Bret Parker headshot
Welcome to the Virtual House of the Association
As our President, Sheila S. Boston, says in her introduction to this newsletter, the New York City Bar Association swung into action quickly and on many fronts when the pandemic hit the city with full force in March. We closed the iconic House of the Association on March 19 and pivoted to being a remote bar association (opening the building in September for limited, appointment-only access).

One prevailing dark joke during the pandemic has been that nobody knows what day it is. I think we lost track of the months as well, because while things usually slow down a bit for the City Bar during the summer, on the contrary, it was the busiest summer (and fall) many of us who work here can remember. And thanks to the tremendous work of our Committees and staff, we didn’t miss a beat.

City Bar staff have been working remotely and our members have been remotely attending CLEs and events, collaborating and networking, and making good use of our library’s online research resources and many other member benefits.

We have moved all of our programming and CLEs online to a virtual platform, offering over 120 CLEs between March and the end of the year. Attendance is actually up significantly compared to our pre-pandemic live programming. Dozens of programs were produced in response to changes caused by the pandemic. Our Committees on Labor and Employment Law and Compliance organized a series of CLE programs on the effect of the pandemic on business, and our Committees on Bioethical Issues, Health Law, Information Technology & Cyber Law, and Insurance Law have produced podcasts tackling various aspects of the pandemic as well. Kudos to Martha Harris, Senior Director of Programs & Committee Engagement, and her team for keeping everything humming along so well.

We make a concerted effort to serve all our members, no matter what kind of law they practice. Our “8th Annual Institute on Not-for-Profit Law: Navigating the Current Climate” featured New York State Attorney General Letitia James. And in recent years, we have increased our offerings for in-house counsel; two recent, notable programs were the “In-House Counsel Networking and Roundtable Discussion: Strategies for Advancing Your Career” and the “Corporate Counsel Symposium: What Lawyers Can Expect in the Next Presidential Term,” which featured Loretta Lynch, Congressman Eric Swalwell, former FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, former federal judge John Gleeson, Barry Berke, and many more. Also timely was our program on “NYS Election Reform 2021: The Three Most Important Things” put on by our Election Law Committee.

Many of our programs have focused on the small-firm and solo practitioners who are deeply affected by the pandemic and who make up about a quarter of our membership. With many attorneys seeing their businesses affected while also experiencing tremendous isolation, the Small Law Firm Center and Small Law Firm Committee have offered weekly chats for small and solo practitioners to come together, share experiences with peers, exchange ideas, and support one another.

Webpage opened to the Small Business Firm Symposium 2020
The Small Law Firm Symposium in November was a great success, with over 200 attendees taking advantage of a new, state-of-the-art, virtual platform that allowed them to attend vendor demos, obtain discounts on products, upload their bios, link to their LinkedIn page, chat with one another, attend networking sessions hosted by the Small Law Firm Committee, take up to five CLE courses, and attend innovative programs like “Moneyball for Lawyers – Managing by the Numbers to Get Major League Results.” Thanks to Eve Guillergan, Senior Manager of our Small Law Firm Center, for making it all happen. The City Bar is as deeply committed as ever to providing a community for solos and small-firm practitioners.

The New Lawyer Institute (NLI), which is sponsored by all the area law schools and some from beyond, quickly transformed and expanded its curriculum to respond to the unexpected circumstances new graduates found themselves in, with the bar exam uncertain and job offers deferred or withdrawn. We had 350 people register for NLI’s flagship “Bootcamp 2020: Basic Training for Lawyers,” which featured such timely panels as “Job Search: Finding Your First Job in Uncertain Times.” The Council on the Profession brought together six area law school deans to address how law schools are adapting in the short term and how the new hybrid formats will affect learning, extra-curricular activities, and exams.

Our Professional Development Workshop Series, which helps attorneys as they transition to more senior roles, was our most successful ever, despite the pandemic. See the story on that in this issue.

Our Career Advancement and Management Committee continues to address the professional development needs of lawyers at all stages of their career, including with Q&As at its monthly “Forward Focus Fridays.” And, as always, our program on “How to Start Your Own Law Firm” was very well attended.

It’s always a special day at the City Bar when we bestow one of our many awards and honors, and the pandemic has not stopped us from holding ceremonies for our Bernard Botein Medal, Thomas E. Dewey Medal, Diversity & Inclusion Champion Award, Municipal Affairs Award, and Henry L. Stimson Medal. In fact, friends and family of award recipients from all over the country were able to watch these inspirational events because of the virtual format.

At a time when it’s easy to feel isolated and anxious, the City Bar can provide a sense of community and connection. Joining a committee and participating in the meaningful work of issuing reports and producing programs can provide a satisfying sense of purpose, as can giving back by doing pro bono through the City Bar Justice Center or the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, or volunteering to help diversify the legal profession through our Office for Diversity and Inclusion or support one another’s Mental Health and Wellness through the Lawyer Assistance Program. I’m so proud of all the good work our members and staff are doing, especially for underserved communities in these tough times. Great thanks to David Levine, City Bar Fund Board Chair and Bloomberg LP General Counsel, for his leadership.
Laptop displaying virtual meeting in progress
Thomas E. Dewey Medal Ceremony
And can we not forget fun? Recreation is an essential component of mental health and wellness. Our “Lawyers Connect: Virtual Scavenger Hunt Across NYC” was a blast, and we will continue to create events for our members to take a break from work and from the news, and to share a laugh and get to know one another better. Thanks to Arlene Bein and her Membership team, and Locksley Green and his Customer Relations team, who are always looking out for all of our members’ varied needs.

As summer turned to fall, we reopened the building on a limited, appointment-only basis. (More information on that is here.) While we expect to continue operating on a remote basis until the tide is turned on the pandemic, we are working hard with our Director of Building Operations, Bob Huber, to prepare for the day when we can welcome the legal profession back to its second home. We have upgraded to MERV-13 filters in all our air conditioning systems and will be inspecting, cleaning, and sanitizing air-circulation and filtering systems regularly; increasing the amount of fresh air when possible; and implementing cleaning and disinfectant protocols approved by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and meeting the EPA’s criteria for use against the coronavirus.

All of this demonstrates that the City Bar’s members and staff have successfully pivoted to functioning as a virtual community even as we prepare for our return to the building and what will likely be a new normal of a combined online and in-person association, neither of which would feel completely satisfying by itself.

Until we meet again in person, great thanks to our members for their commitment, participation, and continued support.

As always, please feel free to contact me at