Longtime friends Richard Rosenthal and Andrew Jay Graham were sitting in Graham’s office last week, chatting about the upcoming Leadership in Law awards.
Rosenthal and Graham were two of this year’s 25 award winners. By tradition, the honorees choose the top winner by secret ballot — but Rosenthal, of Tydings & Rosenberg LLC, made his ballot slightly less secret.
“You got at least one vote,” he told Graham.
“Good, that’s probably all I’m getting,” Graham replied. “And that’s plenty.”
As it turned out, Graham must have picked up a few more, as he took the top award at Friday’s banquet.
“I had no idea, and it’s a wonderful honor,” Graham said as he accepted a glass bowl to go along with the diamond-shaped glass plaque that he and the other 24 honorees received.
Leadership in Law, now in its 11th year, celebrates those who provide outstanding contributions to the legal profession, public service and mentoring in Maryland.
Graham co-founded Kramon & Graham PA in 1975 after working for Shearman & Sterling in New York and serving three years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Maryland.
A former Maryland state chairman of the American College of Trial Lawyers, Graham has earned a laundry list of accolades that includes 15 years of listings in The Best Lawyers America, and recognition as one of Maryland’s top 10 attorneys in Maryland Super Lawyers.
He also co-chaired the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau’s Centennial Committee this year, and has chaired or co-chaired Legal Aid’s Equal Justice Council since 2002.
M. Natalie McSherry, a principal at Kramon & Graham and a 2006 honoree, was sitting next to Graham when the top award was announced and was hoping it would be him.
“Everybody here has done wonderful things, but he’s given a lifetime of service to the legal profession,” she said afterward.
Rosenthal said Graham is the archetype of a lawyer who is a tremendous litigator, but does his work in a civil manner.
Graham, for his part, deflected praise to his fellow honorees, saying the group was composed of “people for whom I have the utmost respect.” He also marveled at the diversity of the honorees, a group that included men and women of many races and all ages.
He called the growing inclusiveness of the legal profession one of the most positive and inspiring changes that had happened since he started practicing in an almost exclusively white-male environment.
“It’s much more interesting to work with people of different backgrounds,” Graham said.
That evolution was epitomized by attorney Eduardo Gonzalez of Hearne & Bailey PA in Salisbury, who, at 27, was the youngest of the 25 honorees and the sole representative from the Eastern Shore.
“It’s a huge honor when I see everything they’ve done,” Gonzalez said. “It’s humbling that I’m in any way associated with that group.”
Almost 300 people attended Friday’s luncheon at the Hotel at Arundel Preserve in Hanover. The 25 winners included five judges: Vicki Ballou-Watts of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Audrey J.S. Carrion of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Angela Eaves of the Circuit Court for Harford County, Marcella A. Holland of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City and Shirley M. Watts of the Court of Special Appeals.
The other honorees were: Henry E. Dugan Jr. of Dugan, Babij & Tolley LLC, Antonia Fasanelli of the Homeless Persons Representation Project, Aaron Greenfield of Duane Morris Government Affairs, F. Michael Higginbotham of the University of Baltimore School of Law, Ronald H. Jarashow of Baldwin, Kagan & Gormley LLC, Jon Laria of Ballard Spahr LLP, Andrew D. Levy of Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP, Ava Lias-Booker of McGuireWoods LLP, Thomas Lingan of Venable LLP, Christopher Nicholson of Turnbull, Nicholson & Sanders PA, Rebecca A. Nitkin of the Law Offices of Rebecca A. Nitkin LLC, Marshall Paul of Saul Ewing LLP, Joanne Pollak of the Johns Hopkins Health System Corp., James Smith Jr. of Smith, Gildea & Schmidt LLC, Patricia Weaver of the Law Firm of Paley Rothman, Arnold M. Weiner of the Law Offices of Arnold M. Weiner and Robert Zarbin of the Jaklitsch Law Group.
The honorees were selected from 100 nominations The Daily Record staff received and whittled to 60 finalists. The 25 eventual winners were then chosen by a four-member panel made up of Legal Aid’s Wilhelm Joseph, Levin & Gann’s Stanford Gann Jr., the Maryland State Bar Association’s Paul Carlin, and Barbara Grzincic, The Daily Record’s managing editor/law.