Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : June 2009

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In these tough economic times, some lawyers are struggling with loss of jobs, reduced compensation, fewer clients and a diminished sense of confidence for the future. There are law practitioners who, whether they hail from large firms, small or solo practices, have been hit hard by the recession. However, the lawyers who are members of MSBA have an advantage. Now more than ever, MSBA is there for its members as a key lawyer resource, supporting them and giving them “an edge” as they survive in today’s economy.

MSBA has always been an effective resource, offering its 24,000 members a full package of services and benefits personalized to meet the diverse needs of this diverse cadre of lawyers. Now, it has assumed a proactive role in developing services and skill-oriented programs that address the immediate needs of members hit hard by the economic crisis. MSBA is there for members, serving as a key lawyer resource with new and enhanced support services to carry members through these troubled times.

MSBA Executive Director Paul V. Carlin is heartened, though, because “despite the headlines in some legal publications, it appears many attorneys are viewing the economic downturn as an opportunity to expand their business and build their clientele.” He reports that many mid-size and small law firms have seized this opportunity.

“While our MSBA members are working hard on their practices, the MSBA has continually been investigating and promoting many new benefits for our members,” states Carlin. “The MSBA has researched and adopted a host of new benefits to assist our members. Since time is such a key commodity, the MSBA evaluates these programs for our members, who find it hard to break away from their day-to-day practice responsibilities to evaluate these programs as well,” he adds. “Unfortunately, many of our members still do not recognize the availability of these programs and their advantages.”

Struggling attorneys are turning to MSBA for everything from information on legal careers, job training, re-training, CLE updates and mentoring support to connections and networking opportunities at various Section meetings. Plus, the Association is developing practical skill-training programs to give lawyers the critical knowledge, tools and resources they need now, like how to run the business aspects of a solo or small firm practice and how to open an escrow account.

This is the time for MSBA members to make the most of their membership and take advantage of the Association’s multitude of resources. Lawyers make connections through MSBA every day, raising their professional profile and drawing support from other lawyers “in the same boat.” Especially in these traumatic times, MSBA’s Lawyer Assistance Program is there for members with a network of support services to assist with stress, substance issues, depression, wellness and overall mental health issues.

Today, attorneys need their Association more than ever. Most recently, MSBA unveiled its new electronic package of lawyer economic resources, “MSBA’s Economic Resource Guide,” geared to address the specific economic pressures lawyers now face. Designed for lawyers who may have lost their jobs, are in fear of losing their jobs or are having other practice issues, this resource provides information to help lawyers survive, and even thrive, in these difficult times. It contains practical tips on “Unemployment Compensation”, “Things to Do When You Are Laid Off”, “Career Information and Office Resource Issues” and “Mentoring and Wellness Support Services”. Read more online at www.msba.org/departments/membership/newmemben/empresources/default.asp.

Tangible Attorney Resource

MSBA offers an impressive list of “tried and true” tangible member benefits which cater to a lawyer’s law practice needs. This lawyer resource provides technological assistance, business and accounting resources, marketing, office management skills and client relations support to equip attorneys with the necessary tools they need to efficiently practice law and represent clients. MSBA offers a wealth of electronic services on its website, www.msba.org, many of which are exclusive member benefits, like its free Fastcase legal research for all members.

Its 27 Sections highlight key substantive areas of the law to keep practitioners in touch with the latest information in their areas of law practice. Section Email Lists have proven invaluable to lawyers, fostering communication, mentoring and business contacts so members may exchange ideas and often find referrals. MSBA also gives members a sense of community and collegiality, and its continual flow of ethics opinions give valued guidance to attorneys encountering ethical quagmires in the everyday practice of law.

MSBA’s most popular tangible benefits include its publications: the Maryland Lawyers’ Manual, its virtual “Yellow Pages of the Legal Profession,” the Maryland Bar Journal, its showcase magazine, and its monthly newsletter, the Bar Bulletin, plus a plethora of print and online newsletters to keep lawyers informed about legal news and trends and updates in the law. MSBA even offers a disaster plan so attorneys will be prepared, personally and professionally, in the event of a disaster. Lawyers are also treated to a wealth of materials and resources as members, and an array of exclusive member benefits and discount opportunities.

Many of these “tried and true” MSBA services will be re-examined, re-tooled, refined and polished in the coming year to better serve the contemporary needs of members.

“Repetition is good, so let me again state that the MSBA charges the lowest dues of any state bar in the country,” asserts Carlin. “It is quite remarkable that our dues are only $125 a year, and we have not raised our dues in 20 years. Our Membership is stable and growing, so I believe that our members recognize the value they receive for the dues they pay.”

MSBA’s Executive Director emphasizes that “special recognition should go to our Budget & Finance Committee as well as the MSBA Executive Management Team for their extraordinary efforts to provide these benefits and programs without continually raising dues.”

Public Face of MSBA

In the broader sense, MSBA is the public face for all lawyers in Maryland and serves as the voice of Maryland lawyers. The Association is a vigilant watchdog, speaking out on behalf of the legal community to address systemic issues and champion the legal interests of lawyers, as well as law-related concerns of Maryland citizens before the Legislature, the Judiciary, government and the general public. MSBA promotes professionalism and civility in the practice of law and sponsors public service programs to promote a better public understanding of our legal system and educate the public about the law.

Although intangible, the benefits MSBA members derive from MSBA serving as the voice and public face of Maryland lawyers are many. Advancing the legal profession elevates the status of Maryland lawyers and enhances their practice of law.



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Publications : Bar Bulletin: June 2009

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