A: The MSBA ‘soft launched’ a new mobile friendly website as part of our overall modernization efforts. The new website integrates into MSBA’s accounting and membership systems. Our previous website was not integrated, and required extensive behind the scenes manual effort. In addition, security vulnerabilities existed with the old site, and those have now been addressed.
The new site will have features and functionality added over the course of the next month, on a daily or weekly basis. In addition to many new features, a new portal for each Section will be launched in the coming weeks where comments, documents, and sharing can take place. Listserv capabilities will thus be enhanced. A communication was sent to Section and Committee Chairs about this rollout.
A: Yes you can locate the Email Discussion List Archive placed under the “For Members” tab of the MSBA.org homepage or by clicking here.
A: Each year the MSBA, like all other Bars, has some level of member attrition. Presently, 11% of the MSBA membership is 70 years old or older, and nearly one-third (⅓) are 60 and over. For the past 8 years, the MSBA has had net contraction when accounting for those who depart the association versus the new admittees to the association. In the current fiscal year, we have substantially reduced this trend, and are experiencing our smallest contraction in recent years.
Significant efforts have been underway during the past year to achieve that result, but much work needs to be done to continue adding value for members. As part of these efforts, MSBA rolled out a program offering a free online CLE (one free course valued up to $200) to those who renewed their membership online. Nearly eight thousand attorneys took advantage of this brand new online renewal option during the past dues cycle. This popular opportunity will be offered again for the upcoming fiscal year.
A: A copy of the current MSBA Bylaws, Rules & Procedures have always been, and still are, available on MSBA.org’s Leadership page, which is placed under the “About” tab on the homepage. You can also find the bylaws by clicking here.
A: Board of Governors’ meetings can be found in multiple places on the new MSBA.org. They are added to the MSBA events calendar, which you can link to from the header of every page of MSBA.org. In addition, Board of Governors’ meetings are listed on the Board of Governors’ page, which is located under the “About” tab on the homepage, under “Leadership”.
A: Minutes from Board of Governors’ meetings are posted as soon as possible on MSBA.org on the Board of Governors’ page, which is located under the “About” tab on the homepage, under “Leadership”.
A: The Board of Governors’ meetings, pursuant to existing MSBA bylaws and practice, are attended by the Board including its Executive Committee members, and invited guests. Such meetings are also open to MSBA members as observers without “vote” or “voice”, meaning members may not speak unless recognized by the chair to do so on a particular topic, and are not entitled to vote or introduce items of business or make motions. The Board may call an “executive session” during the meeting, requiring all non-board members to be excused from the meeting. Agendas and Minutes from the Board meetings are posted on MSBA.org.
A: It is a once a year meeting of the Board of Governors, typically in May, from Friday afternoon to Saturday morning, attended by both the current board members and incoming board members. At the Retreat, the Board considers and adopts the budget for the next fiscal year. The President Elect also presents their proposed goals for the coming year. The purpose of the ‘retreat’ is to allow for continuity of governance by hosting both outgoing and incoming board members, and to provide them with information related to the year that has transpired, and information on key issues anticipated in the year to come.
A: A primary consideration is limiting the cost associated with the overnight event. Although nearly every board meeting is held in the state of Maryland, either at HQ or throughout the state, to accommodate our geographically diverse board members, the extended nature of this meeting has at times resulted in venues in an adjacent state in order to save on costs. Each year the MSBA seeks options both inside and outside Maryland, and makes a final selection based on venue features and costs. For more information regarding how the MSBA selects meeting venues and locations, please see Question 13 below.
A: Yes. In the April, 2018 board meeting, a policy committee was proposed by President Elect, Hon. Keith Truffer. The new committee will examine this issue, as well as other governance issues, and provide recommendations to the Board. This new committee will launch at the beginning of MSBA’s fiscal year in July, 2018 and review this and other policy issues going forward.
A: The Board of Governors and the Executive Committee of the MSBA are unpaid, volunteer leaders. These volunteer leaders spend significant time on their contributions to the MSBA including committees, developing and supporting MSBA events, creating and executing strategic plans for the organization, and much more. Volunteer leaders make both personal and professional sacrifices during their service years. In consideration for the valuable time volunteer leaders provide the MSBA, the organization often provides meals at meetings, events, and other functions.
A: Spouses are now only invited to two events during the course of the year: the Annual Board Retreat and the Conference of Bar Presidents. There is little additional cost to the MSBA for spouse accommodations. Further, volunteer leaders donate hundreds of hours to the MSBA, all of which is time spent away from spouses, partners and family. As such, the MSBA believes it is important to welcome spouses or partners at these two events, to reduce the burden on volunteer leaders, and show appreciation to spouses and partners who have also made personal sacrifices to support our volunteer leaders throughout the year.
A: The MSBA selects venues for meetings and conferences based on several factors, including, but not limited to, location, access, size, and cost. Given that the MSBA represents all of Maryland, Board of Governors’ meetings generally rotate to different parts of the state.
For larger meetings and conferences, the primary considerations are finding venues that are large enough to host a significant number of attendees, while balancing this against the cost of such meetings. Like many bar associations across the country, larger meetings may be held out of state for a number of reasons. Although Maryland is always our primary choice and preference before looking beyond its borders into neighboring states, the leading factors for choose a venue for a large meeting or conference are cost and availability. Historically, this has led to MSBA holding one to two meetings outside of Maryland, and in neighboring states.
As noted, a Policy Committee will be established in July to review policies and procedures, including a review of the factors utilized for determining the location of meetings and conferences.
A: The annual MSBA Budget is initially developed by the Budget & Finance Committee in conjunction with the MSBA staff, with input from committee and section chairs, and the incoming President and Officers of the MSBA. Once through this committee, the Budget is submitted to the Board of Governors in May for review and approval prior to the start of the new fiscal year (July 1). Throughout the year, the Board of Governors receive monthly financial statements to review the organization’s spending, and ensure that the organization is operating in accordance with the approved budget. The most recent monthly financial statements can be found here.
A: The annual budget and monthly financial statements are available through your Board of Governors’ representative. A list of the Board of Governors, their contact information, and the districts/sections they represent can be found on the Board of Governors’ page, which is located under the “About” tab on the MSBA.org homepage under “Leadership”.
A: The MSBA relies upon compensation benchmarking of comparable sized Bar’s. It’s prior ED, who served for over 30 years and was in place in 2016, had compensation that reflected the market, his tenure, and accounted for merit increases which occurred over time.
The current ED, who began fully in January, 2017, was selected after an extensive nationwide search. Compensation for the current ED was based on a number of factors, including market rate for a comparable ED of similarly sized associations and reflects his twenty year experience at leadership levels within both national and state level associations, most recently serving as the Chief Operating Officer of the 100K+ member D.C. Bar where he achieved significant outcomes. ED compensation is reviewed annually in keeping with MSBA practices.
A: Members are always welcome to contact us in many ways to make their questions and concerns known, including contacting their Board of Governors’ representative, or the MSBA staff. A list of the Board of Governors, their contact information, and the districts/sections they represent can be found on the Board of Governors’ page, which is located under the “About” tab on the MSBA.org homepage under “Leadership”.
Members may also email their questions and concerns to any of the following:
Victor@msba.org, MSBA Executive Director
Kevin@msba.org, MSBA Director of Member Value
President@msba.org, MSBA President
A full staff listing is here.
A: The MSBA fielded a member survey approximately three years ago, and just recently held a series of focus groups (small gatherings of 10-20 attorneys) to share a perspective on the future of the profession, and to hear from members and non-members. In addition, a survey is currently underway which can be found here, offering an opportunity to provide feedback. Lastly, the President, Executive Director, and officers of the MSBA have participated in numerous local and specialty Bar events. The Executive Director has personally met with hundreds of members on a 1:1 basis, and welcomes the opportunity to continue to meet our members in order to make our association better.
A: Every member finds their own unique value in the MSBA. The following is a sampling of the values our members tell us they receive:
These are just some examples of the quality work MSBA performs, and does so while offering one of the country’s lowest state bar dues rates. We are always looking at ways to increase membership value and improve the MSBA.
A: The MSBA does all that it does (as referenced in response to Question 19 above) at one of the lowest dues rates in the US for a voluntary state Bar. It has built up cash reserves to allow it to operate at a planned deficit in a given time period and when strategic investments are needed. This allows the MSBA to keep the dues rate reasonable. Multiple committees and resources within the MSBA are focused on development of sound, strategic financial plans/budgets, as well as measuring the organization’s performance against those budgets. In addition to the MSBA’s internal checks and balances, an annual audit is conducted by our auditors, Ellin & Tucker. The MSBA has received a clean audit opinion every year.
A: No. The MSBA opposed a bill that required District courthouses to be open on Saturday to deal with offenses that would not carry jail time.
Further, as noted in response to Question 20, future updates on legislative program developments can be found on the “Advocacy” page of MSBA.org, which can be accessed by clicking here, and will be emailed as appropriate, in various MSBA communication vehicles.
A: In addition to participating in surveys, attending focus groups or contacting any of the individuals listed below, the MSBA will be hosting a member forum on May 15, 2018 at 6PM at MSBA Headquarters. This will serve as an opportunity to hear from leadership and ask questions related to any aspect of the MSBA’s ‘inner workings’.
If you’re interested in attending, please email Theresa Michael at Theresa@msba.org.
Here are some additional emails in the event you wish to contact the MSBA:
Membership@msba.org, for general membership inquiries
A: Links to various legal resources and entities relating to the legal profession, including, but not limited to, the Maryland Code, U.S. Code, Department of Assessments and Taxation can be found by clicking here.
A: As noted in Q20, an annual audit of MSBA financials is conducted by external auditors, Ellin & Tucker. The MSBA has received a clean audit opinion every year. A copy of our most recent audit report (Fiscal years ending in 2016 & 2017), which was included in our Inner Workings @ MSBA Email, can be found by clicking here.
In September, 2017, the MSBA made the decision to hire Tate and Tryon, the largest non-profit accounting firm in the country, to handle MSBA’s accounting, introduce new accounting principles and provide new accounting software. The software is in the final stages of implementation and will be fully deployed in the upcoming fiscal year. This software will produce more informative financial statements, starting with the July 2018 Financial Statement. These financial statements will provide new and improved metrics for the reader.
Notably, the MSBA’s accounting now has more oversight than it has had in any prior year. Oversight is provided by the MSBA’s staff CPA, Monica Henderson, an external accounting firm, Tate and Tryon, and Ellin & Tucker, the accounting firm that completes the MSBA’s annual financial audit.
A: The first thing to keep in mind when reviewing a monthly financial statement, is that it only represents a slice of time, and that income and expenses are fluid throughout the year.
As a general rule, the budget (income or expense) for any line item is spread evenly across the year (i.e. total budget/12). As such, a YTD line item for the February Financial Statement only represents eight months of the total budget. Conversely, actual expenses and revenues, are not generally spent evenly across the year. Therefore, on any given month, much of the variance between actual and budget is a function of timing.
In addition, as a general accounting principle, revenue cannot be recognized until the period in which it is earned. So, for example, the Publication Revenue budget (i.e the amount we expect to earn) is spread evenly all year. Although we sell advertising for the Lawyer Manual throughout the year, the income from these advertisements cannot be recognized until the Lawyer Manual is printed. This leads to variances in budget v. actual on a month to month basis.
As evidenced by years past, the MSBA’s biggest revenue generating activities occur in the final quarter of the fiscal year – April through June. This is the busiest quarter for revenue generating Section programs and events, and CLE programs and publications. In addition, the MSBA’s Legal Summit & Annual Meeting occurs during this quarter, and it accounts for significant revenue and expense in the MSBA annual budget. Therefore, when reviewing a monthly financial statement for any month prior to this quarter, it is important to remember that a good deal of activity and income has not yet occurred and/or been recognized.
A: Beginning with the current fiscal year (7/1/17), the MSBA changed the way it accounts for membership dues on the monthly financial statements to the preferred accounting method under generally accepted accounting principles. Previously, membership dues were recognized, in full, on July 1 of each fiscal year. Starting with this fiscal year, membership dues are collected, put into deferred revenue, and then recognized by distributing them evenly over the full 12 months of the fiscal year. Consequently, the financial statements from the current fiscal year suggest there is a significant “lag” in membership dues income this year over last year. However, given the accounting change, this is not an “apples to apples” comparison of membership income. Rather, as outlined in Question 3, the MSBA is on track to have its smallest contraction in membership dues income in recent history.
A: Unlike Membership Dues, Section dues are recognized on the financial statement in the month that they are received, and not spread evenly over the fiscal year, as Section Dues are not material enough to utilize the deferment method outlined in Question 27.
A: The Annual Section Budget for the upcoming fiscal year is based on dues collected by the Section from the prior fiscal year. Therefore, when Sections increase membership, they benefit in the future with bigger budgets. The MSBA Bylaws provide that a Section is allocated 85% of the total dues it collected in the prior fiscal year. A Section may also retain and spend any revenue it receives from programs and/or events during the fiscal year. The 15% that is not included in the Section Budget is used to cover the administrative support the Sections receive from the MSBA staff team.
A: The MSBA is a service based organization. Similar to other service based organizations, like law firms for example, the MSBA’s largest expenses are tied to retaining and supporting the talent behind the services it offers. Administrative Expenses therefore include, among other things, the rent/building maintenance fees for Bar HQ, technology (equipment/maintenance), postage, supplies, and MSBA staff team salaries and benefits.
A: In prior years, “Administrative Expenses” including, rent, postage, supplies, etc., were allocated to various different departments at the MSBA (i.e. CLE, LOMA, LAP). The budget for the current fiscal year was drafted under this premise. However, among the recent accounting changes, expenses are now centrally captured under the “Administrative Expenses” line. Consequently, department level expenses appear under budget while the central “Administrative Expenses” line appears over budget.
A: As noted in the Inner Workings @ MSBA newsletter, in this past year, the MSBA has embarked on a modernization effort and earmarked a portion of its reserves in order to make needed investments in infrastructure, communications, publishing, CLE, and operations to enable delivery of greater value to members and the profession. This includes development of new online tools for Sections, greater content for members to access via mobile devices and much more. Many of the expenses related to these efforts have been categorized under the “Reengineering Expenses” line on the financial statements. Although approved at the same May 2017 Board of Governor’s meeting as the “status quo” 2017-2018 budget, approval for these expenses required a separate vote, and thus not incorporated in the 2017-2018 budget. The upcoming budget for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2018 will be reflected in individual budget line items, with minimal expenses remaining as “reengineering”.
A: No. In September 2017, the MSBA outsourced some functions (see Question 36), including technology and marketing, to a firm experienced in managing these functions for associations like the MSBA. The team started by reviewing all of our identity and branding (including logos) and is systematically developing this brand for the future. The new logo design is just one of many marketing items we receive as a result of the MSBA’s contract with this firm, and the MSBA incurred no additional cost for the new logo outside of the fixed annual outsource fee, which is comparable to what was paid to previous internal staff responsible for these functions. In light of this, the “cost” for the logo cannot be parsed out to a specific dollar amount, as it is included and incorporated in the many functions provided by our outsource partner.
A: The MSBA, a 100+ year old institution, is evolving in many ways to remain the home of the legal profession in the future. Logos are a visual representation of an organization, and the importance of logos is evidenced by their placement in a variety of places, from the tops of buildings to the bottoms of shoes. The MSBA wanted to convey visually that is it modernizing and evolving, and thus took the opportunity to update the visual brand with a new logo.
After months of review by a committee of volunteer attorneys, two logos were selected as finalists and were presented to the Board of Governors at the October 2017 meeting. After extensive discussion, the Board of Governors approved the new logo design during the meeting.
A: As noted in the response to Question 13, the MSBA holds Board of Governors’ meetings at a variety of venues across the state to accommodate the geographical diversity of its members. The venues include restaurants, hotels, catering halls, member conference rooms and other locations types that are not all conducive to live streaming and/or recording. In fact, the conference room at Bar HQ is not adequately suited for live streaming and/or recording due to the size and age of the facilities.
Although Board of Governors’ meetings are not live streamed and/or recorded, the meetings are “open” to all membership, consistent with the bylaws as outlined in response to Question 7. Moreover, the agendas and the minutes for the Board of Governors’ meetings are posted on the website, and be found by clicking here.
A: During the May 2017 Board of Governors’ meeting, the Board approved a list of 25 Foundational Recommendations focused on positioning the MSBA for the future. One such recommendation was to make much needed updates to the MSBA’s technology and software including accounting software and membership. At that time, the systems used for Accounting and Membership dated to 1995 and 1988, respectively. These programs were at high risk for failure, difficult and inefficient to use (thus promoting errors) and no longer supported by their respective vendors.
As a result, the MSBA issued an RFP for new systems/softwares in both these areas. The result of that due diligence uncovered significant challenges. The average cost of a new membership system (based on the six (6) proposals received) was $650,000 and required 35 weeks to implement. A new accounting system presented similar challenges – a large outlay of cash, and significant skills and time to implement. Lastly, the cost for a website redesign was estimated as $200,000.00
Following a review of the above outlined proposals, in September of 2017, the decision was made, taking into account, among other things, financial considerations, and the skill set, experience and capabilities of the internal staff, to outsource all technology and accounting systems which resulted in the release of certain staff. In doing so, the accounting and the technology upgrades were accomplished without major capital expenditures and progress was made inside of eight (8) months instead of the better part of a year or more.
The MSBA has now achieved a significantly safer operating environment, deployed systems that are integrated for greater data integrity, and has provided the tools necessary for the MSBA staff to perform their job functions efficiently, and expand their roles in order to offer more member value.
The MSBA’s outsource partner specializes in delivering and supporting technology and marketing for associations like the MSBA. The partnership has allowed us to maximize our benefit from the firm and save more internal costs.
A: Prior to May 2017, the MSBA was attempting to keep up with ever changing technology without making critical investments in infrastructure and technology. It is no exaggeration to state that, at the time, the MSBA’s technology equipment was severely outdated (i.e. dot matrix printers, 10+ year old computers, email servers that were not operational after 6pm, etc.). The lack of advanced equipment was coupled with outdated software and website infrastructure as outlined in response to Question 34. In fact, in a survey conducted by the ABA, the MSBA’s website was previously listed as one of many state bars with severe security vulnerabilities. Further, the website did not integrate with other “behind the scenes” software for event registration, membership tracking etc., creating significant inefficiencies. Updates/changes to the content of the former website was difficult, and any changes to the content often took up to 24 hours to load. Lastly, the website was not compatible with mobile browsers.
As such, in order to secure member data and better serve its members, the MSBA has invested in new technology and equipment. The new MSBA.org is now more secure, allows for more seamless entry of events and registrations, and allows for immediate updates and changes. Integrated with the website is a membership database, and the ability to create, update, register, and accept payment for events and other products. Moreover, the new MSBA.org provides a platform on which new tools and capabilities can be built as the MSBA expands member services and creates Section portals.
A: In the past (prior to planning the budget for fiscal year 2018-2019), the MSBA’s Budget & Finance Committee (the “Committee”) created an annual budget for the forthcoming fiscal year for distribution prior to the May Board of Governors’ meeting. That budget was developed after numerous meetings and reviews of past levels of revenue, expense, membership levels, new/continuing/sunsetting initiatives and other relevant information.
For the upcoming fiscal year, the Committee began a new process, utilizing a five (5) year model that projected (based on certain assumptions) the impact of current year decisions on future year results. In addition, they reviewed the entirety of the budgeted expenses for the upcoming year, in light of the strategic direction of the MSBA and using history as a guide.
On April 24, 2018, the Committee approved a draft budget for the Board of Governors’ consideration for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2018. While the Board will have the five (5) year projection available, only the FY2019 budget will be considered for approval.
The overarching goal of the Committee is to formulate a path towards a balanced budget, and replenishment of the cash reserves. After extensive work on the budget, the Committee concluded that the process to balance the budget cannot be completed in one year without adversely affecting the MSBA’s efforts to increase membership (i.e. make certain investments necessary to maintain and improve the associations relevancy and value proposition for its members) and its customary investments in the tools and resources relied upon by the association. As such, the proposed FY2019 budget is an attempt to balance both goals.
A: The Board of Governors is comprised of the MSBA Officers, the MSBA Immediate Past President, the State Delegate to the House of Delegates of the ABA, the Chair of the Young Lawyers Section, thirty-two (32) attorneys representing twelve (12) distinct geographical districts, three (3) additional attorneys from the Young Lawyers Section , and three (3) attorneys representing three (3) rotating Substantive Law Sections. The representatives from the Substantive Law Sections serve one-year terms, and the Substantive Law Sections with representatives on the Board of Governors rotate alphabetically each year. The Board of Governors represent a diverse set of practice areas, industries, and demographics by virtue of the mix described above.
A: Pursuant to Article III, Section 8 of the MSBA Bylaws, members of the legal profession are represented by a maximum of thirty-two (32) Governors. Each year, the MSBA reviews the number of attorneys who are both residents of the State of Maryland and members of the MSBA. The MSBA then reviews in which District these attorneys reside, and apply a formula, as defined by Article III, Section 5, to determine the number of Governors for each District.
A: Pursuant to Mr. Carlin’s contract, he provided substantial notice to the MSBA prior to retiring. Mr. Carlin provided notice of his retirement in 2015, to become effective January 1, 2017. In the Spring of 2016, then President Debra Schubert appointed a search committee, comprised of MSBA officers, past presidents and other bar leaders (the “Search Committee”). It was co-chaired by two past presidents, James Nolan, Esq. and Harry Johnson, Esq., both of whom had considerable experience in executive level hiring. The Search Committee was tasked with finding and reviewing qualified candidates for the Executive Director position and providing a recommendation to the Board of Governors.
The Search Committee began its process by outlining the professional experience and qualifications of an ideal candidate. Based on a review of responsibilities and on feedback provided by Paul Carlin, it was agreed that the Executive Director need not be an attorney to be considered a successful, ideal candidate. Once the experience and qualifications were determined, the Search Committee decided to engage a national search firm to help identify qualified applicants. Approximately 50-60 candidates were identified.
The candidates were slowly narrowed by the Search Committee to 15 candidates, and then to eight (8). These eight (8) candidates were interviewed by the Search Committee and narrowed down to two final candidates, one of whom was Victor Velazquez. The final two candidates were interviewed multiple times.
Ultimately, Mr. Velazquez was recommended to the Board of Governors, and the recommendation was approved in October 2016.
Mr. Velazquez set himself apart from the remainder of the field for several reasons, including his work with the DC Bar where he served as its Chief Operating Officer responsible for full P&L responsibility for the $40 million in revenue, 100K+ member bar. He was responsible for membership, marketing, communications, strategy, finance, real estate and other key areas. He served as the staff liaison to numerous executive level committees including strategic planning, budget, finance, audit, marketing and led key efforts related to DC Bar Sections.
During his tenure at the DC Bar, Mr. Velazquez was instrumental in modernizing the Bar related to their technology, communications, membership service, work with Sections, and conceived and led the efforts on a state of the art $75 million Bar HQ.
As such, the Hiring Committee knew that Mr. Velazquez, who is a Certified Association Executive (CAE), could draw on significant experience and assist the MSBA in accomplishing similar goals, including modernizing the MSBA and positioning it for the future.
A: The MSBA is dedicated to keeping members informed about MSBA governance and financials. The primary vehicle for communicating information will be the MSBA website. Currently, we are working to transfer the information from the former website to the new MSBA.org. As that information is transferred, new tools and functions will be added and improved.
In addition and as noted in prior responses, the MSBA leadership will issue a quarterly Inner Workings @ MSBA newsletter, which will not only be emailed to all members, but can also be found on our website. The page can be found under the “For Members” tab of the homepage or by clicking here. The Inner Workings @ MSBA page contains important links to other sources of information, including the Board of Governors’ meeting scheduling, agendas, and minutes, the MSBA Bylaws, and this Frequently Asked Questions document that the MSBA will continue to update as it receives questions and comments.
In addition, the MSBA will begin dedicating a section of the monthly Bar Bulletin to provide updates on recent actions taken by the Board of Governors.
A: The MSBA is advised on all of its practices by both by its accounting firm, Tate & Tryon which is the largest non-profit association firm in the US, as well as by its auditor, Ellin & Tucker. None of the MSBAs historical or current practices would result in an adverse impact to its standing as a tax exempt organization.