For years, the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) has been recognized for the strong support it receives from the lawyers admitted to practice in Maryland. Indeed, MSBA maintains one of the highest percentages of membership of any state bar association in the country, retaining 67-70 percent of the attorneys admitted to practice in the state as Association members. As a voluntary professional membership organization, our members regard the MSBA as their professional organization, unlike many mandatory bars (primarily in the south and the west), which are considered state regulatory entities. Bearing this in mind, the MSBA leadership and staff work hard to tackle many tough issues and serve the Association membership by staying ahead of many members’ needs.
An ABA survey conducted a few years ago found MSBA to be the fastest-growing voluntary bar association in the country, adding 300-500 new members each year. What are the reasons for this growth and activity? For one thing, the MSBA can almost be regarded as a large metropolitan bar (about a 50-mile quadrant), as 80-85 percent of our members are located within an hour of each other. This allows for a high level of activity and meetings. MSBA generally holds more than 500 meetings a year – geographically infeasible for many larger states.
Also, at $125, MSBA’s annual dues have remained the lowest of any state bar association for many years. In fact, MSBA has gone 20 years without a dues increase (the last one being in 1990). Conversely, the dues for many mandatory bars now exceed $500 a year, while the average annual dues for voluntary bar associations like the MSBA stands at $272. With MSBA Section dues ranging from $10 to $25 a year, we believe that our members recognize the good value that they receive for such low dues.
The MSBA Headquarters performs the administrative work for about 140 MSBA entities, including all of our subcommittees. Structurally, the MSBA features 27 substantive law Sections, 15 Standing Committees and 17 Special Committees. Five of those Sections – Intellectual Property, Immigration Law, Entertainment/Sports Law, Consumer Bankruptcy and Animal Law – were created in direct response to these growing practice areas. Likewise, MSBA is currently developing the structure for two new Sections: Military Law and Construction Law. All MSBA Sections, Committees and subcommittees also maintain electronic discussion groups, which have proved very popular.
Over the years, the MSBA leadership and staff have worked hard to respond to the needs of our members and progressively address the constant changes that arise. The MSBA is eager to assist in areas that interest our members. If you have any questions regarding these and other membership benefits, or the Association in general, please call MSBA at (410) 685-7878 or (800) 492-1964, or visit online at www.msba.org.
Paul V. Carlin is Executive Director of the Maryland State Bar Association.