Contact: Andrew Rush
Director, Media Services & Public Affairs
June 2, 2008
BERNICE K. LEBER BEGINS PRESIDENCY OF NATION'S LARGEST VOLUNTARY STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
Preventing Wrongful Convictions, Studying Climate Change, Examining Privacy Issues and Improving Courthouse Conditions Highlight a Full Agenda
Bernice K. Leber of New York City, a partner in the firm of Arent Fox LLP, has ascended to the office of President of the 74,000-member New York State Bar Association, the nation's largest voluntary state bar. Leber is the Association's 111th president and for the first time its history, the Association will have back-to-back female presidents.
In keeping with her theme "Helping Lawyers, Helping Clients," Leber has an aggressive agenda planned. Her goals for the upcoming year include: working to prevent wrongful convictions, which undermine public confidence in the justice system; examining lawyers' privacy rights to better protect attorneys and their clients; providing new resources for solo and small firm practitioners; making recommendations on ways to make courthouses more "user-friendly"; and producing a new report and recommendations on how New Yorkers can work to lessen global climate change.
"As lawyers, we have a responsibility to do the very best we can for our clients, and for society as well. I plan to spend my year focusing on how this Association can make it easier for attorneys to do both," Leber said. "Whether by empanelling a blue ribbon Task Force to find ways to prevent wrongful convictions or helping a struggling solo practitioner in Upstate New York, the New York State Bar Association can make a difference on issues of national importance, as well as improve the practice of law all across this state.
Leber continued, "During my year as President-elect, I spent considerable time traveling around the state and listening to the concerns of our members. From these experiences, it is clear to me that we need to find interesting and productive ways for our lawyers to become not just an important voice, but the voice on important legal issues. The agenda I've set for this year is designed to help us accomplish that goal."
Wrongful Convictions Task Force
Noting that the number of criminal convictions overturned in New York Stateis undermining public confidence in our justice system, Leber will create a blue ribbon Task Force on Wrongful Convictions. The Task Force will study the systemic, procedural and statutory causes that contribute to wrongful convictions and propose solutions to this growing problem. The final report is expected to be issued in April 2009.
Leber has asked the Association's Intellectual Property Section to study privacy rights as they relate to lawyers and their clients. The study will look at what information the government is entitled to as it relates to three specific areas - health, financial and personal information. Leber noted lawyers are the last barriers of protection for clients, but they also are at risk of attacks on their privacy.
Leber has commissioned a study that will be done by the Association's Commercial and Federal Litigation section that will look at conditions of courthouses around the state and recommend ways to make them more user-friendly for clients, lawyers and judges. The survey will begin this summer and look at courthouses across the state, with a special emphasis on family courts.
Solo/Small Firm Practice
With 57 percent of the Association's membership made up of solo and small firm practitioners (defined as practices with less than 10 attorneys), Leber will seek ways to make the practice of law more cost efficient for these lawyers and their clients.
A committee will issue a report that addresses the concerns members have about the practice of law in today's economy and build upon recommendations contained in a 2006 report issued by Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye. Judge Kaye's report examined solo and small firm practice and made recommendations about how the legal community could address the special needs of solo and small firms.
In January of 1994, the State Bar's Environmental Law Section produced a renowned report entitled, "The Threat of Global Climate Change--What Can New Yorkers Do?" Leber has asked the section to update this report and create a new blueprint that will highlight steps every New Yorker can take to help address this environmental issue.
Continuation of Priorities in Progress
Leber has also committed to continuing priorities established by Immediate Past-President Kathryn Grant Madigan (Levene Gouldin & Thompson LLP). These initiatives include a three year challenge to increase Association membership; the fight to increase funding for civil legal services for the poor; the extension of the right to counsel to New Yorkers in certain civil matters; and the continued support of the Association's legislative priorities.
Leber has been a trial lawyer for more than 28 years. Her practice focuses primarily on intellectual property, securities, and complex financial and business disputes. She is a Capital Region native and a cum laude graduate of Mount Holyoke College. She earned her law degree from Columbia Law School. She resides in New York Citywith her husband, lawyer David Rosenberg, and their son Aaron.
The 74,000 member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New Yorkand the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, NYSBA programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.