Midyear Meeting

Midyear attendees enjoy some laughs, and a little off-the-record CLE, at ABA Night at the Movies


Still image from My Cousin Vinny.

All around America, Saturday night is probably the most popular time to go out and catch a movie, so why not bring the tradition to ABA meetings?

That was the thinking behind ABA President-Elect James R. Silkenat’s idea to sponsor ABA Night at the Movies on Saturday during the association’s 2013 Midyear Meeting in Dallas.

“I was looking for a way to bring attendees and their families something to do other than the typical meeting rounds of receptions and dinners, and the idea of a movie and popcorn came up,” said Silkenat, a partner at Sullivan & Worcester in New York City.

So Silkenat began asking colleagues for suggestions, and referred back to a list of the 25 Greatest Legal Movies published in the ABA Journal in 2008, and chose the comedy My Cousin Vinny, which stars Joe Pesci as a rough-around-the-edges lawyer from New York who is called down to a small Southern town to help his cousin and friend–the immortal “two yutes”–beat a murder rap.

In addition to being hilarious, said Silkenat, the film “really has great trial court scenes that every lawyer has responded to.”

A few of the 50 or so lawyers and guests who gathered in a ballroom at the Hilton Anatole Hotel were eager to see My Cousin Vinny for the first time.

“I’ve been a lawyer since 1975, but I’ve never seen it,” said Glenn Lau-Kee, a member of Kee & Lau-Kee in New York City.

“We’re actually completing his legal education,” said David M. Schraver, a partner at Nixon Peabody in Albany who is president-elect of the New York State Bar Association. Schraver, who was joined by current New York Bar President Seymour W. James Jr. of The Legal Aid Society in Albany, noted that clips from My Cousin Vinny are often shown at CLE programs in New York–which is not the only state where that happens.

Sitting among the New Yorkers, Sam Okudzeto had a good excuse for never having seen My Cousin Vinny: not that many American movies make it to Accra, Ghana, where he practices law. “I’m just excited about the notion” of watching the film, he said.

Schraver acknowledged that My Cousin Vinny doesn’t top his list of lawyer movies. “To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic,” he said, “but this is the funniest one.”

Silkenat said he plans to repeat ABA Night at the Movies in August when the ABA holds its Annual Meeting San Francisco, where he will start his one-year term as president. What film will be shown? Stay tuned.

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