New York City Bar Association
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New York City Bar Association
New York City Bar Association
Nycitybar286 hires.jpg
TypeLegal society
HeadquartersNew York City, New York
  • United States
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.


Portrait of William M. Evarts, the first president of the New York City Bar Association
Cyrus Vance, president of the Bar from 1974 to 1976

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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3]

Since 1896, the association has been housed in its six-story landmark building at 42 West 44th Street.


Committees and public policy

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:


  • Report: The Enforceability and Effectiveness of Typical Shareholders Agreement Provisions (February 2010)[4]
  • Statement to the Obama transition team on financial regulation. (December 2008)[5]

Civil liberties/security

  • Letter to U.S. Senators opposing a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 that would require the Inspector General of the Department of Defense to investigate lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees in habeas corpus proceedings or military commissions. (May 2010)[6]
  • Amicus Brief: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, before the U.S. Supreme Court (January 2006)[7]
  • Report: The Indefinite Detention of "Enemy Combatants": Balancing Due Process and National Security in the Context of the War on Terror (February 2004)[8]

Consumer affairs

  • Report calling on regulatory offices, the judiciary, the organized bar and the process service industry to work together to reform process service in New York City. (May 2010)[9]
  • Report in support of the Consumer Credit Fairness Act, which would strengthen consumer protections in consumer debt collection proceedings. (April 2010)[10]

Government reform

  • 2014 State Legislation Agenda: representing a portion of the dozens of positions generated by City Bar committees over the course of each legislative session. (February 2014)[11]
  • Report: Reforming New York State's Financial Disclosure Requirements for Attorney-Legislators (February 2010)[12]
  • Report on Community Benefit Agreements in New York City, urging the City to define a clear policy for considering agreements during the land use approval process for development projects. (March 2010)[13]
  • Report identifying issues New York City's Charter Revision Commission should address and encouraging the Commission to conduct a deliberate examination of the entire Charter, and the principles underlying it, in detail. (April 2010)[14]


  • Report of the Mission to China of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (December 2009)[15]
  • Report on the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements (September 2006)[16]
  • Report: The Prevention and Prosecution of Terrorist Acts: A Survey of Multilateral Instruments (June 2006)[17]
  • Report: Human Rights Standards Applicable to the United States' Interrogation of Detainees (April 2004)[18]

Notable Events

The City Bar produces hundreds of events per year, most of them through its committees. These have included:

  • Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor are interviewed by Charlie Rose in the inaugural event of the Barbara Paul Robinson Series. (October 25, 2016) [19]
  • Sally Yates, former U.S. Deputy Attorney General, gave a keynote address at the White Collar Crime Institute.[20] U.S. Attorney for the E.D.N.Y. Robert L. Capers gave the other keynote.[21] (May 10, 2016)
  • United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered a speech on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the role of the United Nations and the legal community in achieving Goal 16 over the next 15 years. (April 2016)
  • Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan delivered the annual Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Distinguished Lecture on Women and the Law, entitled "Justice Ginsburg's Greatest Hits." (February 2014)
  • A forum was held with the New York City Mayoral Candidates, including future Mayor Bill de Blasio. (June 2013)
  • Chen Guangcheng, Chinese legal activist and Distinguished Visitor at NYU Law School's U.S.-Asia Law Institute, was presented with City Bar Honorary Membership. (February 2013)
  • Harold Hongju Koh, former Legal Adviser to the U.S. Department of State, spoke on "International Lawyering for the U.S. Government in an Age of Smart Power." (November 2012)
  • Hon. Louise Arbour was elected to Honorary Membership "in recognition of her courageous commitment to justice as Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, and for her unwavering leadership as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights." (May 2012)
  • The first legal clinic for the reopened September 11th Victim Compensation Fund was held at the City Bar. (November 2011)
  • Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, and President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet reported on the progress of gender equality and empowerment of women. (June 2011)
  • Leaders of nearly two dozen New York bar associations gathered at the City Bar to urge that legislation be passed to end discrimination against same-sex couples who wish to marry in New York. (May 2011)
  • Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, delivered a lecture on the future of white collar criminal enforcement. (October 20, 2010)
  • Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor delivered the annual Arps Lecture at the City Bar, speaking on the topics of judicial independence and civic education. (April 5, 2010)
  • Robert Khuzami, Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission's Division of Enforcement, gave his first major policy speech at the New York City Bar. (August 5, 2009)
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Linda Greenhouse delivered the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Distinguished Lecture on Women and the Law. (November 18, 2008)
  • Honorary membership was presented to Pakistan's former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who had become a symbol of the movement for judicial and lawyer independence in Pakistan. (November 17, 2008)
  • John Lennon held a press conference in the City Bar's Stimson Room on April Fool's Day to respond to the U.S. government's efforts to deport him as a "strategic countermeasure" to his mounting criticisms of U.S. policy in Southeast Asia. At the press conference, Lennon produces a "birth announcement" for Nutopia, "a new conceptual country with no laws other than the cosmic," where anyone could be a citizen merely by thinking about it. (April 1, 1973) [22]
  • Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr. gave a speech in the City Bar's Meeting Hall on "The Civil Rights Struggle in the United States Today." (April 21, 1965)[23]

Member services

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.

Continuing legal education

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.

Pro bono and access to justice

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.

Legal referral service

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.[24] 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.[25] 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.

Evaluation of judicial candidates

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."

National Moot Court Competition

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.[26]


Association Medal

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.

Leadership and governance

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

See also


  1. ^ George Martin, Causes and Conflicts: The Centennial History of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 1997, Chapter 6
  2. ^ Jeffrey B. Morris. Making Sure We are True to Our Founders: The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, 1980-1995. New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 1997, p. 7, 38
  3. ^ Morris, True, p. 109
  4. ^ "The Enforceability and Effectiveness of Typical Shareholder Agreement Provisions" (PDF). Retrieved .
  5. ^ "Transition Regarding Financial Regulatory" (PDF). Retrieved .
  6. ^ "Letter to Senate" (PDF). Retrieved .
  7. ^ "Hamden report" (PDF). Retrieved .
  8. ^ "Microsoft Word - 1C_WL07!.DOC" (PDF). Retrieved .
  9. ^ "Process server report" (PDF). Retrieved .
  10. ^ "Consumer_Credit_Fairnes" (PDF). Retrieved .
  11. ^ "2014 State Legislative Agenda" (PDF). Retrieved .
  12. ^ "Reforming New York States Financial" (PDF). Retrieved .
  13. ^ "The Role of Community Benefit Agreements in NYC Land Use Process" (PDF). Retrieved .
  14. ^ "Issues for Consideration by the NYC Charter Revision Commission" (PDF). Retrieved .
  15. ^ "Report of the Mission to China of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York" (PDF).
  16. ^ "Report" (PDF). Retrieved .
  17. ^ "Microsoft Word - mult insts july 2006.DOC" (PDF). Retrieved .
  18. ^ "Microsoft Word - Acknowledgements.doc" (PDF). Retrieved .
  19. ^ "Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor: Charlie Rose". Bloomberg. 2016-10-27. Retrieved .
  20. ^ "Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates Delivers Remarks at the New York City Bar Association White Collar Crime Conference". May 10, 2016.
  21. ^ "5th Annual White Collar Crime Institute". March 17, 2016.
  22. ^ "'Mind Games' with John Lennon at the New York City Bar Association".
  23. ^ "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the New York City Bar Association".
  24. ^ "New York County Lawyers' Association". Archived from the original on May 13, 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-06-12. Retrieved .CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Further reading

  • Batlan, Felice. "The birth of legal aid: Gender ideologies, women, and the Bar in New York City, 1863-1910." Law and History Review 28.4 (2010): 931-971. Online
  • Martin, George Whitney. Causes and Conflicts: The Centennial History of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, 1870-1970 (Fordham Univ Press, 1997).

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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