"I am humbled to assume the role as the face and the voice of the lawyers of Maryland in the coming year," proclaimed Thomas D. Murphy, as he was installed as President of the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) on June 12, 2010, at the Association's Annual Meeting in Ocean City. "When I look out on the lawyers and judges assembled here, and think of the thousands more who are part of our Association, one word stands out for me – Service: Service to our profession; Service to our clients; and Service to our community."
In the next 12 months, Murphy plans to highlight service as he leads the voluntary Association of 23,500 lawyers. Joining him in this campaign will be newly-elected officers: President-Elect Henry E. Dugan, Jr., a partner in the Baltimore County law firm of Dugan, Babij & Tolley, LLC; Treasurer John Patrick Kudel, a solo practitioner in Rockville and Of Counsel to the Rockville-based law firm of Karp, Frosh, Lapidus, Wigodsky & Norwind, P.A.; and Secretary Michael J. Baxter, a partner in the Baltimore City law firm of Baxter, Baker, Sidle, Conn & Jones P.A. As President, Murphy will champion public service and lawyers giving back to their communities.
"Lawyers serve others in so many ways," asserts Murphy. "When you become a member of this profession, it becomes ingrained in you." As an example, he cites Chief Judge Robert M. Bell's call to action to lawyers to assist in the economic and foreclosure crisis in July 2008, which was "met with an outpouring of assistance from Maryland lawyers. Our profession's pro bono commitment is staggering, in the amount of time and money it represents."
In preparation for his role as Bar leader, MSBA's President reviewed the oath he took upon his admittance to Maryland's Bar in 1973. "The first sentence struck me as the principle that we strive to achieve every day of our lives. I do solemnly (swear) (affirm) that I will at all times demean myself fairly and honorably as an attorney and practitioner at law. . . . " Murphy wanted to be part of this quest for justice, and 36 years later, he is still very proud to be a lawyer.
He points out that the message in this oath, in part, is captured in MSBA's Code of Civility: Civility is the cornerstone of the legal profession. "Civility, in its broadest sense, underlies the efforts we lawyers engage in to serve and reflects the dedication we have in giving back because of the oath we all took." Civility in the legal profession is at the top of Murphy's list this year.
In the coming year, Murphy pledges members will continue "to receive the services of the most effective state bar association in the country, bar none, including the dynamic substantive law Sections that give MSBA lawyers vital support and expertise in their every day law practice." Additionally, members will get the support "of the many MSBA Committees that serve as the critical backbone of the Association, such as Ethics, Judicial Appointments and our new CLE Committee which is helping our newly formed CLE Department."
"We are all aware of the demise of MICPEL," Murphy says, "but this unfortunate situation illustrates the strength of MSBA and the unselfish efforts of our lawyers. MSBA has taken over the role of MICPEL," he proudly asserts, "and resuscitated the delivery of CLE by Maryland lawyers for Maryland lawyers."
With respect to CLE, one of the challenges Maryland lawyers face in the coming year is whether continuing legal education should be mandatory for attorneys. "I recognize that people have different views of whether this aspect of our professional lives should be changed," Murphy explains. "One side says we should mandate lawyers taking continuing legal education and the other says Maryland lawyers already do so (take CLE) and there is no empirical data to support that mandatory CLE advances competency of attorneys."
MSBA has taken a statistically valid poll and "70 percent of our members have told us that they do not support CLE becoming mandatory," he continues. MSBA's President believes Maryland already "has a system in place to track how much CLE our attorneys are attending."
Attorneys already report their pro bono activity on the annual pro bono reporting requirement, so Murphy contends lawyers can utilize that same form to report the number of CLE hours they engage in every year. In this way, "we can learn whether lawyers are maintaining their competency and perhaps connect the dots between our professionalism course and the drop in the imposition of discipline on Maryland lawyers with the CLE bridge."
MSBA's President also promised the Association's continued support of the legal services community and the funding issues that impact civil legal services to the poor. "We will continue to stand with those on the front lines providing access to justice," proclaims Murphy, who promises that MSBA will "answer the call of leadership whenever it is needed."
In conclusion, Murphy pledged to uphold the goals framed in MSBA's mission statement – "to effectively represent Maryland's lawyers, to provide member services and promote professionalism, diversity in the legal profession, access to justice, service to the public and respect for the rule of law."