The single greatest professional decision a lawyer can make is to join his or her county's bar association. After my swearing in as an attorney in 1998, the Honorable Samuel W. Salus, II, the Judge for whom I served as a Law Clerk, immediately said "now you have to join the Montgomery Bar Association." That statement of encouragement to join the MBA has carried with me now for almost 20 years. That statement spread a message to me that joining was an important act, maybe an act of critical importance. As it turns out, Judge Salus' statement of encouragement to join the MBA has brought me here today as the Association's 132nd President.
While becoming a Member is of critical importance, there is no reason to stop at just joining. The Montgomery Bar Association offers a single place to network, learn, give, teach, lead and socialize. With so many opportunities, members can tailor make their involvement to meet their needs. The Association is the one place to connect.
Formally, in 2017, the Association is comprised of four Sections and 58 Committees. This is the backbone of the Association. Through Sections and Committees, members teach CLE, engage speakers, or exchange practice tips and solutions. Sections and Committees are instrumental in reviewing, commenting and recommending the MBA's position on proposed legislation and court rules. New for 2017 is the Solo/Small Firm Committee. Solo and Small Firm's make up the largest number of our members, and this new Committee will be a forum to exchange ideas and troubleshoot the issues that arise in a small practice.
The Association offers new members a Bar Guide, to continue to make the MBA and its events a welcoming place for all members. The list of top-notch events hosted by the MBA is seemingly endless: the Annual Business Luncheon, Dinner Dance, the Memorial Service, Law Day, Mock Trials, the Legal Aid Golf Classic, Bench Bar Conference (The Otesaga, Cooperstown, NY – 2017), Legal Expo, Annual Membership Dinner, CLE nearly daily, Family Law Section Holiday Party, Young Lawyer Happy Hours, and the list goes on.
We have created the Leadership Academy, now in its third year, to bring together a select group of attorneys from varied backgrounds to not only prepare the Association's next generation of leaders, but to also teach skills that may be applied in any legal career. The Diversity 1L Program, conceived by our esteemed late Past President, Robert E. Slota, Jr., opens our Association to diversity by placement of diverse 1L students among participating law firms. Now entering its ninth year, the 1L Program is the centerpiece of the MBA's commitment to diversity. The Academy and the 1L Program are perhaps the two biggest catalysts that will allow our Association to adapt to the membership challenges that face all voluntary associations nationally.
Revamped in 2016, the MBA Lawyer Referral Service and Modest Means Legal Access Program aim to efficiently connect those who need legal services with our members. With the rise of “robo-lawyers,” national legal form services, internet law, non-bar related referral services, all of our practices are under assault through a concerted effort to send our clients elsewhere. Our revamped services will stem that tide, and provide an important source of clients to our lawyer referral attorneys.
Informally, the MBA provides a network of both professional and social relationships. From teaching CLE together, or attending Bar dinners over the years, or imbibing at a Young Lawyer Happy Hour, or coming together annually at the Memorial Service, the MBA brings lawyers together, fosters the building of relationships, and forges civility among us.
Nor is it merely a coincidence that the person who encouraged me to join the Association was a judge of our Court of Common Pleas. The relationship fostered between our members and the Bench is a remarkable attribute of practice within Montgomery County. I speak for the Association when I say to our Court, if we are needed, call upon us, and we will be there.
For Young Lawyers and our Law Student Members, I have found over my time with the MBA that there is no shortage of opportunities to be mentored, to observe and learn. Formal mentoring is almost oxymoronic. Mentoring is not an assignment, and results cannot be measured. I have had many mentors; I believe none of them knew they were mentoring me. I still do. Past Bar Presidents, Judges, Partners at various firms, Civil and Criminal Lawyers, each of them have imparted upon me part of the fabric of the practice of law. Take full advantage of the collective wisdom of our Membership, ask the question, do the work, be civil, listen, observe, and where appropriate, emulate. For the Young Lawyer and Law Student Member, there is no greater opportunity for professional development.
Through the MBA's charitable arm, the Montgomery Bar Foundation, our Members may support access to justice and be recognized for continued giving, through the Fellows Program. The Foundation supports an array of causes which provides the underserved, impoverished, forgotten, and children, our most vulnerable citizens, access to justice. Go to www.montgomerybarfoundation.org for more information about the Fellows Program. Our Members also give countless hours, whether through their own volunteer efforts, or through MCAP, Legal Aid, the Women's Center, Laurel House, Wills for Heroes, or any other of a number of charitable causes.
As I embark as the Association's President, I ask you to join and renew your membership, be active, and encourage your associates and colleagues to invest in the opportunities which only the Montgomery Bar Association can provide. Be connected with us.