Editorial Advisory Board//February 16, 2023
//February 16, 2023
On March 17, Lydia E. Lawless will step down as Maryland Bar Counsel after having served in that post since 2017. We wish Lawless much success in whatever her next professional endeavor may be. We have no doubt that any future undertaking will be highly successful, given her stellar career achievements to date.
The current Attorney Grievance Commission and Office of Bar Counsel is the outgrowth of a Maryland State Bar Association special committee that identified and studied deficiencies in a then-existing patchwork of local county systems in 1973-74. The committee was chaired by Wilbur D. “Woody” Preston, Jr. and the sole judge on the committee was John F. McAuliffe. A special report was published in 1974 and the local systems were superseded by the statewide AGC as of July 1, 1975.
Since its inception almost 50 years ago, the Office of Bar Counsel has had but four persons at its helm. The first, L. Hollingsworth “Holly” Pittman, served from 1975 until 1980, when he died in office. He was followed in 1981 by Melvin “Mel” Hirschman, who served with distinction for three decades, retiring in 2010. Hirschman was succeeded by Deputy Bar Counsel Glenn M. Grossman, who served until his retirement in 2017.
Lydia Lawless, then 36, broke the gender barrier when she was appointed bar counsel effective July 1, 2017. At that time, Mary Ellen Barbera, then serving as the first woman Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland, lauded her in these words: “Ms. Lawless’ distinguished record at the Attorney Grievance Commission, her commitment to professionalism and client protection, and the high regard evidenced for her by the legal community make her well-suited to succeed as bar counsel.”
Having joined the AGC as an assistant bar counsel in 2011, she was promoted to senior assistant bar counsel in 2016. In those roles, she worked on numerous high-profile cases, both at the trial and appellate level. Her keen intellect and professionalism were always on display in both venues.
During that time, she earned a reputation as one of the finest trial and appellate lawyers in the state. She was recognized nationally in 2017, as recipient of the ABA’s Rosner & Rosner Young Lawyers Professionalism Award, which honors young attorneys who display a commitment to legal and judicial ethics, lawyer professionalism, client protection, and professional regulation.
As bar counsel for the past six years, Lawless has excelled in the role of managing the office of attorneys, investigators, paralegals, and administrative support who review complaints of attorney misconduct. As Linda H. Lamone, chair of the Attorney Grievance Commission, stated recently, “During her tenure, Lydia has made substantial improvements to the Office of Bar Counsel, all for the betterment of the people of Maryland.”
She hired a diverse staff, where women now outnumber men, and devoted much of her time to mentoring the more inexperienced attorneys. She led her office through COVID-19, implementing an electronic complaint system to receive complaints via email, which increased the public’s access to her office.
In addition to her day job, Lawless has gone the extra mile in serving the public and the bar, conducting outreach to attorneys all across the state, through local bar associations as well as the Maryland State Bar Association. She also taught at Catholic University’s law school and currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, where she teaches a professional responsibility course. For the past several months, she had served on Attorney General Anthony Brown’s transition team for equity and ethics.
The AGC, the Supreme Court of Maryland, the Maryland Bar, and the residents of Maryland owe Lawless a deep debt of gratitude. The AGC has begun a search for her successor, and that appointment must also be approved by the justices on our Supreme Court.
We can only hope that this crucial position is filled by someone who can carry on the high standards of ethics and professionalism displayed by Lydia Lawless.
Editorial Advisory Board member Ericka N. King did not participate in this opinion.
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
James B. Astrachan, Chair
James K. Archibald
Gary E. Bair
Andre M. Davis
Arthur F. Fergenson
Julie C. Janofsky
Ericka N. King
Susan F. Martielli
Angela W. Russell
Debra G. Schubert
H. Mark Stichel
The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the bench, bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, or if a conflict exists, majority views and the names of members who do not participate will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.