On Nov. 12, Harter Secrest & Emery LLP sponsored a CLE titled “Pro Bono Ethics: Issues Related to Board Service,” with materials prepared and presented by numerous HS&E attorneys and guests.
Held at the Genesee Valley Club, attendees were treated to a continental breakfast and asked to contribute $100 to the Campaign for Justice, with all CLE proceeds going directly to the 2015 campaign.
Frank Novak, HS&E partner and immediate past president of the Volunteer Legal Services Project board, opened the morning session with specific facts about the Campaign for Justice and the unmet civil legal needs of the low income community.
“VLSP, Legal Aid of Rochester, and LawNY combined only meet about 20 percent of the need,” Novak remarked, appealing to the room full of attorneys, who together contributed over $4,000 during CLE registration.
Megan Dorritie and Josh Gewolb did the lion’s share of work on the CLE materials, with Jeff Donigan and Anne Modica providing background research.
Michael R. McEvoy, Harter Secrest & Emery LLP, served as moderator for a panel which included the Hon. Thomas S. Richards, the Hon. Thomas M. VanStrydonck, retired New York Supreme Court Justice and counsel at Barclay Damon LLP; Arline Santiago, senior vice president and general counsel at ESL Federal Credit Union; and Dorritie from Harter Secrest & Emery.
Dorritie reviewed the duties of a director, pursuant to NY N-PCL § 717, speaking about ethical issues raised by the dual role an attorney may play as both a board member and legal counsel for the board.
“We are often chosen for board positions because we are lawyers,” admitted Tom Richards, former RG&E counsel and 66th mayor of Rochester. “I think it is good that lawyers serve on these boards. It is a contribution to the community, and I know board service enriched my career. I am a better lawyer because of my board service.”
Reviewing some hypothetical board service situations, panel members added their comments.
“Before joining a board, you should inquire if the board has outside counsel,” noted Van Strydonck. “And find out if they have directors’ and officers’ liability insurance.”
– Photos by Nora A. Jones