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Shapiro Sher founder has ‘great satisfaction’ in firm’s 50 years in business

As Shapiro Sher celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, founder Ronald Shapiro says the Baltimore law firm continues to live up to the hopes he had when he first launched it in 1972.

“It creates great satisfaction to know something that you tried 50 years ago has moved along and been taken in the hands of others and developed into what I hoped it would be,” Shapiro said in an interview.

“They talk about ‘servant leaders.’ I talk about ‘servant lawyers,’ and we have a firm of servant lawyers who really make a difference in the lives of their clients.”

Ronald Shapiro © 2015 | Kristina Sherk Photography

Shapiro Sher is known for its work in business law, litigation, insurance and bankruptcy. Shapiro also took the firm in nontraditional directions in its early days, he recalled, including into sports and entertainment law.

The shift to the sports industry came in 1975, after Shapiro got a call from Jerold Hoffberger, then the owner of the Baltimore Orioles. Hoffberger asked if Shapiro would help get star third baseman Brooks Robinson out of some financial trouble, Shapiro recalled.

Shapiro, who had served as Maryland state securities commissioner for the previous two years, took on the job. Word spread quickly, and Shapiro soon had more work representing other high-profile sports figures.

“We began to take on more responsibility in the sports world, formed a sports agency,” Shapiro said. “But the key thing is, nobody else was doing that then.”

Even as the firm took on major clients, it remained fairly modest in size. Today, Shapiro Sher is home to 32 lawyers, firm President William E. Carlson said.

The firm aims to keep lawyers around for many years, rather than continually hiring new people, Shapiro said.

“The core group has been very stable because we’ve imposed upon ourselves a very high-quality standard,” Carlson said. “We’ve been able to attract good people here and keep them here.”

Shapiro, who is considered an expert negotiator, helped settle the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra strike in the 1980s. He also founded the Shapiro Negotiations Institute, a training and consulting firm.

Shapiro’s attitude toward service has remained a cornerstone at the firm, which worked to support business development in Baltimore and programs to combat housing discrimination, he said.

“People in our firm understand that giving is as important as getting,” he said. “So whether it be helping nonprofits, in the community service sense, dealing with at-risk kids, dealing with health challenges or an array of other areas, we’re present in those kinds of things.”