We belong to one of the most impactful, influential and consequential professions in American life. Lawyers right wrongs, improve lives, make society better.
We are society’s problem solvers. We are the foot soldiers of the Constitution. No other profession affords so many opportunities to help people in need.
Founded in 1876, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) has grown to become the largest voluntary state bar in the nation. So it comes as no surprise that our Annual Meetings are among the largest gatherings of lawyers in the world.
NYSBA’s first Annual Meeting was held on Nov. 20, 1877 in Albany at the Assembly Chamber of the old State Capitol. We then had 356 members and dues were $5 per year.
Today, by comparison, we have over 70,000 members, 60 standing and special committees and task forces, and 26 specialized sections with a total section membership of over 37,000.
Our founders would barely recognize the world in which we now live. Yet, lessons can be learned from our very first president, John K. Porter, who addressed the membership 141 years ago.
Porter identified two “common purposes and objectives” for NYSBA: to “serve the profession and to serve the public.” He challenged the fledgling association to “exercise a collective and permanent influence.”
He also charted the path for our future when he said: “The influence of our profession in the next generation depends on a large degree on the manner
in which we fulfill our duty … the obligations of that trust reach far beyond the present generation.”
Succeeding generations of lawyers have proudly followed Porter’s clarion call. Over the years and across the nation we have championed the rule of law and led the fight for justice and social change.
But now more than ever, the voice of lawyers must be heard. Our clients and communities need our wisdom. They need our gift of seeing both sides of an issue. They need us to explain why the rule of law has kept us free for over two centuries.
As members of this great and noble profession, it is our duty to protect and fight for an independent judiciary; the apolitical administration of justice; and equal justice under the law. The job falls to us to teach our fellow citizens why we must have a government of laws and not men and women.
John K. Porter would be amazed by the breadth and depth of our current initiatives; gratified that we have pursued this work as an organization; and overwhelmed at the tremendous talents and energies of our members and their willingness to share and volunteer.
Come join us at the Annual Meeting and experience the rich tradition firsthand!
Henry M. Greenberg is a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig in Albany.