From the President
Going Strong: FBC’s Past, Present, and Bright Future
By Robert J. Anello
Even though our organization was founded by individuals born over a century ago, the Federal Bar Council is as relevant today as it was in the 1920s. The challenge and expectation is that our uniquely collegial professional association will be more relevant still in the years ahead. The Federal Bar Council, with its growing membership, is up to this challenge.
From its founding over 80 years ago, the Council’s principal goals have remained the same: to recognize and support the efforts of the lawyers and judges who bring their intelligence, integrity, and perseverance to the practice of law and to provide an unparalleled opportunity for members to enhance their talents and develop long-lasting relationships that endure throughout their careers. Remaining at the forefront of developments in our profession while fostering collegiality is crucial to the Council’s ability to bring out the best in the members of our organization. The Federal Bar Council was founded on these principles in 1932 when it severed its ties with the Federal Bar Association in protest of the Association’s unwillingness to accept black lawyers into its membership.
Our profession is an especially challenging one. Aside from the normal technological and competitive innovations faced by every business person, legal practitioners must keep abreast of society’s changing needs and problems and the evolution of case law, statutory developments, and professional and ethical requirements. Even the most seasoned lawyers can never declare that they have completed their professional education.
The Federal Bar Council remains committed today as always to providing top-notch continuing legal education, which is enhanced and focused by the Council’s valuable partnership with the Federal Bench. Through its dedicated staff – under the new leadership of Executive Director Joan Salzman – the Council will continue to strive to serve and bring together the members of the Second Circuit, to hone their skills, and to improve the practice of law in the federal system.
Because of the way in which the Federal Bar Council fosters its relationship with the bench – by actively attending to the issues that our courts are uniquely in a position to observe and identify – the Council is able to maintain a fresh perspective on our community’s needs. In recent years, members of the Council have partnered with the judiciary on a number of initiatives to preserve the integrity and history of our courts and to address the needs of the under-represented. This includes the ranks of pro se plaintiffs, immigrants facing deportation or seeking asylum, and criminal defendants and those who have served their sentences who, along with the judges before whom they appear, have recognized the value that mentoring can have on their re-integration to society. These joint endeavors by practitioners and judges have been championed by the Council’s committees, most noticeably the Second Circuit Courts Committee, the Public Service Committee, and the Committee on Sentencing and Alternatives to Incarceration. This type of responsiveness allows the Federal Bar Council to be an active participant in the evolution of practice in the federal courts.
The Council’s Committees
The Council has 15 active committees that explore and act upon a vast array of topics. Remaining attuned to the interests of the membership is an essential way in which the Council maintains its important role. Last year, the Council formed the Federal Criminal Practice Committee, which brings together judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to improve the federal criminal justice system.
To continue to remain relevant to growing areas of federal practice, the Council currently is looking to add committees that focus on bankruptcy and intellectual property. Law students increasingly are drawn to the field of intellectual property law as specialty hi-tech companies engage in patent wars over ever more complex intellectual products. Indeed, the number of patent cases initiated between 1980 and 2012 has grown from less than 1,000 per year to over 5,000. Since the bankruptcy reforms in 2004 and the Great Recession, the federal bankruptcy practice – always a specialty of its own – has grown in importance to the business community and concomitantly to the federal practitioners who serve that community.
The engagement of young lawyers also is a crucial part of the Council’s work. Their active involvement is the most important way we maintain our relevance into the future. The Council is aware that the novice attorneys of today are the seasoned veterans of the next decades. From our First Decade Committee, veteran lawyers learn from and are inspired by our newer members’ passion and novel approaches to the law. Through our mentoring initiatives, including our Inn of Court program, less experienced members of the bar benefit from our more seasoned practitioners’ experiences and begin to develop their own professional networks.
Honors and Awards
The Federal Bar Council not only engages the Second Circuit’s legal community with interesting events, publications, and lectures, it understands the importance of recognizing excellence in the practice of law. Using the commemoration of the past leaders in the legal community, the Council identifies and recognizes attorneys and judges who demonstrate outstanding qualities through our various awards: the Emory Buckner Award for Outstanding Public Service, presented at the Thanksgiving Luncheon; the Learned Hand Award for Excellence in Federal Jurisprudence, presented at the Law Day Dinner; and the Whitney North Seymour Award for Outstanding Public Service by a Private Practitioner, presented at the Winter Conference. The Council will add to this tradition of celebrating the past while honoring the present with the inauguration of the Thurgood Marshall Award for Exceptional Pro Bono Service. The award’s initial presentation will take place at the Federal Bar Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Celebration this upcoming October. Not only will this award honor the much lauded career of Thurgood Marshall, but it will do so by focusing on recipients in the early phases of their careers.
We work in a profession where developing our craft is a lifetime endeavor. To excel, we must stay alert to the changing tides, not just in our field, but in other areas that law touches. As a proud member of the Federal Bar Council and its president for the past two years, I believe that we have understood and met our challenge. In the past year, we have had an approximately seven percent net increase in membership. With our new talent and old hands, I am confident that our organization will remain, as always, at the forefront of collegiality, expertise, and change in the practice of law.