Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : May 2005

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MSBA Ranked High in Service to Members
~Members hold MSBA in high esteem~
By Janet Stidman Eveleth

A recent MSBA member survey shows members hold their Association in high esteem and believe MSBA effectively represents lawyers’ professional interests across the state. A large majority – 73 percent – believe MSBA effectively promotes member services, while an overwhelming 86 percent rank “MSBA’s quality publications” as the Association’s top member benefit. In addition, a solid majority, roughly 70 percent, feel the Association promotes a positive image of lawyers and considers it a respected authority on questions of ethics and standards of practice.

Overall, MSBA’s first online member survey, conducted last October and November, reflects a high level of satisfaction for membership in MSBA and for the practice of law in general. “Surveying our members’ needs and assessing their opinions is the traditional starting point of MSBA’s planning process,” explains Paul V. Carlin, MSBA Executive Director.

In general, 72 percent of the respondents consider membership in the Association to be valuable. It is heartening to discover that 96 percent of the respondents feel they have a good professional relationship with their colleagues, 92 percent are “proud to be a lawyer” and 85 percent find their work environment satisfactory.

MSBA’s 2005 member survey results point to some interesting trends. MSBA’s rating as an effective and respected leader in the legal community and as an effective and valuable attorney resource continues to be very strong. The survey results indicate that MSBA is serving the needs of its members very well and they are generally happy with the Association’s array of member benefits. Publications continue to be the most popular membership benefit, as they were in the 1998 MSBA member survey, underscoring the need for communication.

MSBA’s last member survey was conducted in 1998 via direct mail. “The 1998 survey was key because it served as a baseline to compare and identify any changes in our members’ opinions,” Carlin reports. “It is interesting to note that the response to our 1998 six-page paper survey was actually higher than our first electronic survey. However, without the printing and postage costs, the 2005 survey entailed considerably less expense.”

Generally, Maryland lawyers appear to be far more satisfied today than they were even 10 years ago and find greater collegiality and professionalism amongst their colleagues. Members are actively involved in CLE to enhance their legal skills and knowledge and still prefer live seminars as their means of CLE. Members are also pleased with MSBA’s pro bono efforts and Bar/Bench relationship.

Survey Results
According to the survey, the Maryland Lawyers’ Manual once again captured the lead as MSBA’s number one member benefit, with an 85.1 percent rating; the Manual was rated the top member benefit in MSBA’s 1998 member survey, too. The other two 2005 top benefits are MSBA’s Ethics Opinions, with 84.7 percent, followed by the Maryland Bar Journal, with 80.9 percent.

Actually, the Association’s publications comprise the top six member benefits, with MSBA’s Bar Brief e-newsletter, the Bar Bulletin and Section newsletters following the Maryland Bar Journal. This parallels the findings of MSBA’s 1998 member survey, in which the Ethics Opinions, the Maryland Bar Journal, the Bar Bulletin and Section newsletters followed the Maryland Lawyers’ Manual in capturing the lead. In the 2005 survey, MICPEL discounts, MSBA’s Lawyer Assistance Program and the Resolution of Fee Disputes program were also considered important.

In terms of professionalism, over 70 percent rated their quality of professional life as very good or good and, given the choice, 61 percent would continue to practice law today. Sixty-five percent have achieved a balance between their work and family time, 63 percent felt they had adequate time for friends and family, and 64 percent considered their law practice time requirements to be reasonable.

This certainly beats MSBA’s 1988 Lawyer Satisfaction survey that uncovered widespread dissatisfaction among lawyers. Sixteen years ago, many Maryland lawyers complained about high levels of stress and the lack of time for a family or personal life in the daily practice of law. At that time, only one-third were “somewhat satisfied”, and an alarming one-third were so disillusioned with law practice that they were considering leaving it.

The 2005 survey findings disclose 88 percent of those polled feel they are serving and helping people in their legal work, 84 percent plan to remain in the practice of law for the foreseeable future and 80 percent enjoy their work as attorneys. Sixty-five percent were pleased with their balance of time between work and family, 64 percent felt their practice time requirements were reasonable, and 62 percent believed they are fairly compensated. A majority of members – 67 percent – feel MSBA enjoys a good relationship with Maryland’s Judiciary, and 61 percent believe the overall image of lawyers continues to decline.

In addition, over half of the respondents indicate that MSBA effectively promotes pro bono activities, represents legislative interests and provides technology assistance to members. According to the survey, 57 percent of the respondents have their own Web domain or business website, and 44 percent visit MSBA’s website less than once a month, while 17 percent visit it weekly, mostly for news about MSBA meetings.

Turning to CLE, 92 percent are supportive of CLE and participate in it to get up-to-date on the law. Eighty-five percent prefer in-person CLE seminars, and most often they are sponsored by MICPEL. Forty-three percent agree that MSBA provides quality CLE programs at its Annual Meeting. Some of MSBA’s member vendor services attracted lower ratings and these will be scrutinized. Carlin attributes this to “members lacking an awareness of the advantages of these member benefits.”

All of MSBA’s plethora of member services and benefits were examined last month, when MSBA President Neil Helfrich convened a special Planning Conference in Columbia. On April 7-8, 70 lawyers and judges delved into the survey results (see story Page 5) and analyzed them to help determine MSBA’s future direction. A full Committee report will be presented to the MSBA Board of Governors at its May Meeting.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: May, 2005

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