The New York Law Journal by Joel Stashenko - January 24, 2011
More than 5,000 attorneys are expected to participate in the New York State Bar Association's six-day annual meeting that begins today at the New York Hilton with some saying that attorneys' financial prospects may be improving. See the 134th Annual Meeting brochure with calendar, registration information, and the Law Journal's NYSBA Annual Meeting special section. Stephen P. Younger of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, the bar group's president, said he expects to find attendees still wary about the economy, but somewhat more upbeat than attendees at the past two meetings. "My sense is that there is starting to be a renewed sense of optimism in the legal world," Mr. Younger said in an interview, citing recent surveys indicating that law firm hiring and revenues will go up this year. "That doesn't mean that with a snap of the fingers that it will be back to normal," he added. However, Lauren Wachtler, chairwoman of the state bar's Lawyers in Transition Committee, said the profession is still in the "doldrums" financially, with a few positive signs but many negative ones. "There is a glut of lawyers coming out of law school with nowhere to go," Ms. Wachtler, of Mitchell Silberberg & Krupp, said. She will participate in a how-to-interview session on Thursday for new law school graduates sponsored by the Law Student Council.
In addition to presentations on the challenges imposed on the legal industry by the poor state of the economy, a variety of programs are set for the state bar's 134th annual meeting, including one on "sexting"; another featuring the judge in a landmark case involving compensation for a companion animal; and one on the legal implications of bedbug infestations. More than 40 educational programs will offer CLE credits for participants. Also on tap is a much-anticipated debate set for Friday by the House of Delegates on whether to endorse potentially controversial proposals to revamp the way the state Commission on Judicial Conduct investigates and punishes judges for misconduct (NYLJ, Jan. 21). Mr. Younger has argued that law firms should use the economic woes to consider alternatives to traditional hourly billing structures and for young lawyers and their firms to find ways to develop a better work-life balance. "We need to change the way we do business as lawyers," Mr. Younger said. Many of those points will undoubtedly be highlighted on Wednesday during the meeting's Presidential Summit, for which Mr. Younger has set the agenda. The first of two panels that day is on "Shaping the Future of Our Profession: Strategies That Will Guide Lawyers and Clients Through an Era of Change." The panelists are Simon Chester, partner at Heenan Blaikie; Deborah Epstein Henry, president of Flex-Time Lawyers LLC; Richard A. Matasar, dean and president of New York Law School; and Amy W. Schulman, general counsel of Pfizer. The other summit program will explore "Government Ethics: Reforming the System, Rebuilding Public Trust in Our Institutions." It will be addressed by the state's new attorney general, Eric Schneiderman. Serving on a panel will be Evan A. Davis of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, former counsel to Governor Mario M. Cuomo; Mark Davies, executive director of the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board; John R. Dunne of Whiteman Osterman & Hanna; and Boyd Milo Johnson III, deputy U.S. attorney for the Southern District. The Committee on Media's discussion on "sexting" and whether it is an appropriate source of attention for prosecutorial discretion is set for tomorrow afternoon. On Wednesday, Margaret Taylor, a retired New York City Civil Court judge, will describe the reasoning behind her 1980 ruling in Brousseau v. Rosenthal, 443 NYS2d 285, in which she placed a value on a companion animal in a wrongful death case. Her talk is hosted by the Committee on Animals and the Law. And on Thursday, Lewis Montana of Levine & Montana in Peekskill will discuss "Bedbugs: Everything You Should Know, but Are Afraid to Ask," sponsored by the Real Property Law Section. Joel Stashenko can be contacted at email@example.com.