employed in smaller firms, public interest organizations, the government, law schools, and in-house legal departments. While the large firms?support of this Association has been very generous, both financially and in the active participation of their lawyers, the composition of this Association--generally and in terms of committee leadership--is extremely diverse. Of our 180 committee chairs more than 25% are solo or small firm practitioners and many others come from public service, corporations and the law schools. Of the 22 elected officers and members of the Executive Committee, six come from large firms.

As a result of this diverse membership (and the resultant diversity in committee membership) committee reports reflect the consensus of a truly broad constituency. Moreover, seminars, lectures and continuing legal education programs are designed to appeal to more than the large firm lawyer. Indeed, many programs, such as those planned by the Committees on Lawyers in Transition and Small Law Firm Management, are especially aimed at lawyers not affiliated with large firms.

Many of our member benefits, such as liability and health insurance, may be especially attractive to lawyers in smaller organizations. Finally, our outstanding Library, and its Technology Center is of particular use to the small firm or public interest lawyer.

Myth 2: It is impossible to get onto a committee Fact: With over 180 committees (most with membership of 36 people for staggered three-year terms) there is room for almost anyone to be on a committee, although not necessarily his or her first choice. In appointing members to committees every effort is made to have committees reflect a broad cross-section of the bar. No member is permitted to be on more than one standing committee at any one time and only one lawyer from any firm can serve on the same committee.

In an effort to further expand committee service opportunities, numerous committees share jurisdiction over subjects in which many of our members have an interest. Sixteen committees deal with international affairs, eight study criminal justice issues; and ten focus on public service projects, to cite but three examples.

A list of committees in which there are still vacancies for the coming year will be published in next month’s 44th Street Notes. If you are interested in serving on a committee please write the chair, or call our Committee Membership Coordinator at 382-6664.

Myth 3: The Association is more expensive than other bar associations Fact: Our dues structure is highly competitive with other New York area bar associations. Furthermore, over the last ten years, while the inflation rate has increased 47%, City Bar dues have increased only 32%. State Bar dues, by comparison, have increased 113%.

Of even more importance, every effort is made to ensure that our dues structure does not stand in the way of someone becoming a member of the Association. Recent law school graduates and attorneys in public service have their admission fees waived. Lawyers earning less than $62,500 are entitled to a special dues reduction.

Myth 4: What the Association says carries no weight Fact:

A person will not be appointed a judge of the New York City Criminal or Family Court if this Association’s Judiciary Committee (Daniel F. Kolb, Chair) finds the candidate not qualified.

Within days after the Council on Judicial Administration (Robert L. Haig, Chair) criticized the Governor’s ongoing use of a temporary screening committee for judicial appointments, the temporary committee was disbanded, and replaced by permanent and more diverse screening committees.

The SEC cited the report of our Securities Regulation Committee (Stephen J. Friedman, Chair) as a reason why it was modifying a proposed securities regulation.

United States Senators cited the report of the Association’s Committee on International Security Affairs (Stephen J. Shapiro, Chair) on the chemical weapons ban treaty in the course of the debate on that treaty’s ratification.

The Year Ahead

In the coming year we will be undertaking many projects, some old, some new. They will include a renewed focus on the issues of diversity in the profession, headed by the Committee to Enhance Diversity in the Profession (Ned Stiles, Chair); a continued effort to deal with the lack of adequate legal services to the poor, coordinated by the Steering Committee on Legal Assistance (Allan Gropper, Chair) and the Committee on Pro Bono and Legal Services (John Kiernan, Chair); and a further examination of the quality of life of lawyers, an effort directed by a committee of that name headed by Margaret Berger.

This year’s efforts will also include consideration of numerous business, consumer and criminal law issues; initiatives in the commercial law area by some of our international law committees, coordinated by the Council on International Affairs (James Carter, Chair); evaluation of the legislative process--or the lack thereof --in both New York City and Albany; a thorough examination of the courts, with a special focus on the Housing Court, through the Task Force on the Housing Court (Michael A. Rothenberg, Chair) and the Housing Court Committee (Paris Baldacci Chair); and an evaluation by our various court committees of Chief Judge Kaye’s court restructuring proposal.

The impact we can have as an Association carries with it both responsibility and opportunity. Responsibility because we must continue to be sure that our reports are the product of thorough research, and careful and unbiased thinking. Opportunity because with all the issues confronting the legal profession--whether they require action in New York City, Albany, Washington, the United Nations, or somewhere else in the world--there is no limit to what we can do to make things better.

Thank you for electing me as your President for a second term. I look forward to working with you to make a difference.

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