Professional Skills Academy

Developing Maryland's next generation of pro bono leaders
Apply Now for the 2020-2021 Fellowship year!

"Words can't express how grateful I am for all the opportunities you have opened for me." -- a 2020 Academy graduate

The Professional Skills Academy is a one-year, cohort-based program of training, mentoring, and service for newer attorney (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.
2020-2021 Professional Skills Academy – Calendar (all dates are tentative)
Fellow applications accepted through August 9.

Fellow selections announced in mid-late August.

Thurs, Sep 10 (4pm – 5:20 pm) 2020-2021 Academy Kick-Off Event Zoom (Realtime remote event)
Fri, Sep 25 (9 am – noon) Practical protections for remote clients: Coercion, Confidentiality and Capacity Zoom (Realtime remote training)
Fall Service-Learning clinics (September – November): Serve two times in the Immigration Triage clinic (in-person or remote options available) (Alternative service available only in case of conflicts.)
Fri, Dec 11 (12 pm – 3 pm) Top 10 tips for pro bono practice in District Court Live training (Baltimore)
Winter Service-Learning clinics (December – February): Serve three to four times in the Rent Court clinic (one is an optional shadowing opportunity)
Thurs, Jan 14 (6 pm – 8 pm) Mid-year celebration & networking event Live event
Fri, Feb 5 (TBD)  Expert testimony on a shoestring   TBD Zoom or live training
Spring Service-Learning clinics (March – May): Choose one of the following clinics, and serve in that clinic two times:

  1. Tax Sale Prevention clinic
  2. Utility Bills clinic
  3. Estate/advance planning clinic
  4. Rent escrow case
  5. Consumer Protection Courtroom clinic
Fri, Apr 16 (12 pm – 3 pm) Basics of taking or defending a deposition Live training
Thurs, June 24 (6 pm – 8 pm) 2020-2021 Academy Graduation Live event

* There will also be individual Fellow-mentor meetings, optional Zoom topical mentoring, and/or optional Fellows-only pay-your-own-way social events.

Why join a pro bono focused fellowship program? 

1. Recent research* demonstrates that in Maryland, younger attorneys are doing much less pro bono than older attorneys. However, the need is only grows larger, and as older attorneys retire, a tremendous gap looms between the need for civil legal aid and the supply of pro bono attorneys.

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.

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.

What will this look like?

Time/location commitment:

Though the pandemic creates uncertainty, Fellows should expect that over the 10-month program “year,” they will spend at least 65 hours in the training, clinical pro bono service, and required events.  Around 20 of those hours will be outside core business hours.

Beyond this, each Fellow will connect with a mentor, based on mutual convenience, several times in the year, remotely or in person.  Fellows may also be invited to optional events, and will have a debrief call at the end of the year.

For any live clinics and trainings offered are likely to be in downtown Baltimore.

Content: In-court practice

The program seeks to give Fellows the experience of in-court practice (particularly in rent court), and the confidence that goes with that experience.

Content: Other lawyering skills

Our immigration clinic provides an excellent mentored introduction to client interviewing and counseling.

The skills trainings will be focused on a) ethical tips for remote practice; b) District Court advocacy; c) basics of experts; and d) basics of depositions.

The last practice unit will give Fellows a choice of service but may include more in-court work (rent escrow case work or consumer protection); or more transactional or counseling work (estate planning or other home preservation projects).

Content: Mentoring and community

Mentoring will include at least four interactions (remote or in person) and at least one substantive interaction.  A substantive interaction means either attending an Academy service clinic with the Fellow, or inviting the Fellow to join the mentor for a significant event.

We anticipate optional Fellows-only social events, to allow current and past Fellows to meet and build community and professional relationships in a less formal setting.

Focus:  Serving in a crisis

2020 is distinctive because of the pandemic.  While we have lost some predictability, we have gained an opportunity to be at the forefront of learning to serve in new ways.

Focus: The habit of pro bono

The Academy seeks to build patterns of pro bono service into the Fellows’ lives.  At the end of the year, we interview each Fellow and help them create pro bono service goals for next year.

Applying

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 or mentor). 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.

The 2019-2020 Academy Fellows are:

Sarah Adkisson, Esq.
“I wanted to gain courtroom practice experience with close supervision and help from a mentor.”
Kate Anderson, Esq.
“After switching jobs, I missed working directly with clients and the PBRC Academy was the perfect vehicle to allow me to engage with clients and learn new areas of the law in a structured way.”
Victoria Bethel, Esq.
“After the clinics, I thought, ‘Wow, I really helped someone – I helped a couple of people today,’ and I wished I could do it more often.”
Kimberly Caspari, Esq.
“The Academy pushed me beyond legal learning into creativity, and gave me ways to provide other sorts of resources to clients. It was a very, very good experience — a step beyond.”
Elaina Christmas, Esq.
“I found the Lunch & Learn trainings relevant and helpful, and appreciated the level of engagement they provided, as well as the open question time where participants could ask questions about sensitive topics.”
Stephen Freeman, Esq.
“The Academy was a great program, particularly in exposing attorneys to different areas of law and providing a chance to be in court.”
Jocelyne Gresock, Esq.
“I found my connections with other Fellows beneficial and had client situations arise where Fellows worked together to share resources.”
Nancy Hudes, Esq.
“After a stint at home raising children, I felt the structure and framework of the Academy would provide me with a formal-feeling mechanism for reentering the profession.”
Angela Kuan, Esq.
“Doing pro bono work has increased my hope, because I see the positive impact our work has on the community.”
Kenneth Lemberg, Esq.
“I wanted to explore litigation to round out my legal experience and take fuller advantage of what I learned in law school.”
Snehal Massey, Esq.
“If you are new to pro bono work, you will benefit from the PBRC model. They want success for the client just as much as they want the volunteer attorney to enjoy the experience.”
Shavina Mukesh, Esq.
“My mentor was amazing. He talked with me about how to grow as a solo practitioner. He was a nurturing mentor not only to me, but to the other Fellows too.”
Olamide Orebamjo, Esq.
“The most rewarding part of working with tenants in rent court was knowing that I could be there for them as a lawyer, and they would not have to be alone.”
Sieglinde Peterson, Esq.
“The Academy gave me the key to contribute to my community and added something very meaningful to my life.”
Maura Ward, Esq.
“The Academy was a great way to learn new skills with support from experienced attorneys. I’m proud of the work I performed outside of my comfort zone.”
Nyasha West, Esq.
“The Academy provided a great chance to grow in my advocacy. I had an amazing mentor!”
Flavia Williamson, Esq.
“I deeply appreciated my connection with my mentor and I was grateful for the ways she willingly shared her experience in the legal profession.”

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

The Professional Skills Academy invites you to give back by investing in a newer attorney.

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

Required Activities: Each mentor agrees to:

a. Make a good-faith attempt to attend all three major Academy events: (dates are tentative)

    1. Kick-off Event (by Zoom, tent. Sept. 10, 4 – 5:20 pm );
    2. Mid-Year Celebration (in person, tent. Jan. 14, 2021, 6– 8 pm); and
    3. Graduation (in person, tent. June 24, 2021, 6-8 pm); and

b. Meet (in person or by phone) 4 times over the year with your mentee, including at least one substantive interaction.  A substantive interaction means either attending an Academy service clinic with your mentee, or inviting your mentee to join you for a significant event (shadow you at a hearing; attend a bar event as your guest; etc.)

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

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.)

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 information, contact Director of Education, Dave Pantzer (dpantzer@probonomd.org).

Sponsors of the 2020-2021 Professional Skills Academy:

Bar Association Insurance Trust

Why Apply?

Mentorship

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.

Relationship Building

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. 

Professional Development

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.

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.” However this is not easy, and attorneys (new or experienced) are not likely to “fall into” success without a plan.

For questions contact Dave Pantzer, Director of Education (dpantzer@probonomd.org).

Sponsors of the 2020-2021 Professional Skills Academy:

Bar Association Insurance Trust