Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin

June, 2004

Helfrich Installed as MSBA President
By Janet Stidman Eveleth

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

Cornelius D. Helfrich will be installed as President of the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) on June 19, 2004, during the Association’s Annual Meeting in Ocean City, Maryland. A solo practitioner from Harford County, Helfrich is an outstanding leader in Maryland’s legal community widely recognized for his commitment to professionalism, dedication to public service and devotion to the practice of law. He is the first President from Harford County since 1900.

As MSBA’s top leader, Helfrich will serve a 12-month term and will be joined by newly-elected officers: President-Elect J. Michael Conroy, Jr., President of the Montgomery County law firm of Conroy, Ballman & Dameron, Chtd., Treasurer Edward J. Gilliss, County Attorney for Baltimore County, and Secretary Alison L. Asti, Interim Executive Director of the Maryland Stadium Authority. Working with this leadership team, Helfrich will lead this “vibrant and thriving association” and its 20,500 members for the next year.

As President, one of Helfrich’s primary goals is to promote MSBA’s true mission. He is concerned that “we sometimes lose sight of our real goal.” While he emphasizes that one of MSBA’s main thrusts is “helping lawyers,” he sees our underlying mission as “helping our lawyer members with the public – their clients. One of our primary purposes is to facilitate our attorney members’ ability to render quality services to clients at reasonable prices.” As President, Helfrich hopes to communicate our mission as “benefiting the public.”

He also hopes to focus on equal access to justice and the public’s confidence in the legal system. “If more people have access and can get into court, then they will feel they have received justice,” Helfrich says. “This will enhance the public’s confidence in our justice system as well as its perception of better access to the legal system.”

The new President wants to encourage all MSBA members to actively participate in their Association. “I would like to make everyone feel as though they are included in our thought process and, where possible, involve them in the formulation of these processes,” Helfrich explains. “For years, we have tried to broaden our power base and in terms of gender we have been successful. While we have made strides in racial diversity and leadership, we have further to go.” To examine MSBA’s future direction, the new President will convene a long-range planning conference to begin plotting the Association’s course over the next decade.

Helfrich is honored to serve as President and believes it is very important for MSBA to have a true solo practitioner as its leader. “Almost two-thirds of our members are solo and small firm practitioners,” he emphasizes. He hopes his service as a solo state bar president will be an “inspiration” to solo members of MSBA.

“I want them to know that they can succeed as a solo and as an active member of MSBA and also be President,” Helfrich says. “I want to bring this to the forefront.” He is concerned that many solo and small firm MSBA members are under the “misperception that larger firms run much of the Association.” He hopes his leadership “will dispel this perceived image” harbored by too many.

“Today, it is especially tough for solo and small firm practitioners,” Helfrich notes. “They look at things differently and often lack the mentorship and camaraderie found in larger firms. They are out there on their own. So they look to MSBA for support. Solos in particular are a tight community, covering almost all areas of practice and most do not get much help unless they seek it out. This is why many solos turn to MSBA, for support.”

To this end, Helfrich will “champion the special interests of solo and small firm practitioners and encourage their active involvement in MSBA while continuing to promote and oversee the Association’s array of member services and benefits that cater to the needs of all MSBA members. In particular, he applauds the Association’s Lawyer Assistance Program and its Leadership Academy as “excellent” MSBA outreach efforts.

One of MSBA’s most important roles is its function as the voice of Maryland lawyers. The new President believes this is a “most difficult task and one that MSBA fulfills quite well. “Our attorney members have diverse interests, ideas and thoughts, yet we are able to develop a cohesive message that reflects our members’ views most of the time,” Helfrich says. Additionally, he believes MSBA’s greatest strength lies in its members and its staff. “The core competency found in MSBA’s staff is unparalleled in any state.”

A graduate of the Wharton School of Finance & Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland School of Law, Helfrich received an LLM from George Washington University’s National Law Center. He served as an instructor at the Harford Community College for 10 years, has completed MICPEL’s 80-Hour Mediation Course and continues to serve as a faculty member for MSBA’s Professionalism Course.

Helfrich has been a solo practitioner for over 30 years. He served as an Assistant State’s Attorney in Howard County and Baltimore City and was affiliated with the law firm of Byron, Moylan & Urner in Hagerstown. In 1991, Helfrich was appointed a Standing Equity Master for the Circuit Court for Harford County, and he currently balances this strenuous caseload with his busy solo practice. He is admitted to practice before the Court of Appeals of Maryland, the Federal District Court, Maryland, and the United States Supreme Court.

Helfrich served as MSBA’s Secretary and most recently as its President-Elect. In addition to serving on MSBA’s Board of Governors and its Executive Committee, he was very active in the Association’s General Practice and Law Practice Management Sections and is now quite involved in the Solo and Small Firm Practice Section. He is the recipient of the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service’s 1989 Pro Bono Award for Outstanding Service and the Solo and Small Firm Section’s esteemed David Hjortsberg Award recognizing outstanding civility and professionalism in a solo attorney.

In the greater legal community, Helfrich is quite active in the American Bar Association (ABA) and is involved with the ABA’s Economics and Law Practice and General Practice Sections. A past President of the Harford County Bar Association, he serves on MICPEL’s Board of Trustees and the Harford County Bar Foundation’s Board of Directors. He is involved in a long list of community organizations, too.

Helfrich is looking forward to the challenges that await him and will enjoy his time as MSBA President. He has always been happy as a solo practitioner, enjoying the balance that emanates from his life. “People can look at me and know that one can have a life outside of the law. I became a solo so I could spend time with my family, be involved in Bar and community activities and do it all,” he smiles. He hopes to be remembered as a President who “did a good job, gave 110 percent and tried to treat everyone fairly.”

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: June, 2004

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