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44th Street Notes

A Rewarding and Memorable Experience

Jun 2000

There is so much I would like to say in this last column of my presidential term and so little space in which to say it. A recitation of significant reports, programs, lectures and conferences during just recent weeks would either take too long or leave too many of high quality unmentioned. So I will share with you some lessons that I have learned or that have been reinforced during the past two years.

A Great Reservoir of Legal Talent The membership of this Association, drawn from across the nation and 51 foreign countries, constitutes the greatest reservoir of legal talent I've ever known. In one area after another, the Association's committees issue reports and put on programs that address critical issues of law and policy thoughtfully, cogently and in a scholarly manner. Many of the reports and programs are prompted by proposed laws or regulations, or a need to amend existing statutes or regulations. Campaign finance reform is a classic illustration of the latter. Despite the widespread belief that current campaign finance regulation is ineffective, there has been too little non-partisan, reasoned analysis of the competing values and interests that must be accommodated in any effective campaign finance regulatory scheme. A special commission created three years ago, chaired by former Presidents Cy Vance, Bob Kaufman and John Feerick and including Association members with extensive experience in the electoral process, has just issued a report with a series of interrelated recommendations that will, I'm confident, make a major contribution to dealing fairly and effectively with this serious threat to our democratic principles.

A Strongly Committed Membership The members of this Association are not only talented, they are strongly committed to law reform and improving the administration of justice. The 22 members of the Executive Committee, all of whom have pressing professional, judicial or academic responsibilities, find or make the considerable time required to meet the complex and multiple demands of governing this magnificent institution. They are not alone in their dedication to the Association. On innumerable occasions I have called on Association members to perform a service to the Association, and with very few exceptions, my requests have been granted. Let me give two examples. When significant changes were proposed in the admissions and curricular standards at the City University of New York-changes that would have adversely impacted the University's statutorily prescribed mission of responding to "the special needs of an urban constituency"-I asked Stanley Grossman, a respected New York litigator (and a CUNY graduate) to chair a task force of distinguished present and former educators. He readily accepted and set to work. Last November, less than six months after undertaking the assignment, the Task Force issued a comprehensive report on the proposed changes in admissions and remediation, and five months later the Task Force followed with an equally well reasoned report on CUNY's governance and finances. When I was searching last fall for someone to chair an ad hoc committee to monitor developments regarding multidisciplinary practice, perhaps the single most important issue facing the legal profession today, I sought to enlist Michael Gerrard. Although he had earned a respite after serving on the Executive Committee for the preceding five years (the last two as Chair and then Vice-President), Mike Gerrard took on the assignment and has since taken the lead in formulating the Association's recent submissions to the ABA Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice and the Independence Standards Board.

Reflecting and Representing All Segments of the Legal Profession The Association reflects and represents all segments of the legal profession, and all contribute significantly to its work. We have drawn upon senior lawyers to chair the Association's Committees on Art Law (Herbert Hirsch), Asian Affairs (Sy Chalif), Corporate Law Departments (Joe Geoghan) and Ethics 2000 (Bill Willis). The judiciary of this City and State continue to be an invaluable resource in carrying out the Association's mission. No fewer than four sitting state court judges (Richard Andrias, Barry Cozier, Priscilla Hall and Michael Sonberg) currently serve on the Association's Executive Committee, and others, including Judges Jody Adams, Steven Barrett, Alex Calabrese, Michael Corriero, Carol Edmead and Rosalyn Richter, chair important Association committees. Federal judges have served on Association missions to foreign lands (Leonard Sand to Hong Kong; Barbara Jones and Sidney Stein to Northern Ireland). The Association is also fortunate to be located at the core of a metropolitan region that has no fewer than 13 law schools. Many of their faculty serve the Association with distinction as committee chairs and in other capacities.

Reform Another lesson learned is that reform is not for the short-winded or the faint-hearted. For three full years the Association has taken the lead in urging condemnation of the unethical and unseemly practice of pay-to-play. In response to our initiative, the New York State Bar Association added two new Ethical Considerations to the Code of Professional Responsibility, and the Administrative Board of the judiciary issued an order stating unequivocally that the practice is barred by the Disciplinary Rules in the Code. After a temporary setback, we prevailed on the American Bar Association House of Delegates this past February to adopt a new Model Rule (Rule 7.6) banning the practice.

A Valued Opinion We sometimes wonder whether the Association's law reform and related efforts make a difference. I can assure you they often do. The pay-to-play reforms described above would never have been made (at least when they were made) if this Association had not taken the initiative. Additionally, it is not a coincidence that after years of dissenting from the position of other nations regarding the service of children in the military, the United States approved a protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child less than a month after being urged to do so by the Association's Committee on Military Affairs and Justice. The Association is frequently asked by legislative and regulatory bodies to comment on proposed statutory and rules changes, and our comments are often heeded.

The Association Staff The last lesson I want to mention is that the Association and its members are served by a staff that has no equal in its commitment and capability. Space limitations prevent me from acknowledging them all by name, but I would be remiss in not mentioning: Barbara Berger Opotowsky, our consummately professional Executive Director, whose organizational and management skills are matched only by a joyfulness and tact that have sustained the wonderful camaraderie of the Association family; Alan Rothstein, General Counsel and so much more, staunch advocate of the Association's policies and traditions, truly "a man for all seasons;" Carol Rosenbaum, Chief Financial Officer, who sees to it that the Association remains on the sound financial and accounting footing essential in an organization with a $12 million budget; Robin Gorsline, whose somewhat arid title, Director of the Office of Administrative Services, belies his multiple responsibilities in keeping the Association's plant and operations functioning efficiently; Maria Imperial, who both supervises and nurtures the many public interest and pro bono programs administered through the City Bar Fund with a skillful and quiet resolve; Allen Charne, who directs a Legal Referral Service that is widely viewed as the most successful of its kind, responding to more than 120,000 calls a year; Eileen Travis, who directs the Lawyer Assistance Program for lawyers who suffer from alcoholism and substance abuse; Joyce Adolfsen and Anna Nichols, who have been responsible for the growth and high quality of the Association's CLE offerings; Nick Marricco, who supervises a Meeting Services staff that continually astonishes me by all they accomplish with severely limited resources; Monique La-Touche, my Assistant, Dennis Cariello, the current Presidential Fellow, and his predecessor, Kate Cox, who have uncomplainingly responded to what must have seemed to them to be an unending barrage of requests from me, not all of them easy; And all the others-including Richard Tuske and the library staff; Mark Lutin, Director of Communications, and Fred Loessel, Publications Manager; Melissa Halili, Manager of Membership Services; Martha Harris, Committee Coordinator; Stephanie Rook, Committee Membership Coordinator; John Macaulay and Laurie Milder, Managing Attorney and Special Counsel, respectively, of COLP; Georgianna Hsu-Luk, Director of Human Resources; Denice Linnette Director of Legislative Affairs; Amy Carroll, Director of the CityBar Public Service Network; and the security and maintenance personnel, under the supervision of Pat Walsh-who keep the Association running at an extraordinary rate of productivity. To them and their colleagues on the Association staff and to you, the members who comprise the Association, I am inexpressibly grateful for the opportunity to have served as Association President, which has been the most rewarding and memorable experience of my professional life.

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