December 2015 Archives

A Message from Editor-in-Chief, Kara J. Buonanno January 2016

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Dear Young Lawyers Section Members:

Happy New Year and welcome to the January Issue of Electronically In Touch (EIT), the e-publication of the NYSBA Young Lawyers Section (YLS).

In this issue we have a message from YLS Chair, Erica M. Hines and cover some of the events that have been held, including a gathering with the New York Bar Foundation at Lincoln Center in New York City. We also have the Business Law Section liaison update and an insightful nterview with retired Federal Magistrate Judge Randolph "Randy" Treece conducted by Clotelle Drakeford. Additionally, we have articles covering estate planning for blended families by Michael J. Greenberg and transgender law by Katharine Giudice.

This will be the last issue of EIT that I will serve as Editor-in-Chief on. I would like to thank the YLS Executive Committee, the NYSBA staff and of course all of the YLS members for their tremendous support and contributions. I will continue to work with the YLS as Co-Chair of the Public Service and Pro Bono Committee with Erica Weisgerber. I am excited to introduce to all of you the next Editor-in-Chief, Sasha Grandison.

Electronically In Touch is a member driven publication and as such we welcome submissions from members on any relevant topic including practice tips, substantive legal articles, case updates, work/life balance, and information regarding upcoming meetings and events. Please submit articles by the 28th of each month to Sasha Grandison at

The Officers of YLS and the Editor of Electronically In Touch also wish to make clear that the thoughts and opinions expressed in the articles that follow are those of the respective authors alone, and do not represent the opinions of the NYSBA Young Lawyers Section, or its Officers or Executive Committee.

The YLS wishes all of you and your families a wonderful 2016!

Kara J. Buonanno, Esq.
Editor-in-Chief, Electronically In Touch

A Message from 2015-2016 Chair, Erica M. Hines

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Welcome to the January edition of Electronically In Touch. Over the past few months, we've had some wonderful events, including great district events such as another successful annual super-sized networking event in the 10th district, co-sponsoring a Dog Days of Summer Cigar and Bourbon Tasting in the 3rd/4th judicial districts, and various collaborations with local/county bar associations. You can read more about some of these events below. Our Fall Meeting and Program were held on November 6, 2015 in Albany. YLS chair-elect Erin Flynn planned a fantastic morning CLE program, which was followed by a wonderful lunch with the NYSBA Executive Committee (a YLS first - it was fantastic to meet the bar leadership!), and then our YLS Executive Committee Meeting in the afternoon. We had some wonderful holiday networking events, including events on December 3rd in Albany and Mineola benefiting the Toys for Tots charity. We hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season, and we hope to see you at some of our upcoming events!

By Clotelle L. Drakeford
Young Lawyers Section Liaison to the Trial Lawyers Section


On October 16, 2015, I had the distinct honor and privilege of sitting down with recently retired Federal Magistrate Judge Randolph ("Randy") Treece of the Northern District of New York to discuss various aspects of his career, as well as eliciting specific information from him to help young attorneys become effective trial lawyers. During my interview, Judge Treece took the time to address every part of a trial to identify the critical foundations of trial advocacy. He also gave sage advice for avoiding mistakes and improving upon these basic skills.

Judge Treece was appointed on April 26, 2001 Magistrate Judge to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. After a combined total of nearly 40 years in the practice of law and dedicated service on the bench, Judge Treece opted to retire on September 25, 2015.

Judge Treece is the first African-American to be appointed to the federal judiciary in the Northern District of New York and the first person of color to be appointed or elected to the judiciary at any level, state or federal, in 104 years in upstate New York. James Campbell Matthews, an African-American, served as a judge to the Recorder Court (now known as City Court) for Albany in the 1890s.

Prior to his appointment as Magistrate Judge, Mr. Treece served as Counsel to the Office of the State Comptroller in H. Carl McCall's administration and directed and coordinated all aspects of the Division of Legal Services in accordance with the Comptroller's overall goals, objectives and philosophy. Before he was appointed as Counsel in February 1999, Mr. Treece served as First Deputy Capital Defender of the New York State Capital Defender Office, appointed in September 1995 to manage the Albany Office and to provide trial level representation to those accused of murder in the first degree and who may face the sentence of death.

Judge Randy Treece was born and raised in Troy, New York, the oldest of three children of Marguerite Smith and John Treece. He attended schools in the Lansingburgh School District graduating from Lansingburgh High School with a Regents Diploma and as a member of the Honor Society. Judge Treece graduated from Siena College in 1970 with a B.B.A. in Accounting.

After graduation, he worked with the big eight accounting firm of Peat, Marwick and Mitchell until he entered Albany Law School in 1973. He earned a Juris Doctorate from Albany Law School in 1976 and promptly commenced a private practice, specializing in criminal law and litigation. Judge Treece maintained this private practice for eleven years. While in private practice, he also served as an Assistant Public Defender for Rensselaer County and taught at two area junior colleges. During his stint as Assistant Public Defender, he handled hundreds of cases in all of the trial courts and served as lead trial counsel on several high profile criminal cases. In 1987 Judge Treece joined the New York State Department of Law as an Assistant Attorney General, practicing civil litigation until September 1995. There he handled many voluminous and complex tort cases filed against the state.

In 1989, Judge Treece was appointed an adjunct professor at Albany Law School, which he held until 2003. In addition to teaching trial tactics, Judge Treece has instructed a public defender criminal law clinic, conducted legal educational seminars, and occasionally is asked to be a guest lecturer in other law school classes as well as at other law schools and colleges.

Judge Treece possesses a strong commitment to his community and has served on countless community boards of directors. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Albany Law School, and a former Board of Trustee of the Capital District YMCA, Hudson Valley Community College, and Siena College. He has served on three committees of the New York State Bar Association and as a former delegate to the House of Delegates. He has served on the Board of Director of the New York Bar Foundation as Treasurer for more than a decade. He has also served on the Board of Directors of the Albany County Bar Association for approximately ten years, serving as treasurer of this association, as Chair of the ByLaws Committee and the Association's Minority Lawyers Subcommittee, and is the author of this Association's Minority Hiring Project and Diversity Internship Fellowship Program. He served as Board Member, Executive Vice-Chair and Acting Chair in 1996 of the Urban League of Northeastern New York, Inc. Further, he has served on the Honorary Board of the Women's Law Project, Advisory Board of Albany Law School's Government Law Center, Advisory Board of NAACP Legal Assistance Program and is one of the founders, former President of the Capital District Black Bar Association, now the Capital District Black and Hispanic Bar Association, as well as the former President of the National Bar Association Region II Bar Foundation.

The Chief Judge of the New York Court System, Judith Kaye, appointed Judge Treece to serve on the Jury Project that recommended many significant improvements to this New York State's jury system. Many of these recommendations were made into law. This appointment came after the Capital District Black Bar Association report on minorities and juries, principally written by Judge Treece, received the Root/Stimson Award, and is cited as an authority on the subject matter by other jurisdictions. He also sat on the New York State Bar Association's judicial selection committee and for five years served in a similar capacity for the City of Albany.

Judge Treece has been the recipient of an array of honors and awards. In January of 1996, Judge Treece was awarded the Thurgood Marshall Justice Award from the Albany Chapter of the NAACP. On October 20, 1997, The New York Chapter of American Civil Liberties Union bestowed its Roland J. Smith Award for exemplary legal service upon him. In April 1998, The Urban League of Northeastern New York presented him with its McNamee Award for outstanding services as a board member. In April 1999, the Albany Law School Alumni Association bestowed its Distinguished Service Award upon Judge Treece. The Albany County Bar Association in 2000 bestowed its 1999 President's Award and in the same year the Troy Boys and Girls Club inducted him into its Hall of Fame. On September 21, 2001, Judge Treece's high school inducted him into its Hall of Fame. That same year Omega Phi Psi named him its 2001 Citizen of the Year. The Center for Law and Justice bestowed its Frederick Douglas Award upon Judge Treece in 2002. Also in 2002, the New York State Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission On Minorities presented him with its Millennium Award. In March of 2004, Albany Law School bestowed its Distinguished Alumni in Government Award; in April, the Capital District Black and Hispanic Bar Association presented him with an award for Distinguished Service to Attorneys of Color; and, on October 15, the Troy Chapter of the NAACP presented him with its Outstanding Leadership Award. In 2014, the Albany Chapter of the NAACP bestowed upon him their Medgar Evers's Courage in Freedom Award. In 2015, Albany Law School named him the first recipient of the Legal Profession Leadership Award.

Over the years, Judge Treece has been active in many school and community discussions and presentations to students of all ages and grades. He coauthored an interdisciplinary education project for elementary schools entitled, "The Crime on a Sesame Seed Bun." Judge Treece has assisted the Albany YMCA with its youth basketball league, coached youth basketball teams and has given tennis instructions. Judge Treece has delivered speeches in the community on a variety of legal topics and has served as a panelist on many community and legal forums.

Judge Treece remains an active athlete. He continues his competitive interest in tennis and fitness. A jazz aficionado, he pursues this art and its artists with loving devotion. To that end, he writes a jazz review for a local jazz society. He has one child, Shani Anasa Treece, who graduated from Hampton University with honors. He is the proud grandfather of Nzinga Anasa Braswell born May 3, 1999. He is married to Deborah Day Treece.

Proper Preparation Prevents a Poor Performance at Trial

From the outset of my interview with Judge Treece, he made it clear that "assiduous preparation" was required for conducting trials. He reiterated that there is "no substitution for preparation." Judge Treece further indicated that attorneys' pre-trial submissions to the Court reveal who is more prepared to present their case at trial. Tellingly, the quality of the advocacy, at hand, can be readily assessed by the manner in which attorneys prepare their trial briefs to layout the issues to be determined; provide the Court with a list of witnesses and a synopsis of their anticipated testimony; present the Court with proposed jury instructions; gather and organize their exhibits; and make Motions in Limine.
Hence, Judge Treece recommends that young lawyers take the time that is required to thoroughly prepare for trial and that they write a brief for every trial, irrespective of whether they are conducting it in State or Federal Court. He then pointed out that attorneys should know how the assigned judge presides over trials. Finally, "attorneys should also know the judge's predilections" concerning certain matters as part of their preparation for trial.

Good Tips for Effectively Conducting Voir Dire

Although in Federal Court judges conduct the voir dire of the venire or jury pool, Judge Treece advised that attorneys have an opportunity to present proposed voir dire questions for the Court's consideration during pre-trial conferences. Judge Treece found that he and his former colleagues tended to give attorneys more leeway to address issues with the Court in preparation for jury selection.
On the other hand, when attorneys are conducting voir dire in State Court, Judge Treece advised that they must ask open ended questions and get the potential jurors to speak. Examples of such questions were as follows: "How do you feel about the ...?" "What are your feelings about this?"
Judge Treece stated it is a "big mistake" to ask close ended and leading questions of the venire when conducting voir dire. He further counseled against giving a mini opening statement during voir dire. Moreover, he noted that "seasoned trial lawyers ingratiate themselves and their clients with the prospective jurors." "You never get a second chance to make a good impression."

Best Practices for Presenting an Opening Statement

Regarding both the opening statement and the summation, Judge Treece opined that "trial advocacy is the art of persuasion not oration." Judge Treece stated that the opening statement is simply "telling your client's story." "[But,] it should be strong and palpable." Therefore, he suggested that attorneys "start with [an attention] grabber" that is roughly three to four sentences. "This should outline the theme of the case."
Judge Treece was careful to convey that an attorney's "theme [of the case is for] the jury [and their] theory [of the case is for] the judge." He further stated that a theme can be a "common story, metaphor, allegories, similes, something that a juror can relate to from his or her personal experience."
From here, Judge Treece does not recommend relying upon the "the evidence will show ..." Rather, attorneys should "tell the jury a very linear story about the client that will support the elements of the cause of action or their perception of the facts." However, the attorney's role is to be "a great story teller eschewing theatrics." In telling the story, the attorney "should have a conversation with the jury and yet, remain professional."
However, he further suggests that attorneys actually use demonstrative evidence during their opening statement if it has already been stipulated beforehand to be admitted at trial. Judge Treece finds that it is truly a "lost moment" for attorneys who do not use demonstrative evidence during their opening statement.
Judge Treece further advised that young attorneys must understand the concepts of "primacy and recency" during trial in order to effectively persuade the jury. Lastly, attorneys should avoid getting into argumentation during their opening statement or providing the jury with instructions on the law, as this is improper.

Powerful Information for Conducting a Direct Examination

Judge Treece initially stated that this is when the attorney asks questions of a witness as to "How," "What," "When," and "Where." When he presided over trials, Judge Treece described having observed many young lawyers fail to control a witness' testimony during a direct examination by not "looping" the witness' prior testimony within the series of questions that were to follow. His example of "looping" was "Now, you testified that [state a fact]" and then the attorney would proceed to ask another open ended question of the witness stemming from that topic from there. Judge Treece made sure to note that by "looping" that the attorney is controlling the witness, without leading the witness, which would be improper during direct examination.
Additionally, Judge Treece indicated that really skilled attorneys have learned how to not only control the direct examination, but how to also "paint pictures" in the minds of the jury as to what happened or occurred. Lastly, Judge Treece pointed out that if your client has the burden of proof, then it is during the direct examination that the elements of the cause of action must be established.
Great Advice for Using, Organizing and Handling Exhibits

Judge Treece reminds us that we retained more by what we see and hear at the same time, adding tremendous values to demonstrative evidence. Judge Treece then described having observed many young attorneys handle exhibits in an awkward manner, along with their failure to project confidence with the use of exhibits. He finds that this caused these exhibits "not to be displayed in the best light." Further, young attorneys also had a tendency to not give photos to the jury for them to directly examine, or if they did, they would hand them out one at a time, as opposed to simply giving the jury the series of photos collectively to view and compare.
However, when available, Judge Treece opined that it is "absolutely better to use a projector." He stated that young attorneys should learn how to use the Court's equipment and apparatuses before trial. Additionally, attorneys should get a demonstration of how to use the equipment with the assistance of the Court's staff as needed.
From here, Judge Treece noted that "organization is key," and he recommended the use of notebooks and binders for documentary evidence. "This permits immediate access to the exhibits," and they can be placed in a manner that corresponds to the areas of inquiry of a witness. Moreover, all exhibits should be identified, tagged and placed in a separate file so that time is not wasted looking for things. Judge Treece further urged the use of laptops, notepads or ipads as appropriate to organize the presentation of exhibits and demonstrative evidence.
Finally, young attorneys should be aware that stipulating to the use of evidence at trial occurs frequently, and they should tell the presiding judge what evidence needs a foundation in advance of the trial. "A trial lawyer must always remain mindful that court efficiency is paramount."

Instructive Guide to Carrying Out a Thorough Cross Examination

Judge Treece indicated that cross examination "is an art." In his experience, "there are more suicides than homicides" during cross examination. When I asked, "Why is this the case?" Judge Treece stated a few obvious mistakes:
a. "They ask the wrong question or they ask a question without knowing the probable answer;
b. They ask too many questions;
c. They ask a question to get a conclusion;
d. They ask an open ended question; and
e. They don't know when to sit down."
With cross examination, attorneys should be leading the witness to "get them to agree or disagree" with the question or proposition presented. "The witness should not be given a chance to explain." Additionally, the inferences that are drawn from a witness' testimony should be argued during summation- not during their cross examination. This is where it is critical to know when to "sit down."
Judge Treece indicated that "a good cross examination should not exceed thirty to forty-five minutes." "Hit your relevant points and then sit down even when you are tempted to ask one more question." Although attorneys must prepare their questions in advance, they should try not to read their questions to the witness. Judge Treece found that by reading the questions, attorneys "lose their rhythm" during the examination.
As it relates to impeachment, Judge Treece stated that "good lawyers know how to impeach a witness, but, it can be learned through study."

Helpful Ways to Give a Closing Argument

In Judge Treece's view, attorneys have a tendency to "put too much stock in their summation and not enough on their opening statement." "You must remain mindful of the concept of primacy and regency." He then stated that "sometimes the facts lend themselves to convey emotion, but, it is good to present logical, linear arguments." Judge Treece further feels that the "more extemporaneous the arguments are, the more persuasive they are to the jury." Moreover, he finds that if attorneys rely solely upon an outline or some other written materials, then they lose eye contact with the jury. While he recognized that some people are more "blessed" than others to be able to make an "extemporaneous speech" during summation, he insisted that if young attorneys know the facts of their case and are prepared, then it is easier to be extemporaneous. Finally, Judge Treece advised that it is a "good time to use [admitted] exhibits and demonstrative evidence during summation."

Insightful Instructions for Understanding Etiquette and Other Aspects of Trial

When I inquired of Judge Treece as to the best way to handle unfavorable evidentiary or other rulings during trial, he admonished young lawyers from arguing with the judge. Rather, they should "always remember to respectfully object to the ruling in order to make a record and then move on."
I then asked Judge Treece to describe how an attorney may find his or herself being reprimanded by the presiding judge during a trial. Judge Treece indicated that this can happen when an attorney has "gone into an area [during an examination, etc.,] where they should not have; the attorney has stated or done something that offends the Court; the attorney has not followed the judge's instructions; the lawyer has attempted to sneak trial evidence into [the proceeding that has not been admitted]; and [trial counsel has begun to] yell at a witness or their adversary."
Judge Treece made it a point to note that it is certainly appropriate to be forceful, assertive and perhaps even flippant at trial. However, he maintained that yelling or making denigrating remarks to a witness or opposing counsel is never appropriate.
Judge Treece then pointed out that charge conferences are another aspect of a trial, wherein young attorneys need to be prepared. He explained that in Federal Court most judges will conduct a charge conference with the attorneys typically before closing arguments. However, this is not always the case and some judges may not hold them at all. During a charge conference, proposed instructions to charge to the jury as to how they should deliberate concerning the case, based on the elements of the cause of action, are discussed.
In his experience, Judge Treece has found that some young lawyers have not reviewed recent case law pertaining to the issues to be considered and submitted for the jury instructions. Finally, if there is an objection to the Court's instruction, Judge Treece noted that young attorneys must be prepared to make a record of the objection during the conference.

When You Can Truly Consider Yourself a "Trial Lawyer"

As the current Young Lawyers Section Liaison to the Trial Lawyers Section of the New York State Bar Association, I was curious to learn if there is a Litmus Test for when a young attorney can truly consider his or herself a "Trial Lawyer." I asked Judge Treece, "When can those of us, who are passionate about trial work, but have limited experience due to our budding careers, consider ourselves to be "Trial Lawyers?" Recalling the sentiment shared with him by a seasoned lawyer, he concurs that you must conduct ten to 12 trials before you can honestly say that you are a "Trial Lawyer." In addition to serving as lead counsel in the aforesaid number of trials, Judge Treece advised that you should learn:
a. How to paint pictures and images in the minds of the jury and judge;
b. How to project an air of confidence and control when things are not going well; and
c. How to address the Court.

"When your colleagues refer cases to you to be tried or judges make similar assignments, then you may consider yourself a trial lawyer." This also includes that when you are in the "throes of a trial, and you have a pain in your gut and yet, you still love it, you may be becoming a trial lawyer."
From here, Judge Treece was gracious enough to share recommendations for developing our trial advocacy skills based on what he did early in his career as follows:
a. Make it a point to attend trial related CLEs with the best and most respected practitioners who will be serving as the lecturer;
b. Observe as many trials as you can;
c. Spend time with seasoned Trial Lawyers;
d. Seek advice from Trial Lawyers when you are preparing for and during trial;
e. Discuss practices and processes with other Trial Lawyers; and
f. Read about the art of advocacy and trial lawyers. Be inspired.

Some Final Remarks and Words of Encouragement to Young Lawyers from Judge Treece

At this point, Judge Treece shared words of encouragement for young attorneys as follows:

"There is value in your education and experience. Don't give it away. Don't give away your experience to placate family and friends. [If you are a solo practitioner] and unless you get paid up front, you don't have to do the legal work for the sake of the experience]. However, if you get a pro bono case, you should prepare to deliver your bests if you received an advanced fee.
[When it comes to trial work], losing hurts, but, you need to get over it as quickly as you can and move on to the next mission. It is nice to have thick skin... [Remember,] the practice of law is never perfect. Hopefully, you can get the best results for your clients. Be true to yourself. Be honest with yourself. You should then be able to accept the outcome.
One style does not fit all. Be authentic and genuine. Be respectful of the intelligence and commonsense of the jury. 99.9 percent of the time, they are going to get it correct. Understand humanity and human foils. Be curious and remain a student of life. Understand the commonality of themes as opposed to legal theory.
There is an art of persuasion. There is an art of cross examination. Some attorneys are more blessed than others. Some are more gifted with extemporaneous speech than others. Some have better intuition about human nature than others. Some can convey their perception about the facts of the case better than others.
Trial work is an art. And yet, with hard work and constant study of well-honed trial principles, one can be developed into a capable trial advocate."

My interview of Judge Treece was thereby concluded.

Clotelle L. Drakeford joined Rapport Meyers as an associate in March 2015. Clotelle practices primarily in the areas of employment law, municipal and public authorities law, real estate and guardianship law. She also has experience in civil rights, criminal and family law.

Upcoming Events

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Time for a Little TLC: Time Management, Leadership & Career Skills. Topics will include navigating social media as a professional (or Lawyers Can Tweet Too!: Responsible Use of Social Media); Pathways to Leadership in NYSBA; Overcoming Procrastination: Taking Charge of Your Time to Eliminate Stress and Better Serve Your Clients. Full program coming soon.

Meeting 8:45 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. at the NY Hilton Midtown

For overnight room accommodations, please call the New York Hilton Midtown at 1-800-445-8667 and identify yourself as a member of the New York State Bar Association. Room rates are $260.00 for single/double occupancy. You also can reserve your overnight room online at

Transgender Civil Rights: New York's Legislative (Non) Response

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By Katharine Giudice

Recently many transgender individuals have been in the forefront of the media, bringing attention and awareness to transgender issues. Caitlyn Jenner's front-page Vanity Fair spread caused a media frenzy. Likewise, other transgender individuals like Orange is the New Black actress Laverne Cox, and punk rock musician Laura Jane Grace have shared their stories about gender dysphoria, transitioning, and advocating for acceptance and equality.

Notwithstanding more transgender visibility in the media, transgender individuals are frequent targets of discrimination, bullying, harassment, and violence. Though transgender people, undeniably, have a louder voice in the media, where do they stand in the eyes of the law? Unfortunately, the transgender community is not adequately protected from discrimination or harassment. Presently, New York State does not have a comprehensive law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender. In fact, the New York Senate has several failed attempts under its belt at passing transgender protective legislation. This Article describes the need for legal protections for the transgender community and New York's unsuccessful endeavors to pass legislation.

For children and teens, coping with gender dysphoria (which refers to a misalignment between an individual's biological sex and his or her gender identity) can be especially confusing and isolating. For every transgender pioneer in the media promoting acceptance, there seems to be a matching story of tragedy. For example, late last year, a 17 year old transgender girl, Leelah Alcorn, committed suicide by walking into traffic on an interstate highway near her home in Ohio. Leelah's parents refused to accept her gender identity, and forced her to undergo conversion therapy (a form of so-called treatment aimed at changing an individual's gender identity to match his or her biological sex). In her suicide note Leelah expressed feelings of alienation and self-hatred and included a plea for society to "fix" itself. Shortly thereafter, in February of this year, a 16 year old transgender boy took his own life by the same method. Ash Haffner was reportedly bullied for years; that bullying escalated severely when he cut his hair short and requested that people use male pronouns to address him.

Suicide is always tragic; however, there is something especially poignant when a young person takes his or her own life. Leelah's and Ash's stories are, regrettably, not uncommon among the transgender community. A survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality revealed that suicide attempts among transgender/gender non-conforming individuals was a staggering 41 percent (compared to the national average of 1.6 percent).

In April 2015 the New York State Assembly passed a bill prohibiting psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, mental health practitioners, and physicians from using conversion therapy on anyone under 18 years of age. However, the Senate allowed the legislative session to expire on June 17th without voting on the bill. Similarly, the Senate has also failed to vote on the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), though the Assembly passed the measure eight times (most recently in June 2015). GENDA would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression, and would amend "hate crime" laws to include crimes against transgender people. Nineteen states have non-discrimination statutes on the books aimed at protecting transgender people, but New York lags behind.

Explicit protections are needed for the transgender community. However, existing statutes may serve as a stop-gap to discrimination until a more comprehensive law is passed. For example, in 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled, that transgender people are protected from discrimination in the workplace under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Likewise, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights announced that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 ("Title IX"), protects transgender students. The guidance was set forth in "Questions and Answers on Title IX and Single-Sex Elementary and Secondary Classes and Extracurricular Activities;" it specifically provided that "[a]ll students, including transgender students ... are protected from sex-based discrimination under Title IX." Title IX requires school districts to "treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity in all aspects of the planning, implementation, enrollment, operation, and evaluation of single-sex classes."

In New York City public schools, the New York City Department of Education has created guidelines aimed at protecting transgender students. Protections include use of appropriate names/pronouns, locker room and bathroom use and participation in physical education and athletics.

While these protections are a step in the right direction there are definite drawbacks to having different bureaucracies and administrative agencies putting together piecemeal protections. It's high time that New York's elected legislature act and develop comprehensive legislation to protect the state's transgender community.

Events Recap

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YLS and the Committee on Lawyers in Transition NYC Networking Event
by Erin Flynn

On December 1st the Young Lawyers Section and the Committee on Lawyers in Transition held a joint networking event at New York Yankees Steak in midtown Manhattan. The event was well attended by a mix of young lawyers, more experienced lawyers and lawyers in town for the Bridging the Gap program. We look forward to working with the Committee on Lawyers in Transition for future events.

Young Lawyers and Foundation Establish New Giving Group

Earlier this year the Young Lawyers Section worked with The New York Bar Foundation to develop a new giving group, the "Young Lawyer Friends of The Foundation." The group encompasses attorneys within the New York State Bar Association in practice ten years or less who make an annual financial contribution of $30 or more to The New York Bar Foundation.

The mission of the Young Lawyer Friends of the Foundation is to engage and inspire young lawyers to understand and promote the goals of The New York Bar Foundation. Members will act as ambassadors for The Foundation, promoting it mission, while assisting in raising funds to support legal services through The Foundation's grant program.

Leaders of both groups realized that the opportunity to collaborate was there when the Public Service and Pro Bono Committee of the Young Lawyers Section of the State Bar Association organized a spin event to raise funds for The Foundation. Because of the interest and desire of young professionals to make a difference via The Foundation; a committee met to outline the mission, vision and footprint of the group. The idea was endorsed by the Young Lawyers Section and The Foundation Board and the new group was created.

"Just as The Foundation is the charitable arm of the New York State Bar Association, we are delighted that the Young Lawyer Friends have created this bridge between the Association and The Foundation as an outgrowth of the Association's Young Lawyers' Section," states Foundation President, John Gross. "We hope that other groups within the Association will follow your lead and create a giving bridge to The Foundation. My special thanks to Sara Gold and James Barnes, important leaders of that Section, for bringing this great idea to fruition."

In August the group held their inaugural gathering of the founding members at Lincoln Center in New York City. Attendees were able to get to know one another, meet the President of The Foundation, John H. Gross, NYSBA President David P. Miranda, and other leaders within the Bar Foundation Board of Directors.

"I commend the organizers of this group and the event for their creativity and inventiveness, that is what keeps our profession and our Association vital," states President Miranda. "Public service and access to justice are important themes of my Presidency. I am delighted by this new initiative by and for Young Attorneys to put their energy and enthusiasm toward this charitable cause that will promote greater access to justice for all New Yorkers."

Since 2008, The New York Bar Foundation has presented more than $4.5 million in grants to non-profit organizations and associations throughout New York that provide legal services to those in need. For more information regarding The New York Bar Foundation visit Call them at (518)487-5650 to become part of the Young Lawyer Friends of The Foundation.

Estate Planning Tools for Blended Families

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em>by Michael J. Greenberg, Esq.

Individuals with blended families can face complex estate planning challenges. They may want to provide for their current spouse, their children with their current spouse, their children from previous marriages, and in some cases, the children from their spouse's previous marriage.
In New York State, spouses are entitled to at least one-third of your estate unless the parties execute a pre or postnuptial agreement. If you simply leave an equal amount of money to the children from your first and second marriages, your children with your current wife will likely receive a disproportionate share of your assets because they will receive inheritance both from you and your surviving spouse.
Providing for everyone you love can be a difficult task. You need an estate plan that fits your situation. Relying on your spouse and children to "work it out" could lead to family squabbles and potential litigation after you are gone. Here are some estate planning tools and techniques to help you create a plan to fit you and your family's needs:

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements: It is important to consider your estate before entering into a second marriage, especially when you are concerned about taking care of children from a first marriage. A prenuptial agreement can be drafted to waive a party's right to at least one-third of the estate, as long as he or she still receives some part of the estate. This would protect the children of the first-to-die since their parent's money would go to them and not to the new spouse.

Trusts: Trusts can be designed to benefit both the surviving spouse and children. It is important to select a trustee that will follow your wishes fairly, perhaps someone outside the family. The trust can distribute the assets to the surviving spouse and designated children. Trusts have the added benefit of protecting assets from creditors and the claims of your children's spouses or former spouses. You can even include a "no contest" provision in the trust to minimize the risk that the trust will be challenged.

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts (ILITs): You can use life insurance to provide for your children through an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust while using other estate assets to provide for your surviving spouse. This prevents children from being disinherited because the trust names them as sole beneficiaries of the life insurance policy. Each child will receive his or her inheritance promptly because the policy pays the trust immediately upon your death. The money in this type of trust is not included in your estate and therefore is exempt from New York and Federal estate taxes, which makes it an attractive option for those with large estates. While your spouse has to explicitly waive his or her right to your retirement account if you want to leave it to your children as beneficiaries, there is no such requirement for an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust.

Review of beneficiary designations: Make sure to review all of your assets that have beneficiary designations, specifically your insurance policies or retirement accounts as it is the terms of the beneficiary form which controls the disposition of those assets
irrespective of what your Will or Trust may state. Many people forget to change beneficiary designations after getting divorced or remarried and you want to make sure that your wishes are carried out.

Do your homework and seek out advice from advisors who have worked with blended families. That way, you can ensure that your wishes will be respected and your family members will be provided for.

Michael J. Greenberg, Esq. is an Estate Planning, Elder Law, and Special Needs Planning attorney at Keane & Beane, P.C. He is a member of the Trusts & Estates, and Elder Law and Special Needs, and Young Lawyers sections of the New York State Bar Association as well as the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). Mr. Greenberg received his law degree from Emory University School of Law and his undergraduate degree from Williams College. He is admitted to practice law in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Florida. You can follow him on Twitter @MJGElderLaw or email him at

Business Law Section Liaison Update

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by Sarah Gold

This has been an exciting time for the Business Law Section. Coming off of a strategic planning session for the Section this summer, we look forward to being able to provide even more value to the members of the Section.

Business Law, being one of the largest sections of NYSBA contains a variety of practitioners encompassing 12 substantive committees including topics of Banking, Bankruptcy, Corporations, Derivatives and Structured Products, Franchise, Insurance, Not-For-Profits, Securities Regulation, and Public Utilities. We have one of the premier business law publications, the NY Business Law Journal with gives practice-oriented insight and guidance to the business law practitioner.

Our Fall Meeting, held in Tarrytown, NY on October 1-3, 2015 was on the subject of Money. Our topics included: Avoiding Ethical Nightmares: Why Attorney Escrow Accounts Shouldn't Keep You up at Night, SEC Examination Issues for Investment Advisers to Private Funds, Virtual Currency & Cryptocurrency Issues, Mobile/Internet Banking; The Latest Innovations and Regulations. Not only informational, but prescient, since some of the speakers spoke on topics that were in the news in the days following the meeting.

Coming into the Annual Meeting in January, we'll be also covering some cutting edge material as we'll have speakers discussing the newly published SEC regulations regarding crowdfunding and what that means to your clients. Along with the Corporate Counsel Section's presentation on cybercrime and its effects on organizations, it should be a particularly interesting meeting. There will also be a number of committees having meetings during Wednesday's programming, so keep an eye out for the upcoming registration materials.

We are constantly looking at the state of Business Law in New York and fighting to update those laws important to lawyers and the economy of New York itself. We are always looking for like-minded practitioners looking to become more involved in the programs and legislative initiatives that the Section has to offer.

If anyone has any questions about the section or its committees and programs, please contact Sarah Gold at or 518-213-2345.

Join the Young Lawyers Section

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Become the voice of newly-admitted and young attorneys in NYSBA. Designed to help make the transition from law school to practice an easier one for newly-admitted attorneys, the Young Lawyers Section connects you with experienced attorneys lending general advice, legal guidance, or expert opinions. Take advantage of educational programs, networking events, and the exclusive Young Lawyers Section Mentor Directory, just one of the Section's mentoring initiatives. The Section publishes Electronically In Touch and Perspective. Plus,­ law students may now join the Section and get a jump start on their careers.

Join YLS


Are you interested in volunteering for a Section Committee? Please email Megan O'Toole at and Tina Rothaupt at and indicate the committees you wish to join.


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Electronically In Touch is the 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 Sasha Grandison at, by the 28th of the month.

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