Q: What challenges will the bar association face going forward?
A: The biggest challenge is staying relevant to the legal profession. There was a time, decades ago, when membership in the city bar was a given for many lawyers. That mind-set just doesn't exist the way it used to, so we need to continue to work hard to communicate the benefits of membership. We also need to stay relevant to the world around us. Technology is playing a greater role in everyday lives, and so we must adjust our capabilities in this area. Events seem to move faster now, and we have to be able to be more nimble, as the Justice Center was in responding to the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. And events that affect us take place over a wider area, with increased globalization. Our profession is more attuned to international issues, and the city bar, being located in the center of the legal world, has long been a leader in engaging foreign lawyers and addressing international issues. We need to expand those efforts.
Q: How has the profession changed and how has that affected membership in the bar?
A: The profession has changed so much that we've set up a blue-ribbon task force to figure out how we can all best adapt to it. When only roughly half of law school graduates are finding full-time employment in the law, the status quo is not an option. Also, those who are employed are often working longer hours, trying to balance their work and their personal lives, and being courted by many other interests beyond professional bar involvement. Our membership has held steady but we are constantly aware that we must provide more value to attract and keep membership.
Q: What is the relevance of bar associations today?
A: In a changing profession and a fast-changing world, bar associations can offer a kind of stability to lawyers. In the past, many had a firm that was their one legal home their entire career. This has become far less common. Today it is the bar association that can be your legal home throughout your career. You may change firms, find yourself between jobs, go into private practice or public service over the years, but it's good to know there's a place both central to the profession and centrally located where you can continue to network, learn and cultivate your career.
Q: What steps can the bar association take to remain relevant for young lawyers who don't rely on traditional legal networks?
A: There is still no substitute for face-to-face networking and no entity that brings together lawyers of all stripes the way bar associations do. Time and again we hear how serving on a committee is a transformative career experience for lawyers. If we provide committee opportunities for young lawyers, keep our events and CLE courses relevant and attractive, provide useful member benefits, and continue to be seen as a leader in the legal professionin short, if we continue to build itthey will come.
Q: How would you describe the membership? What personalities and traits are common or unique within the membership?
A: With 24,000 members from firms and corporate legal departments of all sizes, solo practitioners, judges, prosecutors, nonprofit practitioners and public servants, plus a sizable segment of national and international members from over 50 countries, our membership is remarkably diverse. I do think, given the long and storied history of the New York City Bar, there is a New York City attitudein a good waythat permeates the place, a sense of energy and excitement that comes from our members knowing they are central players in the legal profession.