The average worker today stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.6 years, according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Staff at the MSBA fervently bucks that trend. Of the Association’s 29 staff members, nearly 21 percent have served the organization for 20 years or more. MSBA celebrates two individuals below, on their Silver Anniversaries.
It indisputably requires special people with unique skills to keep an office and an organization thriving. Theresa Michael is one of those shining stars for the Maryland State Bar Association. On August 22, 2013, MSBA Meeting Coordinator Theresa Michael marked two-and-a-half decades of service to the Association. She has served as a cornerstone of the MSBA’s administrative functions throughout her tenure. Remembering back to her early days here, Theresa recollects herself as a shy, quiet young woman, but notes “I’m quite the opposite of that now!”
She also remembers a very different office setting; one where giant printers were so loud and clunky that they shook the walls when printing. Of all the tangible details that have altered, Theresa remarks, “Most of all, the people have changed. There are only a handful that are still here from when I started.” In many ways, these MSBA veterans have grown up together, and through the years have become friends. Michael explains, “I’ve known them forever. I know everything about them and they know everything about me.”
Michael’s main responsibilities include sending meeting notices for MSBA Sections and Committees, scheduling the Spring and Fall dinners for Sections and Committees, helping with Ethics Opinion archiving, coordinating Webinars for meetings and trainings, and keeping the MSBA kitchen stocked with supplies.
MSBA Executive Director Paul V. Carlin explains, “It takes a very organized, methodical person to keep all those meeting details straight, and the MSBA has been very fortunate to have those abilities provided by Theresa Michael for 25 years. The numerous Chairpersons over the years know that Theresa gladly and smoothly takes all the muss and fuss out of planning for those meetings, on the order of 500 a year. Dealing with meetings, menus, minutes and materials is Theresa’s forte.”
One of the aspects she likes most about her position is that “it feels like I don’t have one boss. I deal with different people every year” as Members cycle through leadership positions, and she enjoys the autonomy of her position – “that I can work alone and independently.”
When asked about who has had the greatest influence on her over the years, her immediate answer is “Of course, Wanda [Claiborne]! Because she’s Wanda.” And it seems that is the only necessary explanation for this proclamation.
Reflecting on what has changed over the past 25 years, Michael explains, “I’m married, I have kids – one in college, one finishing elementary school. That’s a lot!” Despite these major differences, time seems to have passed by in a blink. “I’ve aged 25 years, and I don’t notice it until I look in the mirror. [Starting at the MSBA] feels like it was only a minute ago.”
For decades, Lawrence Hicks has worked in IT; for Bethlehem Steel, for a radio station in Havre de Grace, and since September 5, 1988, he has led the charge of the MSBA’s Information Technology revolution.
Speaking with Hicks about his two-and-a-half decades with MSBA is much like a history lesson in the evolution of business IT. Hicks joined the MSBA as EDP (Electronic Data Processing) Operations Manager, and as such was in charge of computer systems and the Member Database. He reminisces that the MSBA had recently acquired a “mini computer.” Hicks was responsible for getting the membership database up and running. From there, he implemented word processing, spreadsheet, and accounting functionality all on that one computer. The Association continued to use that database system until 1993, when MSBA built a custom database, and installed Windows servers and workstations.
In November 2000, Hicks switched positions from EDP Operations Manager to become MSBA’s Director of Information Technology. He helped develop the MSBA website, created the online membership directory, and developed MSBA’s email discussion lists. He proudly announces that over the years, “We’ve added a lot of services for members.”
Hicks compares his responsibilities now to those when he started as much the same, “except the world has changed drastically.” He notes that in the past several years, cyber security has become a major component of his job. In addition to MSBA’s computer technology, Hicks is responsible for all things mechanical: faxes, printers, copiers, and postage. He also maintains MSBA’s website infrastructure – the server and drives.
Paul Carlin explains, “Lawrence expertly mans the controls of all our technology endeavors, not only on a daily basis, but for all our needs which include our database, our servers, our desk units, our telephone system, faxes and videoconferencing and their replacements which regularly occur. Every day he uses his good technological detective skills to keep all this electronic equipment up and running. His conscientiousness is so valuable to our operation.”
Additionally, Hicks manages MSBA’s Membership Department, which he has seen nearly double in size during his time here. “When I started, we had 13,000 members; we now have 24,000.”
When asked what he likes most about his job, Hicks explains, “I like the challenges. I like problem solving; I like figuring out how to make it work.” And, to explain what has kept him here beyond that average 4.6 years, without hesitation, Hicks explains “I like my boss [Paul V. Carlin]. I like who I work with. I’ve been able to grow in this position…The Bar has taken care of me over the years, and I take care of the Bar.”
“What a pleasure it is to congratulate and compliment Lawrence and Theresa for their 25 years of exemplary work with the MSBA,” states Carlin. “Their long tenure has provided consistency and stability to our operations, which strengthens the MSBA brand.”