New York Women's Bar Association, 132 East 43rd Street, #716, The Chrysler Building, New York, NY, 10017-4019
Message from the President


Lessons in Humility



An employee, Nicom Buakhao, was recently honored for thirty years of service at my firm. He took the opportunity to describe his efforts over the years: "It is not an easy job like most people think because I have to be in the front line taking care of partners and associates who come from different backgrounds. Some attorneys are kind persons while others are unfriendly. I have to be flexible with regard to whatever task they request of me such as making copies, sending out faxes, sending out PDFs, performing messenger duties, or moving cartons and furniture. I have to make sure that every document I handle doesn't get lost. Attorneys frequently ask me to do rush jobs as well as last minute jobs making copies for them. Under these circumstances, I have to honor their requests and would often go home late after staying late to finish their jobs. During my last thirty years with the firm, I have served partners and associates alike and have seen more than one thousand of them come and go. . . . . I look back to when I started working for the Firm in 1975. I have made friends with partners and associates of the Firm. I made copies for them some hard jobs, some easy jobs -- and delivered telephone messages to them from the receptionists without any complaints. I did so even during my personal lunch time without putting in for overtime. They saw that I was loyal to them and the Firm. Friendships developed between them and staff persons like myself. Whenever they saw me in or out of the office, they were glad to see me and I have always respected them. . . . I would like to continue working for the Firm in my same position. I never ask for more money or overtime pay. However, every year when I get my raise, whether big or small, I am very grateful to receive it. I never call in sick or absent and I never come to work late." Nicom concluded, "I am a Buddhist living a simple life." His honest and unforgettable message was distributed to approximately thirty partners and administrators at the Firm.

Mindful of our mission to advance the status of women in the legal profession, I take away two lessons relating to humility from Nicom's message: (1) we should not avoid opportunities to step forward and describe our accomplishments; and (2) we should practice respect for those with whom we work.

Regarding the first lesson, it seems clear that we as women lawyers should take opportunities to tout our accomplishments, both in day-to-day conversations with our supervisors and during annual reviews. We should not be shy about opportunities to speak out about how we reacted to the latest contingency, how we took the time to read up on a relevant topic, how the client seemed pleased with a draft contract, or how we worked through the weekend on an important brief. We can do so humbly, without bravado. Sometimes, it seems easier to concentrate on our goals. Yet, it is those stories of our hard work and dedication that will be recalled at bonus time, and even at partnership review time. Basically, we should not be too "humble" about our production on the job. Talk about one's record of accomplishment is both appropriate and genuine humility.

A couple of years ago, I accepted a new position at my firm, that of pro bono coordinator. The transition to the new role had been ongoing since the aftermath of 9/11, and no set of responsibilities was formally drafted. Although I no longer had "billable" responsibilities, I was advised by a senior partner to continue to keep a record a daily record -- of my time, perhaps in recognition of the relative fluidity of the new role. At the end of a very time-intensive first year, I took the annual self-evaluation assignment very seriously, combing through my daily diary and creating a report that described all of my responsibilities and achievements in detail, as well as the amount of time I had contributed. I was pleased to have that document become part of my personnel file at the Firm, and it was well-received. Just as I looked at Nicom in a new light after I read his message, I felt that my supervisors looked at me in a new light after I submitted my report. Such behavior is not without humility.

Nicom's message also teaches us to be supportive of those who support us in the workplace. Although it sounded as if Nicom has provided the same level of service to "unfriendly" lawyers as to "kind" ones during his time at the firm, we know that everyone is not the same as he. Perhaps we can all remember times that we simply would not have made a filing deadline if a secretary had not missed her train to work on a document, or if a junior associate had not performed some last-minute research. Common courtesy, favorable or constructive reviews, and even the occasional small gift, can go a long way.

I have also found that the more I challenge those who work with me, the more some of them have been pleased to pitch in. During the last few years, due to reorganizations, I have worked with many secretaries. This has involved many instances of secretaries "handing me off" to one another, explaining -- and inevitably evaluating -- the way that I do things. Some have told me that the day goes by more quickly when working with me because I tend to hand out complex, multi-task assignments. From their perspective, it is a sign of respect and confidence that I trust them to follow through on certain projects. They see that I am not proud and cocky, which I do not intend to be.

Like Nicom, we each have a job to do that is challenging. As reticent as we may be to parade our accomplishments, we have a duty to ourselves to speak out about our accomplishments while respecting those with whom we work. Although Nicom claims to lead a simple life, his life is full of a richness that I hope for after practicing thirty years. Don't you?

Archives

January 2007

In her President's Message, Teresa Schiller reflects on the benefits of dual membership in the Women's Bar Association of the State of New York. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

December 2006

In her President's Message, Teresa Schiller reflected on the importance of pro bono service. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

November 2006

In her President's Message, Teresa Schiller reflected on military wives as unsung military heroes.To view the President's Message in full, click here.

October 2006

In her President's Message, Teresa Schiller Teresa Schiller reflected on the importance of making our worlds larger again. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

September 2006

In her President's Message, Teresa Schiller Teresa Schiller reflected on the importance of building a network of women lawyers. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

July 2006

In her inaugural President's Message, Teresa Schiller reflected on the importance of community. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

Spring 2006

In her President's column in the Spring issue, President Christina Kallas discussed how women continue to lag behind men when it comes to earning power, and suggests that this is one more item for the legislature to address as it considers 'no-fault' divorce legislation. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

March 2006

For Women's History Month, Christina Kallas reflected upon how far we have yet to go. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

February 2006

In her column for February President Christina Kallas asked us to consider what it is we pay attention to in our culture. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

January 2006

In her column for January President Christina Kallas asked, "Do we (still) need a women's bar association?" To view the President's Message in full, click here.

December 2005

In her column for December President Christina Kallas discusses the Mental Health Court initiative. To view the President's message in full, click here.

November 2005

In her column for November President Christina Kallas asked us all to honor the memory of Ms. Rosa Parks by making one change. To view the President's message in full, click here.

October 2005

In her column for October in honor of Mediation Settlement Month, President Christina Kallas discusses whether mediation is an underused tool in a lawyer's toolbox. To view the President's message in full, click here.

September 2005

In her column for September, President Christina Kallas reflected upon the changes in our country since September 11th. To view the President's message in full, click here.

June 2005

In her column for June, President Christina Kallas discusses change and continuity. To view the President's message in full, click here.

April 2005

In her column in April, President Elizabeth Bryson talked about sexual politics and "women's work." She took issue with Harvard President Lawrence Summers' recent remarks implying that women are innately less suited to pursing careers in science or engineering. Such retrograde thinking is self-defeating. Mr. Summers had to apologize, and Harvard is now actively address the status of women in academia. Ms. Bryson also discussed upcoming events, including the Association's Annual Meeting, a CLE program on "Evolving Opportunities for Women' Lawyers," the Foundation's next fundraising breakfast, the WBASNY Convention, and of course our fantastic 70th Anniversary celebration on June 1st. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

February 2005

In her column in February, President Elizabeth Bryson talked about matters of life and death. She related the experiences of a friend fighting breast cancer and her mother and family addressing the loss of two brothers to AIDS several years ago, and how each circumstance, though very different, teaches us once again the importance of choosing to live life to its fullest every day. By contrast, she considers the proposal in the NYS Legislature to reinstate the death penalty, and WBASNY's brave stance in opposition. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

January 2005

In her column in January, President Elizabeth Bryson discussed the importance of taking steps to ensure that judges in New York have the appropriate qualifications and integrity to ensure the fair and equal administration of justice. She discusses pending legislation and proposed amendments to the Rules of Judicial Conduct that would have an influence on the method of selecting state court judges and the rules that would apply to candidates for judicial office in New York. Ms. Bryson was honored to chair a WBASNY Task Force to look at the proposed legislation and rule changes, and she discusses the process and proposals. She also describes the recent gala celebration WBASNY's 25 Anniversary and the wonderful presentation of the inaugural "Betty Weinberg Ellerin Mentoring Award" to Justice Ellerin. Finally, she reminds everyone of the importance of ensuring that their membership is renewed by January 31, 2005. New members are also welcome, and they can join for half-price dues starting in January! To view the President's Message in full, click here.

December 2004

In her column in December, President Elizabeth Bryson discussed the importance of speaking out and being heard. She demonstrated the value of the Association's screening of candidates for judicial office, particularly now, when the integrity of the judiciary is under attack. Because many of our members practice in solo and small firm settings, Ms. Bryson recommended that members appear before the Commission on Solo and Small Firm Practice, which is holding hearings and looking for comments, concerns and suggestions to make the lives of attorneys in these settings and their clients easier. Members should also plan to join us at several upcoming events that promise to be very exciting, including the NYWBA Foundation's Breakfast Series Speaker Event, a fundraiser scheduled for December 1st, WBASNY's 25th Anniversary Gala on December 2nd that will pay tribute to our own past President, the Honorable Betty Weinberg Ellerin, for her nearly 50 years of mentoring and service to women attorneys and judges throughout New York and across the country, and the New York Women's Agenda's Star Breakfast on December 7th. To view the President's message in full, click here.

November 2004

In her column in November, President Elizabeth Bryson celebrated all the wonderful programs and events that happened this fall, including our Annual Membership Reception. She also discussed the recent controversy with respect to screening the qualifications of candidates for judicial office in New York County, which became the subject of an article in the New York Law Journal. To view the President's message in full, click here.

September 2004

In her column in September, President Elizabeth Bryson asked members to join her in celebrating the Association's 70th Anniversary year (2004-05). Coincidentally, it was also the 25th anniversary year for the Women's Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY), which is the umbrella organization for all 16 women's bar associations across New York State. The NYWBA and its past President Joan Ellenbogen were instrumental in the formation of WBASNY, and it is a joy to see that it is flourishing. This is Beth's second term as President, and in her column she discussed the excitement of continuing programs begun last year and new programs that will begin this year. She also congratulated everyone who was involved in the wonderful year-end festivities, including our Annual Dinner and the WBASNY Convention. To view the President's message in full, click here.

April 2005

In her column for April, President Elizabeth Bryson congratulated several women who make history every day, including the 11 honorees designated for Women's History Month by the National Women's History Project and the New York City Commission on Women. She provided an update on the proposed rules that we have supported to allow asylum for women who are victims of domestic violence or other brutality that is directly or indirectly endorsed by their country's governments. Ms. Bryson also highlighted numerous upcoming events, including the NYWBA Annual Meeting and the Annual Ethics Forum, both in April, and the Women's Bar Convention in New Orleans and the NYWBA Annual Dinner, both in May. To view the President's message in full, click here. .

March 2004

In her March 2004 column, Ms. Bryson notes that NYWBA's membership has increased by over 33 percent from last year, and nearly 50% from two years ago. She praises the terrific work of NYWBA members, Officers, Board members, Committee Chairs, and others who worked on our membership drive and demonstrate why our bar association is so important, strong and vital. She also salutes two people who may not be lawyers but whose contributions are absolutely invaluable to the Association and the NYWBA Foundation - Executive Director Marta Toro and NYWBA Foundation member Denise Coleman. "Our Association is blessed with so many wonderful women and men who contribute their talents." To view the President's message in full, click here.

February 2004

In her February 2004 column, Ms. Bryson discussed the importance of mentoring and networking, especially for women attorneys. She also announces that the Association's Annual Meeting will be on April 28, 2004, when the 2004-05 officers and directors will be elected. Our gala Annual Dinner will be on May 26, 2004. At that event, awards will be presented to Linda Greenhouse, Pulitzer Prize winning author and New York Times reporter covering the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Hon. Jacqueline Silbermann, Administrative Judge of the NY County Supreme Court and Chief Administrative Judge for NYS Matrimonial Courts. To view the President's message in full, click here.

December 2003

In her December 2003 column, NYWBA President Elizabeth Bryson profiled important issues for our military, including the incidents of rape and sexual harassment at our military academies, the scourge of domestic violence, and the shameful track record of "don't ask, don't tell." She also discussed our exciting membership drive and the Reception Honoring Newly Elected and Appointed Judges. To view the President's message in full, click here.

November 2003

In her November 2003 column, NYWBA President Elizabeth Bryson discusses the importance and benefits of membership, as well as the recent visit of distinguished attorneys from Malaysia who were invited by the U.S. State Department to meet with NYWBA representatives. To view the President's message in full, click here.

NYWBA is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites, and the contents of web pages we link to may change without notice.