NY State Bar

New York State Bar AssociationLawyers Sound Off in New York State Bar Opinionmeter Poll

NEW YORK, January 29, 1998 — In an Opinionmeter poll taken during the New York State Bar Association’s (NYSBA) annual meeting at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan (January 27-30), 62% of the 390 lawyers polled declared that television programming has a negative influence on the public’s perception of lawyers and the legal system. Also, 86% of those surveyed stated that law firms should make more efforts to accommodate the schedule changes and demands that raising a family brings to a professional women.

Law and Order, a legal drama set in New York, was consistently hailed as one of the few programs that shows a positive, accurate portrayal of the legal system. The Practice, another urban legal drama, was also mentioned as having a good “understanding” of the legal system, but falls short by overplaying the weaknesses of its characters. The most negative responses were reserved for Ally McBeal, which revolves around the romantic and legal dalliances of a young female attorney. One lawyer declared the show ‘just awful.”

An overwhelming majority of respondents believed law firms should take greater steps to accommodate the demands that motherhood places on female lawyers. Interestingly, the majority of polled respondents stated that their firms already have programs for working mothers in place. Flexible schedules, on-site child care facilities, and work at home programs were common responses from those who stated their firms have institutionalized programs.Dwight Ball, an attorney from Binghamton, stated that his firm has a “come back when you can policy.” One attorney, a working father, expressed an even stronger opinion on the subject, stating that “it would be sinful” not to have such programs.

Other responses include: 14% believe that the state bar exam is biased against minorities; 62% believe that the recent debates over affirmative action will result in an increase in discrimination suits filed by citizens who are not members of recognized minorities; 59% feel that AIDS patients will not be able to adequately defend themselves against discrimination if their medical records are no longer confidential; and 44% claim that large jury awards send a bad message to the public.

The 60,000 member New York State Bar is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and is the largest voluntary bar association in the nation.

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