Happy New Year! Unexpectedly, the final week of 2019 was not the usually uneventful lull between the holidays. First, the legal community was jolted with the startling announcement that now-former Justice Matthew Rosenbaum would decline to take office for a second term as an elected State Supreme Court Justice. The news rocked the legal community, and engendered speculation and conflicting emotions — Justice Rosenbaum had ably headed the Commercial Division for a number of years, was well-respected and well-liked, and had been re-elected with a broad base of support from Rochester lawyers. On a personal and practical level, my phone rang incessantly with calls from colleagues across the state and clients asking “what happens to my case now”? Litigation is already expensive and uncertain; no one appreciates an increase in either variable.
In a testament to the excellence of our judicial leadership, within an extraordinarily brief period of time, a plan was developed, implemented and publicized to the legal community to reassign workloads, roles and cases to minimize any disruption. Information was promptly sent the very next business day to lawyers about their cases, allowing the lawyers to reassure their clients that all steps were being taken to minimize any delay or expense that might otherwise occur. The MCBA was proud to partner with the judiciary to facilitate communication to our members on an expedited basis that same day about what was happening inside the courthouse.
To the outside, the process appeared nearly seamless, but we know many worked long hours while others were celebrating the holidays to make sure the system “worked” when it needed to — from those in chambers answering calls, taking over dockets and reviewing files, to those in the Clerk’s Offices queuing up electronic notices of reassigned cases and revised calendars. That effort was both admirable and appreciated as we all benefit from prompt and efficient communication and action, which went a very long way to reinforcing the confidence in the integrity of our judicial system.
That same day, as we were preparing to welcome guests to our home for a Chanukah party, we were shocked and appalled over the news of the attack in Monsey, New York, at a similar gathering. While there are many different views of why hate crimes have increased, often colored by individuals’ political views, the rise in anti-semitic acts, including in Rochester, is an issue that we cannot ignore. We can gnash our teeth and wring our hands — or work together to fashion a community response to ensure Rochester remains a safe and secure place to live and worship.
The MCBA has already taken a leadership role in this dialogue, through its organization of a CLE entitled “The Rising Tide of Anti-Semitism — How We Can Respond in the Courtroom and as a Community.” The MCBA has not shied away from confronting difficult subjects and has convened panels of community speakers to address important topics from all sides of the issues, ranging from gun control to racial profiling. The need to foster civil public discussion about hate speech has never been greater. Lawyers, through their unique skills and knowledge, can invoke the rule of law to make our world (and particularly Rochester) a better place to live. I encourage you to come on Feb. 13 to our program at Nazareth College, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., co-sponsored with The Levine Center to End Hate at the Jewish Federation and The Konar Center for Tolerance at Nazareth College, and learn what we can do, together.
These two disparate and seemingly unconnected events demonstrate that the MCBA is relevant to all of us who live and work in Rochester. Working with the courts, addressing the needs of litigants, collaborating with community partners to improve our professional and personal lives in Rochester — in a variety of ways, the MCBA is working for you. But we need the participation of more of our lawyers to continue to innovate and address the rapid pace of change in the profession.
And the MCBA provides personal and individual value to each of us on many other levels. With each Jan. 1 comes the perennial resolutions: I will do more for myself; I will use my time more efficiently; I will get out of the office more often; I will do more for my community. We have the will, but we struggle with finding the way. The MCBA can help, and now at a significant cost-saving. Right now, the MCBA is offering you a special inducement to jump-start your progress on your New Year’s resolutions and accelerate the path to achieve your professional goals: During the month of January, membership dues will be significantly discounted (up to 30%) for new members. You will be receiving an email with more reasons to join the MCBA and a direct link today — or you can simply go to www.mcba.orgwww.mcba.org and use the discount code “NewYears30” at checkout.
Did you pledge to exercise more? The Health & Well-Being Programming Committee organizes classes to meet the particular health and scheduling needs of MCBA members (think Core Strength Training on Jan. 22 at Harro East). Looking to master social media and use it to your advantage in your practice? Attend the program on Investigations in the Age of Geosocial Data on Jan. 15. Need ethics credits? MCBA has that too — including a program on Jan. 23. Want to learn to work more productively? Join us on Feb. 12 to learn how space and light can be used to increase lawyer productivity.
Maybe you just need to get out and about and expand your network — MCBA can help you there as well. Join us at the federal courthouse on Feb. 12 at 3 p.m. to meet recently appointed Magistrate Judge Mark Pedersen and his staff, learn about the latest developments in the local rules, and network with your colleagues. Or join us at Feb. 20 at Radio Social to meet the newest members of the profession. And if time just does not allow you to get away from the office, attend MCBA CLEs from your desk or home, using any computing device to livestream programs. The video and audio quality are superior, and the platform even allows viewers to ask questions of the speakers.
Whatever your goals for the coming year, NOW is the time to join or rejoin the MCBA and save. We have heard you and simplified the online joining process or, if you prefer, print out the application and send it in with a check. We look forward to seeing you!
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 email@example.com.