The Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) has advocated and supported the noble legal profession for the state of Maryland since its founding in 1897. Our members encompass the entire legal community—lawyers, judges, paralegals, law firm administrators, law students, pro-bono organizations, legal nonprofits, and more—at every career stage and within every legal specialty.

Our founding mission was to connect and empower MSBA members to better serve the public good and to create meaningful change. Ensuring that MSBA attorneys and legal professionals are the most connected and best in the country remains the goal today.

Whether it’s our continuing education programs and publications or MSBA community outreach and advocacy initiatives, we honor the passion and purpose of Maryland’s legal community by providing the tools, training, and network they need to excel.

This MSBA mission has never been more vital. The pandemic and need for credible institutions to provide accurate information underscore just how essential a competent and caring legal community is. MSBA’s recent success in advocating for and securing $40 million to assist those facing the looming eviction crisis due to the pandemic is an important example of our relevance and resonant leadership in Maryland and beyond.

With our sister organization, the Maryland Access to Justice Commission, we work hard to ensure that all Marylanders have access to, and an understanding of, the legal system. As our membership has become much more diverse over the decades, so too has our ability to better address the issues facing the legal system in the 21st century.

I invite you to celebrate the storied history of the MSBA—Maryland’s largest bar association—as we reflect on what has been accomplished and what can be as we look to our next 125 years.

Victor Velazquez
Executive Director, MSBA


Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Baltimore Ravens


Photo by: Beverly Funkhouser

Near the end of the 2017 season, several Baltimore Ravens players approached Brandon Etheridge with a request beyond his typical job responsibilities as general counsel for the Baltimore Ravens. They were looking for specific ways to bring about meaningful reform in the criminal justice system.

Etheridge knew the right person to ignite their growing activism: the late Representative Elijah Cummings. Etheridge arranged a meeting between the players and Rep. Cummings to discuss how the team could focus their outreach. “He said that in order for a campaign or protest to bring about meaningful change, it had to be effective and efficient and suggested that we become involved in the legislative process,” Etheridge recalls.

This initiative is the perfect marriage of Etheridge’s interest in service and his job as a corporate attorney. “As lawyers, we are service professionals,” says Etheridge, who has served as Ravens’ general counsel since 2016. “Whether in the courtroom or of counsel, we can never forget that we are here to serve.”

In early 2018, Etheridge spoke with the legislative staff of U.S. congressmen connected with pending criminal justice reform legislation. He educated his client, the Ravens, about the legislative process, and together, they created a strategy. The Ravens were the first and only NFL team to engage in a letter-writing campaign in 2018 in support of the bipartisan First Step Act (P.L. 115- 391), which focuses on improving criminal justice outcomes by reducing the size of the federal prison population while improving public safety mechanisms. “That piece of legislation was incredibly important to our players,” says Etheridge of the act that retroactively applies federal sentencing reforms to make low-level sentencings obsolete.

“For any win on the field or any litigation victory, the success I feel best about is the opportunity to serve the community and use our players’ natural inclination toward advocacy to make a difference in Maryland.”

In 2020, the MSBA tapped Etheridge to serve as a member of the Attorney General’s COVID-19 Access to Justice Task Force helping Marylanders navigate rental assistance, unemployment, and other pandemic-related issues. He also guided player-led legislative efforts for the George Floyd Justice in Policy Act of 2021.  The players lobbied lawmakers about the law, which prevents and remedies racial profiling by law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels, limits the unnecessary use of force, and restricts the use of no-knock warrants, chokeholds, and carotid holds.

Etheridge, who played football for Yale University before attending Harvard Law School, relishes the team aspect of his work.

“I can use my skills and talents as a lawyer to work with players to serve the community,” says Etheridge. “While they are training and playing, I do the legwork, present them with opportunities, and connect them with legislators. It’s been incredible to see them grow as activists.”

MSBA, he says, spoke to him as a service organization, meeting a need to connect with like-minded individuals. “As an in-house lawyer for an NFL team, it can feel like you are a bit isolated,” says Etheridge, who was the keynote speaker for the 2022 MSBA Legal Summit & Annual Meeting. He brainstorms ideas with other MSBA members about the corporate attorney’s role in helping their businesses shape social responsibility, citing the Ravens’ partnership with its sponsor, Leidos, on its “Tackling Opioid Addiction” campaign during the 2019 season as an example. “As a good corporate citizen of Maryland, if we have the platform and means to bring awareness to an issue, it is incumbent on us to do it.”

Today, his phone rings frequently with other NFL teams asking how to create the kind of advocacy programs he has for the Baltimore Ravens. “For any win on the field or any litigation victory, the success I feel best about is the opportunity to serve the community and use our players’ natural inclination toward advocacy to make a difference in Maryland,” he says.


Brown Goldstein and Levy LLP, Member, House of Delegates, Maryland General Assembly


Photo by: Beverly Funkhouser

Brooke Lierman’s calling came early. At Dartmouth College, she co-founded the DREAM Program to match college student mentors with children who live in public housing developments. This experience inspired her post-graduate stint as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at the DREAM Program before attending the University of Texas School of Law, where she worked at the Legal Aid Fair Housing Clinic.

It was a traumatic experience in college, though, that cemented her purpose and passion for advocacy. “I was raped in college and brought charges against the assailant,” says Lierman, who was elected in 2015 to the House of Delegates, Maryland General Assembly for District 46. (Leirman, who is currently running for state comptroller, won the Democratic primary in July.) “I had an assigned advocate and realized how essential it is to have someone who could speak for me when I couldn’t. I have since used my voice to elevate others.”

She’s always believed in the power of public service as a force for good, she says, but wasn’t focused on public office. “I decided to run for office, partly due to my pro bono work and because I had become very frustrated with transit issues and schools. I wanted to run for office to change the laws,” adds Lierman of a desire so fierce that she ran for state delegate while on maternity leave as a new mother.

Lierman attended her first MSBA convention as a first-year attorney with Brown Goldstein and Levy LLP, a civil law firm, and immediately appreciated the camaraderie with attorneys across the state. “It’s one of the things I love about being a lawyer in Maryland—it’s a very collegial bar,” says Lierman. Her clients include workers whose wages have been unfairly withheld, disabled citizens seeking access to public facilities, and wrongfully convicted Marylanders.

“It’s important that all different types of lawyers participate in every aspect of a civil society.”

Lierman is pro bono counsel for several community associations and a local church focused on creating safe neighborhoods by shutting down bars and liquor stores that repeatedly violated the law and their liquor licenses. Her former role on the Citizens Advisory Council for the now-eliminated Red Line project inspired her to pass landmark legislation to invest in and improve public transit. “I worked with colleagues around the state to form the largest bipartisan caucus in the General Assembly,” she says of the Maryland Transit Caucus, which she co-chairs. In 2019, Lierman assumed a leadership role on the Environment and Transportation Committee.

She’s helped to pass laws to end student suspension and expulsion, fund evidence-based gun violence prevention programs, aid sex trafficking victims, and close loopholes in family and paid leave laws. In 2020, she passed the HOME Act, banning housing discrimination based on the renter’s source of income.

Her experience as a civil rights attorney and the network she’s formed through MSBA membership help immensely as a delegate, she says. “It’s important that all different types of lawyers participate in every aspect of a civil society.”


The irony of Perneita Farrar’s first career is not lost on her. For two decades, she worked as a public health educator, helping others navigate the country’s complex labyrinth of healthcare services and insurance.

When a lupus diagnosis left Farrar in a wheelchair and confined to a nursing home for two years, she found herself in navigation mode. “I had been teaching people how to be their own advocate, and then, overnight, I am dealing with a disability,” recalls Farrar, who was in her 30s and a young mother at the time. “I had no voice and had to speak through a third party. I knew law was my calling to give others a voice.”

In 2017, she enrolled in Minnesota’s Mitchell Hamline School of Law, the country’s first hybrid program approved by the American Bar Association, while working full-time for Johns Hopkins Medicine. Farrar transferred a year later to the University of Baltimore School of Law’s evening program. “Networking is the lifeblood of being a lawyer, and I needed to be in Baltimore to create a hometown network,” explains Farrar, who discovered the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) and its programs connecting law students and new lawyers to the state’s larger legal community while applying to the University of Baltimore. She immediately applied for MSBA membership, which is free for law students.

In 2020, as one of two law students in Maryland selected as MSBA Student Ambassadors, Farrar’s network grew unexpectedly. She and a fellow ambassador shifted from planning in-person attorney panels in early 2020 to online programming and working on pandemic-related issues for the region’s underserved communities with Reena Shah, MSBA’s executive director of the Maryland Access to Justice Committee. “We jumped into the advocacy side of lawyering,” Farrar explains.

The gap between law student and lawyer, Farrar says, is surprisingly large. “In law school, we read a lot of theory, but seeing it in practice typically isn’t something law students see,” adds Farrar. “If you wait until after law school, that gap gets wider. [With MSBA], I saw the practicing side by meeting people doing the work.”

“The concept of generational wealth is not dinner-table conversation for the minority community. I feel this is where I can have the greatest impact to change the economic landscape.”

Farrar took full advantage of MSBA’s programs and mentorship opportunities, landing several internships with the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice and as a Health Law Fellow with the nonprofit Justice in Aging, among others. Volunteering at a local senior center during an MSBA Senior Law Day program deepened Farrar’s connection between her former career as an educator and healthcare advocate and her passion for estate planning and elder law.

“Imagine how difficult it is for seniors, who aren’t tech savvy, to navigate the legal world,” says Farrar, who is a law clerk for James E. Crawford Jr. & Associates, LLC, and hopes to open her own elder law practice in five years.

“The concept of generational wealth is not dinner-table conversation for the minority community. I feel this is where I can have the greatest impact to change the economic landscape.”

She continues to attend MSBA events to expand her network and feed the pipeline of attorneys, particularly those who share her nontraditional path to law. “I am over 40, Black, female, physically disabled, and the first lawyer in my family,” she says. “If you want to be a pioneer, the weight of the world is on your shoulders, and you can lose your confidence without other lawyers to turn to. MSBA gave me the encouragement I needed.”


Executive Director, Maryland Access to Justice Commission


You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.

Thanks to cop shows and movies, everyone knows their Miranda rights. But those rights only apply in criminal cases. In 2019, 83 percent of Maryland court cases, excluding traffic, were civil.

An estimated 80 percent of Marylanders can’t afford the legal help needed for their civil case. Without legal representation, the results and ripple effects are catastrophic, resulting in the loss of homes, children, jobs, health benefits, and access to quality education. “Everything that is not in the criminal justice system is civil justice, from housing, domestic violence, elder abuse, consumer debt, immigration, employment issues, and more,” says Reena Shah, executive director of the Maryland Access to Justice Commission (A2JC), which was adopted by MSBA in 2018. “Part of the MSBA’s mission is to advance access to justice. A2JC works with the MSBA to raise awareness about the civil justice system; elevate the barriers and solutions in the system; and also make connections about how the civil justice system connects to larger social justice issues.”

Prior to its MSBA adoption, the independent A2JC, was part of Maryland’s judiciary system. Today it is powered by the MSBA, and while not a direct service organization, A2JC advocates to break down barriers in the civil justice system. It serves as an umbrella to support 40 civil justice partners, including the nonprofit Pro Bono Resource Center, Inc., which serves as the pro bono arm of the MSBA.

Many people, when faced with a civil case and no funds for a lawyer, try to represent themselves, Shah explains. “It’s like going on WebMD to diagnose yourself and then performing the surgery on yourself,” says Shah, who served previously as the first director of Maryland Legal Aid’s Human Rights Project.

“Law is complicated by design, and the system expects low-income people who have all this stress from their legal issue to take time off from work, find transportation to and from court, and understand a complex system. We exist to make the laws more fair and the process easier for people to navigate.”

“Almost every social justice issue we face in Maryland is connected to the civil justice system. By elevating these issues and getting people the help they need, we can make a real difference in social issues that seem intractable.”

Nina Wallace’s situation underscores the challenges. Until March 2020, she had never missed a rent payment since moving into her Baltimore apartment in 2006. Then she lost her job because of the shutdown in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. When she applied for rental assistance, she discovered she was ineligible because her landlord was not licensed in Maryland. Wallace pleaded her case to her landlord, but his response was to take her to Rent Court to evict her. Then Matt Hill, an attorney for the Public Justice Center, a civil legal aid organization represented on the A2JC, stepped in.

He knew what to say and do when her landlord sent an illegal eviction notice, which the judge threw out in district court. This civil legal aid attorney kept Wallace in her home by expertly guiding her case through the intricacies of housing laws. “I knew that I couldn’t represent myself, because I don’t know what to say,” Wallace explains.

Demand for civil legal services skyrocketed during the pandemic, while the main funding source for civil legal aid organizations plummeted almost overnight. Court filing fees are one of the key revenue sources for the Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC), the largest funder of civil legal aid organizations in the state. When the court shut down and interest rates dropped to zero, funds dried up. Maryland Attorney General (AG) Brian Frosh requested A2JC partner with him to create a task force to address the access to justice crisis precipitated by COVID-19 and to study the pandemic’s impacts on the civil justice system.

“We created the Attorney General’s COVID-19 Access to Justice Task Force in June 2020 that involved high level leaders from a broad cross section, including Maryland’s U.S. senators and almost all representatives, A2JC commissioners, MSBA members, corporate heads, United Way leaders, clergy, and others,” explains Shah, who served as vice chair with the Hon. Andre Davis, former judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Task Force, whose work continues under A2JC, created strategies and solutions to tackle civil legal challenges facing Marylanders during the pandemic. “COVID exacerbated everything. We looked at the [legal] funding issue through a race equity lens during the summer 2020 racial reckoning following George Floyd’s murder.”

In 2021, the task force sponsored 40 bills as a direct result of the 59 strategies it developed, 19 of which became law, including the passage of HB18, the Access to Counsel in Eviction (ACE) law. Maryland was the second state in the country to enact such a law. It allows for every income-qualified Marylander facing a court proceeding related to eviction to have access to an attorney, a 10 day notice prior to filing a court proceeding, and a task force to monitor implementation. At the appointment of AG Frosh, Shah now serves as the chair of the ACE Task Force.

“Through our work, people saw the need, perhaps for the first time,” she adds. “We were ready, and now, with education and research, we are taking it to the next level.”

This coming year, A2JC is building its network and awareness, sharing its new trove of data, and driving policy. “Almost every social justice issue we face in Maryland is connected to the civil justice system. By elevating these issues and getting people the help they need with their civil legal problems, we can make a real difference in social issues that seem intractable.”


Partner/President, Shapiro Sher

For years, smaller, national touring acts and bands have driven past Baltimore on their way to venues in Washington, D.C., or Philadelphia. Baltimore’s lack of a suitable performance venue for crowds around 3,500 means bands—and the tourist and entertainment revenue from those performances—go elsewhere.

William Carlson, Esq., partner and president at Shapiro Sher, has worked for several years to remedy this. In fall 2023, The Paramount Baltimore opens, offering a new, 70,000-square-foot, world-class, live music and event venue for Baltimore. Located between M&T Bank Stadium and Horseshoe Casino, The Paramount Baltimore’s 3,800-seat venue will host concerts, performances, sporting events, and corporate events.

Carlson was instrumental in connecting businesses, organizations, and the City of Baltimore to make The Paramount Baltimore a reality. “This project is going to provide thousands of jobs and be a center of activity for the city,” adds Carlson, who facilitated the process for the parties involved. “A lawyer listens to each party and makes everybody happy.”

Carlson can’t wait to be in the audience—at a Tom Waits concert, preferably. It will be the culmination of everything he enjoys about being a corporate attorney. “Our role is to help Maryland businesses flourish and accomplish their goals,” says Carlson. “I like the creativity and positivity and building things.”

He chuckles that he finds litigation “sometimes like arena warfare,” much preferring his responsibilities advising on business solutions, creating contracts, facilitating investments and loans, resolving disputes, and encouraging innovations through protecting rights. He joined MSBA in 2012 as an at-large member on its Section on Business Law and began attending meetings on creating educational programs about business law. “I wanted to return the favor and help younger lawyers,” says Carlson, who chairs MSBA’s Committee on Corporate Law and served on the MSBA Section Board of Governors in 2017-18.

Carlson, who relishes a challenge, enjoys bringing legislation to Annapolis to support Maryland businesses and the economy. A high point of his tenure as chair was in 2016 when the Maryland General Assembly passed the Maryland Statuary Standard of Conduct for Directors of a Maryland Corporation Act. “There had been confusion about the rules in Maryland, which is the number two state in the U.S. for public companies. It was important to make the rules clear.”

“MSBA brings disparate interests into one group. We look at corporate law from many lenses and bring corrections and improvements.”

“MSBA brings disparate interests into one group,” he adds. “We look at corporate law from many lenses and bring corrections and improvements. It’s intellectually interesting, and there’s a tangible result.” Carlson also chairs the MSBA Budget and Finance Committee, another challenge he has embraced. “During COVID-19, MSBA accelerated its online learning, which disrupted our traditional avenues of revenue [from in-person event fees]. We’re a nonprofit but are financially stable.”

Reflecting on his 40-year career in corporate law, Carlson sees another critical benefit to MSBA. “When I started practicing, lawyers would gather in rooms to make comments on a physical document. Now it’s digital, and there are fewer opportunities to connect in person. MSBA enables me to chat with all sorts of people. Networking is so critical to the work we do.”