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By Patrick Tandy

From mobile-first technology to expanded member-driven resources and content, the many changes taking place at the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) drove discussion at MSBA’s 2019 Mid-Year Meeting, held Tuesday, February 19, at the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel in Towson.

President Judge Keith R. Truffer delivers his State of the MSBA address.

“As it has for nearly 125 years, the MSBA has continued to serve its members, our profession, and the community,” said President Judge Keith R. Truffer during his welcoming remarks and state of the MSBA address, wherein he set the stage for a parade of new initiatives led by Executive Director Victor Velazquez and members of the MSBA’s executive team.

On his part, Velazquez explored national trends by pointing members to the Association’s brand-new State of the Legal Profession report, before bringing it home with the Maryland Lawyers Confidence Index survey, produced in conjunction with The Daily Record; such efforts, he contended, enable MSBA to keep its proverbial finger on “the pulse of the legal profession.” Other highlights included:

  • Maryland Bar Journal. MSBA has completely reimagined its flagship publication with an eye toward both the present and future of the legal profession. Debuting in early 2019, the all-new Maryland Bar Journal, via enhanced print and digital platforms, delivers substantive and member-focused articles, member profiles, and more in a visually engaging style, supplemented by value-added content including video features, extended interviews, and hyperlinks.
  • Practice Management Resource Portal. MSBA’s new Practice Management Resource Portal is the go-to resource for solo and small firm practitioners, providing an extensive library of videos, whitepapers, and other exclusive content designed to help members manage every aspect and stage of their practice.
  • MSBA Connect. Attendees received a sneak peek at this application, set to debut in spring 2019, that will enable members to connect digitally on any kind of smart device.
  • Advocacy. The MSBA Laws Committee coordinates the legislative advocacy activities of the Board of Governors as well as MSBA’s Sections, reviewing more than 3,000 bills that could potentially impact Maryland lawyers and the legal profession per 90-day session of the Maryland General Assembly. In advance of the current legislative session MSBA unveiled a new advocacy microsite that provides members ready access to the 2019 MSBA State Legislative Program, as well as new software in the site’s Legislative Action Center that enables up-to-the-minute bill tracking.
  • Continuing Legal Education. Each year, MSBA’s Continuing Legal Education Department produces more than 300 live and online programs. Over the last 12 months, its entire catalog of more than 200 publications ranging from practice manuals and handbooks to program materials has been made available online, with links to all source documents.
  • Lawyer Assistance Program. Over the past four decades, MSBA’s Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) has grown into a comprehensive counseling service for lawyers, judges, and law students struggling with complicated mental health issues. As part of President Truffer’s yearlong prioritization of lawyer assistance, LAP has partnered with a nationally recognized counseling services provider to effectively extend its footprint into every county across the state.
  • Maryland Access to Justice Commission. Eighty percent of Marylanders who need help with a civil legal problem do not receive it. This year, MSBA has formally partnered with the Maryland Access to Justice Commission to work toward the shared goal of ensuring that all Marylanders have access to justice and legal representation.
  • MSBA Legal Summit & Annual Meeting. Engaging, inspiring, essential… the MSBA Legal Summit & Annual Meeting is the biggest event of the year for Maryland’s legal profession. This year’s conference, set for June 12-15, 2019, in Ocean City, will speak to every segment of the profession through learning, camaraderie, and fun. CNN Chief Legal Analyst and best-selling author Jeffrey Toobin will lead an all-star slate of speakers beginning at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 12.

Three concurrent continuing legal education programs followed the plenary luncheon. Laura LaGrow Armstrong, Senior Consultant/VIP Client Account Manager with designDATA, tackled law practice modernization, including choosing the right cloud solutions, client-management technology, and more, with “Modernize Your Legal Practice with Technology”. In “Fairness and Bias in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Systems”, Dr. James Foulds, Assistant Professor in the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s Department of Information Systems, led an open discussion on the benefits and challenges that artificial intelligence and machine learning systems present to legal professionals. And Jennifer Dill, Esq., of the law firm of Ferrante, Dill & Hisle, LLC, explored “The Impact of Implicit Bias on the Legal Profession” and how practicing mindfulness can help address oft-overlooked bias tendencies.

Laura LaGrow Armstrong discusses the technological modernization of practicing law.

Attendees also enjoyed a networking reception at the close of the conference.

Member Ajay Bhatt listens to updates from MSBA staff leadership.

“At this midpoint in the bar year, I am confident that the MSBA is headed in a new and exciting direction,” said Truffer, “and with your continued support and contributions we are creating a stronger and more vibrant MSBA to better serve our members, our profession, and our community.”