Helping in Harford County
In every county you can usually find a service "jewel", tucked away in the
background, quietly offering much-needed help to the public. Harford County
has that jewel in the Harford County Bar Foundation and the many programs it
The Foundation office is located in the Harford County branch of the Legal
Aid Bureau. The two agencies enjoy a close working relationship, with each
acting as a resource for the callers and clients of the other. The Foundation
was formed in 1991 and from the outset pro bono work has been a part of its
mission and purpose. That program offers referrals to free and reduced-fee
legal representation to the financially disadvantaged of Harford County.
The mission of the Harford County Bar Foundation also includes being a community
educational resource, helping citizens of Harford County understand the broad
range of public and private legal services available to them at both the state
and local level. In addition, the Foundation serves to promote a better understanding
of the legal system for the general public, as well as providing continuing
legal education for the Association's members.
Being housed alongside the Legal Aid Bureau has distinct advantages for the
Foundation. "Many times we are the next place a client calls if the Bureau
has a conflict of interest, or the client's income makes them ineligible for
service," says Brandy Miller, Executive Director of the Harford County Bar
Association. "We are able to help by offering services to people who would
otherwise have none."
Since its beginning, the Foundation has been instrumental in soliciting over
10,000 reported pro bono service hours in Harford County. With a roster of
over 120 attorneys to call for help, the Foundation is able to offer a broad
range of referrals in many areas of law. So clients who need legal assistance
with child support, custody or domestic violence issues as well as housing,
unemployment and bankruptcy can call the Foundation to find the help they need.
It is also possible to place some criminal cases with reduced-fee attorneys
for individuals who have been referred by the Public Defender's Office.
Over the past several years the Foundation has seen increased growth in the
reduced-fee category. More and more people who are calling the Foundation are
not destitute but simply do not make enough money to hire an attorney at full
market rate. The Foundation is instrumental in finding attorneys willing to
take on these cases at a reduced rate.
All of these benefits come through the efforts of only two staff members
and a tightly-run ship. The Foundation exists solely on grants, such as Maryland
Legal Services Corporation and others, a few fundraising events and the very
generous support of Harford County attorneys. The same lawyers who donate their
time also support the Foundation financially. As expected, the lion's share
of the assistance goes to Harford County residents. However, according to Miller, "occasionally,
we will get calls from people who live in other counties, but their cases are
being heard in Harford. We are able to get them help also."
In a manner of speaking, the Foundation has become a kind of "hotline" for
Harford County legal information. "Our name seems to be spreading around the
County," states Miller.
"We are getting more and more calls from people for whom this is their first
interaction with the legal system and they just need some direction."
Whether it is help with directions or referrals, the Harford County Bar Foundation
continues to be a great resource for the people of Harford County. If you would
like to volunteer, contact the office at (410) 836-8202 and ask for the Bar
For more information on volunteer opportunities
in Maryland, please contact Jon Moseley, Director of Volunteer Services and
Community Outreach, Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, at (410) 837-9379
or (800) 396-1274.