President Brown: A Time of Renewed Optimism
The start of a new year is always a time of renewed optimism.
In his address to the association during Annual Meeting, President T. Andrew Brown said there is much to look forward to over the course of this year, both within and outside of the association.
He emphasized that the association will tirelessly advocate to advance its 2022 legislative priorities, including the enactment of a right to counsel in housing and immigration matters, an increase to the assigned counsel rates, the repeal of outdated Judiciary Law 470, and the promulgation of modernized policing practices and policies.
“Our members continue to work incessantly to promote equal justice for all and strengthen the legal profession,” said Brown.
Adapting and Moving Forward
Brown acknowledged the profound change of the last two years had led colleagues to feel that the practice of law has changed more in the last two years than even the last two generations.
He said he experienced the change himself in virtual court where he can’t physically touch exhibits or move throughout the courtroom, while jurors, lawyers and clients are separated.
“The law and lawyers look to precedent, but the two years of this pandemic have been unlike any in our lifetimes,” said Brown. “Rather than resist, we will continue to diligently steer ourselves, our colleagues, and the profession into the future despite the challenges and uncertainties of what might lie ahead.”
The role of a bar association is to help guide and lead the profession, he said. The Task Force on Post-Pandemic Future of the Profession, which Brown established in September 2021, is looking for solutions. It has held four public forums and conducted a member-wide survey to better the short- and long-term effects of the pandemic on the profession and practice of law. Its report is due later in 2022.
“To the extent that our colleagues may be struggling to keep up with the rapidly changing practice of law, I pledge that NYSBA will continue to be your supporter through legal education programming, innovative member benefits, and advocacy on behalf of the profession with the judiciary, executive branch, the legislature and the general public,” said Brown.
Likewise, the Executive Committee approved the creation of a standing Committee on Attorney Well-Being to oversee the expansion of resources within the association dedicated to assisting members in their efforts to improve both mental and physical health.
“If it was not clear before, it is now that we all must take concrete action to improve our own wellbeing as well as that of our fellow practitioners,” said Brown.
Brown also noted the work of the Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and its importance with NYSBA leadership and governance.
“The full and equal participation of attorneys of color and other diverse attorneys in the New York State Bar Association, and truly at every level of the legal profession, is not merely a diffuse aspiration but an earnest and achievable goal that is deeply held by me, by my colleagues on the committee, and indeed by everyone who loves and recognizes the potential of our association,” said Brown.
How Lawyers Can Help
Lawyers are guardians of justice, and we all must play our part in the struggle to achieve justice both within and outside of the profession, said Brown.
“We will collectively continue to respond and adapt to rapidly changing times through innovative solutions, pragmatic problem-solving, and cautious optimism,” Brown said. “We must focus on setting new norms, establishing new expectations, and meeting new challenges head on.”
Despite the challenges of the last two years, Brown remains confident about the future of the profession and bar association.
“I hope that you join me in navigating the challenges of the future with renewed determination and vigor,” said Brown. “After all, we cannot do it without you.’