July 20, 2012
NJSBA TRUSTEES REPORT
The following is a summary of actions taken at the July 20, 2012 meeting of the New Jersey State Bar Association Board of Trustees at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. This summary does not constitute official minutes.
Retaining liens: The trustees voted to endorse the use, where appropriate, of a common law retaining lien to allow lawyers to hold client files to secure payment of outstanding legal fees. The issue will be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, and stems from a disciplinary matter where a lawyer faced admonition for using the lien. The Supreme Court dismissed the admonition, but asked for further consideration of the use of retaining liens given the restrictions on holding client funds in Rule 1.16 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Government affairs: The trustees opposed a pending bill (S-2151) that would alter the creation and enforceability of pre-marital and pre-civil union agreements. Family law attorneys expressed concern that the proposed change would be a substantial departure from the current law and, therefore, needed further study.
Certified attorneys: The State Bar Association will ask the Supreme Court to consider changing the rules for veteran attorneys who have undergone testing, character evaluations and proven their courtroom experience to be classified as “certified,” pursuant to Rule 1:39 in areas of law such as matrimonial, civil, criminal, municipal court practice and workers’ compensation. The proposal would be to allow attorneys who have been certified twice to submit an affidavit for recertification if they have had an active trial practice for 25 years and continue to handle trial work. The idea was first raised last fall at a meeting of the Association’s General Council, a 500-member body that serves as a forum to bring issues of concern to the state bar’s leadership regarding the practice of law and the role of attorneys in society.
Mid-Year Meeting 2013: Final approval was granted for the 2013 Mid-Year Meeting hotel in Rome. The event will be held at the Westin Excelsior from Nov. 9 through 13.
Co-sponsorships: The board members approved co-sponsorship of a program focused on solo and small-firm attorneys with the Cumberland County Bar Association on Nov. 3 that will offer continuing legal education credits, and an Aug. 7 seminar of the Franchise Law Committee called “How to Be in Business for Yourself, But Not by Yourself.”
Awards: The trustees designated this year’s recipients of the Professional Lawyer of the Year and Pro Bono awards. The winners are:
Professional Lawyer of the Year: Richard H. Steen, who served as president of the Association in 2010-2011, will receive the Professional Lawyer of the Year Award from the New Jersey State Bar Association, which will be awarded at the New Jersey Commission on Professionalism in the Law’s annual lunch on Nov. 1. Former state bar association trustee Arthur Miller was posthumously selected to receive the 2012 Daniel O’Hern Award at the event.
NJSBA Pro Bono Award: Gerard Brew, leader of the domestic violence project at McCarter & English, and Mary Ellen Koscs-Fleming, a volunteer of Legal Services of Northwest Jersey, will receive this year’s award honoring the contributions of individuals. Partners for Women and Justice and the Gibbons law firm will receive the honor for efforts they have made.