Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : March 2007

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 PRO BONO Profile:  

Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland: What We Do

Every 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 population.

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 jmoseley@probonomd.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 most.

» 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 more information.

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 jmoseley@probonomd.org.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: March 2007