In 2005, five Mid-Shore counties, together with state pro bono legal services groups, identified a need on the Eastern Shore for an agency that could connect attorneys willing to donate their time with low-income individuals in need of civil legal representation.
Mid-Shore Pro Bono was established out of that need, and became the first regional pro bono referral agency in the state of Maryland. It remains the only pro bono lawyer referral agency on the Eastern Shore.
The urgency of that need has been demonstrated by Mid-Shore Pro Bono’s rapid growth and expansion over the past decade.
The agency took form in a low-visibility location in Centreville, offering its core referral services to Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caroline, Talbot and Dorchester counties. By 2009, the need for greater accessibility for clients brought a move to a store-front location in Easton. This enabled a significant expansion in Mid-Shore Pro Bono’s catalog of civil legal services to the community.
That year, it began offering Legal Services Clinics at the new Easton office. Demand was so great that Mid-Shore Pro Bono eventually began holding clinics in each of its five service counties.
With the tumbling economy and precarious housing situation for many residents, foreclosure and bankruptcy were problems frequently being addressed by the clinics’ volunteer lawyers. In 2009, Mid-Shore Pro Bono joined with the state’s Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project to offer local attorneys specialized training in this area of the law. It began holding regular clinics and community workshops focused on foreclosure issues.
The following two years brought further expansion of services for residents in financial trouble. In 2010, Mid-Shore Pro Bono began working with the Debtor Assistance Project, and in 2011 partnered with the Pro Bono Resource Center to offer attorneys training through the Consumer Protection Project. Regular clinics focusing on debt and bankruptcy issues began and eventually expanded to all five counties.
Family law continues to be Mid-Shore Pro Bono’s largest program. In 2012, it began offering the Collaborative Practice Reduced Fee Project as an alternative dispute resolution method to resolve domestic issues outside of court. It also began offering additional assistance to women through the Women’s Family Law Project.
That same year, its Community Conferencing Project began bringing victims and offenders together to reach agreements through a powerful social justice process.
Within three years of moving to Easton, this expansion of services, which brought with it greater staffing needs, required another move to larger quarters. While Mid-Shore Pro Bono’s new offices on West Street in Easton are convenient to the Talbot County Courthouse and area attorneys, as well as to many of its local clients, it is offering more and more of its programs off site in all five of its service counties.
In ten short years, Mid-Shore Pro Bono has grown from a small referral agency, meeting a narrow community need, into a significant community resource, answering multiple critical legal needs for the Mid-Shore’s most at-risk residents.
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2016 Annual Report