Profiles in Leadership: Edwina Frances Martin

By Committee on Leadership Development

March 4, 2024

Profiles in Leadership: Edwina Frances Martin


By Committee on Leadership Development

The New York State Bar Association Committee on Leadership Development is profiling the association’s leaders in a series of articles that will appear on the website. In each profile, we examine the path they took to become a leader, the mentors that inspired them and the beliefs that made them successful. We hope these interviews will encourage all members of all backgrounds to pursue positions in leadership. This profile features Edwina Frances Martin.

What made you become involved and stay with NYSBA?

A stranger once gave me a very good piece of advice. I had been asked by a friend if I wanted to run for an officer position in an advocacy organization. I was on vacation in a pool when I received the call and I peppered my friend with questions and agonized over whether I had the time. When the call ended a woman at the pool who had overheard the conversation shared with me that she was a psychologist and that she often saw that people regretted the things they didn’t do far more than those they did – the missed opportunities. She encouraged me to take a chance, which I did, and I never looked back. So, when a dear friend at the NYC Bar Association asked if I would join its delegation to the New York State Bar Association’s House of Delegates, I did not hesitate and trusted that I would learn more about the state bar, the House of Delegates, and how to balance this opportunity with my work, family, and other activities. It is one of the best decisions I ever made!

Which past or present NYSBA leader inspires you and why?

I have appreciated every president I have had the honor to meet and/or work with since joining the state bar in 2006! I have a special place in my heart for Kate Madigan, however, because she appointed me to my first committee assignment in the state bar after meeting me at my very first House of Delegates summer meeting reception, the then newly formed “Committee on Committees,” and I was able to work with the amazing Mimi Netter and learn about the nuts and bolts of running a state bar committee and understanding how committee work fits in with and supports the mission of the state bar.

Describe your journey to becoming a NYSBA leader?

It has been one experience building on another – appointment to a delegation to the House of Delegates (with the New York City Bar) and to a committee (the Committee on Committees), becoming involved with other committees (multiple), running for a position on the Executive Committee (Member-At-Large), appointment to committee chairpersonship (the Committee on Legal Aid, the President’s Committee on Access to Justice, and the Committee on Leadership Development), and serving as a delegate to the House of Delegates from the 13th Judicial District.

How have you grown as a NYSBA leader?

I’m not sure how I have grown as a “NYSBA leader” but I do know that being involved with NYSBA has helped me grow as a leader – affording me opportunities to improve my writing and public speaking skills, develop my organizational skills, and hone my project management acumen.

How do you describe your leadership style?

I would describe my leadership style as collaborative. I invite everyone’s opinion on a problem, challenge, or task and we work together to meld these into goals and actions.

What leadership skills do you find most useful when working with NYSBA members?

Collegiality is extremely important, because we may disagree, but it must be respectful and thoughtful. Networking, so that we meet members who may be able to work with you on a project or issue. And the other skills I have mentioned – project management, public speaking, writing, etc.

Did mentorship or advocacy help you succeed as a leader?

I have been lucky to have many mentors in the state bar who have encouraged my development as a leader within NYSBA. My first advocate was Mimi Netter, an amazing NYSBA leader whom I still miss dearly.

How do you determine which goals to set and work on as a NYSBA leader?

I think you can’t go wrong by following your passions. When I first became active with NYSBA I was working in the nonprofit public interest sector and I was interested in reduced dues for public interest attorneys. I also wanted to uplift issues of importance to the public interest community and its clients within NYSBA, which I have striven to do throughout my NYSBA career.

What was a difficult decision you made as a NYSBA leader?

I asked Judge George Lowe, a beloved past chair of the President’s Committee on Access to Justice, to work with me when I was chair of the Committee on Legal Aid to help find a solution to the anger that had been engendered by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman pro bono reporting efforts. We formed a joint working group of the two committees that eventually presented a report to the House of Delegates with recommendations regarding pro bono reporting – such as making reporting anonymous and enlarging the definition of pro bono for purposes of reporting. While never adopted by the Association, this report helped produce the framework for a resolution to this challenging issue. In addition to creating this working group, I also personally spoke with and became friends with many members on various sides of the issue to better understand what would be needed to resolve this issue.

What do you see as the greatest challenge for the legal profession in the next five years and how have you tried to address that challenge as a NYSBA leader?

Building membership and perception of relevancy. We are in a challenging period for advocacy and membership-based organizations as we grapple with how to reach generations that do not value joining organizations and where we face enormous competition for their time and their desire to have a more immediate impact on society. Curating experiences that speak to this and engage younger members will be more important than ever. It was with an eye towards this issue that, during my time as chair of the Committee on Legal Aid and co-chair of the President’s Committee on Access to Justice, I worked to revamp the format and process for the state bar’s Partnership Conference, a bi-annual event that brings together practitioners in the pro bono and legal services communities. By implementing changes such as releasing an RFP for workshop proposals so that attendees would feel invested in the conference work product; creating group registration opportunities for programs to make it easier for staff to attend as well as early bird registration opportunities; and increasing marketing for the conference, attendance increased from an average of 200 attendees to 600 attendees pre-pandemic.

What mark of leadership do you wish to leave as a legacy at NYSBA?

That I was a voice and advocate for the underrepresented in our society within the association.

What advice would you give to future leaders?

Say yes when the opportunity for leadership presents itself and figure out how to make it work. “Carpe Diem.”

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My NYSBA Account

My NYSBA Account