Remarks of Carol A. Sigmond, NYCLA President Annual Dinner

Remarks of Carol A. Sigmond,

 NYCLA President

Annual Dinner

December 13, 2016


Thank you Bob,


Good evening fellow NYCLA members and our many honored guests


I welcome you to the 102nd annual dinner of the New York County Lawyers Association. In the spirit of this dinner and in sensible fear of the wrath of our dinner chair if I exceed my allotted time, I will be brief.


We are in a period of remarkable changes as a nation, as a profession and as a bar association: Some of this change may be disturbing, some hopeful and positive, some will be meaningful, and some trivial. As to the latter, this will, in all likelihood, be the last time we hold the NYCLA annual dinner at the Waldorf. The Waldorf is closing in a few weeks to reopen in a few years with residences and a few hotel rooms.


We will miss the grandur and stateliness of this room, but is, after all, only a room. It is the dinner, the chance to see old friends and make new ones that matters. This change in the location is a detail: this event will continue in a new location next year, and it will be better than ever!


I would like us to acknowledge the Waldorf staff that has served us so loyally and effectively for so many years.


We will also see changes marking progress: early next year, when you sign on to, you will see a new home page backed up by a new 21st century website. This new website will support more collaboration among lawyers, better access to content and improved communication between the Association and our members. We hope you find the new website to be change for the better.


We all bid farewell to an outstanding judge who serves and we hope continues to serve NYCLA as the Chair of the Committee on Law Related Education and who has year in and year out worked with and for young people in the New York City Public Schools on various projects including the Youth Law Manual, the High School Essay Contest and most recently, a pamphlet on the Grand Jury System. I refer of course to Judge Richard Price who is retiring from the bench this year.

Thank you Judge Price


There is change that is somewhat discomforting: it is the same every 4 or 8 years as we await the start of a new administration in Washington. However, if, as is predicted, there will be major changes to the tax, security and environmental laws, at least some members of the bar are assured further employment, which is a good thing.


Equally discomforting is the way that technology and on line legal document providers are changing our profession. In the new year, we will be releasing the report of the Task force On on-line providers of Legal forms based on the September 30, 2016 NYCLA forum led by our former president and now New York State Bar association president elect designate, Michael Miller. The challenges of the on line law document providers must be managed effectively for the long term health of our profession and we seek to lead that effort.


As we absorb this all of change, as individuals, professionals and members of the association, I would like to think that there are bed rock principles. For NYCLA there are 2: our commitment since our founding 108 years ago of inclusiveness as a bar association open to all lawyers, based solely on their being lawyers and not on another characteristic and our equally long standing commitment to make justice “more simple, more rapid and more exact”. I am confident these principles will provide certainty as we address ourselves to the changes that are upon us.


I would like to wish all of you, your families, firms, staff and friends, a happy holiday season and a healthy new year. Thank you


Lisa E. Cleary


The Boris Kostelanitz President’s award, named in honor of our former president Boris Kostelanitz of Kostelanitz and Fink, is given to one member of NYCLA each year to honor significant contributions to this association. This year, the Boris Kostelanitz president’s medal is being awarded to Lisa E. Cleary co managing partner of Patterson Belknap Webb and Tyler for her imaginative and thoughtful volunteer leadership of our pro bono program for the last 8.5 years.


Lisa is a woman of amazing ability and accomplishment. Lisa is a graduate of Radcliffe College and Duke university Law school. She is an accomplished litigator and counselor for her clients and a highly regarded partner at her firm and among her peers. She is an excellent mentor to the associates at Patterson. She is a good friend and counselor to her partners. At Patterson Belknap, pro bono service is part of the firm culture, and Lisa committed to helping young associates and partners at the firm to have meaningful educational and skill building experiences as part of their pro bono service, while also helping those in need. Indeed, one former partner at Patterson parleyed his pro bono case into a winning oral argument at the United States Supreme Court and a good result for the client. She has been recognized by many for her pro bono contributions including by the New York State Bar Association and the Legal Aid society.


But tonight the focus is on her 8.5 years a chair of the NYCLA pro bono committee. During this time, Lisa has overseen and led the development and launching of 8 programs, including tax court project, the veterans discharge up- grade project, the central states registry project, Project Restore, the unemployment project, the social security disability project and the clemency project. In addition, in concert with our County Clerk, Milton Tingling, NYCLA developed a program, to assist ex offenders in regaining certain civil rights including the right to vote and the right to serve on juries. During this time, NYCLA has also continued to operate the Manhattan Claro project and the legal counseling clinic.


These 8 new projects have served hundreds of needy New Yorkers since their respective inceptions. As a result, people have been able to get jobs, vote, obtain veterans benefits, obtain unemployment benefits, and resolve some tax problems, to name but a few accomplishments. Our volunteers have been gained skills, experience and a sense of accomplishment in helping the many clients in these programs.


Launching 8 pro bono programs is a meaningful accomplishment, but Lisa has gone one step further, she has actually developed a system for evaluating and launching new projects that will make a real difference for poor New Yorkers. All of the new NYCLA pro bono programs are administrative law programs that either seek government benefits for removal of a government imposed disability on the clients. These programs avoid conflicts of interest for the volunteers, provides for training and mentoring for the volunteers, assesses needs and arranges for screening of cases, while providing valuable skills enhancement for attorneys with the good feeling that comes from helping others. All of this has made it easier for us to partner with firms, large and small, as well as solos and government attorneys seeking pro bono opportunities.


Because of Lisa’s efforts, NYCLA has robust, creative, and imaginative programs assisting our fellow New Yorkers while giving volunteers a real sense of engagement. Moreover, we are able to evaluate pro bono proposals more effectively with the models that Lisa has helped us develop and launch worthy programs more quickly.


Lisa, the entire NYCLA community thanks you and salutes you for helping NYCLA to advance its pro bono programs in this unique manner that is proving that we can all give back to the community, using our special skills and abilities as lawyers.

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