N.Y. state bar tackles future of legal profession ‘upended’ by COVID-19

  • Task force will make recommendations on legal education, client relationships, access to justice and technology
  • NYSBA is the country’s largest statewide voluntary bar group

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(Reuters) – Asserting that the pandemic has transformed the practice of law and that COVID-19 may linger in some form indefinitely, the New York State Bar Association on Wednesday announced a task force to study the lessons of the crisis and make recommendations for “new ways of doing business that would benefit the entire legal community.”

The task force will examine the pandemic’s impacts on law students and new lawyers, attorney-client relationships, access to justice and technology and practice management, with working groups dedicated to each topic.

“We will study how effective virtual courts have been, how well the technology has performed and how best in the future to serve clients remotely with an emphasis on making recommendations to safeguard and strengthen the future of the legal profession,” said task force co-chair and Ganfer Shore Leeds & Zauderer partner Mark Berman in a statement.

As the largest voluntary state bar association in the United States, the NYSBA has an obligation to learn from the past two years and create new best practices for the legal community, bar president T. Andrew Brown said in a release.

James Barnes, a Burke & Casserly shareholder, and Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law professor Leslie Garfield Tenzer will chair the new lawyers and law students group.

Eileen Millett of the New York Office of Court Administration and Susan Harper, managing director for New York and New Jersey of the Bates Group, will lead the attorney-client relations group.

City University of New York School of Law professor and co-director of the Disability & Aging Justice Center, Joseph Rosenberg, and independent attorney Frederick Brewington will lead the access to justice group.

Karen Greve Milton, executive deputy inspector general and chief of staff for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector General, will chair the law practice management and technology group along with Foley & Lardner partner Anne Sekel.

All four working groups are planning to hold public forums to gather information beginning in November.

“The pandemic has upended how we manage our practices, interact with clients and deliver legal services,” said John Gross, co-chair of the task force and a partner at Ingerman Smith. “Now we must decide if the changes in how we practiced law during the pandemic enhanced the delivery of quality services to our clients – or are we and our clients better off leaving those changes behind.”

Chinekwu Osakwe

Chinekwu Osakwe covers legal industry news with a focus on midsize law firms. Reach her at Chinekwu.osakwe@thomsonreuters.com.

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