A Family Business: From MSBA President McSherry to MSBA President McSherry (125 Year Connection)
July 29, 2021 | by Colleen aracri
Some people seem to have a familial calling to work in a particular profession. For the McSherry family in Maryland, that profession is the law.
Judge James McSherry, a Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland and the first MSBA president, may be the most widely chronicled McSherry attorney, but he was neither the first nor the last. His father, also named James McSherry, was an attorney as well. The Chief Judge’s two sons, James and William Clinton McSherry, and his grandson, James McSherry, also practiced law, and four of his great-grandchildren obtained law degrees.
Chief Judge McSherry wrote the 1901 opinion in In Re Maddox, holding that women could be prohibited from being admitted to the bar. In a poetic turn of events, three of Judge McSherry’s great-granddaughters are attorneys, and one of them, Natalie McSherry, serves as the MSBA president 125 years after he held the position.
Natalie’s father, the fourth James McSherry, was a self-described country lawyer in Frederick. He had a varied practice, doing a little bit of everything. As a child, Natalie would often help out in his office, doing odd jobs like putting the pocket parts in the back of books and searching for land titles. You cannot grow up in a family full of attorneys without it impacting you to some extent, but Natalie initially had no interest in becoming a lawyer. Instead, she was drawn towards mathematics. That was until a teacher explained that the logical aspect of math that appealed to Natalie was absent from advanced math, so she might want to consider another career path. She took that advice to heart, and after college, decided to go to the University of Maryland School of Law. She chose the University of Maryland, in part because it was where her father and grandfather earned their law degrees. Her great grandfather received an honorary degree from Maryland as well.
After Natalie graduated from law school, her father asked if she would join him at his firm in Frederick. She declined. She knew she wanted to try cases, and her father did not have much of a litigation practice. She began working at Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, but her dream of being a trial attorney was thwarted, at least initially. She was hired into the firm’s business department shortly after the passage of ERISA and was tasked with writing the pension and benefit plans for the firm’s clients for three years. She eventually convinced some of the younger lawyers in the firm’s litigation section to allow her to try cases and transferred into the litigation department, where she began to try cases full time.
While it took Natalie some time to achieve her goal of working as a trial attorney, by the time she transitioned to the litigation department, she knew all of the firm’s corporate clients, and whenever they got sued, they would refer their cases to her. She uses her own experience as an example when she cautions young lawyers to be careful not to be so quick to turn down opportunities outside of their desired practice area, as they may benefit them in the long run.
Currently, Natalie practices in commercial litigation, with a focus on health care law. She found that true to her early inclinations, she is drawn towards the logical nature and problem-solving aspect of litigation. She views litigation as a human experience and her work as helping people solve human problems.
Natalie’s sisters, who are attorneys, were drawn to the law for different reasons and practice in other areas. Her sister Padraic Morton, who goes by Paddy, works as general counsel for Maryland non-profit associations. To Paddy, the practice of law looked like a professional path where she could use skills of reason and verbal expression and provide a valuable service to clients and the community. Natalie’s sister Christine McSherry, general counsel for Beltway Capital Management, viewed the law as a noble profession that would allow her to help others and her community while also having the practical benefit of allowing her to provide for her family.
Natalie’s brother Michael McSherry, who has his law degree but no longer practices, also viewed the law as a means of making an impact and serving the community while earning an income. Natalie’s son, Peter Naugle, is an attorney as well and joined the profession because he wanted to do work of consequence and contribute in a worthwhile way to the fabric of society.
Natalie has received many awards throughout her career, but two are particularly meaningful: The Maryland Legal Services Corporation Arthur W. Machen Award and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law Distinguished Graduate Award. The Machen Award was bestowed for Natalie’s work in an area that is near to her heart – providing legal services to the underserved. The Distinguished Graduate Award is important to Natalie because it highlighted not only her professional accomplishments but also her service to the public. Natalie loves working as an attorney but finds that her work means more to her when it also helps the community. Her volunteer efforts are extensive and include providing pro bono legal services to low-income Marylanders, serving on the boards of Catholic Charities of Maryland and My Sister’s Place, and sponsoring students at Saint Ignatius Loyola Academy.
Natalie is able to offer so much of her time and services to help others because her partners at Kramon & Graham are incredibly supportive and truly understand how important and worthwhile her work outside the firm is, both to her and the community. She is thankful for their support and knows that it is rare for law firms to be so accommodating.
Natalie’s career so far has been remarkable, but she nonetheless has goals she wants to achieve. She hopes to help people of modest means obtain reduced-cost legal services, as a significant portion of the population does not meet the needs requirements for free legal services but cannot afford to pay an attorney. She is in the process of establishing an Affordable Law Task Force with the MSBA to effectuate these goals. The Task Force will look at what measures have succeeded and failed throughout Maryland and in other communities and make recommendations to the MSBA as to how the MSBA and its members can provide affordable legal services to Marylanders. She is hoping the Task Force will benefit both MSBA members and the public.
Additionally, during her MSBA presidency, Natalie will focus on increasing awareness of and participation in all of the programs the MSBA has to offer throughout the state. Natalie has been involved in the MSBA since the beginning of her career, and to this day, maintains connections with people she met in the Young Lawyers Section. She enjoys the human connections that the MSBA provides and noted it allows people to get together to share ideas, learn from each other, and address public issues. She would advise anyone embarking on a legal career in Maryland to join the MSBA and be active in it so that they can meet people who share common interests and learn more about their field and find ways to serve the community.
Natalie recognizes that the life of an attorney does not suit everyone, but she hopes that the family legacy of having someone in the legal profession continues. She hopes and expects that the family tradition of service to the community will continue, though, whatever occupation or profession each person in the next generation pursues.