Since before the civil war, lawyers and judges in Baltimore have had a tendency to organize informal, intimate, and exclusive clubs for the purpose of promoting congeniality and scholarship. Although this Anglo-American tradition traces back to as early as the sixteenth century, the institution of law clubs in the United States appears to have been a unique, local phenomenon until the 1960s and 1970s. Today, this tradition continues in Baltimore City, which currently plays host to no fewer than eight individual law clubs, with many more existing throughout the state. These law clubs offer their members the opportunity to pursue scholarly endeavors while also providing a social outlet for members of the bench and bar alike. While the members of these organizations certainly realize the intrinsic benefits attendant membership, Baltimore’s law clubs also benefit the legal profession by promoting scholarship and congeniality.
Our purpose in drafting this article is two-fold. First, we aim to memorialize the rich and storied tradition of Baltimore’s law clubs in a medium accessible to the local legal community. Secondly, we endeavor to describe how participation in our local law clubs not only provides fulfillment to their members, but also how the scholastic and social functions of law clubs improve the legal profession by instilling public confidence in the bar. In furtherance of these objectives, Part I articulates why legitimacy is required for our legal system to function, and how law clubs positively work to instill public confidence in the legal profession. Part II, then, proceeds to document the history of the specific law clubs in Baltimore City and Maryland more generally. Finally, Part III endeavors to outline the specific circumstances in Maryland that require an increased focus on professionalism, and how our law clubs are working to increase professionalism among the bar.
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