Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin

July, 2004

New MSBA President Continues MSBA'S
Role as Effective Resource
By Janet Stidman Eveleth

CORNELIUS D. HELFRICH
111th President of the
Maryland State Bar Association

“I am truly honored to stand before you as President,” proclaimed Cornelius D. Helfrich as he assumed the Maryland State Bar Association’s (MSBA) top leadership post on June 19, 2004, during the Association’s Annual Meeting in Ocean City, Maryland. Helfrich, a solo practitioner, is the first President from Harford County in 104 years and the first true “solo” to serve as MSBA’s leader in 12 years.

“I am conscious of how few solo and small firm attorneys have stood here as President in recent years,” MSBA’s new leader stated. “By choice, I have been a solo practitioner almost my entire career. I chose to work my practice around my family’s needs.”

“I ran for Secretary of the Association because I believed MSBA would be better served if someone who shared a similar background to 65 percent of our members was in a position to speak on their behalf,” Helfrich continued. “I ran for President-Elect because I believed I could serve as another example of our Association’s commitment to diversity. For those attorneys like myself who are solo practitioners or from a small county, my Presidency shows that similarly-situated attorneys can contribute to the Association and be recognized and rewarded for their efforts based on their merits.”

As he addressed the audience of judges, attorneys and colleagues during MSBA’s Business Meeting, Helfrich announced that “a President’s real role is to make sure the Association continues moving forward in the same general direction that it has been heading.” This is the President’s goal for the coming year as he promotes MSBA’s array of valuable membership resources and advances the Association’s role as an effective resource for the legal community, the legislature, government agencies and the public.

Helfrich will serve as MSBA’s President for the next 12 months and work with newly-elected MSBA officers: President-Elect J. Michael Conroy, Jr., a partner in the Montgomery County law firm of Pasternak & Fidis, PC; Treasurer Edward J. Gilliss, a partner in the Baltimore County law firm Royston, Mueller, McLean & Reid, LLP; and Secretary Alison L. Asti, Interim Executive Director of the Maryland Stadium Authority.
Working with this leadership team, the new bar leader will focus on technology, legislation, ADR, member services and greater diversity within MSBA. Tort reform, pro bono service, the special needs of solo and small firm practitioners and helping attorneys effectively serve their clients are all on Helfrich’s agenda this year. His plans include educating the public and enhancing its confidence in the legal system and initiating a concerted effort to increase MSBA’s membership.

Helfrich’s key focal points will include legislation and administrative rulemaking. In particular, the President wants the Association to be more involved in the administrative rulemaking process. “We have not been involved in this in the past, so we will need to develop a process to evaluate proposed regulations and make recommendations to the Board of Governors about positions MSBA should take as an Association with regard to proposed regulations,” he explained. “By the time I leave office, I expect to have in place a process so that everyone knows how the Association deals with the administrative rulemaking issues that fill up page after page of the Maryland Register.”

Another of Helfrich’s focuses will be pro bono service. “MSBA is solidly behind providing pro-bono assistance to less fortunate people,” he said. Citing a line from a high school poem (“how low or how high in the world he may be/we give something more than we take”), Helfrich noted “this is the essence of pro-bono work and, in turn, the whole concept of pro-bono work: helping those who are less fortunate feeds into the concept of ‘With liberty and justice for all.’”

“We will encourage the recruiting and training of pro-bono attorneys,” he continued. “I have always supported pro bono service. If poor persons do not have access to attorneys, there is going to be precious little justice for them when they get caught up in the legal system.” As Helfrich noted, however, “It is apparent that the effort to assist persons of low income with access to justice is a burden Maryland attorneys cannot carry alone. It is a societal problem, and I plan to point this out.

“We will also be making a real effort to increase the Bar’s awareness of the best practices in Alternative Dispute Resolution. ADR is very successfully practiced in the family law area in state district courts and a variety of other settings, including Probate Caveat proceedings. It is a trend that is gaining momentum with the potential to catch many of us unaware when it explodes onto the scene with all-encompassing pervasiveness.”

Helfrich then spoke of the Association’s future. “This year, I plan to assist MSBA in determining exactly where it will be in five and even 10 years,” he said. To this end, he will convene a long-range planning conference “where leading attorneys around the state delve into key areas that affect MSBA to project where we should be as an Association five to 10 years down the road.” He expects technology, bundled and unbundled legal services, the unauthorized practice of law, ADR and the future location of MSBA’s headquarters to be examined.

Finally, MSBA’s new President exclaimed, “With the help, insight and support of our members and staff, we can make marvelous things happen this year. I am looking forward to working with all of you this year. Thank you very much for electing me as your President. When it comes to the end of my year and I think about how I would like to be remembered, I would like you to remember me as someone who worked hard and played hard and gave 110 percent to a make the Maryland State Bar Association a better Association.”

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: July, 2004

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