Pro Bono Barrister: Bar Association shows lawyers how to use social media

September 9, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
Andrea Bonina
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It’s a fact: “Social media and electronic communications have changed the way consumers choose attorneys.” This is the course description of the scheduled CLE Brooklyn Bar offering set for Oct. 3.

Those taking part in “The New Networking: Promoting Your Practice Through Social Media” will benefit from the experience and skills of a panel including Helen Galette, Daniel Antonelli and Andrea Bonina.

“We’ve come a long way since the days when lawyers couldn’t advertise — we couldn’t even describe our practice in the Yellow Pages,” a veteran barrister told us. Now, of course, the Yellow Pages are replete with attorney advertising, some of it a bit overreaching.

But the Oct. 3 panel is mindful of the demands of professional practice so they promise that those attending will “Learn how to market and brand your firm to reach more potential clients without breaking the bank or running afoul of any ethics rules.”

Ms. Bonina, partnered with her brother, John Jr., was one of the first attorneys to produce a ‘web’ concept for lawyers and has graciously shared her expertise with the BBA and other organizations, such as the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association.

She chairs the BBA’s Technology Committee, which is sponsoring the presentation along with the BBA Young Lawyers Section–chaired by Jimmy Lathrop and Robin Goeman–and the BBA’s vaunted Volunteer Lawyers Project, where Jeannie Costello is Executive Director.

Observers note that the Facebook stock market collapse may indicate that too many have tried too fast to switch from traditional print and mail advertising — General Motors fired the warning shot by taking away its $10 million advertising account from Facebook on the eve of the IPO. But, digital, like print, is here to stay, and those who refuse to learn their way around on the Internet may find themselves pretty isolated.

This should be a very popular and well attended, so BBA Executive Director Avery Okin suggests early registration. Call (718) 624 0675 or email [email protected].

• • •

Hon. Gerard Rosenberg and wife honored by Bay Ridge Guild

One of Kings County’s mostly highly respected retired justices, the Hon. Gerard Rosenberg, will be honored by the Guild for Exceptional Children on Sept. 24 at the El Caribe Country Club.

Sharing the spotlight with him that night will be the delightful Harriet Rosenberg, a long-time volunteer in the Guild cause.

Led by President Paul Cassone, the Guild has been active in southwest Brooklyn for over 50 years. One of its founders and backers was the late Sen. William Conklin, whose late son, Billy, was one of the Guild’s first clients.

A non-partisan organization, the Guild includes on its board prominent members of the Kings legal community such as Court of Claims Judge Matthew D’Emic, the Hon. Luigi R. Marano – a state assemblyman before he was a Kings County justice — and attorney Andy Sichenze, who has ably represented the GEC for almost all its entire existence!

Another of the honorees that night will be attorney Bob Howe, an executive of the Kings Republican Party who heads the Merchants of Third Avenue, a civic-business group in Bay Ridge. He also is well-known in the court system as a estates practitioner.

Justice Rosenberg, who retired this year, is now a member of Resolute Systems, a dispute resolution firm. While on the bench, he was highly regarded for his ability to communicate with and gain the trust of attorneys and litigants. As a result, his part was one of the most efficient in the court system in terms of dealing with a high volume of cases.

Resolute recognized these qualities in its recent announcement of his joining the firm, saying “While on the bench, Judge Rosenberg developed a reputation as a highly effective settlement conference mediator .He was known for his intellect, thorough preparation and command of the issues,” it added.

He and his wife Harriet have been longtime leaders in Bay Ridge civic and welfare organizations. For many years she chaired the Health Committee of Community Board 10 and was active in other organizations such as the Bay Ridge Forum.

• • •

When Kings County Dems had a real ‘boss’

The problems of outgoing Kings Democratic leader Vito Lopez reminded many of the “good old” days when political clubhouses had clout.

In fact, New York Times writer Liz Robbins, an excellent reporter covering the Lopez saga, harkened back to the days of the last of the true “bosses,” the late Meade Esposito.

Known on Court Street as “The Chief,” he would dine frequently and visibly at the window table of Armando’s on Montague Street, holding his own court discussing political endorsements while his big flaming cigar sent wreaths of (now illegal) smoke throughout the entire restaurant.

No county leader who’s held the post since Meade Esposito’s retirement had his ’30s-style old-time glamour and Hollywood aura. But most have performed with honor during a period when authentic clubhouse politics have declined.

One successor, County Leader Howard Golden, valued the top Democratic Party position and made a seamless transition to Borough Hall. Golden, still has his trademark dapper demeanor, with an accent even more Brooklyn than the “fuhgeddaboudit” intonations of our ebullient borough president, Marty Markowitz.

Sadly, what The Times and other large dailies overlook and sometimes haughtily dismiss is the bedeviled patronage system, which always shocked the high minded. Also called the spoils system, a term fashioned by President Andrew Jackson, patronage usually means rewarding one’s supporters with the spoils of victory.

It’s been taken to the extreme, especially in Washington, D.C., where wealthy interests merely write huge checks instead of volunteering to distribute literature and work at the polls. Instead of getting jobs, they’re rewarded with tax loopholes and other goodies such as the $250 million (almost) Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska.

• • •

Political clubhouses played important role

Ironically, what most media folk will never understand is the historic importance of those smoky back rooms, and the vital role they played in attracting so many people into the political process.

Today, despite the troubled economy, election and party officials have great difficulty recruiting poll workers and inspectors – jobs that were prized political plums not so long ago.

This dwindling interest in the political process does more harm than good. It probably helps explain why so many people know so little about government. According to reputable surveys, a lopsided majority of American adults don’t know the difference between a councilwoman, assemblywoman, state senator or congresswoman. A comparable number can’t even name the three branches of government! (But they can probably recite verbatim a list of the current “American Idols.”)

There is no way to defend or explain the alleged terrible behavior of Vito Lopez. Rightly or wrongly, his fall from grace delivers yet another blow to the process through which we elect people to represent us as legislators and city executives and to dispense justice evenly and fairly on the bench.

• • •

Our personal moment with Chief Meade Esposito

I didn’t know him well enough to call him “Chief,” but I will never forget my very brief, private meeting with the legendary Democratic boss in a huge, library-type room in the Brooklyn Club.

The meeting — arranged by attorney Bill Garry, later a Kings Supreme Court justice — took place shortly after the party primary elections of 1974. That’s the year I made my one and only bid for public office.

Pronouncing my first name “Chalk,” the county leader gave me a very nice pep talk (I had just lost a Democratic Assembly primary). “You did OK,” he said, “ Now I want you to help Leo.”

Leo, in this case, was Leo Zeferetti. He had just narrowly won his own Democratic Primary over reformer Art Paone, whose mentor and close friend was the dynamic young Assemblyman Mike Pesce, who later become a Kings justice and chief administrative judge, and now heads the Appellate Term.

“They [the “regulars” backing Leo] screwed up out there,” the Chief added, holding up his burning cigar for emphasis. “I want you to give them a hand.” He stood, extended his own hand and the meeting was over.

It was fun, in that Watergate era, to lend a hand to the campaign of the Democratic nominee whose margin of victory in the primary was a mere 37 votes!!!

Despite cries of political influence at the polls from Assemblyman Pesce and his campaign manager, Art Paone, Leo Zeferetti, former leader of the Correction Officers Association, went on to whip his GOP opponent – and this writer’s good friend – the late Bob Whelan.

A diehard Barry Goldwater Republican-Conservative and highly respected maritime lawyer, Bob often advised me of the benefits that accrue to potential plaintiffs when an accident takes place on “navigable waters.”

Before his exceptional career on the bench, by the way, Justice Pesce spent eight years representing his Cobble Hill-Carroll Gardens district as an assemblyman in Albany. The political club he launched, the Independent Democrats, is still a vital force in Brooklyn political life.

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PRO BONO BARRISTER, which appears each Monday in the print edition of the Brooklyn Dailiy Eagle, is dedicated to telling about the good that lawyers do. Send your comments or suggestions to this writer care at Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 16 Court St., Ste 1208, Brooklyn, NY 11241, 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.

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