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June 5, 2022 | by natalie mcsherry

In my first message as President of the MSBA, let me begin by saying that it is an honor to serve as the President of the MSBA as we embark on a major milestone for the organization and the legal profession.

As many of you know, the MSBA has been on a multi-year journey to evolve and adapt to the opportunities and challenges facing voluntary bar associations across the country. The hard work and leadership from the Presidents that came before me, our Board of Governors, our Executive Director, Victor Velazquez, and all of the MSBA staff has helped the MSBA establish a long-term vision and roadmap to ensure the MSBA continues to improve and to serve as the home of the legal profession in Maryland

The hard work of all these people has also helped the MSBA achieve 105% of its goals for membership renewals and new members for the 2020-21 Bar year. For the first time in over a decade, the MSBA is experiencing membership growth rather than contraction. Membership is also off to a very strong start in 2021-22, as we have achieved over 85% of our membership goal through July 31, 2021. The vision set forth in the past four years is beginning to be realized.

Focusing on the past …

As an organization that is commemorating 125 years serving a professional community devoted to the administration of justice, the story of the MSBA is a long one. I want to share a little about the beginning of that story, so that we can better understand where we are headed in the chapters to come. The MSBA has the ability to drive big results when it focuses on its goals – as it has in recent times and since its very founding

On August 28th, 1896, the MSBA held its first meeting. Around 185 attorneys met at the Blue Mountain House in Pen Mar, Maryland. They elected a President, 9 VP’s, a Secretary and 4 members of Executive Council. To a certain extent, the Constitution adopted at that gathering in 1896 still forms the basis of our mission and focus to this day.

To advance the science of Jurisprudence,

to promote reform in the Law,

to facilitate the administration of justice,

to uphold the standard of integrity, honor and courtesy in the legal profession

to encourage legal education

and to cultivate a spirit of cordiality and brotherhood among the members of the Bar

As these words reflect, the founding members understood well the fundamental truth in our society of laws – that change is the only constant, and that lawyers, as the stewards of our legal system, have a duty to see that it changes for the better.

And indeed, much has changed since 1896, perhaps more than the founding members anticipated. Five years later – in 1901, our founding President, the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, authored the decision that denied Etta Maddox – the first woman to apply – -admission to the Maryland Bar.

He may or may not have imagined at the time that women would become a significant part of the profession OR that in fact, 3 of his great grand-daughters would today be Maryland lawyers OR that women would lead this organization and that one of those great-granddaughters would become President of the MSBA today – the same MSBA he helped found.

Our beginnings are an important part of our long story. Although the principles expressed in that Constitution remain the same, our evolution toward realizing those principles – by embracing the full diversity of our society – has made achieving positive change more possible, more just and more impactful. The MSBA has come to represent – more closely – all segments of the Maryland Bar and of Maryland. This will always be a work in progress and more work needs to be done. That too is part of our story.

As we continue our work, achieving who we aspire to be, our story includes numerous examples of delivering on our founding principles in profound and practical ways. We will be publishing an updated new book detailing our 125 years, building on the excellent effort that produced our centennial book. So I won’t recount what we’ve accomplished over the many decades before today, but building on our imperfect past and recognizing we are and will always remain a work in progress, we have accomplished much during the unprecedented crisis of this past year.

Looking Forward

On the heels of a successful effort to fight back against the taxation of legal services, the MSBA was confronted with Covid. More importantly, it’s members and the citizens of Maryland were confronted with this epidemic. What role could the MSBA play? How could the MSBA weather this storm? – By maintaining laser focus on the wellbeing and interests of Maryland attorneys and society at large….

As you’ve all experienced, the MSBA quickly shifted to provide alternative ways to deliver needed resources to attorneys – At no additional cost to them.

MSBA members have consumed over 45,000 hours of virtual live and on demand content in the past year.

MSBA members needed to maintain a sense of connections with peers they could no longer see in person, or shake hands with. – The MSBA held literally hundreds of opportunities for that to happen virtually.

During chaotic times, the MSBA served as a critical information clearinghouse in the midst of shifting courthouse protocols and pronouncements. And as recently highlighted in our Maryland Bar Journal, we continued to work with attorneys who had become overwhelmed during all of this. Our Lawyer Assistance Program helped a growing number of our colleagues who had mental health, substance abuse and other crises – Colleagues who you may come into contact with; Attorneys who you will never know we helped through our confidential program. These are colleagues who – more accurately stated, you helped by being part of our MSBA.

Ultimately, our members were confronted with returning to courts, to their offices, and to their agencies. They needed to help others, but needed to be protected in doing so. Again, the MSBA recognized the importance of advocating on their behalf before vaccines were widely available. Those delivering justice needed our advocacy.

What will we be doing to celebrate our 125 years?

By now, you may have seen our newly released microsite (link), and the updated version of the MSBA Centennial Book, covering the past 25 years and more. Over the next 18 months, we will continue to celebrate our 125th anniversary through a series of events, including the 125th Anniversary Gala on March 3, 2022. We will also launch the 125th Anniversary Thought Leadership Series focused on four key areas:

My Goals for 2021-22

With the help of the Board of Governors and our new Executive Committee I plan to focus on:

  1. continuing on the journey to position ourselves as a modern Bar and a vital part of this profession
  2. celebrating 125-years of excellence – of work in progress and opportunities to look ahead
  3. helping our profession continue its transition out of this pandemic;
  4. working toward access to justice for all; and lastly
  5. driving ever more value for the entire legal profession. Solos, small firms, mid-large sized, in-house, government, judicial and academic, non-profit and alternative career path attorneys, to name a few. We are and will continue to be the home of the entire Maryland legal profession.

Get Involved

There are many ways to engage with the MSBA, and we hope you take advantage of engaging in a way that fits your career and lifestyle. Below are just a few examples of how you can contribute:

Whether you choose to consume our digital member content or show up to an in-person CLE, we want you to rely on the MSBA in your way.

Thank you so very much for this very humbling honor to serve as your MSBA President. I can only hope for your support toward our common goals as stated in the original Constitution:

To advance the science of Jurisprudence,

to promote reform in the Law,

to facilitate the administration of justice,

to uphold the standard of integrity, honor and courtesy in the legal profession

to encourage legal education

and to cultivate a spirit of cordiality and brotherhood among the members of the Bar