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Women’s Bar Association wants to help inexperienced attorneys find mentors

October 2, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Members of the Brooklyn Women's Bar Association held a speed networking event that was designed to help inexperienced attorneys connect with judges. Pictured from left: Hon. Lillian Wan, President Carrie Anne Cavallo, Hon. Sylvia Ash, Hon. Miriam Cyrulnik, Hon. Genine Edwards, Hon. Rachel Adams, Hon. Cheryl Gonzales and Natoya McGhie. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese
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Bar associations continue to be a vital tool for any attorney, but these days nearly every bar association struggles to attract younger and more inexperienced attorneys who don’t always see the value, or even know that they offer valuable services.

The Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association feels that it can reach these inexperienced attorneys by teaching lawyers early on about the benefits of networking, and especially, mentorships.

“I know that when I was a less experienced attorney I didn’t come to bar association events,” said Justice Genine Edwards. “I wish I did. That’s why I encourage so many young lawyers to reach out and take advantage of them. It’s something that I definitely would have benefitted from — being a part of a community of women like this and picking their brains.”

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The Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association recently held its second “speed networking” event at the Brooklyn Bar Association on Wednesday, Sept. 26 where they encourage members to invite non-members or any inexperienced attorneys that they know. The two-hour event allowed a panel of five judges to talk about their experiences for an hour and afterwards everyone broke off into smaller groups so everyone could get at least seven minutes of one-on-one time with a judge.

“We did this last October and it was really successful,” said Natoya McGhie. “This year we made sure to invite a panel that included judges from a diverse list of courts so that there is something for all attorneys no matter their practice area. So we have justices from the Criminal Court, Housing Court, Civil Court and the Court of Claims.”

The moderator was Hon. Genine Edwards and the panel included Hon. Rachel Adams, Hon. Cheryl Gonzales, Hon. Miriam Cyrulnik, Hon. Sylvia Ash and Hon. Lillian Wan. Each woman is not only a judge, but all are active members of the BWBA.

“Especially as a young trial attorney there are things that are not in the case law,” Justice Edwards said. “You need to pick someone’s brain about a specific strategy and it’s much easier going to someone you know. People get to work with each other on committees and get to know each other as people.”

In conjunction with this effort, the BWBA is also working to create a mentorship committee, which McGhie will chair.

“We’ve created this mentorship committee so our judges and attorneys can get more involved with younger and more experienced attorneys,” McGhie said. “The BWBA helps with networking, but we want to be about mentorships as well.

“I was lucky when I was young because I just happened to work for Justice Nancy Bannon, I had a good mentor,” McGhie continued. “But not everyone is so lucky. We want women, and men, to know that they can join our organization and we’ll help to provide them with someone who can help them get started or advance their careers.”

The BWBA will meet again on Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. at the Brooklyn Bar Association where it will honor Justice Jeanette Ruiz, administrative judge for the NYC Family Court, during its annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. One Wednesday, Oct. 10, it will host a “Lunch with a Judge” event with Hon. Alan D. Scheinkman, presiding justice of the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department.

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