Pro Bono Barrister for Aug. 13, 2012

August 13, 2012 By Charles F. Otey For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Share this:

Columbian lawyers to open season with trial prep session at Rex Manor

Kicking off the fall season under new President Bruno F. Codispoti, the Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn will gather Sept. 4 at the Rex Manor on 60th St. with a special presentation by Kings Supreme Court Justice Ellen Spodek.

According to Program Chairs Justice Anthony Cutrona and Marc Longo, Justice Spodek’s CLE-accredited program is one which is always timely for active practitioners — “Dotting the I’s and Crossing The T’s: Effective Trial Preparation.”

Subscribe to our newsletters

As every good trial lawyers knows it takes up to 100 hours of detail work and witness “prep” for every hour of actual court presentation. Justice Spodek has presided over hundreds of trials and proceedings and will bring her experience and invaluable insight to the Columbians that night. It starts promptly at 6 p.m.

Other officers assisting Pres. Codispoti are First Vice President Robert J. Musso, Second Vice President Bartholomew Russo, Third Vice President Rose Ann C. Branda, Treasurer Mark Longo, Corresponding Secretary Dean G. Delianites, Recording Secretary Linda Locascio, Historian Aldo Alleva. Msgr. David Cassato is Chaplain while Immediate Past President is Dominic Famulari.

* * *

Recession hurts our courts and limits law opportunities

As noted here, often the slashes in court personnel  dealt with every day by Administrative Judge Sylvia Hinds-Radix (Civil Matters) and Administrative Judge Barry Kamins (Criminal Matters) — are literally unprecedented.

Court veterans say they can recall no other time when the lack of public funding has made such a difference in the administration of justice and the overall morale of the legal community.

Cost-cutting has resulted in earlier closing of courthouses which means, for example, that 360 Adams St.can no longer serve as the site for meetings of the Kings County American Inns of Court and other law-related organizations.

Law firms have been making significant staff-reductions the past five years and inevitably this and other factors have resulted in the most diminished court calendars in decades.

Perhaps even more shocking is the apparent lessening in the value of a law degree followed by a license to practice.

An eye-opening op-ed article in a recent New York Times issue stated, in part, that the state bar exams “once set a graduate on the path to a lifelong career. Not anymore.” The writer was Lincoln Caplan in the Times’s Sunday Observer.

He cited a study by William Henderson of the Indiana University Maura School of Law which found that “Only 55 percent of 43,735 graduates in 2011 had a law-related job nine months after graduation.”

Pro Bono Barrister is interested in hearing from our readers about the negative impact the financial situation is having on our system of justice. If you have a comment regarding the status of the legal profession please send it to [email protected]. When requested anonymity will be ensured.

* * *

Facebook stock falters, after GM stops advertising

Just a week or so before Mark Zuckerberg’s legendary Facebook issued its IPO initial public offering — General Motors stunned the marketing world by announcing it would stop advertising on Facebook!

Why? How could this recovering auto-building behemoth even dare to demonstrate such foolhardiness? Wasn’t Facebook the ultimate marketing dream  the easiest route to the pocketbooks of the rich and powerful? Maybe not.

Theories abound. Quite simply, it’s because the folks at GM said they weren’t getting any business through Facebook even though they had been pouring more than $10 million each year into the online social media phenomenon.

Most online adherents pooh-poohed GM’s decision.

“Only old people buy GM products!” one self-anointed media specialist sniffed in a blog. “It doesn’t mean anything! Facebook will do even better than its IPO (which came at $40 per share).”

Even as newspapers and the social media types burst their seams with laudatory reviews of Zuckerberg and his lovely bride, the hotly anticipated IPO came out with a world-wide flourish and flopped! Why? Every theory is a good as the next, say the experts. Reflexively going after the “messenger,” Zuckerberg threatened to sue the firm which he hired to assemble and put forth his own ill-fated IPO.

Not too surprised, and betraying more than a little schadenfreude, were those of us who have spent more than a decade or so in basic print journalism. Granted the bias, but it seemed clear to some of us veterans — who have moved cautiously into the online frenzy — that Facebook just might have been overrated.

* * *

Is Facebook’s “pull” limited demographically?

Many objective demographic studies have indicated that Facebook main proponents are uniformly intense — zealous actually. So many of them tend to believe and know about only what they can access online. They rely less and less on print newspapers and have stopped getting their “news” from traditional media, even television! There are certainly millions of these true believers but the miserable performance of the Facebook IPO — and its aftermath — show the FBers are “limited” in numbers, wealth and influence.

There is no question that the all-consuming intensity and sudden following of FB and other social media is historic and remarkable. Yet it is indeed driven in large part by social motivation — the prevailing desire of people to meet partners — for life, a night or otherwise, and even, on occasion, for business.

Outside the FB kingdom, it seems, is another identifiable world. These include most people over 45 who have a lot more “discretionary” income and these in various professions requiring an intimate familiarity with the language, such as the law. It’s a world where people think and write in complete sentences.

We’ve talked with many barristers and jurists — typically over age 50 — who confide that the onslaught of data accompanying the “E-File System” has been overwhelming. (“If it weren’t for my secretary and my kids I’d be lost!” one court figure admitted.) No question that court calendars and various filings are much more smoothly and economically created online. Day-to-day research possibilities seem limitless but are not as reliable as thumbing through a paper compendium of Second Department Supplement decisions — which many confidentially confess they prefer to synopses compiled by a bright young student in New Delhi.

* * *

Newspapers like Eagle play key roles

The same applies to local newspapers covering the affluent legal community in and around the courthouses in Downtown Brooklyn, something this newspaper has done better than any other for a very long time.

Our Brooklyn Eagle online edition is currently under reconstruction, but many inquiries have given this writer a chance to measure its audience.

Two things are clear:

1. Jurists and court personnel overwhelmingly prefer the print editions which circulate by the thousands in downtown Brooklyn. They like to learn the legal and extra-legal goings-on in Kings County as they’re traditionally presented on the printed page.

2. A similar though smaller group — notably those on vacation or in semi-retirement — are very disappointed when they can’t get the Eagle online edition. (“It’s how I stay in touch with my friends in the court community,” one retired justice wrote us.)

* * *

Pro Bono date change stirs reader response

Call it anecdotal, but last week when my Pro Bono Barrister column was “moved” from the Friday to the Monday edition I got a number of phone calls from people at 360 Adams St. or 320 Jay St., one saying: “Where’s the Eagle with your column?”

“It’s on the way!” I said. “But now it [Pro Bono Barrister] is coming out in our Monday edition.” Newspaper readers truly are creatures of habit, especially when it comes to changing the “print date” of a column they’ve been reading for 13 years!

Newspapers, like this one, report more than “hard news” by printing and reproducing photos, stories, legal notices (required to be reliably and accurately published by statute) and columns (like this one) which help give a human dimension to the people who make the news — and the law — here. Demographically the Eagle serves —  as no other paper can  legal community and the businesses which operate through and around the system. It’s at the heart of one of the wealthiest identifiable communities in the city.

* * *

Even Pro Bono Barrister needs its Apple iPad!

While an online operation is absolutely essential to just about any print publication, as we move deeper into the digital age, the sobering Facebook experience shows (to quote an old aphorism) that “all that glitters is not gold.”

Online presence is absolutely essential and this writer (Brooklyn Law, Class of ‘67, in the old building) admits to using and relying on an Apple iPad.

We do take for granted what the Internet enables us to do  even when Pro Bono Barrister started, a few years before 9/11, I found it novel, almost magical, to be able to press a few buttons on an ancient Dell computer and “send” it to Eagle editors in Brooklyn Heights.

But Twitter bursts have a long way to go before they supplant the words and photos and complete thoughts offered in this and other newspapers.

Just ask General Motors whose slogan used to say “What’s Good For General Motors Is Good For The USA!”

* * * * * *

PRO BONO BARRISTER is a weekly column dedicated to telling about the good that lawyers do. Send your comments or suggestions to this writer care of this newspaper or to [email protected].

Notice: Readers seeking legal representation on a Pro Bono Publico basis should not contact this columnist. Rather, they should seek out the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project at 718 -624-3894.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment