Click a topic to view questions and answers organized by subject matter. MSBA staff will regularly update the information on this page.
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Q1: What does the MSBA offer me besides access to Fastcase and Listservs?
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.
Q2: How does the MSBA garner feedback from its members, given that there are thousands of them?
A: The MSBA fielded a member survey approximately three years ago. In Spring 2018, the MSBA 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 was circulated in Spring 2018 offering an opportunity for members to provide feedback. On May 15, 2018, the MSBA held a member forum inviting members to come to MSBA HQ in Baltimore, MD to ask questions and voice concerns with MSBA Leadership, including the Executive Director, Officers, and staff. A recording of the Member Forum is available on the Inner Workings page of MSBA.org or by clicking here.
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.
Q3: Who should I contact if I have a concern about any aspect of my membership or the MSBA?
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:
A full staff listing is here.
Q4: How does the MSBA provide information about the association to members?
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.
In addition, the MSBA leadership will, periodically, issue an Inner Workings @ MSBA newsletter, which will not only be emailed to all members, but can also be found on the Inner Workings page of 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 (Asked and Answered) 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, titled “From the Boardroom.”
Q5: Is it correct that the MSBA is losing members?
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 fiscal year 2017-18, we substantially reduced this trend, and experienced our smallest contraction in recent years.
In the current fiscal year, the MSBA is working hard to retain existing members and obtain new members. The renewal cycle is slightly off this year, given that renewal notices could not be mailed until after the dues increase was approved at the June 2018 Annual Meeting. As part of the continued effort to retain and grown membership, MSBA continued the program of providing a free online CLE (one free, on-demand course valued up to $225) to those who renewed their membership online.
Q6: Why did the MSBA change its logo and how was the new logo approved?
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.
Q7: Some individuals have suggested that the revised logo cost $300k, is that correct?
A: No. In September 2017, the MSBA outsourced some functions, 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.
Q8: Why did the MSBA begin investing in infrastructure and technology capabilities?
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.
Q9: Why did the MSBA outsource some functions?
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.
In addition to the traditional proposals, the MSBA also received a proposal from Blue Ocean Ideas (“BOI”) in response to its request. BOI specializes in delivering and supporting technology and marketing for associations like the MSBA. In its response, BOI offered the MSBA the ability to outsource certain technology and marketing functions to them. The cost for outsourcing these functions was comparable to the salaries of internal staff, and reduced the need for a significant capital investment in new systems.
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 certain functions. In doing so, the MSBA accepted BOI’s proposal and outsourced all technology and marketing functions to BOI. The MSBA also outsourced certain accounting functions to Tate & Tryon, one of the largest accounting firms supporting tax exempt organizations nationwide. This resulted in the release of certain internal staff previously responsible for those functions.
By outsourcing the functions, 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.
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Q1: What is happening with the website?
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.
Q2: How do I login to the MSBA website?
A: After clicking the login button in the upper right, an overlay screen will appear where you can enter the email address associated with your account. After entering your email address, do not close the overlay. Open you email and locate the email from email@example.com containing the one-time use, 6-digit code. Return to the MSBA website, enter the code, and the login process is complete.
You will remain logged into MSBA.org on that device/browser for up to 30 days, unless you log out or shut down the browser.
Q3: Why does the MSBA utilize this verification process?
A: The MSBA website was designed with a number of security features to protect member data, including the two-step verification process outlined in response to Q11, as personal data stored on the MSBA website could be utilized on other websites, such as financial institutions, associated with a member. Many non-financial websites (i.e. LinkedIn, Macy’s, MyFitnessPal) were recently mined for user data and passwords for use on other sites and as such a growing number of businesses and organizations are utilizing the two-step authentication process to protect user data.
Q4: Do I need to complete the verification process every time I visit the website?
A: The website is designed to recognize a member’s computer/browser for up to 30 days after they have completed the initial login process outlined in Q1. In order for this feature to work, please make sure that your browser is set to allow/enable cookies from MSBA.org. As is the case with all websites, if cookies are disabled, the website is unable to recognize the computer/browser and/or the user’s login history. If cookies are disabled, you will need to complete the verification process each time you visit the MSBA website.
If you login from a different computer and/or browser, you will need to complete the verification process outlined in Q11.
Q5: What if I do not receive the code or encountered an error when using the verification code?
A: First, check whether the email from firstname.lastname@example.org appears in your spam or junk mail folder. If so, you can take steps to mark the email address as safe, so it does not happen in the future. Second, check any folders that you have created that automatically filter MSBA emails into that folder. If the email is not in any of these folders and has not been received within 10 minutes, please contact us at email@example.com or via the chat button in the bottom right side of the MSBA website for further troubleshooting.
Q6: How do I renew online?
A: For existing members, once logged in, please click the RENEW button in the upper right corner of the website, which will take you directly to your dues renewal order. Once you have renewed, the RENEW button will be replaced with a banner stating that your membership is active through 6/30/19.
Q7: Where can I view my current membership status?
A: Once your renewal has been processed either online or by manual entry if you provided a check payment, your membership status will be displayed in the upper right hand corner of the website, and indicate that your membership is active through 6/30/19.
Q8: How can I update my member profile?
A: After logging in click your name in the upper right hand corner, and then the Account Settings link. This will take you to the sections that will all you to update your firm/organization name, address, telephone number, practice areas, etc. If you would like to update your primary email address (i.e. username) associated with the website please contact the MSBA membership team either through the chat functionality located in the bottom right corner of the website or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q9: How do I access Fastcase?
A: After logging in, you can access Fastcase through the link located within the top black bar of every MSBA page. Clicking the Fastcase link will open your fastcase profile in a new page/tab.
If you would like a direct link to Fastcase, which allows you to bypass logging into the MSBA website, please contact the MSBA membership team either through the chat functionality located in the bottom right corner of the website or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Q10: How do I sync my Fastcase profile with the new fastcase app?
A: This functionality is handled by Fastcase. Please visit the website located below for instructions on linking your desktop version with the app version. There is also contact information for Fastcase customer service if you experience any difficulties.
Q11: Can I search for archived messages on the new website?
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.
Q12: Where can I find links to other legal resources on the new MSBA.org?
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.
Governance/Board of Governors
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Q1: Where can I find a current copy of the MSBA Bylaws, Rules & Procedures on the new website?
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 access the page by clicking here.
Q2: Can I find information on Board of Governors’ meetings, including the date, time and location of the meetings on the new website?
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”.
Q3: Where can I find minutes from prior Board of Governors’ meetings on the new website?
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”.
Q4: Are Board of Governors’ meetings “open” to all members of the MSBA?
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.
Q5: Are Board of Governors’ meetings live streamed like much larger Bars and/or recorded for later viewing?
A: 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 23. Moreover, the agendas and the minutes for the Board of Governors’ meetings are posted on the website, and be found by clicking here.
Q6: What is the Board retreat?
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.
The Board retreat for the 2018-19 fiscal year, will be shortened to a one-day retreat, and will be held at the Columbia Sheraton. Details about the meeting are available on MSBA.org on the Board of Governors’ page, which is located under the “About” tab on the homepage, under “Leadership”.
Q7: Does the MSBA pay for spouses or partners of board members to attend BOG meetings and/or other MSBA Conferences?
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.
As noted in response to Q25, the Board retreat for fiscal year 2018-19 is a one-day event. As such, the MSBA will not incur accommodation expenses for BOG members and/or their spouses.
Q8: How does the MSBA select locations for meetings and/or conferences?
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 in choosing 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 in neighboring states.
At the beginning of the 2018-19 fiscal year, President, Hon. Keith Truffer, convened a Policy Review committee. This committee, chaired by past president, Hon. Harry Storm, is reviewing and revising the existing Policy & Procedures Manual, including policies and procedures for determining the venue for MSBA meetings and conferences.
Q9: How is the Board of Governors constituted?
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.
Q10: How does the MSBA determine the number of Governors for each District?
A: Pursuant to Article V, Section 4 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 V, Section 4(c), to determine the number of Governors for each District.
Q11: Where can I find a list of the current Board of Governors along with their contact information, and term?
A: The current list of the Board of Governors has always been available on the Leadership page of MSBA website, which can be found under the “About” tab or by clicking here.
Q12: What “perks” do Board of Governors’ receive?
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 sitting on various 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.
Q13: What are some of the responsibilities of the MSBA’s Executive Director?
A: The MSBA Executive Director leads a 24-person organization and manages outsource providers, and a nearly $6 Million Operating Budget. In that capacity, he manages the day to day operations of the MSBA, which includes, among other things, overseeing the MSBA staff and vendors responsible for Finance, Communications, CLE, Profession & Practice Advancement (formerly LOMA), Events & Meetings, and Membership. The Executive Director is also responsible for developing and negotiating relationships with external vendors, and the MSBA’s outsource partners.
In addition, the Executive Director spends considerable time representing the MSBA, attending events, meeting with members across the state and engaging in activities for the benefit of the association and its members. To date, he has met with hundred of attorneys and visited numerous firms.
Importantly, Mr. Velazquez is also responsible for overseeing the implementation and execution of the 25 Foundational Recommendations (see Question 33 below), which address decade long infrastructure and capability issues, working with the President, Executive Committee and Board of Governors to develop a long term strategic plan for the MSBA as it continues to modernize and increase value for MSBA members.
Q14: What are the Foundational Recommendations the Board of Governors adopted in May, 2017 that prompted investment in infrastructure and technology?
A: After being retained as the new Executive Director of the MSBA, at the request of the Executive Committee and the Board of Governors, Victor Velazquez spent six (6) months reviewing past member satisfaction research and speaking directly with hundreds of legal professionals, including members and non-members of the MSBA, to better understand the history of the organization, what members liked about the MSBA and how they thought the MSBA could improve. In addition, during this time he also observed the volunteer leadership functions and processes, as well as internal staff processes and procedures.
Following these discussions and observations, Mr. Velazquez developed twenty-five (25) foundational recommendations to help better position the MSBA for the future, attract new members, and retain existing members. At the May, 2017 Board of Governors’ meeting, he presented a comprehensive powerpoint outlining these foundational recommendations, which included, among other things, long overdue updates to the MSBA’s infrastructure and technology, rebranding, and changes to the way the MSBA communicates with its members.
Following the presentation, the Board of Governors’ unanimously approved the Foundational Recommendations, and authorized the MSBA to utilize a portion of its reserves to accomplish the recommendations outlined. For the past year, the MSBA has been working to implement those recommendations and continues that work today.
The recommendations are “foundational” as they are considered necessary to support any future strategic direction the MSBA elects to pursue. The ability to function like a modern association, with the capabilities expected of its members across all practice areas, industries, and segments of the legal profession was an important first step in the journey for the MSBA.
Budget & Finance
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Q1: How is the MSBA Budget developed and approved?
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.
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. In fiscal year 2017-18, 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.
Once through the Budget & Finance committee, the proposed Budget is submitted to the Board of Governors each 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.
Q2: Where can I find information about the MSBA’s current annual budget?
A: An overview of the MSBA annual budget is available at the bottom of the Inner Workings page of MSBA.org, under the Important Links section, or by clicking here.
Q3: How does the MSBA account for membership dues?
A: Beginning with fiscal year 2017-18, 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 fiscal year 2017-18, membership dues are collected, put into deferred revenue, and then recognized by distributing them evenly over the full 12 months of the fiscal year.
Q4: How does the MSBA account for section dues on the financial statements?
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 36.
Q5: How do Section Dues affect Section Budgets?
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.
Q6: What other changes have occurred in MSBA’s accounting?
A: In September, 2017, the MSBA made the decision to hire Tate & Tryon, the largest non-profit accounting firm in the country, to handle MSBA’s accounting, introduce new accounting principles and provide new accounting software.
Notably, the MSBA’s accounting now has more oversight than it has had in any prior year. Oversight is provided by MSBA Executive Director, Victor Velazquez, MSBA Director of Finance, Shawn O’Meara, an Audit Committee, the MSBA Treasurer, Tate & Tryon, an external accounting firm, and Ellin & Tucker, the accounting firm that completes the MSBA’s annual financial audit.
Q7: How can I be sure that the MSBA is doing a ‘good job’ managing its finances?
A: The MSBA does all that it does 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.
Q8: Where can I find a copy of MSBA’s audited financials?
A: As noted in Q40, 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 can be found in the “Important Links” section of the Inner Workings page under the “For Members” tab or by clicking here.
Q9: How does the MSBA determine the salary of its Executive Director (ED)?
A: The MSBA relies upon compensation benchmarking of comparable sized Bar’s. It’s prior ED, who served for over 30 years, 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.
Q10: Is the MSBA at risk for losing its tax exempt status due to any of its practices?
A: No. 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.
Q11: Did the MSBA obtain a line of credit to pay for technology changes?
A: No. In or around May 2017, the MSBA obtained a line of credit in the normal course of business in order to have ready access to liquid capital. It is standard practice amongst various organizations and businesses to establish such a line of credit, and this line of credit was not and is not utilized to fund any ongoing technology updates occurring at MSBA HQ.
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Q1: How does the MSBA decide on which bills to consider, and which advocacy positions to take?
The MSBA Legislative Director, Richard Montgomery, does an initial review of each bill introduced before the Maryland General Assembly during the legislative session, and refers the bills to the appropriate Sections and Committees of the MSBA. The Sections and Committees then review the bills, and provide guidance as to the MSBA’s position on the bill (i.e. support, oppose, monitor, etc.)
Bills that are of sufficient magnitude, which affect the administration of justice, and/or the practice of law are referred to the MSBA Committee on Laws (our legislative committee) for further review, and possible referral to the Board of Governors (“BOG”). If the bill is associated with a particular Section and/or Committee, the MSBA Committee on Laws and/or BOG will obtain guidance from that Section and/or Committee before choosing to take a position of support, support with amendments, oppose, or simply “monitor.”
Q2: Why does the MSBA only “monitor” certain pieces of proposed legislation?
Certain bills introduced before the General Assembly, which may affect the administration of justice, and/or the practice of law, are inherently divisive of the MSBA membership, such that a sizeable portion of the membership may wish to support the measure, while an equal proportion of the membership may believe that the bill should be opposed. (An example of such bill would be proposed legislation related to comparative negligence v. contributory negligence). In such instances, the MSBA will not take a position on such a bill, and will therefore only monitor the bill.
In other cases, a particular bill may have a fatal defect and/or is otherwise not likely to proceed through the legislative process. Given that the bill is destined to “die,” the MSBA does not take a position on the bill and does not expend resources on matters relating to the bill. As such, the MSBA “monitors” the bill as it proceeds through the legislative process. Occasionally, MSBA will monitor a bill because the bill could become a “vehicle” for potentially dangerous amendments, based on the Section(s) of the Annotated Code being amended.
Q3: How does the MSBA account for member views on proposed legislation?
Due to the size of the membership of the MSBA (approximately 24,000 members), it would be impossible to poll individual members for input on all the bills reviewed by the MSBA during the fast-paced 90-day session of the General Assembly. (On average, the Maryland General Assembly considers 2,800-3,000 bills a year). Accordingly, the MSBA legislative efforts are driven largely by the legislative expertise of the Section Councils, and Section Legislative Committees, in addition to the Committee on Laws.
The MSBA encourages active member participation in Section Councils, particularly on Section Legislative Committees. The MSBA’s position on most bills is determined by and/or guided by the various Section Councils. Even bills referred to the Laws Committee and the Board of Governors for a determination as to the MSBA’s position, is aided by the practical guidance supplied by the Sections of the MSBA.
Access to Justice
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Q1: What is the MSBA’s relationship with PBRC?
A: The Pro Bono Resource Center (“PBRC”) was established by the MSBA on January 16, 1990 as an independent non-profit to help address the severe gap in legal assistance for the poor by encouraging volunteer lawyers to offer free legal services involving basic human needs to disadvantaged individuals, families and communities. It was established as part of an agreement with the Court of Appeals of Maryland to launch and sustain a statewide volunteer lawyer recruitment campaign in lieu of mandating that attorneys complete a certain level of pro bono work annually. That mandate from the Court also included continuing to recruit and train volunteers, help create pro bono programs and projects across the state, monitor the pro bono activities and report back to the Court.
The MSBA delegated the responsibility of implementing its pro bono plan to PBRC as its “pro bono arm.” The campaign was very successful, and the PBRC has become the “go to” organization for pro bono legal services since it has been established. As the central coordinating agency for pro bono opportunities, PBRC works with dozens of legal services and pro bono entities statewide to ensure that volunteers are engaged and that they have support for the work they do. PBRC also provides technical assistance, best practices and strategies for the entities, building capacity within the bar and the legal services community.
Q2: What is the MSBA’s role in the pro bono reporting form?
A: In 2002, the Maryland Court of Appeals adopted new rules impacting pro bono service by the bar, including mandating that all attorneys report their pro bono hours on an annual basis. See Maryland Rule 19-503. This rule was implemented in lieu of mandating attorneys complete a certain level of pro bono work annually. The Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services utilizes the attorney reports to quantify the number and type of pro bono hours being donated each year, and evaluate how the system needs to be improved. PBRC educates the bar about the reporting forms and helps to ensure that lawyers report their hours in a timely manner so as not to run the risk of losing their law license.
Q3: Does the MSBA advocate for mandatory pro bono hours?
A: No. As noted in response to Q55, the MSBA created the PBRC as an alternative to mandatory pro bono hours. The MSBA continues to support PBRC in an effort to ensure that Maryland’s most disenfranchised individuals have access to legal services, and that as lawyers, we fulfill our professional responsibility for pro bono services in a voluntary manner.
Q4: What is the MSBA’s relationship with the Access to Justice Commission?
A: In June 2018, the MSBA Board of Governors approved a new partnership with the Access to Justice Commission. As part of that partnership, the Executive Director of Access to Justice Commission, Reena Shah, became a member of the MSBA team, and together the Commission and the MSBA are working together to break down barriers that prevent all Marylanders from equally accessing the civil justice system. For more information on the Access to Justice Commission please visit their website at www.mdaccesstojustice.org, or by clicking the link found at the top of any page of MSBA.org.