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June 1, 2010

STEPHEN P. YOUNGER TAKES OFFICE AS PRESIDENT OF THE NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION

Sees Opportunity To Help Shape The Future Of The Profession

(Albany, New York, June 1, 2010)  At a time when the legal profession is facing myriad challenges - from young lawyers out of work, to experienced lawyers coping with new technologies, to law firms under billing pressures - Stephen P. Younger, a partner at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, took office today as the 113th President of the New York State Bar Association.

Younger said, "Every crisis presents opportunities and I see an opportunity now to help shape the future of our profession.  This will be the central goal of my term."

"What do we want the practice of law to be like for the next generation of lawyers? How can we serve our clients better?  How can we as lawyers help build confidence in our public institutions, including courts and other branches of government? Trust in those institutions is essential if the rule of law is going to continue to thrive." 

"We owe it to the great lawyers who have come before us - those who have served as mentors to me and many others - to be good stewards of our profession and to make sure that it remains a profession of which those great role models would be proud."

Future of the Legal Profession

Younger said that he would appoint a new Task Force to explore the major shifts that have taken place in our society and our profession, their interrelation with the practice of law, and how to address these issues.

Among the issues the Task Force will consider are:

- How to better train young lawyers.

- How the legal profession will continue to attract the best and brightest as technology places increased pressure on work/life balance.

- How billing practices can be improved. The Task Force will examine the emphasis on billing for quantity of hours worked, rather than the quality of results, and what suitable alternative billing systems would look like.
 
- How technology is likely to change the law office of the future, what new developments are coming down the road, and how the profession is going to deal with them.

Law School Initiative

Younger said that he had asked outgoing President Michael Getnick to spearhead a program through which law students would be matched up with sections of the Bar Association.  This initiative would result in law students working side by side with experienced members of the Association's sections, providing the students with substantive experience in researching and writing reports, as well as the ability to form relationships with leaders in the legal profession.

As part of this effort, Younger said he also would reach out to law school deans around the state and begin a conversation about the future of legal education.  "Law schools also need to evolve," said Younger, "and we need to help them develop programs and curricula that will prepare young people to be future lawyers." 

 "As it stands now," he continued, "new graduates are not properly prepared to practice law, to deal with the modern client, to draft a contract or to walk into a courtroom. There is an expectation that their employers are going to train them.  But many of our clients are telling us that they don't want young associates working on their matters. This issue is critical to the future of our profession, and it is obvious that we as a profession - and that includes law schools - need to come to grips with it."

Government Ethics

"Most of our citizens - and even many government officials - think our state's system of government is broken," Younger said.  "We as lawyers have important roles to play, not only by participating in government, but by helping develop a framework to make government work better."

Younger said he would appoint a Task Force on Government Ethics to consider such issues as:

- New York State currently does not have its own anti-corruption law. Jurisdiction for prosecuting government corruption cases is unclear.  What authority do local District Attorneys have?  What authority does the State Attorney General have?

- There are no comprehensive ethics laws for local government entities.

-  Lawyers need to be able to serve in public office and meet ethical requirements for disclosure of income and clients - without violating their ethical obligations to their clients.

Family Courts and Youth Courts

Younger also said that he would appoint a Task Force on the Family Courts and a Special Committee on Youth Courts. 

"The Family Courts are in crisis," he said, "with overcrowded dockets, insufficient numbers of judges and serious delays."  He pointed to: 

- A 20% increase in Family Court filings in the past 17 years - and a record high number last year.

- A 30% increase in court filings related to family violence in the past three years.

- A failure to increase the number of Family Court judges in New York City over the past 20 years, despite a recommendation in 2007 by then-Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye for 39 new judges and pending legislation that would create 21 new judgeships.

Innovative Youth Court programs have been very effective in dealing with truancy, school fighting, vandalism and other minor offenses.  They are community based and involve peers in the adjudicative process.  Young people whose offenses are resolved in the Youth Court are much less likely to return to the criminal justice system than those who are processed through the traditional court system.  There are currently 80 Youth Courts around the State, and Younger said a new State Bar Committee would consider ways of promoting and expanding them.

A History of Service

Younger has been an active member of the State Bar for 27 years. He has been President-Elect for the past year and chaired the Association's House of Delegates. Younger served as a member-at-large of the Association's Executive Committee during 2007-2009. He served as Chair of the State Bar's Commercial and Federal Litigation Section during 2005-2006. He is past chair of the Section's Securities Litigation Committee and its Pro Bono and Public Interest Committee. He also chaired the State Bar's Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee. He is a fellow of The New York Bar Foundation and an active member of the Association's Committee on Membership, having chaired its recent Membership Challenge.

In addition to his State Bar activities, Younger is Counsel to the New York State Commission on Judicial Nomination. He is a member of the First Department Judicial Screening Committee and serves on the Advisory Committee to the Commercial Division of the New York State Supreme Court. He served as Transition Director for New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo and was a member of the Transition Committee for New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance. He served as a member of former Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye's Alternative Dispute Resolution Task Force.

Younger is the third Patterson Belknap partner to serve as State Bar President, following in the footsteps of Chauncey Belknap and Hon. Robert P. Patterson, Jr. 

As a commercial litigator at Patterson Belknap, a prominent New York City law firm where he has worked since 1985, he has tried many cases in federal and state court and before arbitration panels.  He also frequently argues appeals, particularly in the appellate courts of New York.  Based on his significant alternative dispute resolution experience, he is often called on to serve as an arbitrator or mediator in high-stakes matters. 

Younger serves as a mediator for the United States District Court, Southern and Eastern Districts of New York; Chair of the Executive Committee of the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution; and Trustee of the Historical Society of the New York State Courts. He is a member of the Congress of Fellows for the Center for International Legal Studies and the Advisory Committee of the Center for Financial Market Regulations.

A trustee of Albany Law School, and past president of the law school's National Alumni Council, he is a frequent lecturer and author in the fields of securities litigation, commercial arbitration and international dispute resolution.

Younger graduated cum laude from Harvard University and earned his J.D. magna cum laude from Albany Law School, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Albany Law Review.

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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. The State Bar's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years. For more information, visit us at our Web site at www.nysba.org.