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MCBA President’s Message: On to 2020 — a year of change and innovation

Carolyn Nussbaum

Carolyn Nussbaum

The few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are always jam-packed with a mixture of legal work, school events and holiday celebrations. In our law firms, practices and personal lives, we look back on the year that is almost over and forward to plan for the calendar year ahead. The same process is underway at the Monroe County Bar Association. We look at what we have accomplished this past year, and how we will (indeed, must) continue to evolve to accommodate the needs of our members and the legal community at large. In the legal profession, the rate of change continues to accelerate and the MCBA is committed to support its members to meet those changes and succeed in their practices.

At the MCBA, one of the most significant changes has been the investment in software and hardware to stream CLEs live to attorneys wherever they are. We know that fewer lawyers are located downtown and many lawyers struggle to manage the unpredictability of their schedules. A number of people have taken advantage of this new streaming feature, and the feedback has been universally positive — attendees save travel time and expense, are able to stay at their desk to meet work demands, and still have the ability to ask questions of the presenters.

Our year-end section and committee events are changing too. The Bench and Bar Holiday party found a new venue at the Memorial Art Gallery, and the food and ambience were great. Best of all, you could hear yourself and your colleagues. Nearly 40 state and federal current and retired judges mingled with the bar and enjoyed the treasures of the MAG. Speaking of change, Justice Craig Doran addressed the Young Lawyers Section at their pre-party reception and spoke about the pledge of our state court judges to create opportunities for speaking roles for junior lawyers, to enhance their skills and build the next generation of trial lawyers.

More is coming from MCBA in this last month of the year — the Bankruptcy Committee Holiday Lunch is on Thursday, Dec. 12, and the Trusts and Estates Section Annual Holiday Luncheon will be on Friday, Dec. 13. Check in with your colleagues, network with referral sources, and plan for 2020.

As with every New Year, Jan. 1 brings changes in the laws and this year is no exception. Significant changes are coming to discovery in criminal cases, and the MCBA will be presenting a CLE on those changes on Friday, Dec. 13 at noon. Rounding out the 2019 offerings will be a program from the Family and Matrimonial Law Section on the emerging theory of Parental Alienation at lunch on Dec. 17.

These are just a few of the examples of how the MCBA is creating timely programs on topics that are critical to its members and their practices — some entirely new and innovative curriculum and some programs on the practical basics of being a lawyer. In addition to the CLEs described above, MCBA presented well-received programs in November on the “Red Flag — New Rules for Firearms” and “Managing Cyber-Security Risks.” If you missed those programs, designed to keep you current in the law, the recorded programs are available online to view on your own computer or device. Coming in January will be a diverse array of programs, ranging from Accounting for Lawyers on Jan. 30 to a Sexual Harassment program from our new Labor & Employment Committee on Jan. 22. Looking for ethics credits? Check out the program from the Ethics and Environmental Law Committees on Jan. 23 on Dilemmas for Practitioners.

And, in February, responding to the current issues and challenges that our communities face, the MCBA, in collaboration with the Jewish Community Federation and the Konar Center for Tolerance and Jewish Studies at Nazareth College, will present a program on “The Rising Tide of Anti-Semitism: How We Can Respond in the Courtroom and as a Community.” Many thanks to Jeff Wicks for conceiving of this program and forging a community partnership to make it happen.

As we close out the year and look forward, we have taken a critical view at what we do and what our members — and non-members — tell us they like (and don’t like). In the coming year, we will be changing up our events and our offerings. Last year, we moved Law Day from a lunch event downtown to a late-day informal reception, in a direct response to requests of the legal community. This year, with a theme of “Your Voice, Your Vote, Our Democracy: The Nineteenth Amendment,” we again will be sponsoring a reception at The Strathallan on April 30, where we can celebrate the rule of law, socialize, and honor the outstanding lawyers selected as award recipients. With a very special connection between Rochester and the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, a Law Week Committee chaired by Kim Harding and Lauren Baron will be planning programs highlighting that connection and spotlighting the Susan B. Anthony House and Museum. And, examining the current legal landscape, the MCBA will be presenting a program during Law Week examining challenges to voting rights in America in 2020.

Each spring, we have held an Annual Dinner to swear in our new officers and board and recognize our 50-year lawyers and certain award recipients. Our members have told us that June is a tough time to get to an evening event and that they would prefer anything but a sit-down dinner. The MCBA has heard you: We will not have a formal installation dinner in June. We will be planning an informal installation event for officers and the board and introducing a new and different casual and fun event for our membership in the fall. We will continue to honor and recognize our 50-year members and award recipients at our events throughout the year — stay tuned for details.

The point of this column is that change is inevitable, necessary and good. Change is critical to constant improvement, lifelong learning, and the evolution of the profession. Many of the changes discussed in this article grew from a kernel of a thought presented by a member. If you have a suggestion or an idea for a new program, a new member benefit or a new way of doing things, send it to the virtual suggestion box — my email, cnussbaum@nixonpeabody.com.

As we close out 2019, and look forward to 2020, I wish you all a peaceful and wonderful holiday season, whatever holiday or family time you celebrate.

Carolyn G. Nussbaum is president of the Monroe County Bar Association and is a partner and litigator at Nixon Peabody LLP. She can be reached at cnussbaum@nixonpeabody.com.

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