President’s Message: Building Value for Our Members

By Domenick Napoletano

June 18, 2024

President’s Message: Building Value for Our Members


By Domenick Napoletano

Head shot of Domenick Napoletano, 2024-25 president of the New York State Bar Association.

The main goal of my presidency is to meaningfully reduce impediments to the efficient practice of law for our members. I know that may sound ambitious, and perhaps even somewhat ambiguous, and that the implantation of this goal will likely take longer than my one year in office to complete. However, creating value for our members will be the guiding principle of my presidency. Therefore, I hope to make inroads on the following issues.

My first initiative is to harness the prominent talent we already have within our existing sections and committees. We must task our leaders to bring forth suggestions and prioritize legislative proposals for our Executive Committee to vote upon so that those same proposals can be brought to the state Legislature and made into law, thereby improving the practice. I believe it is vital to have a forum where each member can voice and vet their concerns for critically needed solutions that may result in their effective implementation.

Another area of focus will be an examination of the Civil Practice Law and Rules, which is long overdue. I have heard from our members that some provisions simply do not make sense any more given technological advances that render many provisions obsolete.

I also feel strongly about building a consensus among members of the judiciary to synthesize and standardize court part rules that may be contradictory or are inconsistent with each other. The groundwork for this initiative has already been broached by me, with Justice Tanya R. Kennedy, chair of our Judicial Section, and with the former presiding justice of the Appellate Division, First Department, Rolando T. Acosta, on a related issue of judicial independence. Chief Judge Rowan Wilson has also opened his door to us so that we can collaborate with our judicial branch of government toward achieving our common goals. I look forward to working with all members of our judiciary to solidify this mission throughout the course of my year.

Another issue of paramount concern for me is age discrimination, which many lawyers over the age of 50 inevitably seem to face. I have heard from numerous members that employment prospects pale in comparison to those of younger colleagues. Ageism’s negative and inaccurate stereotypes are so ingrained in our culture that they often go unnoticed. Widespread discrimination is unacceptable, either written in job advertisements and employment descriptions or systematically practiced in standardized termination schemes. This is exacerbated when it intersects with other marginalized categories like gender or race. An arbitrary age cutoff, without responsibly individualized cognitive or performance assessments that can help maintain a workforce with a minimum critical mass of wisdom from experience, may jeopardize, and often delay, justice.

Simultaneously, the most diverse, tech-savvy, anxious, worried and socially conscious generation to date is entering the legal profession. Attorney wellness is imperative, given the higher rates of anxiety, depression and loneliness that developed from dealing with the unique isolation during the pandemic. As such, putting their phone down is often the only way for “plugged-in” lawyers to engage in personal interaction and camaraderie with groups outside their own norms. It also helps them develop valuable life lessons and critical-thinking and advocacy skills.

There is an urgency to ensure that newer attorneys are well prepared to practice in this state. Our Task Force on the New York Bar Examination has recommended reviving a course of study in New York practice, which some law schools stopped teaching, and implementing a New York bar exam, which would ensure that new lawyers know New York law. I, along with our leadership team, will continue to promote our case to law schools and the Unified Court System on these topics. We will also closely follow how artificial intelligence and other emerging and disruptive technologies will be responsibly taught, used, advanced and implemented by the legal community.

As a side note, it should be of little surprise that in rural areas of our state there is a shortage of lawyers, who are also disadvantaged by a lack of access to broadband and the digital divide. I commend Gov. Kathy Hochul for establishing the $1 billion ConnectALL Initiative; we will continue to monitor its implementation and effectiveness. It also makes no sense that lawyers who practice in the county courts of Nassau and Suffolk counties are unable to e-file documents. Every county in this state should allow e-filing as well as other smart technology that will enable the court’s judiciary and its officers to reduce the time, energy and financial impact on the public and the environment. We have endorsed a bill that has passed the State Legislature that will hopefully make e-filing more readily available statewide.

I have been a member of the association for nearly 45 years and have served on various committees and in many leadership roles, including as treasurer. I am forever grateful for the friendships I have formed and the collaborative spirit that allowed us to accomplish so much. I’m excited that we have new members joining our committees because they are our future leaders and will invigorate the committees with fresh ideas.

Thus, as we attend to practical issues that directly impact our association, we also have implemented a new membership model that will take effect at the beginning of the 2025 membership year. We will eliminate our “a la carte” pricing structure and create more efficient online transactions, while expanding our offerings under a single, affordable fee. Our CLE department’s programs and published materials, created by impressive and experienced mentors, can truly advance practical knowledge and skills in a variety of practice areas. I trust that everyone will take advantage of this goldmine of knowledge at your fingertips.

So, while this is a tall order, I guarantee that I have never shied away from driving success. The value of hard work was instilled in me by my immigrant parents, who urged me to become the first person in my family to graduate grammar school, never mind law school. Now, after 43 years as a sole practitioner, I annually juggle hundreds of cases, throughout numerous counties, while also being asked to appear on complex cases by larger firms. So, I can truly sympathize with the constraints and challenges faced, not only by the two-thirds of our members who are also single practitioners, but by large firms as well. We all share the ever elusive need to reduce the drain on our time so we may be more effective public servants, along with the need for cost-effective, efficient, easy and secure technical infrastructures and identifying, training, and retaining legal talent and opportunities.

I am thankful for the vote of confidence in being given this opportunity to serve as our association’s president in pursuit of its members’ goals, as my 126 esteemed predecessors have achieved through our history. I know, undoubtedly, I will face numerous hurdles, but I am confident that my strength lies in the collective talent of our association, the members who I have come to call friends and who, wholeheartedly, lend their generous support to the success of our association and our ideations for the legal profession. I look forward to hearing from you all.

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