Sharon Stern Gerstman

From Jan. 21 to 28, the New York State Bar Association will be convening in NYC for our annual meeting—“Bar Week,” as it has been called. Our theme is Connect, Inspire, Learn. We connect with other lawyers from throughout the state (and the world); we are inspired by the passion and the commitment of the many excellent lawyers who will be receiving awards; and we will learn from experts who provide the smorgasbord of cutting-edge CLE that is NYSBA’s signature.

The Annual Meeting is all that, but much more. Each day, our events underscore our core values as an association and as a profession.

We insist on the highest ethics and professionalism for all lawyers and judges. Our CLE programs are infused with presentations on issues which may create ethical dilemmas, and best practices to preventing or solving them. Our ethical rules require that we keep abreast not only of changes in the law, but changes in technology. We are helping lawyers do that in a myriad of ways, including a free CLE on using Fastcase (one of our member benefits), on understanding cloud computing, and on using social media, and a full day of Practice Management, which includes cybersecurity, encryption and ESI. We celebrate the lawyers who exhibit professionalism in the service of their clients and in promoting respect for the legal profession with the presentation of the Association’s Professionalism Award at our House of Delegates dinner.

We promote access to justice for the poor and disadvantaged through our committees on Legal Aid and Access to Justice, and by encouraging pro bono. We recognize lawyers who have provided at least 50 hours of pro bono with the “Empire State Counsel” designation and awards at our Justice for All luncheon.

We seek to improve our state and federal laws to ensure fairness in our legal system and our society, and we see the work of our sections and committees in the presentation of their reports to our Executive Committee and to our House of Delegates. We feature a Summit, with free CLE, focusing on the problems and solutions of mass incarceration and its disparate impact on people of color.

We are committed to eliminating bias and promoting diversity and inclusion in the profession and in our justice system. We celebrate diversity with our Trailblazers awards and our free reception, hoping to introduce minority lawyers to all of the sections of the Association, and to recruit them to work with us on all of our programs. We celebrate the lawyers who have done so much to promote gender diversity with our Ruth Schapiro award, presented at our House of Delegates, and our Kay Crawford Murray award, presented by the Committee on Women in the Law. Many of our CLE programs include diversity and inclusion components, such as ways to combat implicit bias.

We hope all lawyers come connect with NYSBA, are inspired to improve our laws and justice system, and are eager to learn what we offer.

Sharon Stern Gerstman is of counsel to Magavern Magavern Grimm in Buffalo. She concentrates her practice in the areas of mediation and arbitration, and appellate practice.