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 became the first regional pro bono referral agency in the state of Maryland and remains Eastern Shore’s only such agency.
The urgency of that need, and Mid-Shore Pro Bono’s unique ability to meet it, has been demonstrated by its rapid growth and expansion. Serving a broad rural area of Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caroline, Talbot and Dorchester counties, Mid-Shore Pro Bono takes a proactive approach to meeting the wide-ranging civil legal needs of the area’s low-income residents. Initially simply a lawyer referral agency, its first steps in taking its services to the people were to hold civil legal services clinics on-site in each county.
The clinics, in turn, led staff to identify the legal services most requested and begin offering specialized services tailored to those needs. Foreclosure and bankruptcy were problems frequently being addressed by the clinics’ volunteer lawyers, so Mid-Shore Pro Bono began holding regular clinics and community workshops focused on foreclosure issues.
Later years brought further expansion of services for residents in financial trouble, as Mid-Shore Pro Bono began working with the Debtor Assistance Project, and then 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. 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, and Limited Scope Representation to allow more clients to afford legal assistance by participating in preparing their own cases.
Specialized projects evolved to serve both young and senior residents. The Community Conferencing Project began bringing victims and young offenders together to reach agreements through a powerful social justice process. The project’s Daily Rap and Youth Rap take conflict resolution and communication skills directly to students though school-based and after-school programs. The Elder Law Project integrates services from many of the other programs and tailors them to seniors’ unique needs.
The new Vulnerable Populations Assistance Project addresses an urgent and escalating need to help the area’s substantial immigrant population with their legal options and protect them from predatory false-documentation scams.
Finally, court liaisons—“Mid-Shore Pro Bono on wheels”—take all of these services directly to the courts in each county, coordinating with the courts, clients and attorneys. The liaisons’ outreach efforts are vital in ensuring the Mid-Shore’s diverse population can take advantage of available legal resources.
Mid-Shore Pro Bono is proud to have grown from its modest beginning into a valuable and respected partner in the community, having a critical impact in connecting the Mid-Shore’s most at-risk residents with the civil legal services and other community resources they need.
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2017 Annual Report