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Rockland County Bar Association
337 N Main Street, Suite 1
New City, NY 10956
E: office@rocklandbar.org
P: (845) 634-2149
F: (845) 634-1055
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Serving Rockland, Orange and Westchester Counties
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Rockland County Bar Association

PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE WELLNESS COMMUNITY

 

A Message from our Bar Association President, Keith I. Braunfotel

Hello Everyone,

As I sit down to write this month’s President’s Post, I sit at my keyboard with tremendous trepidation and uncertainty. It seems as if the world has turned upside down and I cannot wake up from this very bad dream. However, our responsibilities, unfortunately, do not allow us to pull the covers up over our heads and wait until the bad news passes. These are unprecedented times which call upon us all to have unprecedented resolve.

We have responsibilities to our profession, clients, and ourselves, which we cannot abandon. The temporary closing down of our businesses and practices have shockwaves that ripple through our community; the economic effects to our livelihoods, our staffs, and our vendors are unthinkable. That is why the Rockland County Bar Association is working diligently with the Courts to come up with innovative ideas to get us up and running.

Over the next few weeks the New York State Court System will be rolling out virtual courts. These virtual courts will be limited to criminal and family court matters. For the Criminal Courts, it will primarily involve arraignments and prisoner releases, and for the Family Courts, matters requiring immediate action will be heard. In my estimation however, that still leaves 99% of the practice of law in very uncertain waters.

One of the most difficult things to be doing right now is trying to say in contact with our clients. So, we must do what we can, working from home, to keep the lines of communication open with our clients and work to help our clients navigate this situation. While we may not have all the answers they are all looking for, primarily they look to us for hope, and we must provide that to them. I have no doubt that this crisis will end, and, in the meantime, we must remain professionals and stay upbeat.

Each day I have been making the habit of watching Governor Cuomo’s daily address, and politics aside, while I listen to the information, tough facts, and statistics he relays to us I am inspired by his resolve and optimistic determination in these scary times. To borrow from his sentiments, I want to remind each of us that this time will pass, and we WILL return to normalcy. We have to take this forced time home with family and turn it into a positive. Take a breath and share some quality time with each other, time that we are so often craving and do not find the time for in our harried lives. Enjoy a walk outdoors, possibly read a good book. Be kind to one another and thank all those essential workers on the front lines every chance we get! As the Governor reminds us, we are New Yorkers, and being a New Yorker gives us the unique ability to come through even the darkest of times and be better off on the opposite side. So, keep the faith!

As information becomes available, the Bar will work diligently to make sure that each one of you is fully informed. From the bottom of my heart I wish you and your families good health.

Respectfully,
Keith

 

Rockland Bar Cares

by Robert L. Pitkofsky, Esq.

As attorneys, we are problem solvers.  We are advocates.  We are mediators and counselors.  As our individual staff members address court deadlines and client questions, we are responsible for ensuring that the bills are paid and that our obligations to the court and clients are resolved.  However, we understand that our profession is one involving high levels of stress which can cause mental illness that can take us away from functioning effectively as practitioners, community members, and spouses/significant others/parents.  According to the 2016 Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, it is “report[ed] that 21 percent of licensed, employed attorneys qualify as problem drinkers, 28 percent struggle with some level of depression and 19 percent demonstrate symptoms of anxiety.” 

And then came the coronavirus pandemic.

The demands at home and on the professional front became exponentially more difficult.  In Rockland County, a large majority of practitioners practice in solo and small law firms.  Many of us rely upon the court system to keep our doors open and our clients’ matters proceeding.  However, almost in an instant, the world changed.  It is important to understand the impact that these changes in our business model, and interaction with one another, have to our mental health and wellness.  As with everyone in our community, we know of loved ones who are sick and isolated, and friends who have lost their jobs.  We understand what you are going through – because we are you. 

Your Rockland Bar is there for you, every step of the way, as all of us manage through this crisis so we can continue to serve our clients and community.

Under the leadership of our president, Keith Braunfotel, and our hard-working board of directors, we have established the Rockland Bar Cares initiative.  Our mission is to support our membership so that we can better service our clients, our families, and our community.  We intend to execute our mission in three primary ways: communication, mental health support (lawyers helping lawyers), and business advice.

The Bar Association is sending out regular communication from our offices about the changing conditions in our Unified Court System.   We know that these are changing times, and we understand that our clients are anxious, now more than ever, to understand the nature of their action and what impact this coronavirus pandemic will have on their individual matters.  We are working with our committee chairs to call video conference calls to discuss how to implement conference meetings for their members to exchange support and practical tips on how to maneuver through this rocky landscape.  Further, our Rockland Bar Cares resources and links to relevant materials will be available on the Bar Association’s website.

Please know that you are not alone in feeling anxious, scared, and unsure of the future.  We encourage you to reach out to the New York State Office of Mental Health hotline (844-863-9314) if you are suffering from symptoms of anxiety and depression.  As a Bar Association, we intend to work with mental health organizations throughout the County to provide information from trained mental health experts on the challenges of coping with rapidly changing environments.  If you have thoughts or suggestions about who would be informative to our fellow members on this important and often overlooked topic, please let us know. 

Our Bar Association members are part of our community.  We serve on charity boards of directors, coach sports teams, and provide guidance to families within our schools.  However, we understand that many of our community members are struggling with food insecurity.  We are making a commitment to collect food products and monetary donations to benefit People to People (845-623-4900) and Meals on Wheels (845-624-6325).  We urge you to visit www.peopletopeopleinc.org and www.mowrockland.org and make a contribution.  You can drop off cans of food at Braunfotel & Frendel (49 Maple Avenue, New City).  Further, if you are able, we encourage you to volunteer your time to help pack food or deliver meals to a home bound senior – and mention that you are a proud member of the Rockland Bar.  These agencies are employing strict health precautions for their volunteers, and I know that they are short staffed as a result of the Governor’s stay at home orders.

All of us at the Rockland County Bar Association understand that the challenges that the legal profession face are daunting.   We also understand that we are a caring legal community who wants to be strong for our families and for our clients.  One of our Rockland Bar Association board members, Laura Catina, Esq., is a health and wellness coach and has opened a virtual gym for our members’ use.  You can contact her at lauracatina@catinalawpllc.com and visit the Rockland Bar Cares website for more information.  It is important that we are taking care of ourselves through daily walks, exercise, and healthy eating in order to be in our peak condition to handle the stress and anxiety that this pandemic causes and will cause us.

As always, please feel free to call us at the Bar Association with any questions or concerns that you have.  We look forward to expanding on these offerings as the days and weeks progress, so please be sure to keep an eye on your e-mails for updates and opportunities to serve.  Thank you for doing your part in demonstrating that the Rockland Bar Cares.