President Brown: The Value and Relevance of NYSBA Membership Is Greater Now Than Ever
When we look at how much has changed in the practice of law over the last nineteen months, one thing is certain to President T. Andrew Brown. NYSBA is more relevant and holds more value for members than ever.
This was a key message he delivered to the House of Delegates in Cooperstown at its first live meeting since January 2020. The meeting was also hybrid for delegates wishing to participate remotely.
“We remain relevant; we gain strength; we lead, not by cautious hesitation but by careful progress as an association,” said Brown. ”By constant reimagination we will boldly fortify the New York State Bar Association, the legal profession, and ourselves as lawyers.”
He plans to assemble a working group to prepare a strategic plan for the association with a focus on maintaining and growing relevancy and value.
Successes for the year
The Continuing Legal Education Department has put on nearly 500 CLE webinars during this calendar year, with more to come through the end of December.
To improve the member experience, the Membership Committee and staff are working on: monthly billing and auto-renew payment options; dues packages that include online or on-demand CLE credits; cybersecurity insurance coverage offered through our partner USI Affinity; a streamlined online dues assistance process; and the ongoing effort to streamline the online user experience, especially for membership renewals.
Our focus extends beyond the borders of New York State, said Brown, to include international growth as well. NYSBA recently entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Georgian Bar and established a new chapter of the International Section in the Republic of Georgia. NYSBA plans to pursue many more such MOUs with international partners in the years to come and expand our global footprint.
Brown announced the association’s legislative priorities for 2022, which include the repeal of Judiciary Law 470, a fair and long-overdue raise in the rate of compensation for assigned counsel, creation of a right to counsel in immigration proceedings and in housing proceedings statewide, funding for universal broadband access, and broader and more significant student loan debt relief.
The association will continue to monitor other legislative and policy developments including parole reform, the roll-out of legalized cannabis in New York State and changes related to civil practice and the tort system.
“I am especially proud that NYSBA will advocate for legislation on modern policing,” said Brown.
Harmful policing practices result in misconduct that disproportionately impacts Black people and a culture that allows these practices to continue unchecked, he explained. “Policing needs to be brought into the 21st century and the recommendations developed by our Task Force on Racial Injustice and Police Reform will do much to bring about much needed change in this most important societal issue.”
Brown also singled out the achievements of the Task Force on Uniform Rules, which prompted a reexamination of the Uniform Civil Rules for the Supreme Court and the County Court. The task force, chaired by Richard Lewis, was formed by the House of Delegates at the April meeting, and tasked to review and comment on recently implemented changes to the rules by the Office of Court Administration.
The task force hosted four public forums in the spring to solicit the views of our membership – over 300 attorneys participated – and ultimately prepared a report on the shortcomings of the new rules. This report, which was approved by the Executive Committee in August, recommended the elimination of 23 of the new rules.
Brown and Lewis met with Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks to convey the concerns of the association.
As a result of this activity, the court system now plans to revise 12 of 29 rules and has solicited public comment by Dec. 6. The task force has scheduled two additional forums for Nov. 8 and 9 to solicit the feedback of members on these planned revisions and to ultimately prepare public comments for the review and consideration of the Administrative Board.
Our moment as lawyers
Brown was optimistic that NYSBA and its members are up to the challenges of the day because lawyers are uniquely positioned to lead the way. “This is our collective moment,” Brown said.
Brown emphasized the importance of collaboration among members across the globe.
“As we continue to navigate from out of the pandemic, as we continue to confront the scourge of racism and propose solutions to remove this insidious stain from law and society, as we continue to bridge the access to justice gap, as we continue to spotlight and value the mental, physical, and social wellbeing of ourselves and our colleagues, and as we continue to aggressively advocate for the legal profession and common-sense measures to strengthen and assist the practitioner and the practice of law, we must continue to band together as a profession, as lawyers, as leaders, to confront the challenges of the future,” he said.
Brown believes the future is full of excitement and progress. But there is much work left to do, he said.