FCBA Succeeds with Online CLEs

By Suzanne Messer of Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC

In an effort to find useful ways to continue to serve its members during the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCBA has devoted significant efforts to providing increased CLE offerings since the “stay-at-home” directive went into effect in late March 2020.

We began with a second run of the popular “Tech Tools for Small Firms,” via Webex on May 6, presented by member Bill Porter, which had previously been presented live in Syracuse. Fourteen participants signed onto the program, which received rave reviews.

We quickly adapted and increased our technological capabilities by purchasing a Zoom account to use for our webinar CLEs. Our first live “Zoom” CLE was presented on May 20, 2020, which covered the topics of mediation and settlements in the NDNY. Presenters included United States Magistrate Judge Thérèse Wiley Dancks, who provided an overview of the mechanics and successes of the NDNY’s mediation program, and seasoned mediators Ken Alweis, Julian Modesti and Laura Spring. Forty-four participants tuned in to hear the program.

The next day, on May 21, 2020, led by co-chair of the CLE Committee Dan Rubin, two attorneys from Girvin & Ferlazzo, PC in Albany, put on a webinar discussing various hot topics that have arisen out of the pandemic, including employment issues and issues relating to financial assistance programs that were launched to lessen the impacts of COVID-19 on businesses. Twenty-nine people attended this important and timely webinar.

The following week, on May 28, 2020, we partnered with local court reporting service Precision Reporting to present a program on “Socially Distant Depositions.” Brandon Greenblatt, owner of Precision, provided an overview of Precision’s remote deposition technology, and members Mitch Katz and Suzanne Messer discussed with Brandon things to consider when transitioning from traditional, in-person depositions to the “remote” format, which has increased in popularity as a result of the pandemic. Forty-nine people signed on to participate in this timely webinar.

On June 11, 2020, 80 participants joined in to listen to Michael Langan, Law Clerk to Chief United States District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby, discuss the use of statements of material fact in summary judgment motions. Statements of material fact have been confounding practitioners since their inception, and Mike’s insight was not only entertaining, but incredibly useful for everyone who tuned in. The interest in Mike’s presentation was highlighted by the volume of audience participation, as attendees lobbed question after question to Mike through Zoom’s Q&A option.

United States Magistrate Judges David Peebles and Andrew Baxter, along with Jonathan Fellows and Liza Magley of Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC, presented a webinar on June 24, 2020, with 46 participants, during which they discussed another, often misunderstood and misapplied concept – the attorney-client privilege. They began the presentation with some light-hearted current and high-profile cases in which the attorney-client privilege played a part, and continued to discuss the origins of the privilege and the principles that define the privilege. Our esteemed judges provided practical insight about how the privilege and privilege logs are viewed from behind the bench. This program demonstrated the continued interest in the online CLEs, with 51 participants.

In addition to offering these programs “live” via Zoom, for the first time, we have begun to record some of the programs and make them available to members to view at a later time. We are pleased to report that our CLE offerings during this quarter have not only garnered the attention of our current members, but have contributed to an increase in new members. We hope to see this trend continue as we adapt and find new, useful ways to reach attorneys who practice in the NDNY.

More programs are in the works for the remainder of the year – stay tuned for details!