Maryland offers lawyers interested in engaging in meaningful civil legal services work an amazing array of short and long-term opportunities. Options range from direct legal representation, to hotline staffing, to brief legal consultations at courthouse and community clinics. No matter what area of practice, locale or skills level, we will help you navigate the network of programs and identify the most desirable and appropriate volunteer opportunity for them. The following Frequently Asked Questions provide a good starting place.
How can a lawyer get involved in pro bono work?
Lawyers may get involved in pro bono work in a variety of ways. Individual pro bono cases currently available at Maryland legal services programs are listed on the Volunteer Opportunities page. In addition, PBRC is available to connect individual lawyers to specific pro bono opportunities based on their areas of expertise or interest and geographical preferences. To begin this matching process, complete the online Volunteer Lawyer Registration Form. If you have a particular interest in consumer protection, family mediation, foreclosure prevention, tax sale prevention, relief to unaccompanied immigrant children, or veterans’ assistance you are encouraged to visit the PBRC’s Pro Bono Projects page for more details about training and volunteer opportunities in those substantive areas.
Who can be a pro bono lawyer in Maryland?
Any lawyer who is currently licensed to practice law in Maryland and in good standing may engage in pro bono work. In addition, Maryland lawyers who have retired from the practice of law in good standing may become involved in pro bono work. Retired lawyers must provide pro bono service through a legal services program. Lawyers licensed in states other than Maryland may be eligible to engage in certain kinds of pro bono work. Retired Maryland lawyers and lawyers licensed in other states should contact Annie Brinkmann, Director of Programming, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 443-703-3051 for more information about the opportunities available to them.
Are there opportunities for government lawyers?
Yes. Government lawyers can offer assistance by taking cases directly or by offering advice on hotlines, at legal clinics, and conducting research and writing among other activities. The key is to identify which options do not pose any potential conflicts of interest or even the appearance of impropriety. We can work with an individual lawyer or governmental agency to identify appropriate pro bono legal work. With the Court of Appeals’ Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Service, PBRC drafted a Model Government Pro Bono Policy that has been adopted by a number of local and statewide governmental entities to encourage pro bono participation. The government agency needs to sign off on the pro bono work and ensure that there is no prohibition against outside practice of law (or that there is an exception for pro bono work through a legal services provider). Government lawyers are eligible for malpractice insurance through the provider through which they volunteer. For more information on viable government pro bono work options, contact: Annie Brinkmann, Director of Programming, at email@example.com or 443-703-3051.
Is pro bono work required for Maryland lawyers?
Under Rule 6.1 of the Maryland Professional Rules of Conduct, Maryland lawyers should aspire to provide 50 hours of public interest legal service each year. A substantial portion of those hours should be devoted to providing professional services at no fee or a reduced fee to persons of limited means, with the balance being devoted to activities to assist non-profit organizations or improve the law or legal profession. We can help you identify a wide range of pro bono opportunities. Visit Volunteer Opportunities for more information or complete the Volunteer Lawyer Registration Form to receive individualized suggestions regarding pro bono opportunities.
What if I need training first?
PBRC offers training in a wide array of substantive areas for free or for a reduced fee in exchange for your commitment to engage in pro bono work. Most trainings are suitable for beginners, and courses are available in both live and online webcast versions. We also offer “service-learning” opportunities in a number of projects where lawyers can work with more experienced practitioners and receive mentors. Visit Training for Volunteer Lawyers to review available courses.
Is malpractice insurance offered for volunteers?
Yes, the vast majority of pro bono programs provide malpractice insurance to their volunteers even if you have your own coverage.
What kinds of other support are offered to volunteers?
We assist individual attorneys with finding suitable and meaningful pro bono opportunities based on their particular substantive interests and geographical preferences. PBRC coordinates extensive training programs and other types of support services for volunteer lawyers including access to a Litigation Fund to offset expenses incurred in pro bono cases, a bi-weekly E-Bulletin summarizing volunteer opportunities and announcements, and information about mentoring resources. For more information visit Support for Volunteer Lawyers.
How long will a pro bono case take?
The length of time depends on the particular case, but many pro bono cases last fewer than five hours.
Are there pro bono opportunities other than cases?
Yes. Many volunteer lawyers engage in pro bono through short-term opportunities. Examples include providing brief advice at legal clinics, facilitating day-of-court mediations, answering calls on legal hotlines, assisting with legal research and providing other types of limited legal representation.
Can non-litigators really make a contribution?
Absolutely. Non-litigators are well-suited to assist community members in forming non-profits, offer counsel to small businesses in disadvantaged communities, staff legal hotlines, conduct research and writing, and provide brief advice at legal clinics in the community. Volunteer lawyers who are interested in taking on new subjects outside of their areas of practice are encouraged to visit Training for Volunteer Lawyers to view available training courses for volunteer lawyers. These free or reduced fee courses are offered in exchange for a commitment to engage in pro bono work.