Award given for unique program to help working poor receive legal services

NEW YORK-The New York State Conference of Bar Leaders today announced that the Schenectady County Bar Association has received its 2010 Award of Merit for Small Bar Associations (fewer than 500 members). The awards honor local bars for their public service and innovative programming to enhance the public's understanding of the law. Recipients were honored at a January 29 breakfast during the New York State Bar Association's 133rd Annual Meeting at the Hilton New York in New York City.

The Schenectady County Bar Association, through its Pro Bono Committee, was honored for creating a Modest Means Panel Program designed to help those large number of family law and matrimonial litigants with modest incomes that are just above legal aid limits, but still cannot afford private counsel. The program is the only one of its kind in the Capital Region. Panel attorneys take cases with an agreement to limit their hourly rate and total fee. The result is affordable legal representation for litigants; better movement of cases through the courts; and the opportunity for many new attorneys to gain experience while developing a client base. The program was launched in Summer 2009 and already has 16 volunteer attorneys with numerous requests for services.

"Local bar associations from Long Island to Buffalo play an important role in educating the public and improving their access to the justice system with innovative and timely programs that meet real community needs," said New York State Bar Association President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City). "The State Bar is pleased to honor all the awardees for their terrific work and I thank the Schenectady County Bar Association for their contributions to the community."

"The Schenectady County Bar Association is a perfect example of how a small bar association can serve its community well, while providing its members with strong professional development opportunities," said Linda J. Clark of Albany (Hiscock & Barclay LLP), chair of the Conference of Bar Leaders "We are delighted to recognize their fine work in ensuring better access to justice for those in need."

Awards were given in three member categories-small, medium and large bar associations in New York. They recognize outstanding programs sponsored by local, ethnic, specialty, minority and women's bar associations. The awards program also serves to inform bar leaders across the state about new activities and programs that promote public welfare, public understanding of the law, and attorneys' professional responsibilities.

Formed in 1979, the New York State Conference of Bar Leaders provides a forum to exchange information about activities and issues among local bar leaders, as well as between the state bar and local bar leaders.

Founded in 1876, the 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. State Bar programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.