Roughly 97 percent of MSBA’s more than 24,000 members belong to at least one of the Association’s 28 practice Sections, rendering the semi-autonomous bodies one of the most valuable benefits of MSBA membership.
MSBA’s practice Sections offer the Association’s members multitudinous professional opportunities, from networking with colleagues to news of the latest developments within their substantive fields. They also provide members with a platform from which they may closely follow, and in some cases help influence, relevant legislation.
“Section membership seems to be one of, if not the most-often cited reason for joining the MSBA,” says MSBA President Michael J. Baxter. Moreover, with dues ranging from free to $25 per year, the news and networking opportunities afforded Section members alone provide “real economic value.”
This year, Baxter adds, “MSBA officers will continue the tradition of hosting several breakfast meetings with all Section Chairs throughout the year to improve communications with and support of the Sections.” What’s more, he adds, with the addition of three Section-represented seats on the Board of Governors this year, “Sections are now also more involved in running the MSBA than ever.”
A handful of Sections, including Business Law, Criminal Law & Practice, Family & Juvenile Law, and Young Lawyers, date to the late 1960s, while the youngest of MSBA’s Sections, Construction Law and Intellectual Property, were established in 2011 and 2007, respectively.
Gregory K. Kirby, Chair of the MSBA Young Lawyers Section (YLS), says the best reason to join the YLS is the ability to “connect with a group of similarly situated attorneys, who are generally at the same points in the development of their careers.”
He continues: “The YLS offers numerous professional networking opportunities, CLEs, and mentorship opportunities that allow us to further develop ourselves professionally, while enjoying the social aspect and public service initiatives that strengthen our reputations and make practicing law more enjoyable.”
Numerous Sections publish newsletters (printed and/or electronic, generally two to four times a year) as a tangible benefit for their members, offering such content as analysis of recent court rulings germane to their practice areas. Many also enjoy active email discussion lists, providing a virtual platform through which members may interact with near-immediacy.
Sari Karson Kurland, Chair of the MSBA Consumer Bankruptcy Section, calls her Section’s email discussion list “your lifeline to Bankruptcy practice in Maryland,” providing members with “all of the critical developments and updates in the law and to your bankruptcy practice.”
“It serves as the best place to ask questions, day or night, and get answers,” Kurland notes, adding that “judges have even cited discussions on our email discussion list in their opinions.”
Many Sections also work closely with the MSBA CLE Department in developing timely and relevant programs and publications to keep Maryland legal practitioners apprised of the latest developments in their respective fields. CLE Director Andrea C. Terry says her department “relies on the Sections to keep it apprised of what educational programming is needed for practitioners in their areas of law as new legislation or case law impacts their practices.”
“Almost all of our fine volunteer faculty and authors are Section leaders and members,” continues Terry. “The CLE Department couldn’t provide Maryland lawyers with the high-quality programming and publications it’s known for without the generous contribution of time and expertise by some of the top practitioners in each field.”
“The Sections provide the highest-quality CLE of any organization presenting in the state,” says Baxter. All told, he maintains, “[Sections] really can help a lawyer build a practice, or change his or her practice mix.”
MSBA Members may join Sections online by visiting www.msba.org, or either upon first joining the Association or renewing their membership. Dues vary by Section, ranging from free to $25 per year.