Professional Skills Academy

Developing Maryland's next generation of pro bono advocates and leaders

PBRC’s Professional Skills Academy is a one-year, cohort-based program of training, mentoring, and service for newer attorneys (the Fellows) that will:

  • enhance the Fellows’ lawyering skills;
  • develop in the Fellows the habit of thoughtfully choosing and carrying out pro bono service; and
  • introduce the Fellows to mentors and colleagues who can help them grow.

Read The Daily Record’s article about the Academy’s launch.

From August 2019 to June 2020, Professional Skills Academy Fellows will receive litigation skills training; will engage in pro bono courtroom legal practice, with assistance from a practice mentor; and will receive personal mentoring from a Maryland judge or experienced attorney.

Fall 2019: Basic Courtroom Skills

  • [Evening] Program Kick-off event (Thursday, August 29, late afternoon/evening, Baltimore)
  • [Online] Training: District Court Practice (Online, at your convenience, before volunteering)
  • [Live] Training: Witnesses & Exhibits in District Court (Friday, September 20, noon to 3 pm, Baltimore)
  • Courtroom practice, with Practice Mentor (x 3) (individually scheduled)
  • [Live] Training: Avoiding grievances (Friday, December 12, noon to 3 pm, Baltimore)
  • [Evening] Networking event (December, late afternoon/evening)

Winter 2020: Reinforce Courtroom Skills

  • Courtroom practice, with Practice Mentor (x 2)
  • [Live] Training: Prep and direct a witness (Friday, February 7, noon to 3 pm, Baltimore)
  • [By appointment, twice during the year] Meet with your Professionalism Mentor

Spring 2020: Professional Skills Development

  • [Online] Chosen Training (Choose only one)
    Choose Either:
    • (a) Rent Escrow Hearings (Intermediate Litigation), OR
    • (b) Estate Planning Basics for Low-Income Seniors (Client Counseling and Legal Drafting), OR
    • (c) How to Interview Undocumented Immigrants & Identify Immigration Defenses (Client Interviewing)
  • Practice, with Practice Mentor (Choose only the one that matches the Chosen Training above)
    Fulfill Either:
    • (a) Accept 1-2 District Court Rent Escrow case placements through PBRC, OR
    • (b) Prepare two estate plans through the Home Preservation Project Estate Planning Clinics, OR
    • (c) Volunteer at two Maryland Immigration Legal Assistance Project (MILAP) clinics
  • [Live] Training: Developing and using your trial notebook (Friday, April 17, noon to 3 pm, Baltimore)
  • [By appointment] PBRC debrief and pro bono leadership plan

Conclusion & Recognition

  • [Evening] Recognition Event for Fellows

Why is PBRC starting a Professional Skills Academy?  Why now?

1. Recent research* demonstrates that in Maryland, younger attorneys are doing much less pro bono than older attorneys.  The need is not diminishing, and as older attorneys retire, a tremendous gap looms between the need and the supply.

Our goal is to increase the capacity of younger attorneys to rise to this challenge.

2. Many pro bono needs are too complex to be met by non-specializing attorneys who have taken only a single topical training.

Our goal is to help attorneys grow their comfort level with client and courtroom advocacy; identify an area of personal commitment; and start mapping their course to fulfill that commitment.

3. We believe the most effective way to learn legal skills is a combination of seeing, doing, and discussing questions with seasoned advocates.  Newer attorneys need the intentional, generous investment of more experienced attorneys.

Our goal is to spark connections between newer and more experienced attorneys that will strengthen the profession as a whole.

4. We believe a commitment to pro bono service to the community is “caught, not taught.”  In fact, it is fun!

Our goal is to bring attorneys together, and allow each to inspire the others.

* “SUPPORTING JUSTICE IN MARYLAND: A Report on the Pro Bono Work of Maryland’s Lawyers,” American Bar Association, Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, July 2017.

Applicants selected as fellows are expected to attend all program events.  If your schedule does not allow you to attend a live training, you must watch the training video within two weeks.

As part of the application, all applicants are asked to list a supportive reference (a former or current supervisor, law faculty, or another Maryland attorney who has an ongoing interest in the applicant’s professional well-being).  This person should be someone with whom the Fellow would like to share the good news of their selection to, and completion of the Academy.  At the end of the year, we will invite each completing Fellow’s reference to the recognition event.

Basis of Selection

Applicants will be selected on the basis of demonstrated commitment to professionalism and ability to clearly articulate what they hope to accomplish on behalf of others, and what they hope to gain from the program.  Some preference will be given to attorneys in private practice.

Do you fit one of these descriptions?  The Professional Skills Academy invites you to give back by investing in a newer attorney.

1. Professionalism Mentors are experienced attorneys and judges who invest in Academy Fellows by meeting, listening, and sharing perspective and experience.

a. Required Activities
Each professionalism mentor agrees to attend the Professional Skills Academy kick-off; to attend one Litigation Skills Lunch & Learn event to assist in the role-playing and Q/A portions; and to personally meet with the assigned Fellow at least two times during the year, at a time and place convenient to the mentor.

b. Encouraged Activities
Professionalism mentors are also invited to all other full-cohort social events, including a holiday networking party, and a recognition event for all participants in the program.

2. Training Faculty are experienced practicing litigators with a track record of pro bono service.

a. Required Activities
Each training faculty member is required to participate in a planning conference call; and to take the lead in developing ONE Litigation Skills Lunch & Learn event* during the year.
(These occur on various Fridays throughout the year, from noon to 3 pm. Each event includes a 50-minute training segment; a 50-minute role-playing/hypo exercise; and a 50-minute open Q/A session.)

b. Encouraged Activities
Training faculty are also encouraged to attend the three full-cohort social events: the kick-off; a holiday networking party; and recognition event for attorneys completing the program.


*Litigation Skills Lunch & Learn events are open to Professional Skills Academy Fellows, PBRC volunteers, and legal services staff.

For more specific information, contact PBRC Director of Education, Dave Pantzer (

Sponsors of the 2019-2020 Professional Skills Academy include:

Why Apply?

Although the training and service components can be done without joining the Academy, joining provides these additional benefits:

High level of mentoring

You will receive ongoing access to “practice mentors” from PBRC’s staff; instruction from experienced litigators; and an opportunity to connect with senior litigators and judges, both individually and in a group setting.

Develop peer relationships

You will work with a cohort of other volunteers who desire to serve their community; build practice skills; and develop their leadership in the pro bono community.  These relationships will travel with you throughout your entire career.

Path to Leadership

The Academy provides a path to leadership within the Maryland pro bono community.  At the end of the program, you will meet with a PBRC staff attorney to explore “next steps” for learning and service tailored to your interests, as well as opportunities to help newer attorneys on this journey.

Greater investment: Greater reward

By committing to a one-year fellowship, you will help more people, and you will experience greater growth in your own courtroom and client representation skills than you could achieve through occasional service.

Meet your obligation

The Maryland Rules provide that full-time attorneys “should aspire to render at least 50 hours per year of pro bono publico legal service.”  This is not easy, and attorneys (new or experienced) are not likely to “fall into” success without a plan.
For questions or comments, contact Dave Pantzer, PBRC Director of Education (

Sponsors of the 2019-2020 Professional Skills Academy include: