A look back at an essentially virtual year at the Brooklyn Bar Association

Hon. Jeffrey Sunshine, the statewide coordinating judge for matrimonial matters for New York State, was the last to sit down with the Brooklyn Bar Association at its monthly virtual meetings in December. last. Eagle archive photo by Rob Abruzzese

If 2020 was potentially one of the worst years in the Brooklyn Bar Association’s existence, then 2021 would certainly be in the running for the most improved year.

The Brooklyn Bar Association hosted an event with District Attorney Eric Gonzalez in March 2020. Immediately after this event, the BBA announced that it had canceled all scheduled events and that it would not be until June 2021. that the members of the association would meet again. in person in any capacity.

Much has changed since then. We lost about 1000 active members in the space of nine months, but the move to virtual events stopped the bleeding and now the association is slowly growing.

Now, instead of filling the halls at 123 Remsen St., they virtually attend Brooklyn Bar Association events. Some things get lost virtually, like two colleagues who haven’t seen each other since law school reunited, or two adversaries given the opportunity to come together and move a case forward, or even a judge helping to give advice to a new lawyer.

However, virtual events also give more flexibility to the BBA and its members. A person no longer has to factor in the journey time. They don’t even have to be on time for the event when they’re all checked in. This flexibility has given us more participation in some of these virtual continuing legal education seminars than we have had in years.

Hon. Miriam Cyrulnik will be one of the guest speakers at the BBA flag raising ceremony on January 12. Eagle archive photo by Rob Abruzzese

It also gives judges the opportunity to attend. In the absence of travel, the association scheduled many CLE and committee meetings to coincide with the court’s lunch hour. As a result, we have had committee chairs, our own officers and even judges who have attended more events with greater regularity in the past. This provides our members with a great platform to get to know the judges, the rules of their courtrooms and the expectations they should have.

Slowly the BBA has gained a lot of momentum. After almost no event in 2020, he organized 15 virtual CLEs in 2021, including a hybrid CLE, “Speedy Trial and Discovery after COVID,” with a pair of lawyers from Brooklyn Defender Services. The association also organized six virtual meetings with judges, including the Hon. Lawrence Knipel, Kings County Supreme Court Administrative Judge, civil warrant and 15 committee and section meetings.

The CLEs included: Knowledge is Power: What You Need to Know About the New Power of Attorney, a Lunch & Learn with Bankruptcy Court Judges, Video Conference Etiquette, COVID Silver Lining: The professionalism, civility and self-awareness, estate planning and probate 101 in a COVID environment, providing culturally competent services to the LGBTQ + community, ethical considerations in SCPA 1404 exams, civil rights implications of the law 2021 on Marijuana Regulation and Taxation, We’re All Talking Justice Here: Ensuring Equal Justice Through Access to Languages, the NYS Attorney General’s Role in Alternate Court Proceedings, and Batson, Bias implicit and peremptory challenges.

The Brooklyn Bar Association sponsored a spectacular in-person outdoor wine tasting event at Giando on June 8. This was the Association’s first in-person event since COVID-19. Members, the bench and friends had a lovely evening reconnecting with one of New York’s most iconic places. Eagle archive photo by Mario Belluomo

The CLEs all ran virtually on Zoom and were all recorded except one. Participants were able to ask questions just like the events were in person, however, as they were recorded, they can easily go back and watch or review anything that was missing and follow up with the presenter via e- mail.

While in-person events have not returned regularly, the current COVID environment has allowed the BBA to start returning to them, albeit slowly.

The first in-person event was an outdoor wine tasting at Giando on the Water in June. This allowed our vaccinated members who were comfortable to come together in a low risk environment to do so for the first time in over a year.

Since then, the BBA has hosted officer meetings in a hybrid format, hosted its first fully hybrid CLE, with people joining us in person and through Zoom, and we’ve even hosted our first holiday party in 50 years.

The holiday party was a bit bittersweet because we normally have our annual dinner in December instead of celebrating the holidays. It was only because we couldn’t have our annual dinner at the New York Marriott on the Brooklyn Bridge that we were even able to host our vacation party. The event ended up being a great success as Past President Hon. Frank Seddio was able to organize a feast for about 100 members who showed up.

The next step is to build on it. Now that Brooklyn Bar Association members have gotten used to attending virtual events and hearings, we hope we can accommodate them in a more consistent way. We will also continue to seek out hybrid and in-person event opportunities when we believe it is safe to do so.

The Brooklyn Bar Association’s next event will be a flag raising ceremony to kick off the celebration of its 150th anniversary on January 12 at 1 p.m. ET. Due to the COVID Omicron variant, there will be no reception at the BBA building, however, we are still going to host a brief event outside the building with a series of guest speakers, including the Hon. Jeffrey Sunshine and the Hon. Miriam Cyrulnik, two former presidents who currently sit on the Kings County Supreme Court bench, which will be broadcast virtually to our members.

Robert Abruzzese is the former legal editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the current director of member services for the Brooklyn Bar Association. Now a legal columnist for the Eagle, Abruzzese writes for the BBA and the local legal community. For more information on membership in the Brooklyn Bar Association, you can reach him by email at [email protected].

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