lawyer in the state carved out such an individual area of responsibility, such as a church or citizens group, and provided similar services, Marylanders who do not otherwise have access to our legal system would no longer view lawyers as strangers and the legal system as a threatening process.”
Andrew Vernick, a partner at Wharton, Levin, Ehrmantraut & Klein, P.A., in Annapolis, Maryland, has concentrated in medical malpractice and insurance-related litigation for over 25 years. Remarkably, amidst a demanding practice, Vernick has also established an ongoing pro bono legal assistance service through the Asbury United Methodist Church. Already having been designated a “super lawyer” on numerous occasions, he made the open-ended offer of help to the congregation without condition. “He offered his services to members of the church located across the street from his firm where one can see the church’s food distribution activities,” explains John Gardner, President of the Anne Arundel County Bar Association. That offer led to five years of volunteer legal assistance on a weekly basis to both the church and its parishioners.
Vernick feels that his motivation is derived from the end of every phone call or meeting, when a parishioner tells him to “have a blessed day.” “It’s payment enough, and it’s motivation aplenty,” states Vernick. He has represented clients on a wide-range of legal issues and dedicates at least five hours per week providing this free service. Aside from his pro bono work to church members, he also offers free legal counsel to the church administration. Vernick’s fulfillment with his work is obvious.
“To be able to provide church members with a resource that would not otherwise be available to them is truly special,” he notes. “If every lawyer in the state carved out such an individual area of responsibility, such as a church or citizens group, and provided similar services, Marylanders who do not otherwise have access to our legal system would no longer view lawyers as strangers and the legal system as a threatening process.”
Andrew Vernick is a classic example of one professional giving of himself every day and realizing the fruits of his efforts through his constant and very positive interaction with a very special group of clients. Asbury’s pastor, Rev. Walter Middlebrooks, stresses the impact that Vernick has had on his flock. “Had he not come up this way, our parishioners would have suffered,” says Middlebrooks. “He has been a true ray of hope. Mr. Vernick is our life support. He gives you a kind of assurance that I have someone that will help me to resolve any problem.”
By any measure, Andrew Vernick, through his selfless dedication, has realized the true fruits of public service – absolute self satisfaction. Vernick has been recognized by the Black Chamber of Commerce for his service and was recently selected as the pro bono honoree from Anne Arundel County for the Pro Bono Resource Center’s 20th Anniversary Gala. He is a credit to his profession, and his imprimatur on his extended clientele will long outlast his already remarkable career.
Support pro bono work in your community. Add your resources to the fight. For more information on the legal service volunteer opportunities in Maryland, contact Jennifer Larrabee at PBRC at (410) 837-9379 or (800) 396-1274, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diana Rogers is the Marketing and Development Coordinator at the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland.