From Richard D. Collins President

President’s Column

On March 2, 1899, two months after Nassau County was established, nineteen lawyers met at Allen’s Hotel in Mineola and formed the Nassau County Bar Association. Augustus N. Weller was voted in as the first president of the new association. What began that day has since stood the test of time, eventually becoming the largest suburban bar association in the country. For the 120 years that followed, this Association has served the lawyers and the community of Nassau County in countless ways.

The presidents who have preceded me steered the sturdy ship of this organization during a Great Depression, two World Wars, and through various national and local highs and lows. In assuming my new role, I truly walk in the footsteps of giants. I have learned from each of them.

Now it’s my turn to take the helm and put what I’ve learned into action. It is with enormous pride that I commence my term as President of the Nassau County Bar Association.

The helm of this historic ship we call the NCBA takes great effort to turn. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to turn the ship’s wheel to sharply change direction. A president whose predecessors were sailing in a different direction would have a herculean task at hand. I don’t. It is my good fortune to succeed our Immediate Past President Elena Karabatos.

The course she charted is exactly the right course for this bar association. During a time when NCBA had neither a caterer nor an Executive Director, and while facing an acute fiscal crisis, Elena’s leadership steered us through the troubled waters. Tough choices and painful sacrifices were made. However, with the support of the wonderful NCBA staff, the Board, and the members of the Executive Committee, we have now sailed into calmer seas with a beautiful sun rising on the horizon. We owe a debt of gratitude to her for her service and I owe a debt of gratitude to her for her example. It was my privilege to serve as her president-elect, and I will continue to benefit from her wisdom and sage advice in her new capacity as past president.

Maybe it’s my personal background in weight-lifting, but I place a high value on strength and health. I truly believe that as a result of enduring our recent struggles and surviving them, that as a Bar Association, we have emerged stronger than before. I want to continue to make us stronger. Our revised dues structure, which includes free CLE (yes, FREE!) has resulted in increased revenues. Our recent Annual Dinner Dance, with Past President Steve Gassman as the recipient of the Distinguished Service Medallion, was a smash success. Thanks to the hard work of NCBA Treasurer Rosalia Baiamonte and the Dinner Dance and Journal Committees, we had a fantastic year. Thanks to Elena and our awesome corporate partners, our sponsorships are up; Secretary Sandy Strenger and our Sponsorships Committee will continue to work diligently to add new NCBA sponsors.

We may also be able to derive additional revenues from a re-purposing of our building’s excess space on the ground level — a project that President-Elect Dorian Glover and Vice-President Greg Lisi are working on in conjunction with Maureen Dougherty and the House Committee. However, we must remain vigilant to stay on budget. I will continue the policies we have put in place of strict fiscal responsibility. The current NCBA staffing and expenses are perfect to help us regain robust fiscal health. In fact, it is my hope that we may soon be able to begin to pay down the principal on our mortgage.

There’s a scene in “Gladiator,” one of my favorite movies, in which the eponymous protagonist is huddled with a small group in the center of the Roman Colosseum facing an unknown foe on the other side of a wall. “Whatever comes out of these gates,” he says, “we have a better chance … if we [stand] together.” There’s strength in working together, in being a team rather than disconnected individuals or disjointed components of an organization.

NCBA’s strength comes from our collaboration at the leadership level — within and among the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the NCBA staff, and the many wonderful committees of this association. More than ever, we are “One Bar Association.” I see NCBA, the Nassau Academy of Law, WE CARE, the Assigned Counsel Defender Plan, the Mortgage Foreclosure Pro Bono Project, the Lawyers Assistance Program, and all the diverse components of this wonderful association as a single collection of dedicated people working together toward a common goal. Standing together, we will be stronger. I look forward to working with the members of all the components of this association. I’m excited to work with our Executive Director Liz Post, and all of her staff — each and every one of them contributes tremendously and without them this bar association could not exist.

My goal is to strengthen the bonds of friendship and collegiality that tie us all together. I’m looking forward to the many social events that will bring us together in the year to come. One of the exciting items on my year’s agenda is our “Destination CLE: London” trip this coming September. A group of nearly three dozen NCBA members and guests will spend five days abroad, rubbing elbows with solicitors and barristers at the Inns of Court and in assorted other scenic legal venues. I am grateful to Membership Committee Vice-Chair Phil Nash and Jen Groh at the Academy of Law for all their work in planning this once-in-a-lifetime event. It will be fantastic!

One way to strengthen NCBA is to do a better job of communicating to both the profession and the community. Our new communications manager, Ann Burkowsky, is dedicated to bringing our online presence into the modern age. That’s not limited just to expanding and simplifying our website but also to increasing our social media presence in recognition that our younger members interact on social media more and more. Additionally, I see great value in letting the members of the local public know about all the good works that occur through NCBA and its components.

We live increasingly in the cyber-world, but there will always be great value in the brick-and-mortar world where networking, mentorship and professional development have unique meanings. Domus, NCBA’s history-rich home for nearly 90 years, is a spectacular structure, modeled after the Middle Temple Inn of Court in London.

We assumed a large loan a few years ago in order to make necessary repairs. To help make members and the legal community understand why it was so important to preserve our home, I devised a three-part plan. The first part was to create a program of Domus Ambassadors to provide tours to those unfamiliar with the facility. We have already implemented the program, which will again take place at the BBQ at the Bar this September with members of our New Lawyers Committee offering guided tours of the building.

The second part was the creation of an appreciation video about Domus, a project which was completed with the help of Jennifer Koo and NCBA’s amazing Hector Herrera. The video can be viewed on our website and plays on monitors during select NCBA events. The third part: I have commissioned the creation of a commemorative “NCBA History Book” which will be available on the premises for visitors to see and appreciate. I want to thank Sarika Kapoor and Jenn Koo, among others, for their hard work. I hope to unveil the book in the fall.

I’m proud and honored to be your president. I want to thank my law partners, my wife, Kathy, and family, and everyone who supported me on my journey here. I would love to get to know each and every member of this association in the months ahead! Come to our many scheduled events, network, develop your practice, or volunteer! Our caterer is terrific, and emails the weekly lunch menu out in advance. So, please stop by for lunch and special events! I look forward to seeing you soon at Domus!