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Victor Velazquez leaving MSBA after 5 years at the helm

MSBA Executive Director Victor Velazquez.

The Maryland State Bar Association announced Tuesday that its executive director, Victor L. Velazquez, will leave the organization for a new job next month.

Velazquez has led the MSBA for five years. He oversaw an effort to modernize the 125-year-old organization and led it through the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have been on a winning streak the last few years,” Velazquez said in an interview about his departure. “It just felt right.”

Velazquez declined to say where he will work next, but said he is returning to the for-profit sector and will lead strategy at a Fortune 150 company. He came to the MSBA in 2016 after longtime executive director Paul Carlin retired.

“Vic has demonstrated true leadership, not only in how he has helped to navigate the MSBA over the past five years, but also by building an extraordinary MSBA staff comprised of smart, dedicated, hard-working, mission focused teammates,” said David P. Shapiro, the MSBA’s current president.

The MSBA’s chief operating officer, Anna Sholl, will serve as the organization’s acting executive director after Velazquez departs at the end of October.

Velazquez said he is confident in the leadership team he will leave behind at the MSBA.

“We are punching above our weight given our size and given our constraints,” he said. “We have such a phenomenally talented team and a phenomenal chief operating officer who has been named acting executive director.”

Shapiro said the MSBA will convene a transition committee to identify the organization’s “guiding principles.” A permanent replacement will be named by the MSBA Board of Governors.

Before joining the MSBA, Velazquez was the chief operating officer for the District of Columbia Bar for three years. He previously worked outside the legal sector, serving in leadership positions at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, FreshDirect and 1-800-Flowers.com.

Velazquez earned his Master of Business Administration from Wake Forest University School of Business and a master’s in accountancy, accounting and finance from New England College.

He pushed the MSBA in a more technology-focused direction during his time there, adding digital products and virtual offerings that paid off during the pandemic.

“There’s no question the MSBA had none of the infrastructure necessary to respond to the pandemic when I arrived on the scene,” he said. “We made significant investments over the last few years, which then allowed us to, on a dime, shift 100 percent of our activity to digital content and offerings.”

Velazquez also oversaw the MSBA during fluctuations in the organization’s finances. Public tax records show that the MSBA’s expenses outstripped its revenues during the first several years of his tenure (though the trend began a few years before he took over the organization).

The MSBA’s net assets fell precipitously from about $3.6 million in the 2016 fiscal year to a low of just $558,000 in the 2019 fiscal year. Those numbers began to improve in 2020, Velazquez said in a previous interview with The Daily Record, rising to $1.4 million in the 2020 fiscal year. Net assets were projected to reach $1.53 million in the most recent fiscal year, he said.

Velazquez said previously that large investments were necessary to modernize the MSBA, which had membership and accounting systems that were decades old when he took over.

“All of this is part of the evolution of the organization,” Velazquez said in June.

Voluntary bar associations face greater challenges than the mandatory organizations lawyers must join in some states, Velazquez said. Maryland also does not require continuing legal education as a licensing requirement for lawyers, so the bar association must generate interest by offering other benefits to its members, he said.

“Our member value proposition is focused on, literally, do we provide value?” Velazquez said.