NYCLA Annual Dinner Speech 2017 by Michael J McNamara

NYCLA Annual Dinner Speech

December 11, 2017


Distinguished guests, elected officials, Judges, fellow Bar Leaders, NYCLA members and friends, good evening and welcome to the 103rd annual dinner of the New York County Lawyers Association


On behalf of the Association, I want to congratulate all of tonight’s Award winners and honorees and thank everyone for being here


2017 was a very busy and productive year at NYCLA


In the interest of time, I will mention only a few highlights of the outstanding work done this year by our Task Forces and Committees, our Justice Center, our members and staff


NYCLA issued a ground-breaking report on the multi-billion dollar on-line legal forms industry that calls for important protections for consumers and which I am happy to say earned the support of many bar associations around the state and was overwhelmingly approved last month by the New York State Bar Association’s House of Delegates


Because these issues affect consumers and lawyers nation-wide, the next stop for our report is the ABA


We organized very successful and thought provoking forums on important issues of the day, including in recent months one on the pros and cons of a Constitutional Convention and another regarding Sanctuary Cities


We served the community: NYCLA’s innovative Pro Bono programs helped close the justice gap for hundreds of New Yorkers who needed legal help in matters involving their homes, their families, their jobs and their benefits


And as we look forward to 2018 and beyond, our Task Force on the 21st Century is helping us assess the changing needs of lawyers and how NYCLA can best serve its members in the future


In other news, Past President Stewart Aaron entered service as a federal Magistrate Judge in the Southern District of New York, joining Past President Barbara Moses on that distinguished bench


And Past President Michael Miller will be installed as President of the New York State Bar Association this coming June


Congratulations Stewart, Michael and Barbara, you make us all proud


In addition to all that, we held a number of very successful events honoring esteemed members of the bench and bar, including our Law Day luncheon, Weinfeld Luncheon and especially tonight’s gala


Please join me in thanking our Dinner Chair, Bob Haig, our Executive Director, Sophia Gianacoplos, and the NYCLA Staff who worked so hard to make this dinner, our first in this location, a great success


Let me turn now to the presentation of the President’s medal


The President’s medal is named in honor of the 33rd President of NYCLA, Boris Kostelanetz, who was a highly respected and beloved leader of this Association


The medal is conferred upon “A member of the Association whose record of dedication and service to the Association and the legal profession comport with the high standards established by Boris Kostelanetz.”


I wish I could claim all the credit for identifying this year’s honoree, but it was actually Michael Miller’s suggestion, a recommendation that I and those I consulted with unanimously endorsed


Tonight’s honoree, Gene Souther, served with great distinction as the 43rd President of NYCLA from 1988-1990. During his term as President, he worked tirelessly to improve our Association, to update our landmark building at 14 Vesey Street and to advance the interests of our members and lawyers throughout New York State


Of note, given tonight’s dinner theme, he hired the first female Executive Director of NYCLA and an assistant Executive Director, Sophia Gianacoplos, who has been our outstanding Executive Director for the past 13 years


In addition, during Gene’s presidency, the very successful Harold Baer Jr. and Dr. Suzanne Baer Minority Judicial Internship Program was launched


Like Boris Kostelanetz, whose firm Kostelanetz & Fink still bears his name, Gene was a highly successful attorney, the longtime Head of Seward & Kissel and our Litigation Department and a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers


I’m very grateful that so many partners and associates from Kostelanetz & Fink and Seward & Kissel are here tonight


Apart from his work at NYCLA and Seward & Kissel, Gene has been deeply involved in a number of other organizations


Woody Allen famously said that “80% of success is showing up”; those of us who know Gene are well aware that he is someone who always shows up and who takes his commitment to the many organizations he has been involved with very seriously


Here are some of the organizations Gene has served:


He has been a Director of the Fordham Law School Alumni Association since 1959


He served for many years on the Departmental Disciplinary Committee of the First Department in a variety of roles


He acted for many years as a Village Justice in no fewer than 3 different villages and continues in that role today in the Village of Lattingtown; and


He served as a trustee of two different hospitals, including more than 20 years as a trustee of St. Francis Hospital and 3 years as Chairman of its Board


Finally, on a personal note, I would add that but for his example and encouragement, I would likely not be standing here tonight as President of your Association

Ladies and Gentlemen – it is my great honor and privilege to present the 2017 Boris Kostelanetz President’s medal to Gene Souther