For incoming Maryland State Bar Association President Debra G. Schubert, it’s all about communication, giving back and the Dallas Cowboys.
“I still consider myself a Texas girl even though I have been in Maryland quite a long time,” Schubert said. “I think the people are just so friendly and open. I like to be the same way. They are all about helping others and I am that way as well.”
The Texas native will take over as president this Saturday, during the MSBA’s Annual Meeting in Ocean City. She replaces Michael J. Baxter of Baxter, Baker, Sidle, Conn & Jones P.A. in Baltimore.
Schubert, who also owns a 10-horse farm, wants to concentrate on military and veterans affairs and on the needs of newly admitted lawyers during her one-year term.
Her main goals are to implement a proposed Veterans Court in the state, bring a marketing consultant into the MSBA and continue the work of a committee helping new law school graduates find jobs, an initiative Baxter started during his term.
Schubert sat down with The Daily Record recently to discuss her upcoming term, her life as a solo practitioner and, of course, her horses — both living and iron.
How did you decide to become an attorney?
There are no attorneys in my family. I took a business law course at the University of Texas, really enjoyed it. I took the LSATs on a whim and thought, ‘Let’s see how I do.’ I did pretty well on them and decided I was going to go to law school. So I moved up to Maryland. At the time, my mother was living in Maryland. I grew up with my father in Texas.
Tell us about growing up in Texas.
My father raised me. Anyone who knows me knows I am very much a sports enthusiast. I love sports and needless to say my favorite team is the Dallas Cowboys. … But growing up in Texas, I absolutely loved it. …
I did not have horses when I lived in Texas. This is something that started when I moved to Maryland. It started with one horse, then another horse. I decided I didn’t want to board anymore, so I bought a farm. I had never ridden a tractor or plowed a field. Now, obviously, I have several tractors and can do that in my sleep. The horse farm is a labor of love for me. I wanted to look out every window in my house and see horses.
Tell us about your practice.
I am a solo practitioner. I am the only one. I enjoy that quite a bit. I started out working for a law firm, first downtown, then in Towson called Klein & Webb. I was exposed to a lot of divorce work, District Court work, litigation and that sort of thing, but I had the opportunity to hang my shingle out after only a couple years, so I did that. But, in any event, I always say this to young attorneys, the reason I was able to do that was because of my involvement in bar associations … because of that involvement, and my ability to meet with other attorneys and with judges.
What made you want to go solo?
It wasn’t that I couldn’t find a job, it’s that I wanted to run my own business. I have always been that type of person. I like being my own boss. I like setting my hours.
A lot of people are going solo coming out of law school now because they have no choice. What can the MSBA do to help them?
We had a conversation at the start of [Baxter’s] year. He appointed a law school graduate committee consisting of the deans of both law schools, obviously members of the MSBA, so I am continuing with that. What we have done the first year is actually gather information to see what law schools are doing to educate students about debt. … We are continuing with the committee this year to figure out what is the best way for us to actually help. What can the MSBA do? We have looked at incubator programs where we assist young attorneys starting out with an office atmosphere with copiers and that sort of thing. Hopefully, we can relate it to the needs in the community for legal services at a low bono rate.
Have you heard anything from members about the lawyers at bail issue?
We hope we can figure out how the MSBA can help facilitate getting members to serve and fulfill that obligation at bail review hearings. They are getting paid $50 an hour. There are a lot of young attorneys that would love the chance to make some money, particularly if they are unemployed. But then we have to educate them so they know what they are doing in the bail review hearings. We can and obviously will assist in any way we can.
How will you balance your practice with all duties of being MSBA president?
I have known I was going to do this for a couple years, so obviously I had to get my practice in the position where I could do it. What I am doing now is a lot of guardianships. I am working with older folks. I really enjoy that. Estates, estates administration, guardianships, these are the types of cases the court will work with you on scheduling hearings. I wasn’t going to do domestic work anymore because that would be too time-consuming.
What are some of the things you have been doing to prepare?
You are going to accomplish one or two things well. You are not going to accomplish 10 things well. You’ve got to concentrate on a few things.
It’s really important to see what we can do to help our active military and veterans. … One of the big issues out there is the possibility of a Veterans Court. A Veterans Court is a diversionary program, so to speak, for active military and veterans in trouble in District Court. We have drug courts. This would be another way judges could use the resources out there to help with the rehabilitation of military and veterans. There was a task force in 2012 appointed by the Maryland General Assembly looking into this issue and they have recommended that we pursue a Veterans Court, so I have been doing research on that the past few months. I recently appointed a special committee that will look into a Veterans Court. I hope [it can be implemented] in a year or two. I am that optimistic. …
There are some incredible programs going on throughout state. Local bar associations are putting different things on for veterans, but when I looked at it, it was like one hand didn’t know what the other hand was doing. We didn’t have a central location of resources and programs available for vets. So we have a new [MSBA] website that is being unveiled in June. I have asked to have a link on that website just for veterans’ resources and those that practice military law.
What do you think needs to be changed right now at MSBA?
There are a lot of things we do right, but we can always do things better and I think communication is one thing we are going to improve upon. … I know we are located in Baltimore City, but our membership is all over the state and we have a great concentration in Prince George’s County and in Montgomery County, so obviously [when I] plan locations for some of the meetings, we have to keep in mind that some of our members are toward Washington.
What are some ways you plan to reach out to members?
I think it’s important we develop more of a marketing program and have a marketing person with the MSBA. This just came up and was talked about recently so I think the thing to do is appoint a small committee to hire a marketing consultant.
A year from now, what do you want to look back on and say you have accomplished?
I hope I feel like I would feel at the end of a protracted domestic case where both parties walked away feeling satisfied and I felt like I really gave something back to my client. That it was a difficult time in their lives and they came back and say to me, ‘You helped me and you made a difference in my life.’ If someone came up to me at an annual meeting a year from now and said, ‘You really made a difference,’ whether it’s a veteran, a law student, a recent graduate or whomever, if I felt like I actually made a difference, then I would have a successful year.
Practice: Debra G. Schubert, P.C. in Towson
School: University of Texas, 1984; University of Baltimore School of Law, 1987
Favorite reading material: Historical fiction like “Flags of Our Fathers” by James Bradley with Ron Powers, “Gods and Generals” by Jeffrey Shaara.
Current reading material: Notes for her speech taking over as president at the MSBA’s 2014 Annual Meeting in June.
First job: Pizza Hut in Richardson, Texas.
If you weren’t a lawyer what would you be? Something to do with environment, nature and animals.
Hobbies: Horse farm, riding her Harley-Davidson motorcycle, sports.
Favorite vacation spot: Beach for snorkeling and diving or mountains for skiing.