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President's Message | April 2019 Newsletter

 

Want to Find a President on a Random Weekday?

Try looking on a mountain trail in the Adirondacks.

A few weeks ago I had a trial settle before picking a jury. Because I had planned to be out for the week, I decided to take advantage of some unexpected free time and go hike up a mountain. So I woke early the next morning and drove to the Adirondack LOJ (a popular trailhead for many of the High Peaks in the Adirondacks), with a plan to hike Mount Marshall (twenty-fifth highest in the Adirondacks). When I left the LOJ it was five degrees, with no wind and a clear sky. Seventeen miles later, and a good part of the day spent on the trail, I returned to my car and started back for Albany.

It was an incredible day. I was alone for the entire hike, save for meeting another hiker at the top of Mount Marshall (which made it a lot easier to get a picture of myself next to the sign at the top). The views were spectacular and I was able to get pictures from the middle of the lakes, which is not so easy to do during the other months of the year. It warmed up from the five degree start to a balmy twenty-eight by the time I got back to the car. Another mountain conquered on my trek to complete all forty-six mountains in the Adirondacks that are over four thousand feet (only six left).

But aside from the views, exercise and fresh air, the hike gave me the chance to just relax and recharge. To get away for a day and appreciate all that is so beautiful about this little spot on the planet we call home.

For well over a year, Ann Lapinski has been writing a piece in this Newsletter on Wellness. Something we all need to take seriously. Far too many attorneys in our community struggle with a variety of challenges brought on by the pressure of the profession. When we add to that the other things that inevitably happen in life, it can become overwhelming. National statistics indicate that attorneys struggle with a much higher percentage of dependency and mental health issues than many other segments of society.

For that reason, we all need to look for and take advantage of healthy escapes. Ann has been writing about those escapes, discussing exercise options like yoga, simple lifestyle changes that can make tasks easier to accomplish and posting recipes for nutritious eating. It is all about finding and doing what you enjoy. Ann regularly discusses the need for all of us to take time for ourselves, look for what is good about life and finding ways to enjoy that good. Not always easy, but something that we must all try to do.

Through this year, ACBA is going to infuse its social events and activities with healthier options. The ACBA committees will be looking, even more than we have in the past, to add events or options at events that provide an escape from the not-so-healthy routine. We are looking forward to events that are focused on getting outside, getting involved in the community and generally providing happenings that are welcoming to every one of our members and their families.

I am not certain who might want to take me up on this, but I intend to invite ACBA members to join me as I complete my venture up the last six of the forty-six ADK high peaks this year. Unlike my solo venture a few weeks ago, I will send out an email to the membership several days (perhaps even weeks if I can get my act together) before I hike and see who wants to join me. I cannot promise that the hikes will be on the weekend, or that they will be easy (I have saved some of the more difficult hikes for last). But, I will promise you an incredible day connecting (and at times even tussling) with nature.

 

Let’s Talk About Membership and Access to Justice.

I am combining membership with access to justice this month (and likely next month), because I want to discuss the opportunities ACBA offers to all members to provide access to justice.

For several years now, ACBA has engaged in various programs to assist people in Albany County that cannot afford legal services. The programs that ACBA currently participates in are the Lawyer Referral Service, the Clean Slate initiative and the Albany County Family Court Help Center.

Next month I am going to discuss the Clean Slate program in more detail, and how it relates to expunging felony and misdemeanor records that are more than ten years old.

The referral service is exactly what you might think it is. ACBA currently has a lawyer referral service (“LRS”) for people seeking a lawyer in Albany County. The LRS matches people looking for an attorney with member attorneys who work in the area of law that is involved. To participate in that program, ACBA members sign up with LRS and are on a roster and cases are referred out. When the person seeking a lawyer indicates that they do not have the ability to pay for an attorney and their case is not appropriate for a contingency, the LRS team attempts to refer the case with a local pro bono service. ACBA also encourages members to volunteer with a local service provider, thus, effectively recruiting and helping to refer pro bono matters in Albany County.

The Albany County Family Court Help Center is essentially a pro bono drop-in clinic at Family Court. A member simply needs to get trained, sign up for the time they can participate (it can be for an hour or more Mon- Fri) and then begin helping people. It is an incredible opportunity to give back to the community in a meaningful way. And it has the advantage of being scheduled for a discrete period of time of your choosing.

Kristin Petrella has been the lead on all of the ACBA pro bono efforts over the last two years, and wrote an article that appears in this Newsletter describing in more detail the Help Center. Kristin has been a force in making the Help Center an incredibly successful and dynamic program. She has been providing the training, scheduling the volunteers, providing the hands-on interaction with volunteer members at Family Court, making certain that people looking for assistance know that attorneys are available and having the attorneys there when needed. Kristin has been instrumental in making sure the program runs smoothly.

Unfortunately, Kristin will be leaving the ACBA team at the end of March. As she transitions the logistics of the Help Center program to the Help Center Ad Hoc Committee, I want to thank her publicly for all of her fantastic work with the Help Center program and the tremendous pro bono outreach she has done for ACBA. Kristin has been tireless in her support of pro bono services in Albany County and in her dedication to the members of this organization. She will be missed.

But as the ACBA Pro Bono Committee steps in to take on the Help Center logistics, we are going to be asking for members to do even more to help. We are going to be looking for more members to be part of the Pro Bono Committee and to volunteer at the Help Center. As Kristin notes in her article, last year the Help Center helped almost 450 clients. That was done by approximately 22 volunteers we need to not only continue that level of service, but to increase it over the next several years.

I would like ACBA to serve 1000 clients by the end of 2020. That is going to take some focus and the raising of many hands by ACBA members to volunteer and get involved. So please consider volunteering by getting in touch with the committee or just drop me a line and we will get you started.


Daniel J. Hurteau, Esq.
ACBA President

 

 

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