The Baltimore Sun | Staff Commentary Response
By: Jason A. DeLoach, Esq., President, Maryland State Bar Association
The commentary posted by the Baltimore Sun Editorial Board on October 2, 2023, with its wholesale vilifying of attorneys is reckless and irresponsible. At a time when the Maryland State Bar Association, the Maryland Access to Justice Commission, and other entities are striving to build programs that make attorneys more accessible to those in need, this editorial suggests that justice would be better served if attorneys as a group faced an untimely demise. The Maryland State Bar Association, which has been advocating for and supporting the legal profession and those it serves for over 125 years, is compelled to respond.
Attorneys are bound by the rules of professional conduct that require them to be zealous advocates for their clients. Without comment on the difficult circumstances under which these decisions are made, the Baltimore Sun’s commentary attacks attorneys for serving their clients and recommending options that are available under the law. The expanse of the attack suggests that villainy is the rule, not the exception. A broad overstep based on a few examples in recent headlines.
The legal profession is an extraordinary profession. Those who follow its calling are faced with student loan debt, long work hours, and are constantly entrenched in high stakes, adversarial proceedings. Indeed, the penalty for “losing” is often steep and can have significant implications on clients. These high stakes are not just financial, but often include serious family and human concerns, such as housing, custody, employment, etc. On top of these demands, the legal profession is one of the only professions that expects its members to provide pro bono (free) services to clients of limited means. The call for pro bono is constant and overwhelming, as attorneys struggle to serve those who need it most. In 2021, Maryland attorneys provided over 1.3 million hours of pro bono services to the citizens of Maryland.
During its 125 year anniversary, the MSBA took the lead on many of the issues identified in the commentary. The goal was to not only to spark conversation around these issues, but to ensure the legal profession was upholding the pillars of the judicial system and seeking solutions forssues of access and equity. One result of that effort is the Affordable Law Task Force Recommendation report that includes several creative solutions that the legal profession is seeking to put into action.
Like any profession (maybe even journalism?), the legal profession is not free from blame for society’s inequities. But, as a profession, we are examining our shortcomings and trying to address them. Attorneys who step up to the plate and serve their clients as zealous advocates do not deserve ridicule and blame. Rather, attorneys as a profession should be celebrated for their devotion to justice and the judicial process. The MSBA, the voice of the legal profession in Maryland, will continue to celebrate and support attorneys, while constantly seeking to address inequities and improve the profession and the legal system. In that vein, the MSBA urges readers to learn more about the work attorneys do to benefit their clients and their communities. This can easily be accomplished by visiting any of Maryland’s courthouses, where a segment of the legal profession is hard at work.