The Brooklyn Bar Association on June 13 marked the induction of a new president, Richard Klass.
Klass was formally introduced that Monday during a ceremony at Brooklyn Borough Hall, where past president, Hon. Barry Kamins, handed down the reins.
In his speech on induction day, Klass spoke of his early days in Downtown Brooklyn, and the whole new meaning he worked to give the term “Court Street Lawyer.”
“My legal career started right here – on Court Street – 30 years ago,” he told the crowd of dignitaries, fellow lawyers and elected officials. “The origins of the term ‘Court Street Lawyer’ arose when many Jewish lawyers were not hired by Manhattan white-shoe firms. The term also acquired a negative connotation, referring to ambulance chasers and fast talkers. At one point, one Brooklyn Law School professor sued another for slander for calling him a Court Street Lawyer. However, the term Court Street lawyer evolved into a lawyer who is well-skilled and quick on his or her feet. It also refers to an attorney whose word was his or her bond, and one who helps working class and middle-class people.
“My office telephone number is 718-COURT-ST,” he laughed. “My creative wife, Stacey, came up with the idea when I spoke with her about how much being a ‘Court Street Lawyer’ meant to me.”
And with that very same enthusiasm, Klass said he became a member of the borough’s storied Bar Association — even before he became a lawyer.
“I knew that being a member of this association was critical to my legal career. I also understood that it was important to be part of an organization that helped young lawyers like myself navigate through the legal morass,” he said. “I attended as many continuing legal education courses as I could to gain knowledge in both practical skills and areas of practice. I also developed many good friendships over the years through my membership in the BBA. I truly owe a great deal of gratitude to this fine organization for guiding me throughout my legal career.”
Established in 1872, the Brooklyn Bar Association’s primary purpose is to promote professional competence among attorneys and increased respect for the legal system, according to its mission.
It has been an especially tough few years for the association, Klass said, but he hopes to help propel the group forward — just as the association helped do for his own career.
“This will be a challenging year for our association, as we are emerging into the post-COVID world — we are beginning to once again host in-person events, working on boosting membership as bar associations reassert their relevance in the legal community, and in particular, will conduct a the search for an executive director, as Avery Okin has retired,” he said. “I want to thank in advance my talented and able executive committee which has already been of great help to me and the BBA.”
Klass also congratulated the appointments — and reappointments — of trustees, also celebrated that morning at Borough Hall.
“I hope you will enjoy the camaraderie of our board members and past presidents,” he said.