Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin

Editor: W. Patrick Tandy

February, 2004


Maryland Bar Foundation Shea Award Presentation

By Pamela J. White

The time for soliciting and making nominations of young lawyers for the Edward F. Shea, Jr., Award is an opportunity to celebrate the best of the Maryland Bar. We also marvel at the energy and commitment and fun that good Maryland lawyers like Ed Shea and 2003 Award Winner Brian Zemil have brought to their clients and their colleagues at the Bar.

A former Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) President, Ed Shea served his clients and the Bar throughout his career as the epitome of professionalism, civility, integrity, compassion and commitment to public service…and he was a baseball fan! (The symbol of the prestigious award that bears his name is a crystal home plate.) The Maryland Bar Foundation celebrates Ed Shea as the “Father of Professionalism” and inspiration for MSBA’s Professionalism Course for new lawyers. The Edward F. Shea, Jr., Professionalism Award celebrates an MSBA young lawyer who exemplifies Ed Shea’s best attributes (although being a baseball fan is not exactly required).

Since 1997, Shea Award recipients Richard Sandy, Marc Kopec, Emily Vias, Mark Scurti, Ed Fee, Debbie Potter and Brian Zemil have all reflected the Shea legacy of professionalism – and more – with their:

  • Contributions to public service or charitable activities
  • Demonstration of respect for the rule of law and our legal system
  • Pro Bono work improving access to justice for those who can’t pay lawyers fees
  • Promotion of CLE.

“After listening to personal memories of Ed Shea by family and friends, I was especially honored to receive this award,” says 2003 Shea Award recipient Brian Zemil. “He was a good person who was committed to the practice of law, his family, pro bono and the community. These are the signs of a good lawyer. Character, civility and professionalism are your best assets in the practice of law, and they were exemplified in Ed Shea. That is why I feel it is such a high compliment to be honored with the Shea Award.”

Technically, there are no criteria for the Award based on bar work, but Zemil added some notable characteristics of good organization and unflappable character as MSBA Young Lawyer’s chair in 2001-2002. Zemil’s bar work follows his billable hours as a litigation associate at Venable in Towson. One of his nominators (from outside the Venable firm) described Zemil’s conduct as the consummate professional lawyer, “unfailingly prepared, and conscientious.” Zemil “treats lawyers, litigants and witnesses with the kind of dignity and respect which was Ed Shea’s hallmark.” Litigators and product liability lawyers will appreciate Zemil’s civil conduct in litigation, as did Judge Rombro with whom Zemil performed his judicial clerkship after law school. Judge Rombro provided some adjectives to describe Zemil’s work with him – words like terrific, creative, involved and caring. Judge Rombro noted that Zemil was always intent on making sure that justice was not forgotten in the heat or stress of the moment.

Zemil’s nomination for the Shea Award followed a busy bar year when he and wife Laurel also became parents for the first time. Daughter Lila arrived in the spring of 2002.

Zemil’s bar work in 2001-2002 was subject to a number of unquantifiable pressures that year: September 11, 2001, altered all of our lives and tested our mettle; the great Pro Bono Debate raged on throughout 2001 and 2002; tornadoes in LaPlata, Charles County, wreaked devastation that tested the Young Lawyers’ Disaster Relief Plan. Throughout this tough period, Zemil continued to handle on appeal the pro bono prisoner rights case that he had tried over five days in federal court to a favorable jury verdict. Everything that Brian Zemil did during his tenure as Young Lawyers Section Chair and throughout his practice not only exemplified leadership under stress but demonstrated respect for our legal system, respect for the critical role that lawyers serve and a fine reputation in the Shea tradition of professionalism among Maryland lawyers.

Brian Zemil is a worthy recipient of the Ed Shea Professionalism Award.



Publications : Bar Bulletin: February, 2004

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