To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
When I was inducted as NYCLA President late last May, my vision for the year ahead included three major goals: to launch new pro bono projects; to make NYCLA more affordable to lawyers just starting their careers; and to help restore adequate funding for the federal and state courts in New York. I’m proud to say we have delivered on these initiatives.
One of the pro bono programs we launched this year was the Veterans Discharge Upgrade Pro Bono Pilot Program, which helps veterans suffering from PTSD and related disorders obtain discharge upgrades. Seventy NYCLA Members participated in the program’s first training session in September. Meanwhile, working in collaboration with the New York County District Attorney’s Office, the Asian American Bar Association, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of New York, Chinatown Partnership, and the Chinatown Business Improvement District, NYCLA held a series of workshops in Chinatown to assist small business owners in understanding various laws and regulations related to record keeping, taxes, labor issues, construction permitting, and immigration. Through these and other programs, the Association and its dedicated volunteers have once again helped to make our community a better place, serving 1,700 individuals this year alone.
Meanwhile, we revamped our membership dues structure, making NYCLA more affordable to young lawyers just starting out in their careers. Instead of raising rates across the board (after seven years with no dues increases in any category), NYCLA actually lowered dues for young lawyers not yet well-established in their careers. Newly admitted lawyers continue to receive a complimentary membership from the Association during the first year they are licensed to practice. Thereafter, dues start at $75 for lawyers admitted one to two years – a figure that drops to $50 for young lawyers who were NYCLA members while in law school or before admission to the bar. This is a substantial reduction from NYCLA’s previous dues structure, and a very competitive rate as well.
Since last May NYCLA has also advocated for the courts, vigorously investigating the real-world effects of recent judicial budget cuts – including sequestration – publicizing our findings and conclusions, and demanding adequate funding for a system that was increasingly in a dire state due to meager operating budgets. In September, NYCLA’s Task Force on Judicial Budget Cuts issued a report on the effects of sequestration and related cuts on the administration of justice in the United States District and Bankruptcy Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. In December, the Task Force held a day-long public hearing to gather testimony about the continuing impact of judicial budget cuts on the administration of justice in both the federal and the state courts. The hearing was open to the public and featured seven hours of testimony from 23 witnesses, including the chief judges of the Second Circuit and the Southern and Eastern District Courts, and the Presidents of the American and the New York State Bar Association. In January, the Task Force followed up the hearing with a report describing the struggles of both the state and federal judiciaries in meeting their constitutional and statutory obligations in the face of shrinking resources and growing caseloads. Thereafter, Congress acted to restore most of the sequestration-related cuts to the federal courts, and the New York judiciary submitted its budget request to the Governor. Mostly recently, in February, I submitted written testimony to the Joint Fiscal Committees of the New York State Legislature in support of the full budget amount requested by the judiciary.
Of course we didn’t stop there. NYCLA continues to provide Members with career-building tools and offers a wide range of networking events and programs to bring together practitioners of all levels. We freshened up our Member newspaper; offered discounts on new products and services (such as JurisPage, a web design, marketing, and search engine optimization tool); and served our Members’ research needs through our Library.
We also offered cutting edge CLE programs in substantive law and skill building at competitive rates. For example, after the Supreme Court invalidated a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, NYCLA brought in many of the key players in U.S. v. Windsor for a special CLE program devoted to discussing the case and the continuing issues it raises.
These initiatives and programs were made possible through NYCLA’s dedicated Officers, Directors, Committees, and staff. I value the opportunity to work with this great group and I am grateful for all they do for our Association.
Feel free to tweet me at @nyclapres, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org with feedback on any of NYCLA’s initiatives. If you are not already a NYCLA Member, I encourage you to visit nycla.org/joinus to learn more or call 212-267-6646 x208.