Hofstra Law alumnus Richard “Rick” Collins ’84 is a founding partner of Collins Gann McCloskey & Barry PLLC (formerly Collins, McDonald and Gann, P.C.) and president of the Nassau County Bar Association for 2019-2020. Collins, like so many, is a longtime believer in the value of bar associations. He spoke with Hofstra LawNews about his career, how he got involved with the NCBA, and how it has shaped his career.
Tell us about your career — where did you start and how did you get to where you are now?
I started my career as a prosecutor, then switched to criminal defense, starting my law firm with two partners in 1990. The firm concentrates in state and federal criminal defense and personal injury matters. My own practice is quite niche — it focuses on the strength, health, and fitness market, with an emphasis on bodybuilding and nutritional supplements. I have likely defended against more allegations involving anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances than any lawyer around. I’m blessed to truly love what I do.
Tell us about your participation in bar associations — how did your interest lead you to pursue and take on the role of president?
Like many members of bar associations, I joined the local bar association when I entered private practice. I saw the potential opportunities for networking, case referrals, mentorship from more-experienced lawyers, continuing legal education, and overall professional development. The Nassau County Bar Association (NCBA) — one of the largest suburban bar associations in the country — turned out to be a great place for all these opportunities. The more I invested into it, the more I got back.
“Bar associations have to keep up with technology to reach younger lawyers. But bar associations also need drive home the message that face-to-face interactions that lead to personal or professional relationships have a higher degree of value than texts or emails. It’s worthwhile to take a little time away from the cyber world and interact in the ‘real world.’ A real-world bar association can offer experiences that lawyers can’t get through their cellphones or computer screens.”
Having served as an editor on the Law Review at Hofstra, I joined the NCBA Publications Committee and was later appointed the editor-in-chief of the Nassau Lawyer. I completely reformatted the publication and enjoyed leading the committee and NCBA staff. I later chaired other committees and served as a director. I was honored when I was elected to serve on the Executive Committee — the track toward NCBA President.
How has being a member — and leader — of a bar association enriched your practice of law?
On a professional level, I have developed business relationships with countless lawyers in diverse legal areas. The more involved you get in a professional association, the more your referral network grows. When a client calls with a legal issue outside the scope of my firm’s practice, I know the best lawyers to provide help to that client. Of course, the law is constantly evolving, and the NCBA Academy of Law is a one-stop shop for wonderful CLE programs — and CLE is free with NCBA membership!
On a personal level, I have derived great enrichment from my work with We Care, the charitable arm of NCBA, and from developing friendships with some of the finest lawyers and judges on Long Island.
How have bar associations needed to adapt to maintain relevance?
The world has changed and so has the practice of law. When I started in practice, bar associations had a monopoly on supplying opportunities for the profession. Now, the internet and social media offer networking, mentorship, and CLE opportunities. Bar associations have to keep up with technology to reach younger lawyers.
But bar associations also need drive home the message that face-to-face interactions that lead to personal or professional relationships have a higher degree of value than texts or emails. It’s worthwhile to take a little time away from the cyber world and interact in the “real world.” A real-world bar association can offer experiences that lawyers can’t get through their cellphones or computer screens. For example, NCBA recently offered a “destination CLE” in London. We spent five days on a once-in-a-lifetime, custom-designed, VIP legal tour at an amazingly low group rate. It was a trip I will never forget — one of the best travel experiences of my life!
What advice do you have for an attorney who is interested in participating in a bar association?
Simple. Call me at 516-294-0300. I love welcoming new members! I’ll meet you at our home in Mineola, which we call Domus, give you a tour of the building, and introduce you to the staff. Become a member and start by joining a committee or two. Come down for lunch — we have an in-house caterer! There’s lots going on at the NCBA, and I’d love to meet prospective members who want to be part of it!