Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : November 2012


Elva Tillman receives her award

Elva Tillman (left) receives PBRC’s Government Pro Bono Service Award from Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, Maryland Court of Appeals (center) and PBRC’s Executive Director, Sharon E. Goldsmith.

Elva Tillman, principle council for the Baltimore City Law Department for the past 11 years, has been a public servant all of her life. She serves her community well, having volunteered in some capacity for as long as she can remember.

As a child, Tillman could be found typing dictations for illiterate neighbors and participating in her community’s Clean Block Campaign. For decades of her early professional career, Tillman worked as an urban planner for the Baltimore City Planning Department and Howard County Housing and Community Development. She later dedicated years of service to Morgan State University and continues advocacy on its behalf to this day.

So, it is no surprise that, upon graduating from the now University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and passing the Bar, Tillman used her new legal skills in a volunteer capacity. Subsequent to seeing an advertisement for Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS), Tillman began her pro bono journey.

Tillman has handled 33 cases over the past 12 years for MVLS, volunteering at least 230 hours of her time to low income Marylanders in need of civil legal assistance. Most of her pro bono cases have been in the area of Family Law, as not to conflict with her position handling acquisitions of properties for redevelopment purposes for the city of Baltimore.

MVLS deputy director, Richard Chambers, notes that Tillman sees her work as more than a personal venture. Rather, she campaigns for other government attorneys to volunteer their skills as well. “[Tillman] tirelessly promotes the cause of pro bono service among government attorneys and urges others in her position to give their time and expertise to our clients in need,” Chambers says, acknowledging the tenacity of Tillman’s activism for volunteerism. “She is the rare soul who takes the cause of serving the underprivileged totally and completely to heart.”

When asked why she has done so much pro bono work, Tillman claims that she feels compelled to give back, stating, “[Pro bono work] is something I just do. It’s like exercise. It helps you to grow and stay connected to the community. It makes you a better person. People need help, and I’m blessed to give back.”

Tillman’s spirit of volunteerism is limitless. Today, she can be found working as a docent for the Museum of Baltimore Legal History or continuing her 15 year stint as a program committee member with the Baltimore Bar Foundation’s Senior Legal Services, all the while remaining a steadfast volunteer for MVLS. 

Tillman received MVLS’s Ten-Year Volunteer Award in 2010 and PBRC’s 2012 Pro Bono Service Award for a Government or Corporate Attorney.

For more information on volunteer legal service opportunities in Maryland, contact Jennifer Larrabee at the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland at (410) 837-9379 or (800) 396-1274, or email

Carey Moore is the Communications Manager of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin : November 2012

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