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44th Street Notes

The City Bar Relationship With Other Bar Associations

Feb 1998

“What are the principal areas of concern of your bar association,?I asked at recent meetings with the Paris and Los Angeles bar associations. “Legal services for the poor, judicial vacancies, diversity in the profession, and continuing legal education,?were among the responses I received. These answers, which encompass issues that are also central to the agenda of this Association, demonstrate the common interests bar associations share and our need to work together to try to achieve our common goals.

International Bar Associations

In November, at the annual “Rentre?of the Ordre des Avocats de Paris (“the Paris Bar Association?, attended by more than 300 bar leaders throughout the world, the only bars represented from this county were the ABA, one state bar, and this Association.

While I have always been proud of our elegant Association House, I was humbled by the Rentre, held in the 700-year-old Palais de Justice, where the required attire was the “uniform?one wears to court in his or her respective country. Sitting in my business suit, I felt significantly under-dressed, surrounded by attorneys from around the world wearing robes (many adorned with medals), some also wearing wigs, and a few even dressed in kilts. At the black tie dinner in the Hotel de Ville later that evening I met with the Dauphin of the Ordre Des Avocats, who on January 1 became the first woman to serve as Bâttonier (“President? of the Paris bar, and spoke with leaders of urban bar associations located in France, Belgium, Spain, Australia, England and even Lebanon.

The meeting in Paris was not all ceremonial. We discussed with Paris bar leaders the continued difficulty American lawyers have had in obtaining permission to practice in France, and planned a future program to address two issues of common concern: the apparent practice of law by members of accounting firms (one major Paris law firm recently “merged?with one of the Big Six), and pro bono legal services on both sides of the Atlantic.

With respect to large international bar associations, this Association, unlike virtually any other bar association in this country, has official representatives on the governing boards of both the International Bar Association and the Union Internationale des Avocats.

The Los Angeles County Bar Association

Ever since the mid-1970s, when Cyrus Vance and Warren Christopher were presidents of their respective associations, the leaders of two of the nation’s largest metropolitan bar associations—Los Angeles has 23,000 members (including members of affiliated bar associations) and we have 21,000 members—have had annual visits, one year in Los Angeles, the next in New York.

In December, leaders of the LA County Bar Association met with our Executive Committee, various committee chairs and our staff. We discussed steps taken by each association to try to solve common problems, such as our efforts to achieve greater diversity in the profession and to fill long-standing federal judicial vacancies. As this Association prepares to meet the challenge posed by New York becoming a mandatory continuing legal education state, our Los Angeles colleagues explained how their bar had structured its continuing legal education programs in a state where CLE has long been mandatory.

We are also discussing issues of common interest with other major urban bars, including San Francisco (which has just completed a major diversity study of San Francisco law firms), Philadelphia (which, like us, shares a concern about restrictions on non-New Jersey lawyers being permitted to appear in New Jersey courts pro hac vice), and Boston (which has recently completed a study on the dissatisfaction of lawyers in the profession).

New York Bar Associations

The Association works closely with other bar associations in the City of New York, including jointly sponsoring with some of the county bars the Legal Referral Service and the Fee Conciliation Service. In addition, significant coordination between our Judiciary Committee and the five county bars has eliminated duplication of evaluation effort and has generally enabled the Bar to speak with a single—and more effective—voice concerning a candidate’s qualifications. We also work closely with the numerous specialty bars in the city. For example, each summer we sponsor a program with the New York Women’s Bar Association entitled “What It’s Really Like to Practice Law as a Woman in New York City.?

We also work with the New York State Bar Association on matters of common concern. One recent example is our cooperative work surrounding the TWA Flight 800 tragedy, where representatives of the City and State Bars jointly put together a brochure of advice, and traveled to Kennedy Airport, meeting with the families to advise them on how to select a lawyer, pitfalls of which to be aware in signing settlement agreements with insurance companies, and scores of other issues.

Because there is strength when the two bar associations work toward common purposes, the under-representation of New York City lawyers in State Bar leadership positions (despite our 20-person delegation to the 227-person State Bar House of Delegates) is a matter of significant concern. While approximately 50% of this State’s attorneys are from New York City, State Bar presidents have come from outside of the city in three of the last four years. Upstate attorneys also predominate on the State Bar executive committee and its delegation to the ABA House of Delegates.

So that the State Bar can improve its effectiveness, and more legitimately claim that it speaks on behalf of all New York attorneys, the State Bar must work with us in taking prompt steps to ensure that the State Bar leadership is a more accurate reflection of the bar of this state.

The American Bar Association

Because some of the policies we favor can best be advanced by action at the national level, last summer we urged—successfully—the ABA House of Delegates to adopt our proposed resolution condemning “pay to play?practices of municipal bond lawyers. We will continue our efforts to try to achieve some of our goals through the ABA, such as having two of our members serve on the 12-member “Pay to Play?Task Force and co-sponsoring a resolution advocating the establishment of an International Criminal Court.

The Need to Continue to Work Together

While there are some issues on which individual bar associations may disagree, there are far more questions on which we have a common vision. In unity there is increased strength. Bar associations must therefore strive to work together in our efforts to improve the law and the profession.

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