EASTON — Local attorney, Derek Hills received the Lee A. Caplan Award this month at the MSBA Legal Summit. Nominated by Mid-Shore Pro Bono, Hills was chosen for the Caplan Award — an award geared toward a solo or small firm practitioner who has rendered pro bono service over many years.
The Awards Committee received a terrific response to our request for nominations this year,” Dave Pantzer, Director of Education, Outreach, & Technology, Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland said. “With such a wonderful selection of recommendations, the decisions for each award were often difficult ones. Indeed, all the nominees deserve special recognition for their outstanding contributions toward increasing access to legal services for the poor. Even so, the Committee was particularly impressed with these candidates’ pro bono efforts to ensure equal access to justice.”
Hill’s nomination was submitted by Meredith Lathbury Girard, Esq., Managing Attorney at Mid-Shore Pro Bono. Girard said she was thrilled that Hills was accepted for the service award.
Hills operates a solo practice, The Law Office of Derek Hills, LLC, on West Street in Easton. Hills has been a dedicated Mid-Shore Pro Bono volunteer since he began his law practice in 2015. Girard said, “His volunteer service providing counseling and representation on consumer debt cases has resulted in concrete economic benefits for his clients and led to the creation of Mid-Shore Pro Bono’s consumer debt program, which serves over 300 clients every year.”
In that time Hills has worked with MSPB specifically to resolve consumer debt cases — providing hundreds of hours of service on 182 cases to 368 clients.
“Hills is an extraordinary advocate for the rights of low-income people facing debt, collections, auto fraud, and other consumer challenges,” Girard wrote in her nomination, and as a result hundreds of Eastern Shore residents have received, pro bono, much needed advice on their rights and representation in court. “Derek’s clients describe him as a compassionate and effective advocate who stands up for people who often feel they have little voice,” she said.
Hills recognized that defendants in debt buyer cases often do not come to court, often resulting in lasting negative economic consequences. Through the creation of Mid-Shore Pro Bono’s consumer debt program, they are proactively able to reach out to individuals who are being sought after in court by debt buyers and provides them with legal advice and direct representation.
In the first year of the program, Hills represented over 40 clients — and as of 2021 has represented 182 clients in cases and assisted 368 clients with consumer debt issues. Mid-Shore Pro Bono provides targeted outreach and marketing, including mailings to people who are being sued in District court, as well as case management and language interpretation. “As a result of Derek’s effort to create the consumer debt program, Mid-Shore Pro Bono has helped low-income clients recover over $889,000 in financial benefits,” Girard said.
One of the most extraordinary aspects of Hills’ work is the care he takes to ensure that each client has additional resources they might need beyond their legal issue, Girard noted, citing one instance where he called MSPB requesting information about housing resources for a family he was assisting after he learned that they were living without heat or cooking facilities.
“His clients are often burdened by multiple consumer debt issues,” said Girard. “Derek consistently and relentlessly assists his clients with humanity and humility.”