From October 24-26, more than 160 bar leaders from across Maryland converged upon Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pennsylvania, by invitation of the Maryland State Bar Association for three days of exchanging knowledge, experience, and camaraderie.
“This meeting is designed to bring together the leaders of all of our bar associations to share ideas, meet each other, and have a little fun,” MSBA President Michael J. Baxter told attendees of the 54th Annual Conference of Bar Presidents during his welcoming remarks.
Baxter noted that he is making special efforts during his year as President to visit local and specialty bars around the state, and expressed his interest in and willingness to travel to any and all jurisdictions to see how each bar association operates and serves its respective members.
“It amazes me, even as long as I’ve been involved with the associations, how every bar association does it a little bit differently,” he said.
Several MSBA Past Presidents in attendance – including Katherine Kelly Howard; Louise Michaux Gonzales; Harry S. Johnson; James L. Thompson; John P. Kudel; Richard H. Sothoron, Jr.; Thomas C. Cardaro; Cornelius D. Helfrich; and James P. Nolan – offered some sage advice for presidents and presidents-elect.
Invoking his own experience as MSBA President as well as President of the Bar Association of Baltimore City, Cardaro stressed the importance of listening to bar members. “Find out what their needs are so that you might best serve them,” he said.
Johnson praised bar association staff – namely, executive directors – describing them as “the institutional memory” of those associations that have them. “They are there when your year starts, and they will be there when your year is over,” he said. “They really want you to be successful.”
Johnson also encouraged all associations to “embrace your local judges” by engaging them in bar activities, saying the relationships can be mutually beneficial to both the bar and the bench.
Overall, Thompson urged bar presidents to “embrace the opportunity” afforded by their positions, “because you will never have it again.”
Katherine Kelly Howard, joined by co-panelists Fran Czajka, Executive Director of the Anne Arundel County Bar Association, and Elizabeth S. Morris, Past Chair of the MSBA Young Lawyers Section, discussed “Building for Tomorrow: Getting the Most Out of Your Young Lawyers”. She emphasized the importance of engaging both “new” and “seasoned” young lawyers “in order to grow your bar association and keep it vibrant and relevant for those attorneys who will one day become your lifeblood members.”
Indeed, bringing more young attorneys into the fold of bar association membership was a key focal point of the 6th Annual Young Lawyers Summit, held concurrently with the Bar Presidents Conference. Wm. Carl Isler, II, Chair-Elect of the MSBA Young Lawyers Section and Co-Chair of the MSBA Leadership Academy, branded the Summit “a tremendous success, with all 16 possible slots filled with participants representing various organizations, including the Alliance of Black Women Attorneys, the Bankruptcy Bar Association for the District of Maryland, and the St. Mary’s County Bar Association.” Topics of discussion also included “Pro Bono Opportunities for Young Lawyer Development”, “Mentorship”, “The Benefits of MSBA Membership”, and “Attorney Wellness Balancing”, among others
Isler calls the Bar Presidents Conference an ideal venue for the Summit “because both events embody the same purpose: to build and strengthen ties between the MSBA, its Young Lawyers Section, and the young lawyer sections and divisions of local and specialty bar associations across the state.”
“The Young Lawyers Summit has become a vital and necessary tool in reaching out to young lawyers across Maryland,” he says, “and it has become a hub for the creation of new collaborative ideas, partnerships, and programs for young lawyers throughout out the state.”
Elsewhere, Mala Malhotra-Ortiz, President-Elect of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Bar Association of Maryland, lauded the Bar Presidents Conference’s “relaxed environment for learning and exchanging ideas and experiences.”
“For a small and obscure specialty group that does not often get visibility in the larger Bar Association,” she added, “it was of particular benefit to our membership to have the opportunity to educate and inform distinguished members of the bar and the bench of our group’s existence and focus.”
The Conference agenda included an introduction of the 2013-2014 MSBA Leadership Academy Class; a game show-inspired program hosted by Robert K. Erdman; a legislative update from former Maryland General Assembly member Timothy F. Maloney, Esq.; a wellness and life-balance workshop; presentation of the Best Project Awards for the Public and Bar; and a lunchtime address from Franklin A. Miles, Jr., Esq., Vice President, Secretary, and General Counsel of Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company. Attendees were also given an opportunity to let their hair down at the “Heroes, Heroines, and Villains” costume dinner and dance on Friday evening.
Conference sponsors also included the Maryland Bar Foundation and Minnesota Lawyers Mutual..