|Headquarters||New York City, New York|
|Sheila S. Boston|
The New York City Bar Association (City Bar), founded in 1870, is a voluntary association of lawyers and law students. Since 1896, the organization, formally known as the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, has been headquartered in a landmark building on 44th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Manhattan. Today the City Bar has more than 25,000 members. Its current president, Sheila S. Boston, began her two-year term in May, 2020.
The Association of the Bar of the City of New York (now known as the New York City Bar Association) was founded in 1870 in response to growing public concern over corruption among judges and lawyers in New York City. Several of its early officers, including William M. Evarts and Samuel Tilden, were active in seeking the removal of corrupt judges and in leading prosecutions of the notorious Tweed Ring. It counted many of the country's most prominent lawyers among its officers, including Elihu Root, Charles Evans Hughes, and Samuel Seabury.
By the 1960s, under the leadership of presidents Bernard Botein and Francis T. P. Plimpton, the association became an increasingly democratic organization, easing restrictions on membership and actively engaging in social issues. The association hosted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Chief Justice Earl Warren, among others, and actively campaigned for initiatives such as the Equal Rights Amendment. It also played an important role in two controversial confirmation battles in the United States Supreme Court, over nominees G. Harrold Carswell in 1970 and Robert Bork in 1987.
Since the 1980s, it has continued to diversify its membership with active recruitment efforts among women and minorities and to expand its involvement in access to justice initiatives, international human rights, and pro bono representation in many areas, including immigration, AIDS, homelessness, and criminal justice.
Since 1896, the association has been housed in its six-story landmark building at 42 West 44th Street.
The City Bar has over 160 committees that focus on legal practice areas and issues. Through reports, amicus briefs, testimony, statements and letters drafted by committee members, the City Bar comments on public policy and legislation. The City Bar's Policy department acts as a liaison between the committees and the New York State Legislature and New York City Council.
Examples of committee activity and issue areas include:
The City Bar produces hundreds of events per year, most of them through its committees. These have included:
The City Bar's member services include career development workshops; networking events; a Small Law Firm Center; the Lawyer Assistance Program, which provides free counseling for members and their families struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues; a law library; discounts on Continuing Legal Education courses; insurance and other benefits; and contact info for the City Bar's 25,000 members.
The City Bar Center for Continuing Legal Education is an accredited provider in the States of New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois, offering over 150 live programs a year, as well as audio and video tapes, for members and non-members.
Through its nonprofit affiliates, the City Bar Justice Center and the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, the City Bar provides pro bono legal services in New York City and supports the creation and expansion of pro bono and access to justice in other countries.
The New York City Bar Legal Referral Service (LRS) is the oldest lawyer referral service in New York State, and the first one in New York City approved by the American Bar Association. The LRS is a not-for-profit organization, founded by the New York City Bar Association (est. 1870) and the New York County Lawyers' Association (est. 1908).
The LRS is one of the few in the United States to have attorneys answering calls and online requests. The attorney referral counselors help clients determine if they will benefit from working with a lawyer or refer clients to other helpful resources that might be better or more cost-effective. There is no charge to speak with an attorney referral counselor. LRS also serves the public by sponsoring the association's Monday Night Law Program providing free client consultations in various areas of the law, and by sponsoring a Request a Speaker program that can provide an office, community group, school, or organization with an experienced lawyer who will give a free presentation on a legal topic.
The City Bar's Judiciary Committee evaluates candidates for judgeships on New York City's courts, and announces its finding of either "Approved" or "Not Approved."
The City Bar's Executive Committee, working with the Judiciary Committee and the Committee on State Courts of Superior Jurisdiction, evaluates candidates for New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, issuing a finding of "Well Qualified, "Not Well Qualified" or "Exceptionally Well Qualified."
The Executive Committee, working with the Judiciary Committee, also considers the qualifications of the President's nominees to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, issuing a finding of "Qualified," "Unqualified," or "Highly Qualified."
The City Bar has sponsored the National Moot Court Competition in conjunction with the American College of Trial Lawyers since 1950. Over 150 law schools compete each year in the regional rounds throughout the United States. The winners advance to the final rounds, which are held at the House of the association.
Established in 1951, this award is presented periodically to a member of the New York Bar who has made exceptional contributions to the honor and standing of the bar in the community. The first Association Medal was awarded to Hon. Robert P. Patterson, posthumously, in 1952.
Bernard Botein Medal
The Bernard Botein Medal is awarded annually to Court Attaches "for outstanding contributions to the administration of the courts." The award is meant to recognize members of the personnel attached to the courts of the First Judicial Department. The award is in memory of Bernard Botein, a former Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division and a former President of the City Bar.
Henry L. Stimson Medal
The Henry L. Stimson Medal is presented annually to outstanding Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Southern District and in the Eastern District of New York. The medal is awarded in honor of Henry L. Stimson, who served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District from 1906-1909 and as President of the City Bar from 1937-1939.
Thomas E. Dewey Medal
The Thomas E. Dewey medal is presented annually to an outstanding Assistant District Attorney in each of the city's D.A. offices. Among prosecutors in New York County, Thomas E. Dewey is remembered as having ushered in the era of staffing the District Attorney's office with professional prosecutors chosen on merit rather than political patronage. Dewey first made a name for himself as a prosecutor in the 1930s, instituting successful criminal proceedings against bootleggers and organized crime figures. By 1937, Dewey was elected District Attorney of New York County, where he served one term before resigning to run for governor.
Minority Fellowship in Environmental Law
The Minority Fellowship in Environmental Law is a joint program of the City Bar and the New York State Bar Association. It was established to encourage minorities to enter the area of environmental law by providing selected minority law students with grants for summer internships in governmental environmental agencies or nonprofit organizations, and participation in activities of the City Bar's Committee on Environmental Law and the Environmental Law Section of the New York State Bar Association.
Thurgood Marshall Fellowship
The Thurgood Marshall Fellowship Program was established in 1993 to provide three exceptional minority law students with the opportunity to work with the City Bar to advance the goals of civil rights and equal justice that are Thurgood Marshall's legacy.
Legal Services Awards
The Legal Services Awards were established to recognize the efforts of attorneys who provide critical civil legal assistance to underprivileged people in New York City.
Katherine A. McDonald Award
The Katherine A. McDonald Award recognizes the vital services of attorneys who work in the Family Court in New York City.
Municipal Affairs Awards
The Municipal Affairs Awards were established to recognize outstanding achievement as an Assistant Corporation Counsel.
The City Bar is governed by the Office of the President and an Executive Committee, consisting of the president, three vice presidents, a treasurer, a secretary and 16 members. The president serves a term of two years, and the Executive Committee is divided equally into four classes of staggered four-year terms.
City Bar Presidents