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44th Street Notes


Be About Something


Sep 2000

This was the advice given to Dovey Roundtree as a young lawyer. Ms. Roundtree is now the General Counsel of the National Council of Negro Women. It was advice she urged on the audience honoring her and the other winners of the ABA's Margaret Brent Award at the ABA's Annual Meeting this summer in New York. Ms. Roundtree explained that "being about something" means not so much standing for some lofty ideal as it does being fully involved in useful activity. "If you are going to make bread, you have to be about making bread," she said. Former Governor Mario M. Cuomo made a closely connected point a few days later to an audience of young lawyers in the Great Hall of our Association. He told the story of the person who encountered three workers and asked each what he was doing. The first, a not very happy fellow pushing a wheelbarrow, said that he is carrying cement. The second, a rather morose mason, said that he is fitting stone. The third, an energetic and enthusiastic bricklayer, said what any of the three of them could have said. He said, "I am building a cathedral." Job satisfaction comes not just from what we do individually but from what we can contribute in a small way to general progress.

The Association's Role

The Association of the Bar of the City of New York can help you "be about" being a lawyer. That is because being a lawyer is about more than being a cog in a machine that grinds out agreements and decides disputes. It is also about personal growth, job satisfaction and having a voice in the administration of our justice system and in the reform of the law. Time is scarce and the Association offers an efficient way to participate fully in professional life in New York City. By attending our lectures or working on one of our committees or participating in one of our other activities, our members have rewarding opportunities for professional development that others do not. Not everyone has the time or opportunity to take a leave of absence for public service, but through active participation in the Association you can achieve on an ad hoc basis the substantial equivalent.

Incentive Program

We would like your help in encouraging more lawyers to be members of the Association. Currently a little less than 30% of lawyers practicing in New York City are members. Clearly there is room for outreach. We therefore propose the following:

íP We would like all employers to agree as follows: Whenever a new lawyer joins in your practice, the employer will sign him or her up in the City Bar Association and pay the dues (at least for lawyers out of law school six years or less). The sign-up would be automatic unless the new lawyer affirmatively indicated a desire not to join.

íP In order to create an incentive for legal employers to do this, we have decided to waive the usual admission fee (equal to one year's dues) for any lawyer joining as a new member of the Association under this program. This applies to all employers regardless of size. While we would like government and not-for-profit law offices to make this undertaking, and some have, we will in all events continue to waive the admission fee for lawyers who work at these organizations.

íP In addition, because women, minority lawyers, gay and lesbian lawyers and lawyers with disabilities face issues that make membership in a specialized bar association particularly useful, we will also waive the admission fee for lawyers who are members in good standing of such specialized minority bars.

Make It Happen

You can help us get firms, corporate law departments, government agencies and solo practitioners involved in this program. You can take the initiative yourself and sign someone up. If you would like further information, you should contact our Membership Services Manager, Melissa Halili, at (212) 382-6767, mhalili@abcny.org. Or if you would like to contact me, I can be reached at edavis@abcny.org. Thank you very much for your help.

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