Incoming LGBTQ Law Section Chair Sam Buchbauer Says NYSBA Membership Makes National Impact

By Rebecca Melnitsky

June 2, 2023

Incoming LGBTQ Law Section Chair Sam Buchbauer Says NYSBA Membership Makes National Impact


By Rebecca Melnitsky

Sam Buchbauer is a Trusts and Estates attorney at the Law Offices of David A. Caraway in New York City. He will be the chair of the LGBTQ Law Section starting in June. He graduated from the Syracuse University College of Law in 2019. He also served as co-chair of the Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in 2022-2023 and is currently a member of the Strategic Planning Committee.

Why did you decide to become a lawyer?

I have always wanted to be in a career where I helped others. I initially started out in the nonprofit sector, and I loved the mission-driven approach to help make the world a better place. However, I felt I could make a more impactful difference as a lawyer, and I thought law school would be a good way to continue to help people.

And in my current practice, I feel I help others every day. Additionally, a majority of our clients identify as LGBTQ+, and I find it meaningful to help this community with their estate planning needs.

Tell me about working in Trusts and Estates

I enjoy this practice because you’re making a personal impact on someone’s life. You get to know them intimately – what their family is like, all about their finances and all about their plans for the future. You get to work closely with clients on important decisions they have to make prior to and after their death.

What particular needs do you notice your clients have? 

Each client has specific needs, but our firm has had some couples who are going through the surrogacy process. Some surrogacy agencies require that couples have estate planning documents in place should anything happen. They also require inserting specific language into the will or Power of Attorney regarding parental powers, enforcement of a surrogacy agreement and payment of surrogacy obligations.

Other times we draft estate plans for long-term same-sex partners who have chosen not to get married but would like to protect their partner through estate planning. This is especially important if a partner’s biological family is not supportive of or hostile to their LGBTQ identity. In this way one partner can ensure their assets are distributed per their wishes and benefits the other partner.

How did you first get involved with NYBSA?

I was familiar with NYSBA in law school, and I first got involved in the organization in 2020 right before the pandemic. I attended the Annual Meeting to network, and I happened to connect with Christopher Riano, who at the time was the chair of the LGBT People and the Law Committee. Christopher asked me to join as membership chair, and I’ve been involved ever since.

From 2020 to now, the committee has transitioned to a section. We’ve done excellent work under Christopher’s leadership. And through my involvement, I met Sherry Levin Wallach and she nominated me to be one of the co-chairs of the [Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion]. I was then appointed to join the Strategic Planning Committee.

You’re the incoming chair of the LGBTQ Law Section. You’re the second chair ever, and it’s one of the newer sections.

It’s an exciting opportunity, and something I hadn’t foreseen at this stage in my career. I’m so looking forward to the opportunity to lead the section, and I’m confident in our Executive Committee. We’ve achieved a lot of great things, from amicus briefs, events and CLE programs.

We also have collaborated with other LGBT groups and individuals, and I hope to continue that during my tenure as chair. For example, one of the most satisfying collaborations for me has been working with [Judge James Hyer] on promoting the judicial bench card for using LGBTQ+ inclusive terms and pronouns in New York courtrooms. This initiative was spearheaded by [President Sherry Levin Wallach]. I wrote a report to introduce this initiative to the House of Delegates, which passed. Sherry invited me to join the delegation in New Orleans for the American Bar Association’s mid-year meeting. She presented the report to the American Bar Association, and the initiative passed with a strong consensus. Being able to work on that and see that passed through to the American Bar Association just shows how important it is to ensure that courtrooms are spaces that are inclusive and respective of LGBTQ+ individuals. This collaboration has been a highlight in my involvement at NYSBA.

What are your hopes for the LGBTQ Law Section for the next two years?

The Executive Committee is still in the planning stages of what we want to accomplish for the next two years, and we want to continue the great work that we’ve been doing. I think the amicus briefs in particular have been very well respected and well received. I think we can continue to make a great impact in that arena.

We’d also look forward to our continued collaboration with other LGBTQ groups and organizations, such as working to advance the judicial bench card. We’d like to continue working on initiatives like that and collaborating with the LGBT Bar Association of New York. They’ve been great partners.

And as anti-LGBT laws and anti-trans laws are being passed across the country, it’s important for us to respond with a strong voice, and offer our support for the LGBTQ community not just in New York State, but across the U.S.

What benefits have you gotten from NYSBA membership?

It’s led to leadership opportunities that I wouldn’t have thought possible at this stage in my career. I’ve been a practicing attorney for three years and now I have the opportunity to chair a section. It’s also been a way to connect with the larger legal profession, not just in New York State, but throughout the United States. Attending the American Bar Association mid-year meeting in New Orleans was a great way to meet attorneys from across the country.

I also found co-chairing the [Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] provided another perspective on how a different body operates within NYSBA. Seeing how that committee runs its events and communications has inspired ideas for the LGBTQ Law Section.

And its been beneficial to be a part of the Strategic Planning Committee to see more big picture issues that are affecting the overall organization.

Whenever I can, I try to attend the CLEs, and I always find that a helpful resource.

Working with people on these various committees has also been a great benefit as a new lawyer, especially working with more seasoned and experienced attorneys and judges.

Finish this statement: You should join NYSBA because…

It offers a great way to meet people and network with attorneys across the state. The CLEs offered are also a great way to learn new skills. There are opportunities at the New York State Bar Association that I think most members don’t realize. There are many ways to volunteer that can help you meet other practitioners and advance your career.

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