Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : May 2008

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Long-range planning has always been a top priority of the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA), ensuring the Association remains relevant to Maryland lawyers and continues to meet member needs as technology advances and the legal world progresses. This tradition has served MSBA well over the years, enabling it to address emerging issues and trends impacting the legal profession and the rapidly advancing needs of its 23,000 members. By effective long-range planning and foresight, this vibrant Association has enjoyed steady growth in membership and continually enhanced its array of member services and benefits.

To continue this tradition, MSBA President Alison L. Asti appointed the Honorable Lynne A. Battaglia to head this year’s Planning Committee, and she will continue in this leadership role next year, during President-Elect Katherine Kelly Howard’s presidency. Asti asked Battaglia and her Committee to “work with MSBA to examine the future of our Bar.” “It is critical for MSBA to be attuned to the constant changes in the world and in our profession,” asserts Asti. “It is crucial for our Association to remain connected to our membership so we can respond to and remain relevant to our members’ needs.” MSBA Executive Director Paul V. Carlin concurs, stating “over the years, our Planning Committee has maintained a steady effort to grapple with the trends in the legal environment and to assess our greatest strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.”

“MSBA’s biggest strength is that it is really out there,” asserts Battaglia. “Lawyers in this state know about MSBA. I think the fact that the Association is everywhere and weighs in on every major issue is its greatest strength.” Battaglia continues, “I think MSBA represents the lawyers in the state very well; it is very well grounded in the here and now. However, MSBA needs to address its future as well as that of all lawyers in the state. I am hopeful that with this Committee, MSBA can move this forward.”

Under Battaglia’s leadership, the Planning Committee is seeking a “vision of what it would like to see MSBA not only represent, but contribute to our society of lawyers over the next decade,” she reports. “After a brainstorming session, we whittled the issues down to four areas that the Committee felt would be the greatest contributions.” The Committee is targeting four key areas of interest to MSBA members and the contemporary legal profession and has created Subcommittees to address each topic.

The Relevance of the MSBA

“We selected ‘Relevance of MSBA’ to examine how we can encourage lawyers to be interested in joining a voluntary bar,” Battaglia explains. “The specific issue is large law firms, because in the ’70s and ’80s they were very involved in MSBA, and partners encouraged young lawyers to be involved. We believe this is not the case now, so we want to explore this and find out why they aren’t and what we can do to make MSBA more relevant to them.” “This is a national problem in the sense that there is now a disconnect between large law firms and Bars,” Battaglia reports, “because they have multinational and multistate cases so they may see less importance for state bar membership. This lack of involvement also applies to government lawyers and ethnic groups who may not be involved in MSBA.”

CLE
The “CLE” Subcommittee will determine “how we can contribute to the education of Maryland lawyers so they can not only provide competent representation, but the best representation to their clients,” states Battaglia. “We hope to determine the level of CLE now being undertaken by the state’s lawyers and what we need to do to encourage it.”

Access to Justice
“Access to Justice was selected because everyone is concerned about access to the state’s justice system, along with the corollary of how we improve access for those with limited means and the middle class,” Battaglia emphasizes. “Working with the Judiciary’s Commission on Access to Justice, this Subcommittee is reviewing “the whole tenure of what needs to be addressed, including Judicare, pro bono, low bono and pro se litigants. We are looking for ways to interact with this Commission on what can be done to provide attorneys to people who need them.”

Technology
Finally, in terms of technology, “there are two different ‘schools of being’ in MSBA: those who are proficient in technology – generally, younger lawyers – and those who have some modicum – generally, older lawyers,” Battaglia explains. “So all of these technological issues, including how we are evolving into virtual worlds, plus courtroom technology like e-discovery and e-filing, need to be explored. We want to look at what is going to be coming in terms of technology and how can we best interact with the Judiciary.”

“I hope each subcommittee will have formal recommendations and an action plan in place by June and will begin acting upon them next year,” declares Asti. These action plans will be carried over into Howard’s year as MSBA President, so as MSBA probes its future direction, continuity will be maintained. “Long-range planning is vital to the continued health of all membership organizations,” asserts Howard, “so I am enthusiastically supporting our two-year effort.”

In the coming year, Howard looks forward to “exploring the results of the research done by the Planning Subcommittees and crafting appropriate recommendations for the future of MSBA. Retaining MSBA members’ interests by keeping pace with professional trends is one of my highest priorities. I think that long-range planning is essential to good leadership and effective representation of both our membership and our clients.”

“I really think this group can make a difference in terms of the future of the MSBA as well as the future of Maryland’s community of lawyers and judges,” concludes MSBA’s Planning Committee Chair. “I am hopeful we will ultimately have suggestions to enhance educational opportunities for lawyers and the activities of MSBA so lawyers will want to increase their participation because they feel they can contribute to MSBA and feel MSBA has even more to contribute to them.”
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Publications : Bar Bulletin:May 2008

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