My Journey to Bar Leadership

By Sherry Levin Wallach

My Journey to Bar Leadership

sherry

I attended my first NYSBA Annual Meeting as a member of the Executive Committee of the Young Lawyers Section. Kenneth Standard was the president that year. The meeting was held at the Marriott Marquis in New York City. As I was traveling from meeting to meeting on the escalator, I saw Ken only a few steps in front of me. Seeing the president of the New York State Bar Association at that point in my career was like seeing a superstar. I quickly stepped up the escalator and introduced myself. I remember how honored I felt as a young lawyer to meet the president.

When I first joined the New York State Bar Association, I had no idea what a rewarding and important aspect of my career that bar association work would become. I certainly never imagined that one day I would be serving as the New York State Bar Association’s president-elect.

Drawing on the inspiration of my mentors and the incredible women who paved the way for me and so many others, I have been able to follow my dreams. I seized the opportunity to become part of this great profession and a leader of this association. My membership in the New York State Bar Association has largely been driven by its mission “to shape the development of law, educate and inform the public, and respond to the demands of our diverse and ever-changing legal profession.” My career path has always been consistent with NYSBA’s motto, “Do the Public Good.” Working toward accomplishing these goals continues to shape my career.

Driven to make a difference in this world and help others, I chose to concentrate my practice in the area of criminal law. I began as an assistant district attorney in Bronx County and joined NYSBA only a couple of years later.  The value of its membership quickly became apparent as it provided me with both personal and professional support. Whether it was during the time that I was an associate at a New York City firm handling medical malpractice matters or running my own small firm, the relationships that I formed with my NYSBA colleagues provided me with mentorship, guidance and a strong referral base. It would be those same relationships that would open the doors that led me to my position as the deputy executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County.

Over the last twenty plus years, I have had the opportunity to continue to develop bonds with my law school mentors. I have met and collaborated with many well respected and talented attorneys. I have been honored to have the opportunity to learn from legal scholars. Many of these relationships have become friendships that have guided me in my career. These outstanding mentors and the rewarding nature of the bar association’s work are what have inspired me to continue to serve not only as a leader but also on many of the association’s sections, committees, and task forces.

My NYSBA leadership journey began as an officer and chair of both the Young Lawyers and Criminal Justice sections and on the association’s Membership Committee. I eventually became chair of the Membership Committee. In 2019, I was appointed to co-chair the Task Force on Incarceration Release Planning and Programs. Throughout those years, I served as a member of the House of Delegates, a member-at-large of the Executive Committee, NYSBA vice president from the 9th Judicial district, and NYSBA secretary. My dedication to this association and firm belief in its mission have guided me on this journey.

The work that I have done with the sections, committees and task forces has been a driving force in my career. It has provided me with many opportunities to work with my colleagues on some of the most important issues facing the legal profession including criminal justice, immigration; and parole reform; diversity, equity and inclusion in the bar and legal profession; reentry for formerly incarcerated people; and access to justice. The reports that are written by the members of the sections, committees, and task forces help to shape the future.  This collaboration has led to the development of NYSBA initiatives and policies and the ability to influence new legislation.

One of the most rewarding experiences has been developing and co-founding the NYSBA Trial Academy. This program is entering its 12th year. The attendees have included attorneys from all over the world. I continue to work with the Trial Academy each year as a lecturer, as a “team leader” heading one of the breakout groups, and as an organizer. I have remained in contact with many of my former students and continue the cycle of commitment to bar association work by mentoring many of them to become active NYSBA members and future leaders.

All the wonderful mentors that I have had throughout my life, combined with my passion for teaching and the art of trial advocacy, have driven me to become a mentor myself. I find myself embracing every opportunity to lecture at continuing legal education programs, coach high school and law school trial teams or just have a conversation with a young attorney. It is this passion, my desire to help others and improve our world, that has driven me to be involved not only in the New York State Bar Association but many other legal organizations.

My candidacy for NYSBA president-elect was propelled by my love for this association, the legal profession, and my resounding commitment to better serve our clients and communities. My bar association work and the relationships that I have formed have helped me develop as a litigator, professional and mentor. Working together, we will continue to be the voice of the legal profession and provide access to justice and adherence to the rule of law. In the words of the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsberg, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”

Six diverse people sitting holding signs
gradient circle (purple) gradient circle (green)

Join NYSBA

My NYSBA Account

My NYSBA Account