The New York State Bar Association’s House of Delegates (HOD) is expected to vote on reports and recommendations regarding mental health and attorney advertising, and whether to change NYSBA’s bylaws to create a membership tier for paralegals. The quarterly meeting will take place on Saturday, Nov. 2, at the Bar Center in Albany.
It has been reported that law students who experience anxiety, stress, depression and other mental health issues have been reluctant to seek help or treatment for fear it might negatively impact their admission to the bar. This is understandable because the Application for Admission to Practice as an Attorney and Counselor-at-Law in the State of New York pointedly asks whether a bar applicant has been treated within the past 10 years for a list of numerous mental health issues. If so, the applicant must supply treatment details and may be asked to authorize the release of medical records. When the Working Group on Attorney Mental Health presents its report to the House for its approval, it will recommend that this question – Question 34 – be eliminated from the application.
The Committee on Standards of Attorney Conduct has been undertaking a comprehensive review of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct. Its latest review will be voted on at the November HOD meeting.
In June, the committee circulated a memorandum that proposed streamlining New York’s complex attorney advertising and solicitation rules: Rules 7.1-7.5 and their comments. The committee has advised adopting ABA Model Rules 7.1-7.3 instead, which were amended in August 2018 as being more appropriate to practice in a technology-driven digital world. The committee has reviewed the public comments to the proposal and is incorporating them into its memorandum. Approval of the committee’s recommendations by the HOD does not mean the new rules will become black letter law. The changes take effect only if the rules are adopted by the Appellate Divisions of the New York state courts.
NYSBA MEMBERSHIP FOR PARALEGALS
At its June 2019 meeting in Cooperstown, the HOD approved the report and recommendations of the Task Force on the Role of Paralegals, which updated the guidelines for attorney use of paralegals. At the November meeting, the HOD will hear a report recommending changes to NYSBA’s bylaws to allow paralegals to join the association.
The proposed change would include paralegals in NYSBA’s affiliate member tier, which is now restricted to a person who has a law degree, who is not admitted to practice law but who works for a bar association or a law school. Affiliate members do not have voting rights and may not become officers or hold other NYSBA executive positions but they may join sections and serve in other capacities.
The task force report proposed best practice guidelines on the use of paralegals by lawyers and law firms and specifically encourages offering professional development to paralegal staff. Their membership in NYSBA would bring more opportunities for education and training to paralegals.
COMMITTEE ON DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
NYSBA’s Committee on Diversity and Inclusion has set forth a report and resolution to be considered by the HOD. The resolution seeks to put on the record NYSBA’s longstanding commitment to the “principle of civility as a foundation for democracy and the rule of law” and calls for a more civil public discourse, reaffirms NYSBA’s “unwavering commitment” to diversity and inclusion within the association and at all levels of society, and calls for condemnation of “divisive and uncivil rhetoric” from public officials.
Watch the meeting live here.