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October is Pro Bono Month!

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You can find Pro Bono Chocolates, specially wrapped by Joan Bellistri, in the Law Library!

The 2014 National Pro Bono Celebration this year is October 19th through October 25th. This annual celebration of pro bono is organized and sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono to recognize and promote pro bono at the national level, but with a focus on local needs and local projects.  The Law Library is excited to once again be a Celebration Supporter!

In honor of the National Pro Bono Celebration, this blog will be featuring posts focusing on pro bono service for the entire month of October.  Stay tuned as we will highlight ongoing pro bono services and programs available at the Law Library, such as the Ask A Lawyer In The Library Program, as well as opportunities to get involved, such as the Anne Arundel Pro Bono Challenge.  For more information about the National Pro Bono Celebration, including background, events, resources and news, please visit http://www.probono.net/celebrateprobono/.

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lawlibrary Pro Bono Self Represented

National Pro Bono Week: Celebrate Anne Arundel County Volunteers

It is important to celebrate the attorneys who provide pro bono service in Anne Arundel County.  Attorneys take cases through MVLS, participate in the Foreclosure Pro Bono Prevention Project, provide limited legal advice at the annual Anne Arundel County Homeless Resource Day and at Ask a Lawyer in the Library programs.  Attorneys provide pro bono service through formal programs and others provide pro bono service independently.  Posters of  pro bono volunteers have been displayed in the law library this week and have been added here. They are representative of the many  pro bono opportunities in which Anne Arundel attorneys participate.

The Anne Arundel Local Pro Bono Committee wishes to recognize and thank all of the Anne Arundel County attorneys providing pro bono service.

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lawlibrary Pro Bono

Celebrate Pro Bono with a Pro Bono Law Practice

To celebrate Pro Bono during the National Pro Bono Week the Anne Arundel County Local Pro Bono Committee invited Michelle Moodispaw to our monthly meeting.  The Committee wanted to learn more about her unique pro bono law firm, the Law Office of  Michelle Moodspaw.  Not only did the Committee have a good discussion of the types of pro bono services as a result, it added Michelle as a new member.

Michelle established her law firm with a goal to provide legal services to those who otherwise would not.  Some do not qualify for legal service programs but still cannot afford an attorney.  Others who may meet the financial criteria may not fall within the guidelines for the types of cases that the service provider takes.  The law firm provides both free and reduced fee legal services.

Service provided by the firm ranges from brief limited advice consultations to full representation.  Clients are referred via a number of different organizations that include the ABA Military Pro Bono Project, Mid-Shore Pro Bono, KIND, We Care and Friends and MVLS. An article in the Sun in 2010, ” New law firm seeks clients who can’t afford a lawyer: Attorneys say they want to help fill gap for services to people of limited means,”  helped get the word out as well.

Of the 180 cases taken so far, 61 of those are civil with about half of those involving family matters.  Other civil case types include immigration, housing and denial of benefits.  Michelle is on the Public Defender’s Panel in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties and handles district court and post-conviction matters, too.  At this point, Michelle is reassessing her firm’s mission based on a desire to reach more people.

With her pro bono experience Michelle was able to offer insight as to best practices for encouraging pro bono service.  She mentioned that she finds it easier to handle a case through an established pro bono legal service provider.  The provider will have performed the intake and can have basic case information ready.  She also suggested that a local pro bono referral service might make local attorneys feel that the service was their own and would then be more inclined to volunteer.  Of course, this lead to  discussion of how such a service could be established.  This discussion will be ongoing.

While it is true that this model of a pro bono practice will not work for most, it can act as an inspiration for attorneys to provide at least the minimum of 50 hours of pro bono service each year.

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lawlibrary Pro Bono

Celebrate Pro Bono 2012: Anne Arundel County Attorneys and PBRC

Oftentimes attorneys are reluctant to take a pro bono case because the case involves issues that they do not deal with on a regular basis.  This problem can be easily remedied through the many free training opportunities offered by pro bono providers. The Pro Bono Resource Center (PBRC) as the statewide coordinator of pro bono for Maryland can not only match an attorney with the right pro bono activity but also the training and support needed to provide the pro bono service. PBRC offers training on a variety of topics in number of locations around the state.  On the PBRC website now there is an announcement about a family law training in Easton and a special education training held in Baltimore City.  PBRC  offers training via webcasts as well.  Free and discounted slots for a selection of MSBA Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Courses are offered through the PBRC and Maryland State Bar Association. These training opportunities are free but attorneys are required to provide pro bono service in return.  More details on all of these training options can be found on the  “general information page:” http://www.probonomd.org/general-info.

The PBRC highlights four pro bono projects that involve special training and opportunities on their website.  They are the Veterans’ Benefits Pro Bono Project, the Pro Bono Family Mediation Project, the Consumer Protection Project, and the Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project.

As part of their National Pro Bono Week campaign to increase pro bono participation by Anne Arundel attorneys, the Anne Arundel County Local Pro Bono Committee encouraged involvement in the Foreclosure Prevention Project.  It is hoped that with more Anne Arundel attorneys participating in the project that a Foreclosure Workshop could be scheduled in the county.  We know the need is there. Anne Arundel County had the 5th largest number of foreclosures in the state as reported in the Department of Housing and Community Development report, Property Foreclosures in Maryland Third Quarter 2012.  PBRC extended a special invitation to attend a live training on November 2: A Practical Guide for Representing Homeowners at Foreclosure Mediation.  Special arrangements can be made for viewing the prerequisite webinar for the class: The New Foreclosure Prevention 101 – A Beginner’s Guide.  Details on the training and the program can be found here: http://www.probonomd.org/foreclosure-prevention-training.

It is hoped that the more attorneys are aware of the pro bono opportunities, training and support provided by such organizations as the PBRC that the numbers of Anne Arundel County attorneys providing 50 or more hours of pro bono service will increase.

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lawlibrary Pro Bono

Celebrate Pro Bono 2012: Anne Arundel County Attorneys and MVLS

Celebrate Pro Bono by volunteering to provide pro bono service.  Pro bono programs are in need of more Anne Arundel County attorneys to handle cases in the county.    The number of attorneys providing pro bono service is increasing.  Based on statistics collected for the report Current Status of Pro Bono Service Among Maryland Lawyers, Year 2010 issued November 9, 2011, Anne Arundel County has moved from last to 20th place in the number of attorneys who have provided 50 hours or more of pro bono service. It is clear that Anne Arundel County attorneys can do more and can continue this trend.

Anne Arundel does not have its  own pro bono referral service but by partnering with the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) there is a way for Anne Arundel attorneys to be matched with clients in need of pro bono representation.  The Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service reports that many cases needing representation in Anne Arundel county are taken by attorneys from other counties.  It is easy to add your name to the MVLS roster. Just visit the volunteer page on the MVLS website and simply fill out the online form.   The MVLS supports its volunteers with malpractice insurance, mentors, free training, use of their offices to meet with clients and reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses.

The types of cases placed by MVLS include administration of small estates,  adult guardianship, bankruptcy (Chapter 7 only), child custody, collections, consumer disputes, criminal record expungement, deed changes, denial of public benefits, divorce, foreclosure, landlord/tenant, living wills, name changes, power of attorney, school suspensions, tax disputes, and wills.

MVLS also administers a  family law reduced-fee program called Judicare.  According to the MVLS website “Judicare has funding to pay attorneys up to $1,600 per client representation.  Attorneys are paid at the rate of $80 per hour for the first 20 hours of representation in a contested domestic matter.  The attorney must then provide the next five hours pro bono.  For matters that require additional time for resolution, attorneys are eligible for an additional ten hours of paid representation at $80 per hour. In return, “Judicare attorneys are asked to accept one pro bono domestic case for every Judicare case referred.  The pro bono domestic matters are generally uncontested or less complicated than Judicare cases.  Attorneys must have at least three years of family law experience to participate in this project.”

Volunteering is easy with the help of MVLS.  Anne Arundel County attorneys are encouraged to take advantage of the service provided.

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lawlibrary Pro Bono Self Represented

National Pro Bono Week: Anne Arundel County

This year for the National Pro Bono Week Celebration, October 21- 27, 2012 the Anne Arundel County Local Pro Bono Committee seeks to encourage pro bono representation by Anne Arundel County attorneys.  The campaign to increase the numbers of pro bono volunteers began with a blast email sent to all members of the AABA. The text of that email follows:

Pro Bono Week News from the Local Pro Bono Committee

The National Pro Bono Celebration focuses the nation’s attention on the increased need for pro bono services during these challenging economic times and celebrates the outstanding work of lawyers who volunteer their services throughout the year. The Anne Arundel County Local Pro Bono Committee is calling on all Anne Arundel attorneys to provide pro bono service. We know the need is great and that more attorneys from our county are needed.

A Word from the Bench:

I represent the Circuit Court on the Anne Arundel County Local Pro Bono Committee.  I am a strong advocate for local attorneys volunteering their time to represent litigants who cannot afford counsel.  In my experience, there is now an even greater need for volunteer lawyers than there has been in the past. I have seen Plaintiffs come into court without any witnesses and state they do not want to call themselves as a witness either.  In that event, there is no evidence.  In some cases, if the Plaintiff, himself, is encouraged to take the stand, the litigant will often just sit there, in the witness box, not saying a word without any knowledge of what his or her burden of production is.  This results in unjust and inequitable results. 

Through my participation in the Pro Bono Committee, I learned that in 2009 Anne Arundel County ranked last in the state in the number of lawyers who provided 50 or more hours of pro bono service.  Anne Arundel has since moved to the twentieth position.  But why not make Anne Arundel County come in first in the number of lawyers who volunteer?  Please consider donating your time and expertise to such a worthy cause.

                                                                        Judge Pamela L. North

 Opportunities:

● The Anne Arundel County Local Pro Bono Committee has partnered with the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) for the placement of  Anne Arundel County residents in need of pro bono representation. The Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service reports that many cases needing representation in Anne Arundel county are taken by attorneys from other counties.  It is easy to add your name to the MVLS roster. Just visit the volunteer page on the MVLS website and simply fill out the online form. MVLS supports its volunteers with malpractice insurance, mentors, free training, use of their offices to meet with clients and reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses.

● The Foreclosure crisis continues to affect our state with Anne Arundel County ranking fifth in the state in the number of foreclosures. The Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project needs volunteer attorneys to help. Volunteers receive free training and are asked to provide two homeowners pro bono representation in their foreclosure cases and/or provide pro bono representation to one homeowner and volunteer at one foreclosure solutions workshop where homeowners receive free legal advice.  The Project provides access to malpractice insurance and mentoring support.

Anne Arundel County Attorneys are invited to attend the newly developed program on Foreclosure Mediation on November 2.  Since the basic training is a prerequisite you will be asked to view the webcast of the basic program for background. Your invitation follows:

Pro Bono Resource Center and Civil Justice are pleased to offer the below pro bono training program, A Practical Guide for Representing Homeowners at Foreclosure Mediation, as part of Maryland’s Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project.  Since the Maryland foreclosure mediation program took effect in July 2010, we have learned a lot about how to achieve positive outcomes through mediation and we want to share our tips and strategies with you.  This training program is designed for existing Project volunteers who have already taken the Project’s basic training course.  If you have not yet taken the basic training course, please contact Annie Brinkmann of Pro Bono Resource Center to gain access to the webcast of the basic course (443-703-3050 or abrinkmann@probonomd.org).

Friday, November 2, 2012, 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM 

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law – ROOM 205

500 W. Baltimore Street

Baltimore, MD 21201-1786 

  To register, please visit www.probonomd.org/foreclosure-prevention-training

 Questions?  Please contact Annie Brinkmann at 443-703-3050 or abrinkmann@probonomd.org.   

 If you are interested in participating but cannot attend on November 2, please complete the registration process indicating that you would like to receive the webcast of this training once it becomes available.

● For those who prefer to donate to a worthy organization, the local committee suggests that donations be made to the Anne Arundel Legal Aid Bureau through AAcares.org.

Celebrate Pro Bono Week:

You can find out more about pro bono opportunities for Anne Arundel attorneys at the AACPLL Self Help and Pro Bono WIKI.  Posters of Anne Arundel Pro Bono Volunteers will be on display in the Anne Arundel County Public Law Library during Pro Bono Week.  Visit the library to see what other Anne Arundel attorneys have done to volunteer and to add your name to the roster of those “doing good.” (There will be chocolate.)

Please make the Local Pro Bono Committee’s campaign to increase pro bono service a success as we celebrate Pro Bono week this year Volunteer now!

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2011 Pro Bono Week Celebration a Success in Anne Arundel County

Anne Arundel County celebrated Pro Bono Week and the 100th Birthday of Legal Aid  by offering free, limited legal advice on civil matters in the law library.  15 Anne Arundel County volunteer attorneys provided 20 hours of free legal advice to 44 people this week.  Each attorney was available for at least one hour slot on Tuesday through Thursday from 12:00 to 5:00.  (Our regularly scheduled Wednesday program still began at 11:00.)  Many of the attorneys stayed to help beyond their promised one hour in order to help when there was a bit of a wait.  The busiest times seemed to be between 12:00 and 2:00 p.m.

Issues for which the attorneys were consulted included trusts, wills, torts, landlord\tenant, employment, foreclosure, real property, deeds, accident cases and family law.  Now that the Family Self Help Center is located in the law library many of the family issues could be easily referred to the center.  However, it worked out well on Tuesday when the Center closes at 1:00 to have the volunteer family law attorneys available throughout the afternoon.

I know that everyone who received legal advice appreciated the service.  Every volunteer received only a small bag of “pro bono” candy so I want to thank all of the volunteers who made this event possible:

Jeff Bowman, Mary Jordan, Susan Mays, Carolyn Krohn, Kathleen McLaughlin, Darren Burns, Doug Hollman, Dana Paul, Alan Legum, Anita Bailey, John Greene, Lisa Sarro, Garland Hall, Elena Boisvert, Bob Waldman and Kunle Adeyemo.

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