President's Message - Summer 2020
by Angela Morcone Giannini, Esq.
Little did any of us know last June when I was sworn in as President and I challenged us to “see far and go far” that we would be facing this new world thrown upon us. Social distancing went from being a buzzword to a way of life. In the words of Maya Angelou, we were called upon “to stand up straight, realize who we are and that we can tower over our circumstances.” And we did just that.
The WWBA remained constant in our lives as did our dedication to our members and our community. Through the leadership of our WWBA officers, and the support of the membership, in the spirit of togetherness, we at the WWBA proudly “saw far and went far”. We faced the invisible adversary COVID19 head on. We were one of the first chapters in WBASNY to convert to virtual meetings and programs.
Proudly, our members quickly went to work under difficult conditions helping our association help others. While the examples are many, a few highlights include member , Adrienne Orbach, giving us insight into the difficult times and needs of family members like hers working on the frontlines in Emergency rooms whose heroism safeguarded our communities. The WWBA created a donation match drive and with the very generous support of the Foundation, the program raised over $10,000.00 for these heroes. We likewise recognized the needs of our law students during the pandemic and offered mentoring guidance as they ventured into a new academic reality and also assisted with donations to assist in their economic and housing needs.
Through the leadership of Past President Deborah Scalise and Incoming President the Honorable Lisa Margaret Smith, we converted our traditional Annual Law Day/ Take your Children to Work Day to a virtual event. This was no small endeavor. In collaboration with the SDNY, we presented a live webcast program to students throughout our county entitled “Your Vote, Your Voice, Our Democracy: The 19th Amendment. It was huge success with over 300 attendees and will be cataloged in the Second Circuit Educational Archives.
Recognizing the importance of the vote, under the leadership of our law student member Megan Farrell, the WWBA registered the most new voters earning our chapter first place in WBASNY’s voter registration program.
Not only did our law students face economic issues, so did our members. Past President Kim Berg and Litigation Co Chair Rebecca McCloskey held a virtual Zoom CLE program to educate our members about the CARES act, government resources and other grants to help lessen the financial and economic hardships faced by our members. Myself and other WBASNY members also assisted with an education letter circulated to WBASNY members with a checklist and resources for those e seeking financial assistance in their law practice in these trying times.
We established a Coffeehouse Conversation Zoom call for member’s to share experiences in practicing during COVID19 and I am happy to report those will continue with the uplifting music that I have become very fond of and for those of you yet to join, please do, you will enjoy it!
Our wellness committee in addition to offering tips on wellness and restorative yoga by Zoom, cochairs Susan Richmond and Jennifer Netrosiso collaborated with our DV cochairs Beth Levy and Tanya Briendel to host a program which included our WP Police Department, Community and education leaders for an open discussion of DV issues during Covid19 and sharing of available resources. These collaborative efforts were exactly what I was hoping to accomplish and the need to continue to do so is ever so great as we forge ahead in the new year.
Importantly, we revitalized certain committees such as Immigration and welcomed many new committee co-chairs to serve on our Board including Criminal, Diversity, Judgments, Litigation, Matrimonial, Real Property and more. To our long standing members, I thank you all for encouraging new members to take on leadership roles in our organization and to the new cochairs, I thank you for your willingness to share your expertise in your areas of practice with our membership and look forward to continuing to work with you.
None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the encouragement, tireless work and dedication of my officers: Judge Lisa Margaret Smith, Amanda Fried, Jackie Hattar, Jennifer Gray, Tanya Briendel, Jennifer Robinson and Elizabeth Marcus. The words “thank you” do not seem nearly enough. Your willingness to help me lead this organization, your support, and creative ideas are very much appreciated. You have all made this journey a very enjoyable one for me and I so value the friendships we have forged. Thank you to our local directors Kim Berg, Lisa Denig, Lucia Chiocchio, Lisa Bluestein, and Lonya Gilbert for their support as Past Presidents and their work on behalf of the WWBA in our local communities. Thank you to our State Directors Robin Carton, Deborah Farber -Kaiser, Susan Mills Richmond, Annette Hasapidis, Ann McNulty, Shari Gordon, Marian Genio and Kristen Motel for their dedication to our association and most especially, attending Saturday WBASNY meetings keeping us well informed of state issues and exercising our chapter voting rights.
I know that we all are eagerly awaiting the day we can once again meet in a conference room, sit side by side and engage in lively discussion, and we will do so, when it is safe and in compliance with state guidelines. But for now, the new normal (if there is such a thing) will continue to include “the virtual” in business, education, family and social life.
I can think of no better leader to take us forward during these times than the Honorable Lisa Margaret Smith. You can all be well assured that Judge Smith and her dedicated Officers recognize the reality of this new world and are committed to more virtual meetings, programs and events to further our mission.
Keeping us all grounded and on the right path is our fearless executive director Elisabeth Campos. Her dedication, energy, good judgment and willingness to take on more tasks is absolutely incredible, and I thank you Elisabeth with an “s” for being there for me and our Association. I could not have done it without you!
And beyond the Association, is indeed the practice of law. Lest we forget that we all have our practices that we run along with our roles in the WWBA. Special thank you to my office: law partner Lucille, Nancy and Florence, for their help and support during my Presidency.
Thank you to the two women in my life, my mom and sister Andrea who are both strong women role models and offered much encouragement and guidance during my Presidency. Thank you to my husband Robert, and my son Michael and his girlfriend Jacqui and my son Thomas for making each day a better day for me and for the many times they came to the rescue with technology support as we went virtual. You all made this job a lot easier for me!
Our association from its very inception has been dedicated to the mission of “promoting justice for all.” Beyond COVID19, our society is at a momentous point in our history addressing racial inequality. The real challenge is WHAT can we do as a Chapter within our local communities and state organization to address the systemic racism that continues to exist. We must be willing to listen to those who can share experiences from which we can learn and then take an active role in bringing about change. Our association has successfully addressed legal inequalities in the past and we must be a part of today’s dialog to bring about change. Our Governor has recently signed legislation bringing about reforms and new policies. Indeed, a first step. I call upon our Board and committees in the coming term to join together and collaborate as to who we can best learn from, how we can share this knowledge with our members and community and what we can do as a Chapter to act both at the local and state levels in promoting WBASNY’s voice in advocating for justice and equality for all.
Many of us have experienced great losses during COVID19. The loss of loved ones, friends, and colleagues were too many. I share with you the words of my friend and former law partner, the late Henry Miller, who passed as a result of Covid19. I often would consult with Henry before a trial or speech and I know he would be happy to have me share his very meaningful words:
“Have the wisdom to know that life is short and that the time to do good is now, the time to surrender self-righteous anger which always justifies itself is now, the time forgive those who trespass against you is now, the time to help those in need is now, the time to set the example for those that come after you is now, and by doing this you will contribute to the tradition which never tires of the arduous search for a better world.”
I congratulate those who will lead our organization forward to bright new days! I look forward to working by your side and in support of our continued goals and Judge Smith’s new mission of “giving back.”
I sincerely thank you for your kind support, generosity and friendship. It has been a true honor and privilege to have served as your President.