New York City Bar Association

New York City Bar Association
Formation 1870
Type Legal Society
Headquarters New York, NY
Location United States
President Samuel W. Seymour
Website Official website

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 over 23,000 members. Its current president, Samuel W. Seymour, began his two-year term on May 18, 2010.



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 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 House at 42 West 44th Street.


The City Bar's mission, or "Objects," as stated in its Constitution, is as follows:

"The Association is established for the purposes of cultivating the science of jurisprudence, promoting reforms in the law, facilitating and improving the administration of justice, elevating the standard of integrity, honor and courtesy in the legal profession, and cherishing the spirit of collegiality among the members thereof." [4]


Committees and public policy

The City Bar has over 150 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 Legislative Affairs 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:


  • Statement to the Obama transition team on financial regulation. (December 2008)[5]
  • Report: The Enforceability and Effectiveness of Typical Shareholders Agreement Provisions (February 2010)[6]

Civil Liberties/Security

  • Report: The Indefinite Detention of "Enemy Combatants": Balancing Due Process and National Security in the Context of the War on Terror (February 2004)[7]
  • Amicus Brief: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, before the U.S. Supreme Court (January 2006)[8]
  • 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)[9]

Consumer affairs

  • Report in support of the Consumer Credit Fairness Act, which would strengthen consumer protections in consumer debt collection proceedings. (April 2010)[10]
  • 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)[11]

Government reform

  • 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: Human Rights Standards Applicable to the United States' Interrogation of Detainees (April 2004)[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 of the Mission to China of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (December 2009) [18]


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

  • 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)
  • The City Bar bestowed honorary membership on 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)
  • 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)

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 23,000 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 Legal Referral Service Committee, a joint committee of the New York City Bar Association and the New York County Lawyers’ Association, supervises the largest and oldest Lawyer Referral and Information Service in New York State and serves as a model for other such services. It was the first and is one of very few in New York to be approved by the American Bar Association. The Legal Referral Service provides referrals only to attorneys who meet specific knowledge and experience standards in the areas of law for which they want to be recommended to the public.

The Legal Referral Service is one of the few in the United States to have both lawyers and paralegals answering calls and helping direct the public to appropriate lawyers and other sources of legal information. It also serves the public by sponsoring the Association’s Monday Night Law Clinic providing free client consultations in various areas of the law, and by sponsoring a speakers bureau offering programs by skilled attorneys to community groups and others.

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."

On June 23, 2010, the City Bar found Solicitor General Elena Kagan "Highly Qualified" to be a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

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.[19]


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. ^ Constitution of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Article II.
  5. ^
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  7. ^!.pdf
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  18. ^ Report of the Mission to China of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York
  19. ^

External links

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