President's Message - June 2021
by Hon. Lisa Margaret Smith
As I write this message, it is spring, with yellow daffodils and white jonquils already wilted in the garden, cherry trees blooming in blazing pink, and lovely scent-sational lilacs beginning to show their beauty. For more than a year now we have remained apart from one another, from all but immediate family, from festive gatherings, and from solemn proceedings, including funerals of those we have lost. Now, just as the world around us is wakening and everything is lightly covered with green, we, too, are opening our lives, beginning to gather, and reawakening in every way.
Before COVID I had a limited social life, usually I was too tired or too busy to make plans with friends and relatives, but now I feel renewed. Once my husband and I were fully vaccinated, plus the passage of two weeks to develop immunities, we began to socialize, and we have not stopped. It feels like a new beginning-fresh, and full of hope. It is my sincere hope that as we continue to open in society, and as we install new Officers and Directors on June 9, WWBA will also have a fresh, new beginning, full of hope.
We must, of course, follow the science, and the recommendations of the CDC and the New York State Department of Health. Nevertheless, it is my sincere hope that we can meet again in person, that we can convene for CLEs and social events in person. Because we now truly know how vulnerable each of us is, I hope that we will find ways to share those events with WWBA members and friends who may not yet be ready to gather in person. We have managed over this past year to find the technology to go forward with programs and events via various web platforms, and I suspect that as we move into a more hybrid situation-with some people attending in person and some people remaining virtual-we will need to upgrade and improve our technology. With that in mind, I invite any of you, or anyone within your orbit, who may be able to guide and advise us in obtaining and using such new or additional technology, to let me know at my email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. With preparation and planning we can successfully navigate the upcoming transition. Let us work together to do so.
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I want to remind all of you that WBASNY’s business year came to an end on May 31. By now you should have received a letter from me requesting that you renew your membership in WWBA, but I know that many of you put that letter aside. I know from my own experience that often I felt as though renewal should occur in December, so I would simply put the letter in my “To Do” pile. I am asking you to take the time NOW to renew your membership, or to join if you are not already a member, keeping in mind that WWBA runs on a June 1-May 31 business year.
You might ask, “Why should I belong to WWBA?” The reasons are myriad. Let’s start with the WWBA mission statement, which reads:
The mission of the WWBA is to promote justice for all, regardless of sex; to advance the social, economic and legal status for women through the law; to expand opportunities for women and to raise the level of competence and integrity in the legal profession.
That’s quite a mission, and one we can all believe in and support. If you agree with our mission statement (and I hope that you do), there that’s a good enough reason to renew your membership, or, if you are not yet a member, or have allowed your membership to lapse, then it’s a good enough reason to join us today.
Another extremely good reason to join is the marvelous array of fun activities sponsored by WWBA, which have allowed us to socialize despite COVID, including book club, paint nights, wine tasting, a bike/walk event, a spin class, kickboxing and yoga classes, a walk in the woods with meditation, a trivia night focusing on the female United States Supreme Court Justices sponsored by the WWBA Foundation, a social evening hosted by multiple bar associations, including WWBA, and an amazing Holiday shopping spree, among other things. As we begin to open more and more, these social events will include a summer (or early fall) gathering for cocktails by the Hudson River (usually at the Red Hat restaurant), a Holiday Party which includes shopping opportunities as well as socializing, and a fabulous Annual Dinner with installation of Officers and Directors (usually pronounced the best bar association Annual Dinner in Westchester).
The list of reasons to join WWBA continues. My goal for WWBA this year has been to give back to our community and to our world. We have done an amazing job to meet that objective, and we will continue to do so. These efforts have included volunteering at Hillside Food Pantry, shelving donated food that will be distributed to those without enough to eat; making donations of pet food and other supplies to an animal shelter; working to increase voter registration in Westchester, and also around the country, in a non-partisan way; and providing wellness programs for the members and friends of WWBA. WWBA members supported the American Cancer Society’s Breast Cancer Walk in October, not by walking in a group of hundreds, as we usually do, but by walking singly, or in very small groups, to protect our own health while raising funds to contribute to this extraordinarily worthy cause. Every year for more than 20 years WWBA has sponsored a Law Day/Take Your Children to Work Day event in May, providing civics education in a fun way to young students. Last year we did this virtually, reaching far more students than when it was in person, and we did so in May of this year as well. Additionally, the WWBA Foundation, which is the charitable arm of WWBA, has raised funds to provide scholarships to students at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, and to provide grants to many worthy organizations. Last spring, in the worst of COVID, the Foundation donated food to emergency room departments at eight different hospitals. I feel confident that even after my Presidential year comes to an end, WWBA will continue to give back to the community in these and many other ways.
WWBA also provides an extraordinary array of programs, both CLE and non-CLE, for our members and friends. These programs are an extremely important reason to renew your WWBA membership, or to become a member. Our programs this year, though virtual, having included multiple programs on diversity and inclusiveness; multiple programs on family law and domestic violence; multiple programs on real estate law; and the list goes on-data security, contracts, effects of COVID in the law, ethics, immigration law, employment law, and an amazing luncheon series in celebration of WWBA’s 45 anniversary, featuring a number of our members under the heading “Learned Ladies in the Law.” Additionally, membership in WWBA automatically includes membership in our parent organization, the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (“WBASNY”), which gives our members access to many additional CLE and non-CLE programs and social events around the State. It is my hope that the use of virtual platforms will continue at the WBASNY level, even as we are no longer quarantined, to broaden the available resources for our members. Also, the strength of being part of a statewide organization allows us to be heard on relevant legislation at the state and federal level.
These are just some of the reasons why membership in the WWBA is an important step for you to take. We also offer amazing levels of collegiality, both personal and professional advice, mentorship of one another, and the opportunity to become a leader, and, perhaps best of all, real friendship.
Please join or rejoin WWBA today. Renew your membership, or become a member, by going to our website, wwbany.org, and click on “Membership” on the banner near the top, and “Join WWBA” in the dropdown menu.
Finally, this is my last President’s Message, as we do not typically have a newsletter in July or August, and incoming President Amanda Fried will kick off the year with her message in the September newsletter. It has been my honor and my privilege, and a true joy, to have helped to lead the WWBA this past year. I offer special gratitude to the Executive Committee-Immediate Past President Angela Morcone Giannini, President-Elect Amanda Fried, Vice Presidents Natanya Briendel, Jennifer Gray, and Jacqueline Hattar, Corresponding Secretary Jennifer Robinson, and Recording Secretary Julie Passman, along with Past Presidents Lisa Bluestein and Lisa Denig. I am also appreciative of our Elected Directors, Kim Berg, Lisa Denig, Carla Glassman, Annette Hasapidis, and Jill Oziemblewski, and of our State Directors, Lucia Chiocchio, Deborah Farber-Kaiser, Shari Gordon, Ann McNulty, Angela Morcone Giannini, Adrienne Orbach, Susan Mills Richmond, and Janeen Thomas. I am grateful to the entire Board of WWBA, consisting of the officers and directors listed above, and all the chairs and co-chairs of the various committees.
I do have three special notes of appreciation. First, because of Corresponding Secretary Jen Robinson’s pregnancy and the birth of her first child she became unable to edit the newsletter, and I asked Elected Director Jill Oziemblewski to help out. Jill graciously agreed to do so, and this coming year she will continue that task as she has been formally elected Corresponding Secretary for the year ahead. Jill’s willingness to step in warmed my heart, and the excellent work she has done on the newsletter made my job as President easier. Thank you, Jill. Second, our Past President Dolores Gebhardt has been an amazing co-chair of the Matrimonial Committee for many years, including preparing and presenting CLE programs on a regular basis; she has practically single-handedly kept the Holiday Party and Boutique going, including organizing a virtual Holiday Boutique in 2020, along with undertaking many other tasks that do not come with a title. Dolores has advised the Board that she will soon be sworn in as President-Elect of the Westchester County Bar Association (“WCBA”), and her commitment there will not leave time for her to also hold responsible positions in the WWBA, at least not until her three year commitment is complete (President-Elect, President, and Immediate Past President). We are very sad to lose Dolores from the Board, and from her Committee positions. We thank her for all she has done for WWBA over the years, we offer best wishes in her WCBA positions, and we look forward to having her return to the WWBA fold in 2024. Thank you, Dolores, your participation in WWBA has been outstanding, and we will truly miss you. (This leaves some leadership opportunities for members who are ready to step up-we will especially need someone to lead us in the Holiday Party and Boutique for 2021, please let me or Amanda Fried know if YOU are the one for that task-or two people could share the responsibility.) My third special thank you is to Elisabeth Campos, the WWBA Executive Director. Many of you have never seen Elisabeth, though she does attend the Annual Dinner when it is in person, in fact, many of our members may not be aware of Elisabeth’s existence, but I assure you that WWBA would not function without the competent, timely, and ever pleasant assistance of Elisabeth Campos. With rare exception Elisabeth responds to my emails within minutes, and always accomplishes the tasks at hand. She is also adept at politely reminding me of tasks that I have left undone! Thank you, Elisabeth, from the bottom of my heart for all you do for WWBA, and for your support of me personally.
Although this newsletter message is my swan song as President, I am not going anywhere, and in my new position as Immediate Past President I hope to serve President Amanda Fried in any way that I can, and to continue to support the WWBA in every way that I can. Best wishes to one and all.