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MCBA President’s Message: Updating the organization’s organizational model

Neil J. Rowe

Neil J. Rowe

I like to organize. There have been times when, unable to find a brand of cracker in the pantry that I’ve been hungering for, I’ve taken everything off the shelves and spent the afternoon restocking them by food type, and alphabetically. Same thing with the basement freezer – beef on the right two-thirds of the top shelf, pork on the left. Ham and chicken split the second shelf.

In case you are wondering, I do know that ham and pork come from the same animal, but there is not enough room on the top shelf for all the meat from the pig, hence, the sub-categorization. Now bacon … bacon is a small thin package, so it can be pork or ham, depending on where there is room.

I needed to satiate my fixation to organize, so I’ve spent much of my legal career on the management side. After beginning my tenure with the Appellate Division’s Mental Hygiene Legal Service office in Utica, I quickly gravitated towards management, first as the supervisor of the Syracuse office, and then moving to Rochester in the late 1980s as the agency’s deputy director.

I also like to help others organize. To that end, I taught part time for 20 years in SUNY Brockport’s Master in Public Administration program, and for five years in St. John Fisher’s Human Service Administration program. Since my retirement from the Appellate Division two years ago, I have been teaching, among other things, Organizational Dynamics, Organizational Change and Strategic Planning in Keuka College’s Organizational Management program.

I have learned over the years as an officer and trustee of the association that MCBA is a GREAT organization. Through the leadership of the presidents who have preceded me and the efforts of our talented Executive Director Mary Loewenguth, the MCBA is an important contributor in our community, has a strong membership base and is in excellent financial health.

Yet, I am immersed with organizing. One thing that has become very apparent to me is that the MCBA has been using the same operations model for 40 years. Yet, in the past 15 years, our budget has doubled and our staffing has increased by 50 percent. The sheer size of the MCBA makes it difficult for our Executive Committee, a committee of volunteers, to both attend to the ongoing operations of the association while adequately planning for the changing needs of our members.

Over the past year, our outgoing President Steve Modica has supported my interest in organizing, and the Board of Trustees has endured my PowerPoint presentations filled with pie charts and flow charts. These efforts have resulted in a reorganization of the MCBA Board of Trustees. Rather than meet monthly as a full board, the trustees will meet approximately every other month through the 2015-16 bar year. Trustees will concentrate their remaining efforts working with one of several new board committees.

The Member Focus Committee, which has been operational for the last several months, will focus on planning and implementing the MCBA goals related to member participation. Mike Davis will chair this committee, while Sandy Fazili and Wende Knapp will return on it. New trustees Jeff Harradine and Jennifer Sommers will replace outgoing trustees Cindy Lapoff and Sandy Shapiro on the committee. These trustees have already been actively reviewing the many benefits and programs the MCBA offers its members with an eye towards remaining relevant to the modern day practice of law.

The Community Focus Committee will be chaired by Amy Schwartz. As a new trustee, the Hon. Rick Dollinger will join Roger Brazill and Josie Sheppard as committee members. The Community Focus Committee will concentrate on the planning and implementation of the MCBA’s goal to provide opportunities for our members to participate in public service and educational outreach to the community.

In response to the Non-Profit Revitalization Act of 2013, the board is in the process of forming an Audit Committee. Bill Bauer, Beth McDonald and Cassandra Rich have agreed to serve on this committee, and our treasurer, Eileen Buholtz will act as chair. In addition to its statutorily required duties, the Audit Committee has been tasked to work with our House-Finance Committee to plan and implement the MCBA’S financial affairs.

We will continue to have an Executive Committee, comprised of our President-elect Mark Moretti, Secretary Mark Funk, Treasurer Eileen Buholtz and Past President Steve Modica. Trustees Tim Lyster and Amy Varel will return to the committee, and Diana Irizarry, a new trustee and chair of our President’s Commission on Access to Justice will join. I am particularly excited about the opportunity to work closely with Mark Moretti, given his previous experience as an officer and member of the MCBA, and as a former section chair with the New York State Bar. The Executive Committee will continue to oversee the overall operations of the MCBA, and will retain some planning oversight as to those functions not covered by the new board committees.

The Board of Trustees has recognized its primary goal is “to be indispensable to the lawyers and judges in Monroe County.” This reorganization of the board will enhance each trustee’s ability to contribute their individual insights and experiences. More importantly, the streamlining will help the board respond to the needs and suggestions of its members, and keep the MCBA a GREAT organization!

Neil J. Rowe is president of the Monroe County Bar Association, adjunct instructor of management at Keuka College and principal of NJ Rowe Consulting Services. He can be reached at njr@rochester.rr.com.