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125 Years Strong

Home of the legal profession

Tens of thousands of our members have built a legacy of service, leadership, and connection in our 125 years. We’re marking this momentous occasion with special events, publications, and unique editorial content throughout the rest of the year.

Experience Our History

Scroll to the right to explore the full history of the legal profession in Maryland.

1896 August 28, 1896

Maryland State Bar Association Forms

On August 28, 100 Maryland judges and lawyers meet at the Blue Mountain House in Pen Mar, Washington County, to establish the Maryland State Bar Association. A constitution and by-laws are adopted and a state of officers are elected, including as president, the Honorable James McSherry, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland.

1898 March 14, 1898

MSBA Initiates New Process for Attorney Admissions

In response to MSBA’s advocacy, the Maryland General Assembly enacts Act 1898, Chapter 139, providing a radical change in the manner of admitting attorneys to practice in Maryland. The law now requires them to take a three year course of instruction and pass an exam administered by a board of examiners appointed by the Court of Appeals.

1899 July 1, 1899

MSBA Membership is 338 out of 1,500 lawyers in the state.

338 out of 1,500

1920 July 1, 1920

Membership Total: 528

528 Members

1936 December 1, 1936

First issue of Maryland Law Review published

The first issue of Maryland Law Review is published by students and faculty of the University of Maryland School of Law and underwritten by MSBA, which provides copies to its members.

1940 July 1, 1940

Membership Total: 711

711 Members

1944 July 1, 1944

MSBA recognized for providing legal assistance during World War II

MSBA is recognized by the Secretaries of War and Navy for participating in an American Bar Association (ABA) plan to provide legal assistance to military personnel and their dependents during World War II.

1945 June 29, 1945

MSBA creates learning programs for Veterans

MSBA creates a committee on a refresher course for veterans. Working with the University of Maryland School of Law, MSBA organizes 20 lectures to bring returning veterans up to date on developments in the law. Prior to these courses, the association’s only attempt to offer continuing legal education (CLE) consisted of occasional panel discussions or the reading of scholarly papers at annual meetings.

1946 October 1, 1946

First female MSBA member

After a nearly two-decades long struggle for admission, during which she sent MSBA a yearly check for membership, Rose Zetzer is admitted to MSBA. Ms. Zetzer formed Maryland’s first all-women law firm in 1904.

1948 June 24, 1948

Committee for creation of Continuing Legal Education programs

MSBA Committee on Legal Education convenes a special committee to investigate the creation of formal CLE programs statewide.

1950 July 1, 1950

Membership Total: 1,120

1,120 Members

1958 June 20, 1958

MSBA supports local Bar Associations

The Maryland Conference of Local Bar Presidents is created, and MSBA supports the initiative by distributing data, program materials, and publications to local bar groups, especially in rural areas that lack full-scale bar libraries.

1958 June 21, 1958

First female MSBA officer

Vivian V. Simpson, the first female to practice law in Montgomery County, becomes the first female officer (Vice President) of MSBA.

1959 June 19, 1959

Statewide Continuing Legal Education program established

MSBA President John B. Gray, Jr., advocates for greater effort to promote continuing legal education, and proposes a statewide program of CLE with a part-time paid director.

1960 June 23, 1960

Court of Appeals recommendation

The General Assembly follows MSBA’s recommendation that the Court of Appeals be increased from five to seven judges.

1960 June 24, 1960

First African-American MSBA members

MSBA admits its first African-American members: Linwood Koger and John Raymond Hargrove, Sr.. The matter is not without debate. James McSherry advocates for admission; George Washington Williams of Baltimore opposes.

1962 January 1, 1962

First MSBA Executive Director

Alexander Gordon III becomes the first full-time executive director of MSBA.

1965 March 19, 1965

Maryland Bar Foundation incorporated

The Maryland Bar Foundation is incorporated to advance the study and practice of law, the administration of justice, and increase public respect for an understanding of the law through educational, scientific, literary, and charitable means.

1968 January 12, 1968

First Maryland Lawyers’ Manual published

MSBA publishes the first Maryland Lawyers’ Manual, a complete directory of legal resources for Maryland lawyers including attorneys, judges, legislators, law firms, and legal service providers.

1968 October 1, 1968

Maryland Bar Journal begins publication

MSBA publishes the first issue of its quarterly Maryland Bar Journal and sends a copy to all 5,600 practicing lawyers in Maryland.

5,600 practicing lawyers

1970 July 1, 1970

Membership Total: 4,600 (108 Women)

Vivian V. Simpson of Montgomery County writes in the Bar Journal: “A recent communication from MSBA reveals that out of its 4,600 members, 108 are women. Girls, we have arrived – but we are really only on the threshold!”

1970 July 9, 1970

MSBA adopts Code of Professional Responsibility

MSBA adopts the Code of Professional Responsibility, as approved by the ABA, as the new minimum standard for members of MSBA and the Maryland Bar.

1974 May 2, 1974

MSBA successfully argues for Disbarment of Vice President Agnew

The Maryland Court of Appeals hands down a landmark decision in Maryland State Bar Association v. Agnew, 271 Md. 543, 318 A.2d. 811 (1974), the only disbarment of a former Vice President of the United States. The decision was a result of Agnew’s no contest plea to income tax evasion while serving as Governor of Maryland. The case pre-dates the creation of the Attorney Grievance Commission the following year.

1976 December 30, 1976

Supreme Court Amicus Brief opposing lawyer advertising

MSBA submits an amicus curiae brief against lawyer advertising in the case of Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court holds that blanket suppression of lawyer advertising violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment, and legitimates lawyer advertising.

1977 January 1, 1977

First African-American female judge

Hon. Mabel H. Hubbard, the first African-American female attorney appointed to any bench in Maryland, is appointed as master in chancery in Baltimore City. In 1981, she is appointed to the District Court for Baltimore City, and then serves on the Circuit Court for Baltimore City from 1985 until her retirement in 1999.

1978 September 2, 1978

Statewide Lawyer Referral Service

MSBA President Vincent L. Gingerich announces the creation of a statewide lawyer referral service.

1981 March 24, 1981

MSBA helps establish MVLS

Maryland Volunteer Legal Services (MVLS), a statewide organization to provide pro bono legal services, is incorporated with funding from MSBA.

1982 June 1, 1982

MSBA spearheads creation of IOLTA Program and MLSC

Prompted by MSBA’s advocacy, the Maryland General Assembly enacts a voluntary Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA) program to fund legal services to the poor and establishes Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC) to supervise the distribution of funds.

1985 December 20, 1985

New MSBA headquarters

MSBA moves into its new headquarters at 520 West Fayette St. in Baltimore.

New HQ in Baltimore

1988 October 2, 1988

MSBA encourages voluntary pro bono service

MSBA Board of Governors adopts recommendations that voluntary pro bono service by all Maryland lawyers be encouraged.

1989 November 21, 1989

People’s Pro Bono Action Center, Inc created

MSBA Board of Governors approves the creation of the People’s Pro Bono Action Center, Inc., as a nonprofit agency funded by MSBA.

1990 July 1, 1990

Membership Total: ~14,000

14,000 Members

1991 July 1, 1991

First female MSBA President

Louise Michaux Gonzales is the first woman elected to the Presidency of MSBA.

1992 July 1, 1992

MSBA institutes Professionalism course for new lawyers

MSBA institutes a Professionalism Course required to be taken by new lawyers admitted to the Maryland Bar pursuant to Bar Admission Rule 11.

1995 March 21, 1995

MSBA recommends Continuing Legal Education requirements for lawyers

MSBA Board of Governors votes to recommend to the Court of Appeals that it require Maryland attorneys complete 30 hours of continuing legal education every two years.

1995 June 10, 1995

100th Annual Convention

On June 10th, at the 100th Annual Convention of MSBA, MSBA approves changes in governance districts to reflect demographic shifts, and the practice of electing a president from Baltimore on alternating years is discontinued.

1996 October 23, 1996

First African-American Chief Judge appointed to Maryland Court of Appeals

Hon. Robert M. Bell is appointed as Chief Judge on the Maryland Court of Appeals, the first African-American to hold the position. In 1964 (16 years old), Judge Bell was lead plaintiff on the Bell v. Maryland, a case that arose from a lunch counter sit-in that helped push the U.S. towards desegregation.

1997 January 1, 1997

MSBA opposes proposed tax on legal services

MSBA opposes House Bill 775, proposed legislation in the General Assembly to tax personal and professional services in Maryland, including legal services. 23 years later, in the 2020 legislative session, MSBA again successfully defeated another proposed tax on legal services that would have subjected all legal professionals and firms in Maryland to a significant competitive and financial disadvantage.

1997 May 1, 1997

MSBA approves statewide Code of Civility

MSBA Board of Governors approves a statewide, voluntary Code of Civility, and encourages all Maryland lawyers and judges to honor and voluntarily adhere to the standards set forth in the Code.

1997 August 1, 1997

Special Committee on Judicial Appointments created

MSBA launches a Special Committee on Judicial Appointments as an important initiative for the Bar.

1998 March 1, 1998

MSBA participates in new ADR Commission

MSBA president participates in a new Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Commission started by Chief Judge Bell, viewed as part of a broader access to justice vision and a way to create a new chapter of conflict resolution in Maryland.

1998 September 1, 1998

MSBA recognized nationally for school violence campaign

MSBA wins a national award for public service for its two year campaign to combat school violence. “Imagine a Better Tomorrow” included training peer mediators in Maryland public schools, producing two Public Service Announcements, and sponsoring a statewide summit.

1998 October 1, 1998

Technology Task Force created

MSBA creates a Technology Task Force to make sure MSBA is offering members information and support in the field of technology.

1999 January 1, 1999

MSBA establishes Lawyer Assistance Program

MSBA Lawyer Counseling Service (the first in the country created by a State Bar Association) is renamed the Lawyers Assistance Program (LAP), and adds services for depression, chronic illness, health & wellness.

1999 September 18, 1999

First Hispanic judge in Maryland

The Hon. Audrey J.S. Carrion is appointed as the first Hispanic Circuit Court judge in Maryland, in Baltimore City. Judge Carrion is elevated to the role of Administrative Judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County in 2020.

2000 July 1, 2000

MSBA welcomes more members through Associate Membership

MSBA approves Associate Membership to welcome a broader segment of Maryland’s legal community, including law students, paralegals, and legal administrators to become associate, non-voting members of MSBA.

2000 August 1, 2000

LAP expands throughout the state

MSBA’s Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) expands into every county in Maryland, partnering with local bar associations to create a Lawyers-In-Need Network so that MSBA members may find help locally.

2001 July 1, 2001

Membership exceeds 20,000

MSBA becomes the fastest growing voluntary bar in the country, topping 20,000 members.

+20,000 Members

2001 July 1, 2001

First Bench/Bar/Media Conference

MSBA hosts the first Bench/Bar/Media conference with the Maryland Judiciary and Society of Professional Journalists.

2002 June 1, 2002

MSBA Online Directory connects thousands

MSBA Online Directory debuts, allowing thousands of legal professionals to connect and search for colleagues.

2002 July 1, 2002

Pro Bono Service Report requirement

All Maryland attorneys are required to file an annual Pro Bono Service Report. A service of 50 “aspirational” hours is voluntary.

2002 July 18, 2002

First Asian-American judge in Maryland

The Honorable Jeannie Hong, the first Asian-American judge in Maryland, is appointed to the District Court for Baltimore City.

2003 June 1, 2003

First African-American MSBA President

Harry S. Johnson, a partner with Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, becomes the first African-American President of MSBA. Johnson focuses his tenure on three key areas: the history of the association, leadership, and integrity in the profession.

2005 July 1, 2005

Lawyer Assistance Foundation created

MSBA and the Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) create the Lawyer Assistance Foundation to help with costs of treatment for substance use disorders, mental health disorders, etc. Today, the Bates/Vincent Foundation continues to provide LAP funding for ongoing counseling and treatment.

2005 November 1, 2005

30 years of educating the next generation of lawyers

MSBA’s Citizenship Law-Related Education Program (CLREP) marks 30 years of training teachers in law-related education so they could adequately educate students about the law.

2005 November 1, 2005

Maryland Bar Foundation spearheads Katrina legal relief

The Maryland Bar Foundation spearheads a Katrina Legal Relief Effort, aimed at helping the 10,000 lawyers displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

2006 May 1, 2006

Free online legal research benefit added

MSBA begins offering Fastcase, an online legal research program, as a member benefit.

2007 July 1, 2007

MSBA-produced video wins Emmy

Branded D.U.I., a video aimed to show high school students the consequences of drinking and driving through the eyes of their peers, wins an Emmy award. The video was produced by MSBA’s Administrative Law Section and the Office of Administrative Hearings (Hon. Yvette Diamond), with production assistance from the Judiciary’s media department and Maryland Public Television.

2008 April 1, 2008

25 years of statewide High School Mock Trials

MSBA’s Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition celebrates its 25th anniversary, saluting 36,000 students who have learned about the law and become more knowledgeable, well-informed citizens by participating in this interactive learning experience.

2008 August 1, 2008

Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono project launched

Maryland attorneys respond to the call for volunteers to assist at-risk homeowners during the mortgage foreclosure crisis, as MSBA partners with the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Department of Labor to launch the Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project.

2008 November 18, 2008

Maryland Access to Justice Commission established

The Maryland Judiciary establishes the Maryland Access to Justice Commission, headed by retired Court of Appeals Judge Irma S. Raker. Commissioners include District Court Chief Judge Ben Clyburn, Senator Benjamin Cardin, Governor Martin O’Malley, Attorney General Douglas Gansler, MSBA President Katherine Kelly Howard, and MSBA past-president Herbert S. Garten.

2013 July 23, 2013

First Female Chief Judge appointed to Maryland Court of Appeals

Hon. Mary Ellen Barbera is appointed as the first female Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, after serving for several years on the appellate bench and beginning her career in public service as a Baltimore City public school teacher. Chief Judge Barbera devotes her tenure to making sure the doors of justice are open to all Marylanders and will end her time on the bench as a strong leader, guiding the profession through…

2015 June 1, 2015

First African-American woman President of MSBA

Appointed to the bench in 2002 as a Howard County District Court judge, Pamila Brown makes MSBA history as the first African-American woman to become president of the organization. She credits early exposure to the civil rights movement – including sneaking into the trial of activist H. Rap Brown as a high school freshman – with inspiring her love of law. She previously served as director of inmate legal services at the Baltimore City Jail.

2016 March 24, 2016

Young Lawyers’ Section celebrates 25th annual charity event

MSBA Young Lawyers’ Section hosts its 25th annual charity event, this time for Warrior Canine connection. This robust section welcomes thousands of members each year and connects law students, recent graduates, and early practitioners with seasoned practitioners and resources as they begin to practice.

2016 September 8, 2016

Maryland Access to Justice Commission partners with MSBA

A newly reformed Access to Justice Commission joins MSBA in a partnership that continues to bring together civil justice partners, expand its network, and break down barriers that prevent Marylanders from equally accessing the civil justice system.

2016 December 1, 2016

Victor Velazquez becomes Executive Director

Victor Velazquez becomes the first new director of the organization in over thirty years.

2018 June 1, 2018

MSBA Ethics Opinions made publicly available

In an effort to increase ethics awareness and education among attorneys, more than 40 years of ethics opinions issued by MSBA are made publicly available for the first time.

2020 March 5, 2020

MSBA opposes and defeats proposed legal services tax

MSBA opposes and successfully defeats House Bill 1628, a proposed expanded sales tax to include legal services, that would ultimately discourage clients from seeking Maryland legal services. MSBA mobilizes its membership, partners with other organizations including the Maryland Defense Counsel and the Maryland Association for Justice, conducts media interviews, and meets with bill sponsors and other legislators to quash the proposed tax.

2020 March 13, 2020

MSBA supports the profession through the COVID-19 crisis

MSBA supports the profession during the Covid-19 crisis by going fully virtual and offering free Covid-related webinars and CLE programs to members and non-members (including all 40k+ attorneys in Maryland). Over 850 legal professionals join the MSBA in a full week of virtual learning in MSBA’s inaugural Legal Excellence Week, featuring several Section Institutes and the Solo Summit. MSBA’s partner, Maryland Access to Justice Commission, leads a Covid-19 Task Force with Attorney General Brian Frosh.

2020 June 1, 2020

Access to Justice Task Force secures civil legal aid funding

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh creates the Covid-19 Access to Justice Task Force, in partnership with the Maryland Access to Justice Commission, to address the extraordinary civil legal challenges, hurdles, and hardships impacting Marylanders as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. The Task Force promotes detailed reforms and recommendations in early 2021 and secures over $20 million in civil legal aid funding over the next year.

2021 May 12, 2021

Continuing the tradition

M. Natalie McSherry, a Principal at Kramon and Graham, becomes President of the MSBA, 125 years after her great-grandfather, the Honorable James McSherry, became president in 1896.

2021 June 9, 2021

MSBA continues virtual experiences and celebrates 125 years

MSBA exceeds its renewal target and welcomes new members to the association, achieving a 105% renewal and join rate for the year. MSBA welcomes legal professionals to its virtual Legal Summit and Annual Meeting, featuring over 80 learning programs and thought leaders including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford, Tina Tchen, and Nina Totenberg. MSBA will celebrate its 125th year through a commemorative publication, a special Maryland Bar Journal edition, video tributes, learning opportunities for the profession, a gala celebration, and much more.

Check Out What’s New with the MSBA!

Exploring Our Past, Forging Our Future: 125 Years of Change

This insightful publication shows the ways in which MSBA has evolved over the past 125 years and where the organization is headed, featuring exclusive interviews, profiles, historical photographs and documents, and more. Explore some of the book’s excerpts below:

Released December 2021

Special 125th Anniversary Edition: Maryland Bar Journal

The Bar Journal brings MSBA members analysis and insight into the topics that matter most to Maryland’s legal community. Published on a quarterly basis, it leverages the MSBA’s deep and extensive network of experts, from a wide variety of practice areas and backgrounds, to make sure members understand critical legal trends and issues.

Look for interactive links throughout the magazine to access companion video content. Explore articles within the Maryland Bar Journal, below:

MSBA produces several publications to help attorneys with everyday issues, including ethics, virtual considerations, case law updates, and more. No matter your area of practice, MSBA has content for you.

Click through for a sample of resources available to MSBA members. 

Let’s pause for some critical reflection

Thought Leadership Initiative

MSBA’s 125th Anniversary invites us to pause for critical reflection on the state of our profession; how we have wielded our position of influence historically, how we might exercise that privilege responsibly going forward, and, finally, what we imagine and dare to reimagine about the legal profession’s role in the future of justice in our state, nation, and world.

Innovative thinkers and fierce leaders sparking robust discussion and forward-thinking dialogue about the historical relationship and future direction of justice and the legal profession, with a focus on the following themes: Guardians of Justice; Reforming Justice; Access to Justice; and Science, Technology and Justice.

Connections & Events

Join the MSBA in person as we celebrate 125 years and connect with our members and local leaders around the state. We look forward to seeing you soon. Interested in seeing all events? Click the link below to register.

MSBA brought together the legal community to celebrate Chief Judge Barbera’s retirement from the bench and to reflect on her notable achievements and lasting legacy. She worked tirelessly during her tenure to increase the courts’ efficiency, promote racial justice in the civil and criminal justice system, and most recently, expertly navigate the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic in Maryland courts.

We want to know: What does 125 years of MSBA mean to you?

M. Natalie McSherry, MSBA President

Our 125th Anniversary presents more than an opportunity to commemorate the past. It also invites us to pause for critical reflection on the state of our profession, how we have wielded our position of influence historically; how we might exercise that privilege responsibly going forward, and, finally, what we imagine and dare to reimagine about the legal profession’s role in the future of justice in our state, nation, and world.

We look to be grounded in and reckon with our history, as we get set to embark on this collective journey to reimagine a just and equitable future for our systems of justice and our roles as legal professionals within those systems.

Senator Chris Van Hollen

“For 125 years, you have served our communities with distinction and purpose, always remaining faithful to the vital mission of ensuring equal justice under the law. Our collective mission must be to ensure that all people in our state and our country, regardless of income, zip code, or background can access the justice system. All of you as officers of the court and others involved in our legal system have been key partners in that effort, and I want to thank the Bar Association and lawyers throughout our state for advancing this goal.”

Hon. James K. Bredar, Chief Judge U.S. District Court of Maryland

I congratulate the Maryland State Bar Association on the 125th anniversary of its founding. Our Constitution promises that this will be a nation of laws and that due process will be afforded to all, but these lofty words are meaningless if there are not women and men ready to bring them to life. In Maryland, for over 250 years, it has been lawyers who have been most ready to perform this role, and for over half of that time, the MSBA has been the primary organization supporting lawyers’ initiatives.

The MSBA supports and invigorates these adversaries, helping them to perform their duties to their clients and unifying them in a profession that — while adversarial in each particular case — is united in the aggregate in its fealty to the rule of law and its dedication to justice for all. I join the hundreds of Maryland judges who have preceded me in acknowledging the MSBA, and in thanking them for their monumental contributions to the work of the profession.

Hon. Mary Ellen Barbera, Chief Judge Court of Appeals of Maryland

In celebration of the Maryland State Bar Association’s 125th Anniversary, the legacy of the first century of this prestigious state bar association is augmented by twenty-five additional years of service to the lawyers of Maryland, by the lawyers of Maryland, and another quarter century of keeping the foundation of our democracy, the rule of law, strong, for all in Maryland.

This year is a reminder of the rich, sometimes storied — and sometimes illustrious — legacy of our collective past, upon which we must continue to improve in order that we do credit to our future colleagues at the bar. For it is they— and through them, the people of Maryland— who must stand upon the strong shoulders we are building for them to strive for justice, for all, equal under law.

Get Involved With MSBA

The Future of the Profession

Join us as we create a vision for the future of the legal profession, for the next 125 years and beyond.