A Chapter of the Women's Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY)

President's Message - May 2024

by Amanda K. Rieben

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

      When I became President of the Westchester Women’s Bar Association, I was nervous about the responsibilities of the position. I knew that I would face many challenges, and would have to work hard, but nobody could have fully prepared me for the year ahead. I have spent several evenings awake long after my children and husband have gone to bed, as well as many Saturdays and Sundays at my children’s sporting and other activities with my laptop in hand planning programs, searching for meeting event spaces, responding to WWBA related emails, writing letters in support of various awards nomination packets, drafting WWBA newsletters, and working on other matters to help support this amazing organization. The effort, hard work and sacrifices have all been worth it. This organization has provided me with “the best prize that life offers,” a sense of fulfillment through my contributions to the WWBA’s successes, and my efforts in supporting and serving our membership. Bar associations provide a platform to support non-profit legal and non-legal service providers and educate others on important legal issues impacting our community. Bar associations are also essential to the prospective achievements of the next generation of lawyers.

      During my tenure as president, to help serve our membership, I have assisted with several day-to-day operational matters. At the beginning of my term, we no longer had a location to hold our monthly board meetings. Half-way through my term, our prior Executive Director of approximately seven years, Elisabeth Campos, resigned to embark on an exciting new career opportunity. Additionally, throughout the year, while the COVID-19 health pandemic was, in many ways behind us, the aftermath of increased costs and inflation posed different budgetary considerations. Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me.  

      At the start of my term, I immediately began making numerous calls to various businesses and organizations in the community to find a new board meeting location. I was fortunate that our long-time sponsor, Webster Bank, offered their conference room to hold our board meetings. To accommodate larger audiences for our General Membership meetings, Veritext Legal Solutions, supported the WWBA by connecting us with their building manager, Ginsburg Development Companies, LLC, who offered us a space at City Square in White Plains, to hold our Geneal Membership meetings.  Veritext also provided further support by becoming a program sponsor of the WWBA.

      With the assistance of the WWBA’s board, Executive Committee, incoming President, Sherry Bishko, and incoming President Elect, Jill Oziemblewski, we posted the new Executive Director position, interviewed, and engaged in the hiring process. While this was a daunting process, the WWBA was fortunate to hire current member, Megan Starstrom, who was the recipient of the 2021 Westchester Women’s Bar Association Foundation Scholarship award. Megan hit the ground running and has been an unbelievable asset to our organization since she started.

      We have also been creative in our fundraising and budgetary efforts. We made changes to the WWBA’s investments to help accrue interest.  We minimally raised certain dues, and event ticket prices as needed. Additionally, this June during our annual dinner, we will have our first ever silent auction. Attendees will have the opportunity to bid on several amazing items, including a private personal shopping experience with one of David Yurman’s Brand Ambassadors. We will also be auctioning off vintage handbags, a beautiful museum quality gold plated broach, a designer blouse, two New York Rangers game tickets, and a round of golf for two at Tuxedo Golf Club. You will also be able to win a weeklong condominium rental in Calabash, North Carolina approximately fifteen minutes from Sunset Beach and thirty minutes north of Myrtle Beach. The WWBA will also be rolling out real time classified job advertisements to help raise money in support of the WWBA and assist newly admitted lawyers and law students in their vocational search.

      During my presidency, the WWBA also saw other successes. We maintained our membership numbers as the second largest chapter of WBASNY.  As of January 31, 2024, the WWBA had 551 members, with 406 counting toward our membership certification. That success was a result of the tremendous outreach efforts of the WWBA’s Membership Committee and its Board of Directors who kept members engaged and connected as a community.

      As many of you may recall, one of my goals this past year was to increase community integration and raise awareness as to domestic violence. At the start of my term, with the assistance of my colleague, retired Judge Jeffrey Cohen, and the collaboration several community providers and lawyers, including the Pace Women’s Justice Center, My Sisters’ Place, and Hope’s Door, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers New York chapter, and experienced private practice attorneys Tamara Mitchel, Esq., Neil Kozek, Esq., and Alyson Kuritzky, Esq., the WWBA lead a table talk on domestic violence that was widely attended by practitioners and judges in the 9th Judicial District. Given the success of the table talk, the Honorable Victor Grossman, made it a priority to incorporate into the 9th Judicial District lunch and learn series a two-part follow up program on domestic violence for family and supreme court justices in the District.

      Additionally, throughout my tenure, the WWBA has been the proud sponsor of several other programs on domestic violence and family law related issues. The WWBA co-sponsored a program with Legal Services of the Hudson Valley on how to assist your client if they are faced with a child protective service investigation.  In the fall, the WWBA in collaboration with community providers and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office also held a program on Collaborative Support for Victims of Abuse. In May we also have three programs planned which will further address domestic violence and child protective service concerns. On May 7th the WWBA, in collaboration with several other community providers, will be hosting a program on hot topics in domestic violence. On May 8th the WWBA will be co-sponsoring a program with Legal Services of the Hudson Valley on the anatomy of a hearing pursuant to Article 1028 of the Family Court Act, a section of the Family Court Act that allows parents and/or persons legally responsible of a child, to request an emergency hearing to demand the immediate return of a child(ren) who have been removed from their care.  Further, on May 16th, the WWBA will also be co-sponsoring a program with Hope’s Door and the Pace Women’s Justice Center which will address how to protect survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault with different types of cybersecurity issues.

      We also continued several traditions, In August 2023, the WWBA held our 5th annual Cocktails and Conversation event at the Red Hat.  September brought the return of the WWBA’s “First Fridays” series. As part of this series, the WWBA’s Professional Development Committee has been meeting informally on the first Friday of each month to help leverage fellow WWBA members’ experiences and expertise by providing other students and lawyers with the opportunity to network and engage in meaningful conversation and peer-to-peer discussion. In October, we also continued our tradition of a Night of Networking, which was held at Wolf and Warrior Brewery. Law students and members were afforded the opportunity to learn more about the WWBA and its numerous membership benefits. This year, the WWBA’s Mentorship Committee launched a new continuing lecture series on mentorship and sponsorship. On January 25, 2024, the WWBA in collaboration with Wilson, Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, LLP, held the first program of the lecture series, Paying It Forward: Effective Mentorship and Sponsorship for Personal and Professional Growth.  During this program, the panelists discussed the benefits of mentorship and sponsorship and how effective mentorship helps improve employee engagement and retention.

      We have also held countless other successful programs. These programs included but were not limited to a virtual CLE program on What Happens with Frozen Embryos in a New York Divorce, which addressed how New York courts determine the disposition of frozen embryos in the absence of a valid contract. The WWBA sponsored a seminar in collaboration with Sidebar advisors on Financial Empowerment for Women in Law, which addressed the differences in financial planning between men and women from the lens of financial, estate and family law planning. On April 3rd the WWBA has its fourth General Membership meeting, which included a panel discussion on the Importance of Effective Mentorship: The WWBA’s Commitment to the Professional Growth of Future Lawyers. On April 17th the WWBA’s Matrimonial Committee in collaboration with KLG Business Valuators & Forensic Accountants also held a program entitled The Three Approaches to Value – A Primer on What Attorneys Should Know. The program discussed the three approaches to value, how valuators determine which approach to use, and the major aspects of each approach. We have also hosted several programs addressing the health and wellness of our membership, including a program scheduled for later this month on Finding an End to ’Billable-Hour Burnout’ AND the Benefits of Sleep.

      Our administrative, fundraising, programming, and mentorship successes, as well as hiring efforts, would not have been possible without the support of our membership, board, executive committee, past presidents, and long-term supporters. I am forever grateful for your efforts in helping to make this past year successful and impactful and your commitment to the community and to this organization.

            As I started this article off saying, “…Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”  Thank you for entrusting me with the leadership of this amazing organization and providing me with the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing.

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Phone: (914) 505-6045

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