The New York City Bar Association Hails A New Chief

Tuesday, July 1, 2008 - 01:00

Editor: You were elected President of the New York City Bar Association on May 28, 2008 after many years of distinguished service to the Bar Association and to the profession generally. Could you point out some of the milestones in your career in terms of public service?

Hynes: I would consider a major milestone my service as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the United States Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan from 1967 to 1982. I also served as Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney from 1980-1982. Working in a prosecutor's office whose clients were the United States government and its agencies and doing both civil cases and criminal prosecutions was a wonderful experience professionally. I was able to get terrific trial experience which has enabled me to focus my career on trial work and litigation and to get a very high level of exposure to the trial process and the federal courts. During this time more than 35 years ago, I joined the City Bar and served on several committees, including the Executive Committee; I served as secretary of the Association and also as chair of the Federal Courts Committee of this Association.

At my installation I talked about the importance of the City Bar to me, not only professionally in terms of making me a better lawyer but personally in terms of the friends that I've made. The City Bar certainly has been a huge centerpiece of the public service that I've done over the years. And I would say that a third piece would be my service on the Federal Judiciary Committee of the American Bar Association as representative of the Second Circuit (and also chair of this Committee). This Committee vets candidates for the federal bench. That was another wonderful experience and a highlight of my public service. In addition, I presently chair the Merit Selection Panel of the Magistrates Judge Committee for the Southern District of New York. Finally, in 2003 I began my term as Chair of the Legal Aid Society. Restructuring the Society to avoid bankruptcy and to continue to serve the legal needs of indigent New Yorkers was one of my most challenging but also rewarding experiences. All of these roles are part of a piece of the fabric of focusing on the judiciary and bar association activities and access to justice.

Editor: You have also been a distinguished litigator over the years, serving as an exemplar to all other women. Please describe briefly your practice and your present law firm affiliation.

Hynes: I am a Senior Counsel in the New York office of Allen & Overy, a global firm with 28 offices in 20 countries. My practice is complex commercial and securities litigation - a continuation of my practice over my professional life. I am doing litigation on the defense side rather than the plaintiff's (although not exclusively). Allen & Overy has a wonderful reputation around the world for its superior litigation practice, and the New York Office is no exception.

Editor: How does participation in bar associations benefit the employer - whether a law firm or an in-house legal department - as well as the individual?

Hynes: The employer is benefited because not only does it expand a person's horizons and make her a better lawyer, it also puts her in contact with a lot of different disciplines - lawyers practicing in other areas and contacts with very talented people - which is bound to benefit the corporate client.

Editor: What initiatives do you plan to undertake as president?

Hynes: Promoting access to justice in keeping with the long history of this Bar Association continues to be a priority of mine. I would hope to expand access to justice by enlarging upon pro bono activities of the City Bar Justice Center and also by supporting the funding efforts for the betterment of the justice system. The justice system is woefully underfunded - there is an increased caseload, judges are not paid enough and there is a need for more judges. On the criminal side, there is a constitutional requirement to provide a criminal lawyer for every indigent defendant, which has to be adequately funded or otherwise it's a hollow promise. Funding of the justice system is not only my priority but a challenge for the legal profession. It is an obligation of lawyers to assure that the justice system has the resources it needs to do the job, and that certainly is something that I feel very strongly about and hope that I can have some positive impact on.

Editor: Would this require special task forces or special committees or will this initiative be undertaken within the existing Association structure?

Hynes: Right now I'm going to be working with the committees that are in place. If as I go along I think that a task force would be required, I certainly would give that favorable consideration, but right now it doesn't seem to be something that is essential to this task.

Editor: Considering the vast range of services performed within the City Bar Association, will there be some areas you wish to particularly emphasize?

Hynes: The array of services that the City Bar provides is truly staggering. The Justice Center is a fabulous jewel in the crown. Through the pro bono efforts of lawyers it provides legal services to those in need. My key priority is to see that effort expanded.

Editor: What areas of international focus would you recommend that the Association take an active role in studying and in even suggesting action plans on?

Hynes: Globalization has made this a smaller and smaller world, but in doing cross-border transactions, which my firm does every day, there are challenges in harmonizing the different legal and regulatory systems so that business deals can be done efficiently, quickly and economically and with the certainty that the parties know that they have satisfied their obligations and are complying with the applicable legal requirements in the several jurisdictions in which they operate. City Bar has 15 committees that deal with international issues. Some of those committees deal with the issues of differing requirements of different legal systems. I'm going to examine whether there is something that we can do further toward the goal of harmonizing these different legal systems to benefit the business community.

Editor: A study of corporate governance was undertaken during the presidency of Betsy Plevan. What recommendations have come out of this study?

Hynes: The study emphasized the importance of preserving the lawyers' role as an advisor to the client on a broad range of issues, not just compliance. Notwithstanding that crucial role, the lawyer has to consider other values such as the prevention of corporate fraud. City Bar recommended the adoption of the ABA model rules 1.6 and 1.13 which deal with limited disclosure of client confidences in carefully circumscribed situations to prevent substantial harm to the client or others or to prevent and mitigate a crime or fraud. The report contains recommended best practices for both in-house and outside counsel.

Editor: Does this relate also to the study of the lawyer-client privilege?

Hynes: The lawyer-client privilege is another important focus because it has many different facets apart from the really unusual situation where you might have to consider whether there would be some limited disclosure to prevent substantial harm or mitigate a crime or fraud. We have also taken a position very recently in advocating for the passage of the federal Attorney-Client Privilege Protection Act, which would curb the practice of government agencies in pressuring companies they are investigating to waive the attorney-client privilege. Such abuse inhibits firms from providing representation that the client is entitled to because the clients, if they think the privilege will be waived, may not be forthcoming with the attorney and therefore the attorney will not be in the best position to give adequate and full advice on the circumstances involved. That is a very important protection that we feel strongly about - the government should not be asking for a waiver of the attorney-client privilege. We as a Bar Association have sent a letter to the Congressional committee studying this matter.

Editor: What areas of committee work within the Association have particular appeal to in-house counsel?

Hynes: We have more than 160 committees, and there are many that would be appealing to in-house counsel. We have at least a dozen committees in the corporate and financial area and a similar number that focus on international issues. The intellectual property and real estate committees would also be relevant to in-house counsel. We have increasingly active participation in our public service committees by in-house counsel - this work has received a very positive response. There are also committees of this Association that deal with issues that may not be what the in-house counsel deals with everyday but something that they may want to learn about or have a particular interest in separate and apart from their legal work.

Editor: So there is a rather broad umbrella.

Hynes: Definitely a broad umbrella -if somebody likes to sing, we have an entertainment committee, so I think it is well worth a look to see what we offer.

Editor: What goals do you hope to have accomplished at the end of your two-year term?

Hynes: I hope at the end of my term I will look back and be able to say we have increased our membership, which has been a goal of several of our past presidents, and is also a goal of mine. While the Association has been successful in attracting young lawyers, I would like to see us attract more. I would hope to see an increase in pro bono activity, which I am fairly confident we will see because I think the members are really understanding the importance of this service and are also enjoying the satisfaction that comes with doing pro bono work. On the international side, I hope we'll see some progress in streamlining the ability to have cross-border business transactions operate on a playing field where everyone knows what the rules and regulations require. And I hope to make progress in assuring that adequate resources are provided to the justice system.