Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : March 2010

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 PRO BONO Profile:  

The Legal Grind is a clinic program started in 1996 by attorney Jeffrey J. Hughes in southern California. During summer 2009, this clinic model was imported across the country to Baltimore, Maryland, by Brenda Bratton-Blom, Director of the Clinical Law program at the University of Maryland School of Law. At Legal Grind events, Marylanders can present their legal questions and receive a half-hour consultation with a trained attorney (and a complimentary cup of joe) for $10. With the help of law students from the University of Maryland, retired members of the Bar who have volunteered and attorneys from Civil Justice Inc., the program has already helped almost 200 people, and future clinics are scheduled through May 2010 with no plans to stop.

The focus of the Legal Grind program model is providing access to legal guidance to members of the community who are not eligible for Legal Aid or other pro bono referral programs, but still cannot really afford to hire an attorney. Since last summer, Legal Grind clinics have been held between three and seven times a month in various locations in and around Baltimore, including Brooklyn, Washington Village, Cherry Hill and, most frequently, at the Hollywood Diner, near the I-83 overpass in downtown Baltimore. Certain events (Cherry Hill Senior Center) focus on the legal concerns of the elderly; however, most of the events welcome a wide range of legal questions.

THE ADVICE
given may be brief, but $10 for the guidance of a trained and licensed legal professional could be the best money spent all day.

While staging a clinic representing such a wide variety of areas of the law is no small feat, it is certainly an attractive feature to the clinic's clients. Anything from family law to criminal law, employment law to tax law can be addressed at a Legal Grind clinic. The clinic even offers expungement services, for which the $10 fee is waived and the clinic asks only the cost of the filing. The advice given may be brief, but $10 for the guidance of a trained and licensed legal professional could be the best money spent all day.

The University of Maryland School of Law provides the opportunity to work at the clinic to an average of four or five students per event. Under the supervision of Bratton-Blom and Leigh Maddox, J.D., co-directors of the program, the students from the law school do the intakes, sit in on consultations and assist in the general administration of the clinics. The students are certainly gaining experience in how to help their future clients define and navigate their legal questions, but they are also helping to provide a unique and valuable service to their neighbors while learning the importance of pro bono and clinic work in the communities.

Civil Justice Inc., a public interest legal service network headquartered in the Maryland Bar Center, provides a diverse array of practitioners from their membership to serve at the clinics, advising clients and mentoring the law students. The program also receives help from retired members of the Bar who generously offer their knowledge and time to help the clinic's clients and students have meaningful consultations.

The Legal Grind has proven a triumph for not only the students and for the University of Maryland School of Law, but also for the community at large, with those who have come looking for helping offering very positive response. The success of the Legal Grind in Baltimore must be credited to the locations (one of which is within walking distance of the Baltimore Courthouse), the students, the mentoring attorneys and the professors and co-directors of the Clinical Law Program at the University of Maryland School of Law who gave the clinic its start here in Charm City.

For an updated list of the scheduled clinics and locations, or to find out how to volunteer with this program, call (410) 706-4273, or e-mail legalgrind@law.umaryland.edu.

Andy Lee Hagepanos is Project Assistant for the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland.


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Publications : Bar Bulletin: March 2010

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