One of the things about being an attorney that David M. Schraver loves is the problem solving.
“That’s kind of what I’d like to be as president of the New York State Bar Association, is a problem solver,” he said during a Tuesday interview.
Schraver, a partner at Nixon Peabody LLP, is in line to lead the country’s largest voluntary state bar association, with more than 77,000 members, beginning in 2013.
His nomination as president-elect was announced Thursday by President Vincent E. Doyle III, who was keynote speaker for The Daily Record’s 16th annual Nathaniel Award Leaders in Law event.
“In my memory, I’m not sure there’s been anyone better prepared and more qualified to be president than Dave,” Doyle said Tuesday. “He is an outstanding lawyer. He’s very diplomatic, which is important to this job, and he cares passionately about issues that are important to lawyers.”
Schraver’s nomination was reported Nov. 4 to the House of Delegates, as recommended by the Nominating Committee. It will be voted on during the association’s annual meeting at the end of January.
“Once that happens, he will become formally known as president-elect designee,” said Doyle, noting under the bylaws, someone could submit a petition to be considered, but he doesn’t recall that ever happening.
“He is just a genuinely nice person,” Doyle said of Schraver. “I really think he has all the tools to be an outstanding leader of the state bar. I’m really looking forward to working with him in the next year.”
Doyle, a partner at the Buffalo firm Connors & Vilardo LLP, said Schraver has also chaired the association’s Finance Committee which he called one of its most important, overseeing a budget of approximately $24 million.
Schraver has been a member of the committee since 2003 and chair since 2007. He is proud of the fact that the association remained sound, able to continue providing the services valued by members, during his tenure, a time he said has been challenging for the economy and the legal profession.
As a member of the House of Delegates, from 1996-2000 and 2002 to the present, Schraver had an active role in getting the state Rules of Professional Conduct updated from the previous Code of Professional Responsibility to match ABA standards, providing uniformity with rules in other states. That was approved, with minor modifications, by the state’s House of Delegates and the administrative board which includes the state’s chief judge and the justices of the four appellate divisions.
The policy-making House of Delegates put through a number of recent reforms including endorsement of video-taped confessions in criminal cases, which Schraver said has been generally accepted by the law enforcement community; approving a policy of no-fault divorce and supporting marriage equality.
Schraver has been actively involved in the state bar, Monroe County Bar and the American Bar associations throughout his career. He was MCBA president 1997-98, served on and chaired many of its committees and is the 2009 recipient of its most prestigious Adolph J. Rodenbeck Award.
“For me, being an active member of the bar association is part of being a lawyer,” Schraver said. “It provides an opportunity to give something back to the community and the profession and it provides an opportunity to get to know other attorneys and judges I would not otherwise have met.”
He said core values of the association include advocating for access to justice regardless of ability to pay, preserving the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession, and promoting understanding of and respect for the rule of law.
“I would include promoting diversity among the legal profession and the judiciary and encouraging civics education,” Schraver said. “I think one of the major threats to the core values is the reduction in funding for the courts and legal services providers. I think that those challenges will continue when I will be president.”
As president-elect, Schraver will be a member of the Executive Committee and chair the New York State House of Delegates. He is an elected delegate from the Seventh Judicial District. He is also a first alternate New York delegate to the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates and will attend its mid-year meeting in February in New Orleans because one of the delegates is unable to attend.
Schraver will be preceded by Seymour W. James Jr., an attorney with The Legal Aid Society, who will succeed Doyle, serving as president from June 1, 2012, until May 31, 2013.
“I was pleased and I was very honored to be selected,” Shraver said of his nomination. “The state bar has been blessed with excellent leadership over the years and my hope is to continue in that tradition,” he said.
As president, 2013-2014, Schraver hopes to help lawyers meet the challenges they face in a high-pressure profession which continuously demands they do things faster and smarter with less. Schraver said helping lawyers meet those challenges also helps clients.
Schraver is also a member of the Florida Bar Association, part of admittance to that state’s bar. He worked there after serving in the Navy, early in his career at Nixon, Hargrave, Devans & Doyle LLP which later merged with Peabody & Brown to form the international firm Nixon Peabody.
“We are so proud of Dave Schraver and the recognition of his extraordinary commitment to the state bar association,” said Carolyn G. Nussbaum, the firm’s Rochester office managing partner. “Dave’s nomination as president of the bar exemplifies Nixon Peabody’s culture and tradition of community and professional involvement at the highest levels. We are excited to celebrate Dave’s achievements and honor his example of leadership, and we are confident that the organization will benefit and flourish during his presidency.”
Schraver served as the Rochester office managing partner from 2000-2006 and was the firm’s first chair of its Technology and Intellectual Property Group for four years.
Schraver, a native of Albany, was an undergraduate student at Harvard University when he took a “Constitutionalism in America” course taught by Professor Arthur E. Sutherland, author of “The Law at Harvard: A History of Ideas and Men, 1817-1967.”
The book was published in 1967, the year Schraver graduated cum laude, but the course left a lasting impression.
“In that course, I studied a number of important Supreme Court decisions,” Schraver said. “As a result, I thought I could make a difference in society by becoming a lawyer. Some of those decisions had a profound impact on society.”
He received his law degree in 1970 from the University of Michigan Law School, graduating magna cum laude. He also worked on the Michigan Law Review.
Schraver is somewhat unique in that he remained at the firm where he started and his practice has emphasized a broad range of complex civil and commercial litigation in state and federal courts with a special emphasis on Indian law and gaming, energy/utilities litigation, contract litigation, and fiduciary and professional liability.
“I love helping clients — whether they be individuals, corporations or governments — resolve their problems,” Schraver said. “Sometimes it takes longer than we would like and sometimes the decisions are not always what we would have hoped for but, generally, working as a lawyer, you’re a problem solver.”
Schraver and his wife, Nancy, a native of Georgia, have been married for 22 years and love living in the Rochester community.
“It’s just a very livable community,” he said. “We have a lifestyle where we have so many opportunities for arts and culture, outdoor activities and a family friendly community and I’ve tried to take advantage of all of those things over the years.”
Schraver also has two children; two stepchildren, including J. Nelson Thomas, a founding partner at Thomas & Solomon LLP; seven grandchildren; “and one West Highland White Terrier.”