A Chapter of the Women's Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY)
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President's Message - May 2023

by Elizabeth Z. Marcus

For my final address as President of the Westchester Women’s Bar Association, I cannot help but reflect on my goal this bar association year to continue the WWBA’s success by focusing on the value of our membership.  This goal is one that is near and dear to me because of how my involvement with the WWBA began.  At the urging of my then-colleague and our beloved Past President, Lisa M. Denig, I joined the WWBA.  I had just moved back home to Westchester County upon graduating from the University of Michigan Law School (Go Blue!) and was new to the practice of law.  Joining the WWBA was and remains one of the best decisions I ever made.  I am most fortunate that my career as an attorney has gone hand in hand with my membership and involvement with the WWBA.  To have that unparalleled support and encouragement, especially as a new lawyer, and to be part of such an amazing network and community of attorneys from all different backgrounds, has truly made all the difference.

      The 2022-23 bar association year certainly highlighted what a dynamic organization the WWBA is.  This year brought a return to in-person programs and events for the WWBA.  The energy of connecting in person with colleagues and friends, law students and new lawyers, was widely appreciated and truly a joy.  We welcomed 20 new board members and maintained our membership numbers as the second largest chapter of WBASNY.  As of January 31, 2023, the WWBA had 549 members for the 2022-23 membership year.  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. 

      This year saw the return of the WWBA’s “First Friday” series, a project of the WWBA’s Professional Development Committee, which meets on the first Friday of each month for networking and conversation to provide WWBA members with support in life and professional transition phases.  We also saw the return of our annual “Night of Networking – Meet the Officers of the WWBA/ Welcome New Members” event, which captured the breadth of our membership.  Attendees included those who had just started law school, graduates awaiting admission, attorneys practicing five years or less, attorneys practicing 10+ years, as well as attorneys practicing as long as 40 years. 

      Our committees presented and co-sponsored CLEs on a variety of topics including: recent federal and state changes to gun control and their impact as seen in the judicial system; Mental Hygiene Law Article 81 guardianship compliance procedures; alternate dispute resolution; factual, legal, and forensic issues in custody, access, and PINS proceedings involving trans and LGBQ children and adolescents; pet custody when representing domestic violence survivors; the emerging legal cannabis industry in New York; ethical issues when attorneys are fiduciaries; a family/ matrimonial law overview featuring diverse perspective from current practitioners; mediation; NFTs; sexual harassment law; commercial leasing; and implicit bias.  We also featured programs on prioritizing your health and wellness while thriving in the law and the power of mentorship and sponsorship.  As I often tell people (and truly mean when I say it!), the WWBA has something to offer for everyone and offer we did!  Of note too, in response to current issues of the day, we recently formed a Reproductive Health Rights Committee. 

      This year we also celebrated our alliances with leaders from numerous other bar associations including the Westchester County Bar Association, White Plains Bar Association, Yonkers Bar Association, Hudson Valley Hispanic Bar Association, Westchester Black Bar Association, and Justice Brandeis Law Society.  I am grateful for the WWBA to have connected with these leaders and communities, as we are assuredly stronger working together. 

      We also took part in meaningful opportunities to give back to our community.  Our mentorship program continued to thrive.  In October for domestic violence awareness month, we donated to local domestic violence agencies including Legal Services of the Hudson Valley and Hope’s Door.  In support of breast cancer awareness, we joined Team ORBACH and Friends at the Making Strides against Breast Cancer Walk at Manhattanville College.  In November, we participated in a Thanksgiving turkey donation project for Hillside Food Outreach which delivered 150 pounds worth of turkey to Hillside’s clients who are elderly, sick, or homebound.  During the holiday season, along with the Westchester County Bar Association, we participated in a winter coat drive, which saw more than 300 coats, scarves, hats, and gloves donated to Lifting Up Westchester, the Grasslands Homeless Shelter, and other local charities.

      Our annual holiday party continued the tradition of collecting donations for underprivileged youth as well as non-perishable foods for those in need.  We participated in the annual Read Across America Day Celebration at the Eugenio Maria de Hostos MicroSociety School in Yonkers, NY; an event the WWBA has participated in since 2007.  In support of women’s health, we collected feminine hygiene products, new or gently used maternity clothing, and monetary donations for use by the Grasslands Homeless Shelter and the clients it serves. We celebrated annual Law Day/ Take Your Children to Work Day with an interactive presentation at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in White Plains, NY.

      We also had fun along the way, too!  Our ever-popular book club continued to meet and this year formed the inaugural Discussion Club, an open, non-judgmental forum for discussing issues of the day.  Our wellness committee hosted several events including a family friendly apple-picking event, pre-Thanksgiving walk around Rockland Lake, and “Yoga for Lawyers.”  In celebration of International Women’s Day, we held a paint night and just this May we attended a Broadway show.

      None of this would be possible without the strength and support of our members. I am amazed by the unique perspective each one of you brings and have learned so much from you. I thank you all for enriching my life and am grateful to the WWBA for bringing us together. A special thank you to my outgoing officers and directors and to our Executive Director, Elisabeth Campos.  I am grateful to be passing the torch to our incredibly capable and hardworking new President, Amanda K. Rieben.

      Thank you all for entrusting me with the leadership of the WWBA this past year.  It has been a true honor and privilege to serve you, and I could not be more proud to be a part of this organization.

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