June 2011 Archives

| No Comments

 

ELECTRONICALLY-IN-TOUCH

                                                

June 2011

 

Dear Young Lawyers Section Members:

 

We have a new format - welcome to the new website and latest issue of Electronically-In-Touch, the e-news publication of the NYSBA Young Lawyers Section. Electronically-In-Touch will continue to provide articles and news of legal interest to members of the Young Lawyers Section, and it is hoped that this new format will make articles and information more accessible to Section members as well as providing a more up-to-date and user-friendly format.

Appropriately, the first piece in the new version of the e-publication is from our new Section Chairperson James R. Barnes, Esq., who describes the function and activities of the Young Lawyers Section, as well as discussing upcoming events in the new Bar year. James also reports from the 2011 Young Lawyers Section United States Supreme Court Admissions Program, which took place this month in Washington, D.C. and admitted 50 attorneys to the US Supreme Court Bar.

An article by Meg Thering, a labor & employment attorney, follows concerning employment discrimination and harassment issues that young practioners should be aware of in the workplace. Finally, we have a "save the date" regarding the YLS Fall Section Meeting coming up in October this year.

Please keep your articles and contributions coming to the new version of Electronically-In-Touch, as it is after all a member-driven publication.

 

Nilesh Yashwant Ameen, Esq.

Editor, Electronically-In-Touch


___________________________________________________________________________

 

The Future Is Now!                                      Barnes_James(Young2011)_web[1].jpg

 

A Message from YLS Chair James R. Barnes, Esq.

I would like to offer a warm welcome to all YLS members at the beginning of a new Bar year. The first order of business is to pass along a well deserved thank you to Philip G. Fortino, Esq., who did a great job for our Section last year as Chair. The Section has enjoyed many successes over the past year, and we truly thank Phil for all of his efforts. I would also like to thank the past leaders of the Section, including Tucker C. Stanclift, Esq., and Sherry Levin Wallach, Esq., who have served as mentors to me.

The Young Lawyers Section is one of the largest sections of the NYSBA and has a mission to ease the transition from law school into practice for new attorneys. The mission extends in other directions as well, given the rich diversity of our members. We are attorneys in practice ten years or less, and represent every part of New York State, substantive area of practice, and ethnicity. We offer continuing legal education programs geared to the interests of our members, mentoring programs, and pro-bono/community service opportunities. The YLS has a large Executive Committee, with representatives to each district in New York State, liaisons to each substantive Section of the Bar, and several committee Chairs (i.e., the Mentoring Committee, the Diversity Committee, the Pro-Bono/Community Service Committee, the Membership Committee, etc.). We have a very active Executive Committee, but there are many positions that are available for YLS members and potential members interested in becoming active in the Section.

The Section features many annual programs. I just returned from Washington D.C. from a United States Supreme Court Admissions Program, where 50 attorneys were formally admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court. The Section has always hosted this program every other year, but due to the high demand, is looking to host the program annually, meaning that a new delegation will be heading to D.C. in 2012. On October 20-21, 2011, the YLS will be gathering in Albany for the Fall Meeting. YLS Chair-Elect, Michael L. Fox, will serve as Program Chair. The meeting will offer professional development activities on Thursday the 20th, with a full day of cutting-edge CLE seminars on Friday the 21st. The YLS will be holding several programs during the Association's Annual Meeting in NYC in January 2012, including a YLS CLE program on the Wednesday the 25th, and a two-day Bridging the Gap program on Thursday and Friday, the 26th and 27th. The 3rd Annual Trial Academy is being planned for March 2012 at Cornell University Law School, featuring a five-day intensive trial techniques program designed to teach, advance and improve the courtroom skills of young attorneys, with an emphasis on direct participation.

The Section is planning many events in districts throughout New York State, with an aim towards professional development, networking, new member initiatives and community service. The YLS is also looking to kick-off a new mentoring program, designed to pair young attorneys with law students at Cardozo Law School in the fall of 2011.

The theme for my year as Chair is going to be "The Future is Now," which has developed from a couple of sources. A favorite musical artist of mine, Brad Paisley, released a song a few years ago entitled "Welcome to the Future," which reflects on the wonder of the world in which we currently live where rapid societal change is the norm. As the song goes, "when I was 10 years old, I remember thinking how cool it would be...when we were going on an 8 hour drive, if I could just watch TV." Today, the only question to ask would be which device would be used as the television.

The legal profession is also changing at a rapid pace. Earlier this year, the NYSBA released a report issued by the Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession. The report addressed the following: (1) developments in the economics, structure and billing practices of private law firms; (2) changes in the model for educating and training new lawyers; (3) the pressures on lawyers seeking to find balance between their professional and personal lives; and (4) the implications of technology on the practice of law. The report is readily available on the Bar Association's website, and I strongly encourage everyone to read it. Each section of the report is relevant to young attorneys, and there is no question that every young attorney faces significant challenges in his or her professional and personal life.

The Young Lawyers Section is committed to being a part of the solution to both present and future challenges. However, being part of the solution requires both individual and collective responsibility. We must be proactive to be successful. We are often referred to and thought of as the future of the profession. While in one sense we are, in another sense we are part of the present as well.

The future is now. We can and will make a difference: for each other, in our profession, and in our communities. I am excited about what we as a Section can accomplish this year, and look forward to working with each of you along the way.

____________________________________________________________________________

UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT BAR ADMISSIONS PROGRAM 2011

YLS Goes to Washington

The Young Lawyers Section held a United States Supreme Court Admissions Program June 11-13, 2011. Section Chair, James R. Barnes, Esq., led a delegation of 50 attorneys, and their families, to Washington D.C. for the special event. Several program attendees met together on Saturday evening for a Segway tour of the city. The Segway provided the ideal vehicle to race through the streets of Washington and view many historic sites, including the White House, the Treasury, the Capitol, the Washington Monument and many others. On Sunday, the Section held an Executive Committee meeting in the afternoon. Later that evening, a cocktail reception and dinner was held at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. NYSBA President, Vincent E. Doyle III, Esq., spoke at the dinner and personally participated in the admissions program. On Monday, the group proceeded to the Supreme Court for the formal admissions ceremony. Immediate past-NYSBA President, Stephen P. Younger, Esq., served as the movant for the ceremony. All nine Justices of the Supreme Court were in attendance. The session began promptly at 10:00am, and several opinions were read by the Justices. Thereafter, attorneys from across the nation were admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court. After the ceremony, the Hon. Ruth Bader Ginsburg visited with the newly admitted attorneys and offered her best wishes to the New York delegation. The program concluded with a champagne brunch at the Hyatt, with Mr. Younger offering some final remarks. Many thanks to Bar staff Megan O' Toole and Bryana Wachowicz for putting together a fantastic program. The YLS plans to hold another USSC Admissions Program in 2012, so please stay tuned for details later this year.

- James R. Barnes, Esq., YLS Section Chair

 

USSCAdmSegway.jpg USSCAdminCap.jpg USSCAdmSC.jpg

USSCAdmissionsGroupPic.jpg USSCAdmissionsAdminPic.jpg USSCAdminDin4.jpg

USSCAdmissionsDin5.jpg USSCAdmissionsDinner.jpg USSCAdmissionDin.jpg

USSCAdminDin3.jpg USSCAdmissionsConfRoom.jpg USSCAdmissionsJusticeGinsburg.jpg 

USSCAdmissionsJusticeGinsburg2.jpg USSCAdmissionsJusticeGinsburgGrpPic.jpg USSCAdmissionToast.jpg

___________________________________________________________________________

 

EMPLOYMENT LAW/PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT

How to Avoid Getting Fired and Gaining "Above the Law" Notoriety:
What Young Lawyers Need to Know About Laws
Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation

By: Meg Thering, Esq.

Many young lawyers spend at least part of their day reading articles on the law blog "Above the Law" to find out (1) how much money they are going to make; (2) whether they are going to be laid off, and (3) whether any of their law school classmates have done silly things. Some of your classmates will indeed, end up gaining Above the Law infamy due to their harassing, discriminatory, or retaliatory behavior at work. Most young lawyers read these articles for the entertainment value and rarely stop and think about how they can keep themselves from being in the headlines for similar bad behavior. Young lawyers would be well-advised to think of such things, however. A quick way to get fired from your job, gain infamy on Above the Law, and ruin your chances to one day have your student loans paid off is to discriminate, harass, or retaliate against your co-workers and/or supervisees.

Several federal laws prohibit discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the employment context. For example, employers with 15 or more employees must comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Employers with 20 or more employees must comply with the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). The ADEA prohibits discrimination against persons ages 40 and older. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act prohibits all employers from discriminating against individuals due to their service in the military. Additionally, the relatively new Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating on the basis of genetic information.

State laws also prohibit discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. For instance, New York prohibits employers with four or more employees from discriminating on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, marital status, and domestic violence victim status.

Additionally, New York City prohibits discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on actual or perceived age, race, creed, color, national origin, gender, disability, marital status, partnership status, sexual orientation, alienage, or citizenship status. Like New York State's law, New York City's anti-discrimination provisions apply to employers with four or more employees.

This all means that young lawyers should be cognizant of the anti-discrimination, harassment, and retaliation laws that apply to them (whether those laws be city, state, or federal laws) so that they do not violate them. In other words, don't treat people who are in a protected class worse than people who are not in a protected class. While this is a simple concept in theory, many lawyers manage to mess this up in practice. Here are some examples (that you may find familiar if you've been practicing for a few years) of what not to do in the workplace:

EXAMPLE ONE: You are a male judicial clerk. You have been asked to review resumes of future judicial clerks and choose which ones you'd like to interview. You choose to interview only young, attractive, female candidates (whose pictures you obtained from Facebook). This is not a good idea. Engaging in such a practice could lead to claims of age discrimination. You could also be sued for race discrimination if your definition of "attractiveness" is limited to one race. You may also be sued for disability discrimination if you excluded candidates with visible disabilities.

Take-home point: Do not choose candidates for interviews based on their gender, age, and/or physical attractiveness. Also, it's probably not a good idea to ask candidates for interviews out on a date, regardless of whether you recommend them for employment.

EXAMPLE TWO: You are a junior counsel at an up and coming company. You have decided to engage in a sexual relationship with your secretary. This is not a good idea. While dating or being intimately involved with co-workers is not per se illegal, such behavior could violate your employer's anti-fraternization policy (if your employer has such a policy). Additionally, if the relationship does not end well, you could face charges of sexual harassment. You could also face charges of retaliation if you cease working with this employee after the relationship fizzles out. Additionally, if you give the person with whom you are having a relationship more desirable work assignments than you give to other employees, you could face charges of discrimination from those employees as well.

Take-home point: Be very wary of engaging in a physical relationship with a direct report.

EXAMPLE THREE: You are a young government litigator. You call a female summer intern into your office to discuss an assignment. Before giving that associate the assignment, you ask her to watch a particularly, risqué YouTube video about opposing counsel with you. This is not a good idea. If the video makes the summer intern uncomfortable, she could end up charging you with sexual harassment yes, it is possible to harass someone of your same gender regardless of either the harasser's or the victim's sexual orientation. It is also possible to be accused of sexual harassment if you are a woman).

Take-home point: Avoid watching risqué videos or reading risqué publications at work unless they are directly related to your job. Even if you do not ask other people to watch such videos with you, you could still face a sexual harassment complaint if they notice that you are watching the videos and are made uncomfortable by that fact.

EXAMPLE FOUR: You are a fourth year, male associate at a law firm. You are the most senior associate working on a team with three other men and three other women. You invite the men, but not the women, out to a strip club. This is not a good idea. This could lead to claims of gender discrimination and sexual harassment by the women both due to the fact that they did not get invited to the strip club and because you held a work function at a strip club. If any of the men who attended the strip club felt uncomfortable about being there with co-workers, you could also face a "hostile work environment" sexual harassment claim from them (as well as possibly a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim if they think that they have to engage in activities at the strip club in order to keep their job, get promoted, or receive good assignments).

Take-home point: It is better to extend social invitations to all members of a work team and not exclude people on the basis of their gender. Also, work events should not be held at strip clubs or any other such place with potential to make co-workers feel uncomfortable or offended.

EXAMPLE FIVE: You are a mid-level female associate at a law firm. You are working with a junior level, female associate who goes out on maternity leave during a busy trial. You are furious that she left you before the trial is complete, as this just increased your workload. When she returns from maternity leave, you refuse to give her any work. This is not a good idea. This could result in claims of gender discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, discrimination for using legally protected leaves, and retaliation for becoming pregnant and using leave.

Take-home point: Do not give people work or take work away from people on the basis of whether they have taken pregnancy (or other legally protected) leaves.

Obviously, these are just a few examples. Discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation can manifest themselves in many other ways in the workplace.

The best way to avoid liability as a young lawyer is to be mindful of relevant anti-discrimination laws and use common sense and professional courtesy so you do not discriminate against candidates for employment, support staff, or other attorneys at your place of employment. In the pre-employment context, this means interviewing the most qualified candidates, asking questions that relate to the job, and not rejecting candidates due to their race, sex, religion, or age, or another protected class. In the employment context, this means giving out assignments based on who does the best work, not based on who is the most fun to go out with or who is the most attractive attorney. It also means not excluding co-workers from functions due to their sex, race, age, etc. Additionally, you should think carefully before forwarding an e-mail joke, extending an invitation to a strip club, or asking someone to watch a YouTube video.

 

Meg Thering is an associate attorney in the Labor and Employment practice of Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. Based in New York City, among other things, Ms. Thering represents employers in labor and employment-related litigation, assists clients in investigating and defending claims of sexual harassment, and conducts sexual harassment training. Ms. Thering received her law degree from Columbia University School of Law, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and a co-editor-in-chief of The Columbia Journal of Asian Law.

____________________________________________________________________________

 

YLS FALL MEETING 2011 - SAVE THE DATE

The Young Lawyers Section Fall Meeting will take October 20-21, 2011 in Albany at the NYSBA Bar Center. YLS Chair-Elect, Michael L. Fox, Esq., will be the Program Chair. The Executive Committee meeting and professional development will be on Thursday, October 20, and there will be a full day CLE program on Friday, October 21.

 

Electronically-In-Touch is the monthly electronic news-publication of the NYSBA Young Lawyers Section (YLS). It is a member driven publication, encouraging YLS members to write articles, and as such we would welcome submissions from members on any relevant topic, including practice tips, substantive legal articles, case updates, work/life advice, and information regarding upcoming meetings and events. Please submit articles to Nilesh Yashwant Ameen, Esq., at nilameen@aol.com, no later than the 10th of the month.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.