Speakers' Bureau Takes Law to the People
Too often people are
more familiar with lawyer jokes and one-liners than with the services that
lawyers provide for their communities. But the Maryland State Bar Association's
(MSBA) Speakers' Bureau is one such service that has left its mark on various
forums, from elementary schools to senior centers.
The Speakers' Bureau is
comprised of 250 willing and able attorneys who volunteer their time to address
a wide variety of community groups on more than 40 topics (see left),
including Wills and Estate Laws, Identity Theft, Women and the Law, Domestic
Relations, and Careers in the Legal Profession; most other topics can also be
accommodated. Moreover, as new, "hot" topics, such as environmental law and
animal law, find their way into the headlines, the Speakers' Bureau actively
works to connect groups with an interest in the subject with the appropriate
The Speakers' Bureau
strives to give community groups access to the information that they need, and
the volunteer speakers provide results. Just ask Claudia Barber of Saints
Caring for Saints; University of Baltimore School of Law Professor Byron Warnken
volunteered to address the faith-based group on the subjects of identity theft
and Internet law.
presentation was well-received," says Barber. "We appreciate his willingness to
participate in our community-service event."
"The Speakers' Bureau
serves a real need for communication within the community," notes Pat Clark of
the Fieldstone Community Group following an engagement in which Kathleen Wobber
spoke to the group about consumer-protection laws.
The process of finding a
guest speaker is simple. First, interested groups contact the MSBA, which in
turn contacts various attorneys who have expressed prior interest to the
Speakers' Bureau in speaking on the respective topics sought by each group. Once
an attorney is found to fill the appointment, the MSBA contacts the group to
inform them of the speaker. The group then contacts the attorney to finalize the
MSBA contacts attorneys
based on topics on which they have expressed an interest in speaking. The
speaker's area of practice frequently comes into account during the selection
process. In the case of Master Gregory Sampson, a speaker on juvenile law had
been requested. Sampson works at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center,
hence, the emphasis placed on juvenile law in his position and experience made
him a reasonable target speaker.
The typical speaking
engagement lasts one to two hours, consisting of an informative lecture that is
often followed by a question-and-answer session. The questions can be an
important, informative part of the experience, helping both the speaker and the
group get the most from the presentation. For example, Master Robert Bloom tried
to make the audience feel comfortable when he spoke to the Sandy Springs PTA on
divorce matters as they pertain to children, noting that he "enjoyed the
"The MSBA has always
provided excellent speakers that are well-attended," says Ben Hoffman of the
Liberty Senior Center, which has hosted presentations on elder law and women and
the legal system, by Michael Donnelly and Kathleen Masterton, respectively.
"[The speakers are] very accommodating to our population."
If you are interested in
either volunteering for the MSBA Speakers' Bureau or are in search of an
attorney to address your community group, contact Jason Zeisloft at (410)
685-7878, ext. 3028, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.