A desire to give back to his community drives Frank Francis’ bar association efforts
Profiles in Leadership
Frank Francis was not even sure why he walked into the Brooklyn Bar Association for the first time. It wasn’t that long ago, probably in 2014, and likely as part of continuing legal education that lawyers are required to maintain.
Immediately, Francis was drawn to the organization and met with the BBA’s Young Lawyers Committee. That helped him to get to know other young lawyers and encouraged him to get involved. He explained that he was always drawn to community service and organizations that helped others.
“All throughout my life I have been involved with different groups and organizations, whether that was in college, in high school,” Francis said. “I remember being a part of community cleanups, and one time I went to a youth conference in high school. It was something important to my parents, something they would always talk about, and it just sort of stuck.”
In his five years working with the BBA, Francis has helped organize CLE events and participated in community service outings, and he chaired the Young Lawyers Committee.
Francis felt proud of his participation in the bar, and felt that it was helping him to become a better lawyer and build upon his network. So, it didn’t take long for him to reach out to other bar associations and before long he was going to events hosted by the Hispanic National Bar Association and the LGBT Bar Association of New York.
“I’ve always told people that bar associations are what you make of them,” he said. “For me, that means that if you want to get involved, you get involved. This profession is overtaxed and no one is going to turn down free work. So, I’ve been able to put myself out there, offer to help with events, and followed through.”
That follow-through allowed Francis to move up through the ranks of various bar associations quickly. In addition to the time he has put in with the BBA, he has now served as second vice president and secretary of the LGBT Bar Association for four years and has served as the president of the Hispanic National Bar Association, Region II since September 2018.
Francis, who grew up in Michigan and graduated from West Ottawa High School, went to college at Georgetown University and eventually graduate school at Johns Hopkins. When it came time to picking a law school, he said that he was drawn to New York City so he attended Brooklyn Law School.
Francis is a former member of Teach for America, where he taught underprivileged students in Baltimore, Maryland, and in college he worked in a program called DC Schools that helped English as a Second Language students.
Francis interned at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office in college, but he didn’t continue as a prosecutor or a defense attorney after school. Instead, he got a job working for the New York City Transit Authority in 2009. He described that job as tough, and high volume, but said it was a good one for him to start his career off with.
“It was a good experience,” he said. “It was good training. You are dealing with huge volume there. I couldn’t even tell you the numbers. It’s never-ending files. It’s also a lot of responsibility because you are handling the public’s money and there are a lot of eyes on you. Everything has to be done by the book because you can always end up in the news. Managing that volume, you learn a lot really quickly.”
After two years working for Transit, Francis was offered a job working for a plaintiff’s firm, Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, where he stayed for approximately four and a half years. In 2015, he moved to Severance, Burko, Spalter & Masone, a lateral move, but one he said offered him a little more freedom to get involved with leadership roles in the bar associations with which he was participating.
These days, it’s his work as the president of Region II of the Hispanic National Bar Association that keeps him busy. His said his focus, as it has been throughout his career, has been to give back to the community. To him that means giving back to Hispanic lawyers, the Hispanic community and also his local Brooklyn community at large.
“We’re lawyers so in our community our voice gets heard,” Francis said. “When we speak, people listen, so it has always been important to me that when our organization speaks, we’re doing so in a way that is going to effect change.”
Mentorship is another important aspect of his presidency. Francis said that’s a big part of the reason why he feels that joining bar associations has been beneficial to his career. He stressed that it has helped him learn and find friends and mentors while building his network, so it’s something he wants to provide for others.
“We want to see young rising Latino and Latina attorneys, especially associates, are getting a seat at the table so they can build their resumes,” he said. “That’s important to me.”
Francis is now preparing for the Hispanic National Bar Association’s 2019 Annual Conference that will take place in Manhattan Sept. 26-29. He is involved in the LGBTQ Summit and will take part in a CLE panel on Sept. 26.
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