A long-time Anne Arundel County prosecutor is taking the reins of the county lawyers' association, in hopes of updating it and luring more of its 1,100-plus members into taking more active roles.
Later this month, Jessica Daigle, 44, will take over as president of the Anne Arundel Bar Association. Like other associations, the AABA finds itself vying for people's scarce free time and facing the reality that social media make it easier for newcomers to connect.
"I want to make this an organization where people say, 'I have to join," Daigle said. She wants to "bring us into the next era. I kind of see myself as bridging from the way the organization has always done things to taking it in a new direction."
Adding to the rolls and increasing participation are chief among her plans for her one-year-term as the head of the organization.
Government attorneys of various types can expect to be targeted to join, as they are underrepresented in its membership list, Daigle said.
But joining and joining in are two different things, and Daigle said she'd like to see more people active in whatever association offerings interest them, whether that's the softball league, educational sessions or services for the needy. (The annual crab feast is free, and so popular that attorneys are scarce in county courthouses that afternoon.)
"I want to look at everything that we do, what charities we support, what events we have, what [educational seminars] we do — everything," Daigle said.
District Court Judge H. Richard Duden III, the outgoing association president, said Daigle will be a good fit.
"She is extremely organized, and she is going to take some initiatives that are really going to benefit the association," Duden said.
Some changes started in recent months under Duden. This year, the association tweaked its springtime event, traditionally a high-dollar-ticket charitable fundraiser, the Barristers Ball. The more casual Barristers Blue Jeans and Bling kept ticket prices under $70 and attracted half again as many people as the previous year's event. Most important, said Daigle: "The thing that it did was, it drew a lot of first-time attendees."
The association recently hired a part-time public relations associate. Another hire will give its lawyer referral service full-time coverage.
Lawyers who know Daigle said she is taking a sound approach, as a regular influx of new members (the organization added more than 1,000 members since the mid-2000s), greater participation and a review of programs help the longevity of an organization.
Daigle received her law degree from the University of Maryland, and began her career as a prosecutor 17 years ago in Charles County. She is married and has a teenage stepdaughter and a young son.
Annapolis lawyer Ted Staples said he met Daigle in Charles County in the late 1990s when they were on opposite sides of a case. She moved to the Anne Arundel County prosecutor's office in 2000, where, seeking to devote more time to her family, she currently works part-time handling charges against juveniles. Staples recruited her for the association, and urged her to take on increasing responsibility. He found her personable, fair, smart and reliable in tackling bar association work.
"I tried to bring in talent," said Staples, who served as AABA president in 2005-2006. Daigle, he said, came across as leadership material, and moved up the association's ranks.
Less well known are Daigle's efforts as a triathlete: "I'm slow — we don't need to talk about times."