The Bar Association of Frederick County (“BAFC”) is home to 350 Maryland attorneys, and has a rich history. Notably, it is also the home of the first MSBA President, Judge James McSherry the MSBA President-Elect, M. Natalie McSherry’s great-grandfather.
Since 2004, the BAFC presents the annual James McSherry Memorial Award, recognizing one member who has demonstrated outstanding service to the bar. Prior recipients include: Detric L. Kemp (2020), John H. Tisdale (2019), Paul Flynn (2018), Joanie Raymond (2017), Cleopatra Campbell (2016), Charlie Frey (2015), Tom Slater (2014), Paul D. Rose, Jr. (2013), Peter D. Fitzpatrick (2012), Jack Quinn (2011), Scott Hartinger (2010), G. Edward Dwyer, Jr. (2009), Anne Rollins (2008), Beth Beam (2007), Ricky Sandy (2006), Dave Weaver (2005), and Kathleen Chapman (2004).
Pivoting to Virtual
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BAFC Executive Committee recognized that transitioning to virtual events, rather than cancelling in-person events, was going to be beneficial for the mental health of its members. The stars seemed to have aligned perfectly to allow this to happen since the April 7th luncheon speaker was scheduled to be MSBA President, Dana Williams. BAFC President, Janice Rockwell reached out to Dana about holding a virtual luncheon meeting and he was not only comfortable with the idea but was able to lend technical support from the MSBA to accomplish this task. This relationship with the MSBA continued monthly throughout 2020 and into 2021 with technical support provided for our monthly meetings and even our virtual holiday party.
Leaders outside of the BAFC Executive Committee also realized the need to change how to hold events during the pandemic. For instance:
- The Young Lawyers Section of BAFC quickly pivoted from serving/cooking for The Frederick Soup Kitchen to providing them with 100 boxed lunches, ensuring community members had meals just as the pandemic was setting in.
- Committee members of the BAFC Mediation Refresher Seminar realized the late April training was still needed and quickly transitioned to using ZOOM to provide a four-hour required training to an audience of 100, almost double the audience from a “normal” year.
With the foresight of the Executive Committee, the assistance of the MSBA, and the resilience of its members, the BAFC was able to hold most of its typical annual events without sacrificing the health and safety of its attendees. Below is a sample of the events held throughout the pandemic.
- Several BAFC sections started offering virtual meetings.
- BAFC’s annual school supply drive still happened, but without a live auction at a local venue. Instead, it opted for cash donations and also worked with The Religious Coalition to come up with a supply “wish list” that could be purchased at local stores or delivered directly by Amazon. Over 2,100 students received pre-packed backpacks and schools received extra supplies as a result of these efforts.
- BAFC’s YLS-sponsored New Attorney/Law Clerk Happy Hour happened a little later in the year than normal (early November instead of September) and was moved to outside space at a local brewery with boxed sandwiches instead of a buffet.
- BAFC’s annual awards were also handled a little differently. Each award recipient was recognized through a video tribute at a monthly luncheon. The recipients were also surprised “on air” during the meeting with a plaque and other gifts delivered right to their door as they were watching the meeting!
- Food for the annual Thanksgiving Dinner with the Salvation Army was still served, with over 550 meals packed and served in “to go” containers.
Like many Bars, BAFC prioritized keeping members updated on the most recent orders from the Court of Appeals and court reopenings. They sent numerous emails with orders as they came out, as well as reopening procedures from both our Circuit and District courts. In addition, they offered technological help for Zoom conferencing to their members via the District Court and held a Town Hall in June with the Administrative Judges and over 100 attendees.
Helping the Community
As the COVID-19 pandemic lingered, BAFC focused on the community at large.
- From May through December 2020 the BAFC Young Lawyers Section coordinated five collections of artwork and inspirational messages to be sent electronically to five area senior living facilities to bring joy during a time when many could not have visitors. Upwards of 120 pages were sent during separate collections.
- A member of the BAFC Executive Committee wanted to show unity during this difficult time, and her nephew updated the BAFC logo but using all the names of their members. BAFC sold the shirts and distributed the over $1,000 in proceeds to three local food banks.
- In September, about 30 members of the BAFC and their family and friends gathered at First Fruits Farm in Freeland, Maryland. First Fruits Farm provides fresh produce to those experiencing hunger in the MidAtlantic region through channels like local food banks, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens. In a few short hours, the job was done: approximately 250 volunteers harvested 54,000 pounds of potatoes, 2,790 pounds of tomatoes and 3,600 pounds of corn!
- Knowing that solo practitioners and certain areas of law being impacted harder than others during the pandemic, the BAFC Executive Committee voted to offer up to ten (10) $100 scholarships for any BAFC member interested in attending the MSBA Virtual Legal Excellence Week in November 2020.
A 2020 Send Off…
No year deserved more of a send-off that 2020, and BAFC looked to host a successful virtual holiday party, with some tangible elements. The planned a “Holiday in Vegas” theme since “real” travel wasn’t attainable. Each registered attendee of the “Holiday in Vegas” party received a box with drink ingredients (spirit or spirit free), martini glass, mini shaker, poker chip sugar cookies, a deck of cards, a spool of battery operated twinkle lights, a plush sleep mask and a travel pack of hand sanitizer, bug spray, and stain remover (the last two provided by our sponsor Minnesota Lawyers Mutual, along with a monetary sponsorship that allowed us to offset the cost of the boxes). Each box was gift wrapped and delivered and opened together on the virtual event. The virtual event started with a mixology lesson from a local “famous” bartender who has served our community for 20 years. It then moved into awards from the BAFC’s Young Lawyers Section which included surprise on-air presentations to the winners, some of whom were at their private residence in their sweatpants! We also played a tribute to the late Alex Trebek with a JEOPARDY! challenge among our members tailored specifically to BAFC.
BAFC’s holiday event traditionally raised money for Children In Need of Assistance (CINA), and it wanted to continue this tradition in 2020. Historically, funds were raised through tips at the bar and People’s Choice votes (with dollars) for karaoke singing amongst local solo practitioners and law firms. In 2020, BAFC turned to gingerbread houses to raise “dough” for CINA. Awards were presented to the gingerbread houses representing the “Best Holiday” theme, “Best Vegas” theme, and a People’s Choice winner. House submissions were uploaded to the BAFC website the day before the virtual party and online voting began. Voting continued during the party as well. Ultimately, the gingerbread house votes and other contributions from BAFC members amounted to the largest donation BAFC has ever given CINA….$6,300. Not too bad for a voluntary small bar of around 350 members and a virtual event of around 50.
The Bar Association of Frederick County’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic is just one example of how Bar associations rose to face the challenge. With foresight from its Executive Committee, key partnerships with MSBA and others, and creative thinking, the BAFC was able to continue to service its members, legal profession, and its community.