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By Michelle N. Lipkowitz, Esq.

As I close in on the 20th anniversary of my participation in the MSBA Leadership Academy, I more fully recognize and appreciate all that I gained from being a Fellow, all of those years ago. That said, my experience with the Leadership Academy did not end there—for the better part of the past 19 years since graduating in 2004, I have served on the Leadership Academy Committee, and have been engaged as an alum. I have remained engaged because I remain committed to providing for others the same impactful experiences and substantial benefits of being a MSBA Leadership Academy Fellow as I have received. Once a Fellow, always a Fellow!

Participating as a MSBA Leadership Academy Fellow provided me an environment in which I could focus on honing my leadership skills surrounded by like-minded, passionate, dedicated lawyers committed to serving the Maryland Bar, and beyond. Our programming provided me the opportunity to absorb a wide range of leadership advice from leading experts in the field in a collegial and close-knit setting. It helped me identify strengths and weaknesses, and to develop skills to counter blind spots. The programming helped me learn more about the power of influence, the elements of motivation, and driving collaboration. I learned how to build a vision-focused, strong, productive team.

Our programming helped me learn more about various communication styles, and maximizing interactions with various personality types. I engaged in more introspection. I was challenged to clarify my vision as a leader—and thus what I needed to do to get there, allowing me to refine my authentic leadership style. Being a Fellow helped me exercise muscles I did not often have the opportunity to exercise as a young lawyer at a large law firm. The programming helped me to enhance my emotional intelligence, and to more fully appreciate and embrace the benefits of empathy in the workplace. It helped me get comfortable employing new, innovative ways of developing and managing people.

I learned how to navigate through mistakes. I became more even-keeled, and less flappable. As a result, I became more comfortable delegating and assessing the needs of others. As our fellowship year progressed, I became more and more comfortable managing others, trusting my instincts, and executing with confidence. Little did I know that my time as a Fellow would help me lead in such dynamic, challenging times, including during crises—which proved immensely valuable throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the ways being a Fellow has helped me lead during challenging times is by helping me build a strong, extensive network of leaders on whom I can rely for advice, ideas and support. More specifically, my time as a Fellow provided me the opportunity to learn from and develop relationships with a diverse cross section of my peers—drawn from throughout the State of Maryland, and from various sized firms, companies, and governmental entities. Thanks to the Leadership Academy, I now have an invaluable, extensive network of friends on which I rely, both personally and professionally.

Similarly, the immediate and intimate access to bar leaders throughout the State provided by the Leadership Academy has provided me many opportunities. From being appointed by then-Mayor Martin O’Malley to serve on the Baltimore City Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals, to serving as the then-Governor Hogan appointed Chair of the Maryland Transportation Professional Services Selection Board, I am confident that I would not have been on the radar for consideration for a number of leadership opportunities over the years, had I not gone through the MSBA Leadership Academy.

Finally, as lawyers, I feel that we have a shared responsibility— based on training, education, and access to resources that come with our careers—to look out for others, particularly for those whose voices aren’t always heard. In turn, the MSBA Leadership Academy Fellows’ annual public service project is an experience and benefit which resonates with me. I see the public service project as an affirmation of the positive role lawyers have a responsibility to play in our community.

If I had to pick my favorite part of participating in the MSBA Leadership Academy over the years, it would be how personally fulfilling it has been to watch and support my Leadership Academy friends grow and thrive over the years. Not only has being a MSBA Fellow made me a better leader and lawyer, having so many strong relationships within the Bar and throughout the State has made practicing law more fun and rewarding.


Michelle Lipkowitz is Managing Member at the Washington D.C. office of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. She was a Leadership Academy Fellow in 2003-2004.