For the last 50 years, bar leaders from Maryland’s local and specialty bar associations have come together at MSBA’s annual Bar Presidents’ Conference to discuss key issues affecting the legal profession and enjoy the atmosphere of bar camaraderie fostered by this popular event. Traditionally, MSBA invites the president and president-elect from every local and specialty bar association in the state to join MSBA’s leadership, Board of Governors and Leadership Academy at this gathering, held in various locations across Maryland.
The 2009 Bar Presidents’ Conference, which will be held at the Holiday Inn Select in Solomons from October 22-24, will feature a 50th anniversary celebration. Traditionally, this event offers local and specialty bar leaders a unique blend of nuts-and-bolts “how to” leadership sessions, general programs on hot topics facing the legal profession and workshops to discuss local concerns with their counterparts, as well as social events where bar leaders meet and network with their colleagues in a relaxed environment.
“Over the years this conference has provided tremendous networking opportunities for MSBA and local and specialty bar leaders across the state,” reports Mark Scurti, who has headed MSBA’s Local and Specialty Bar Committee for the last two years. The Committee plans the annual event, and has maintained its tradition of collegiality for the last five decades.
“We have learned from each other and shared our successes and failures,” Scurti continues. “Through the relationships we establish, joint bar events emerge and many continue to this day.” As Committee Chair, Scurti focuses on the conference’s basic mission – to “provide opportunities for bar leaders to get to know one another, exchange ideas and confront issues that are common or unique to each of the associations and the profession as a whole.”
When the 150 bar leaders convene, one of the big issues they will confront is the economy and its significant impact on lawyers; a number of the educational programs will address this key concern. The recession was also on attorney’s minds, and on the Bar Presidents’ Conference’s agenda, in the early ’90s. Indeed, many key issues facing the legal profession are revisited fairly often.
As an example, 20 years ago, professionalism topped the list of priorities for the legal profession and was thoroughly examined by bar leaders at the 1989 Bar Presidents’ Conference. Still a priority ten years later, professionalism was again a prominent topic at the 1999 Conference, as well as in 2007. The public image of lawyers, contested judicial elections, disaster planning and the funding crisis in the public defender’s office also pop up from time to time. Other staples include evolving technology, legislative updates, stress management and tips on media relations.
For the last 50 years, the climate of this special conference has been one of collegiality and camaraderie, the underpinning of its popularity and success. MSBA’s Director of Meetings and Bar Liaison, Wanda A. Claiborne, who has overseen the Bar Presidents’ Conference for 23 years, considers the event one of the highlights of MSBA’s year. “I have the unique opportunity to register and meet bar leaders and their spouses/guests from across the state and hear about all the magnificent things that each Bar does,” Claiborne states. “The attendees enjoy themselves, and that is such a rewarding feeling.”
Twenty years ago, when Carol Craig chaired the Committee, and thus the Conference, this was also true. “The Conference affords important recognition for the local and specialty bars and gives these bar leaders a forum for sharing ideas,” notes Craig. “It includes timely programs and helpful leadership techniques and is a great opportunity for networking.”
The 2009 Conference will feature a special 50th anniversary “Big Bands” party to celebrate its success. Other highlights of the gathering include informative sessions on such timely topics as “How to Survive Tough Economic Times,” e-filing and the Court Management System, and communicating on Facebook and Twitter.
Spanning across three days, the program will also feature addresses and important information from Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, Court of Appeals of Maryland, and Chief Judge Ben Clyburn, District Court of Maryland, as well as legislators and elected officials. Issues to be addressed include the public defender funding crisis, the pro bono foreclosure project and the legal services funding crisis, along with stress management and a wealth of mini bar leadership sessions and breakout sessions for networking and exchanging ideas.
“We throw in some fun along the way, too, to reinforce bar association leadership can be enjoyable and rewarding,” adds Scurti. “When I look at what other state bar associations do to bring a group together of this caliber, MSBA far exceeds what anyone else is doing.” Now, with the addition of the Young Lawyers Summit, Scurti feels MSBA is continuing “to expand and reach out to the new leaders of tomorrow.”