Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland:
What We Do
month, this column spotlights legal services programs in order to inform Maryland
attorneys about the legal needs and volunteer opportunities within the particular
program. The hope is that through these articles attorneys will learn about
the important pro bono work being done in our state and the need for
your help in making –
and keeping – it possible.
The Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland (PBRC) is the pro bono arm of the
Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA). Although a separate non-profit organization,
its role as the statewide coordinator and clearinghouse for pro bono legal
services means that it supports the entire legal services-delivery system on
a variety of levels, including training and recruitment of lawyers, recognition
of volunteer efforts, incubation of new pro bono projects and policy development.
Outlined below are some of PBRC's support and resource functions.
» Training. Throughout the year, PBRC offers training in areas
of the law that historically have the greatest need for pro bono work.
We do this in two ways. One is through a partnership with the Maryland Institute
for the Continuing Education of Lawyers (MICPEL). Full or partial scholarships
are made available for certain MICPEL courses in exchange for taking on a pro
bono case. The other is through PBRC and MICPEL's Bridge the Gap series, which
focuses on topics particularly relevant to working with low-income clients
and geared toward the volunteer bar.
In exchange for the training, volunteer attorneys fulfill their pro bono
obligation by taking a case or rendering some type of legal assistance through
one of the local legal services programs. Working with an established program
has the multiple advantages of pre-screening the case as well as offering malpractice
insurance and mentoring. This has been especially useful for new lawyers desiring
experience or attorneys who wish to broaden their practice areas.
» Recognition. In recognition of this good work, PBRC sponsors
the statewide Maryland Pro Bono Service Awards. Each year, a committee of community
representatives from around the state select outstanding attorneys and non-attorneys
who have made a significant contribution to the delivery of pro bono civil
legal services to Maryland's poor. The awards recognize those who have served
as effective advocates for low-income clients on a pro bono basis, demonstrated
a dedication to the development and delivery of legal services to the poor
through a pro bono program, or assisted in meeting previously-unmet legal needs.
These needs may include extending services to the underserved, participating
in legislative litigation or increasing the passage rate of legislation which
positively impacts the provision of legal services to Maryland's low-income
Nominees can be individuals in large or small firms, solo practitioners or
members of the judiciary, as well as pro bono programs or organizations,
law firms, government or corporate legal departments, special projects, or
non-legal or organizational involvement. If you would like to nominate a deserving
attorney or a law firm in your community, simply visit our website at www.probonomd.org and
download an application. E-mail or mail the completed application by April
2, 2007 to firstname.lastname@example.org ;
520 W. Fayette St. Baltimore, Maryland 21201. Decisions are made each year
in May, and the presentations are in June at the MSBA Annual Meeting.
» Project incubation. In addition to individual recruitment
and recognition, PBRC collaborates with agencies across the state in the genesis
of programs aimed at meeting emergent needs. Projects like the Children's Education
Project being piloted in Prince George's County, the Pro Bono Mediation
Project in Baltimore City, and the Mid Shore Pro Bono Project came about
as a result of PBRC facilitating partnerships within the legal community. Acting
as a catalyst, PBRC is able to bring agencies together around a common concern
and help them work out solutions that provide services to those who need them
» Planning and coordination. Along with bringing together individual
programs in collaborative efforts, PBRC works to convene forums for those across
the state interested in access-to-justice initiatives. PBRC sponsors an annual
Maryland Partners for Justice Conference that attracts over 250 bar
members, legal services staff, judges, law school faculty and students and
politicians to learn and strategize about expanding access to legal services.
This year, the conference will be held on May 3 at the Baltimore Convention
Center and features Professor Bernardine Dohrn as the keynote speaker. Visit
our website at www.probonomd.org for
PBRC Executive Director Sharon E. Goldsmith, Esq., probably said it best: "Justice,
without equal access, is not justice. That, quite simply, is the motivating
philosophy behind PBRC," and why hundreds of wonderful volunteer attorneys
donate thousands of hours to represent those who would otherwise be shut out
of the justice system.
We believe in equal access to justice for all Marylanders; not just some.
This is our ultimate goal. With your help, this is what we will achieve.
For more information on volunteering or training opportunities around
the state of Maryland, contact Jon Moseley at (410) 837-9379 or (800) 396-1274,
or e-mail email@example.com.