From the Executive Director:
Welcome to the inaugural issue of the Pro Bono Resource Center’s e-newsletter, Pro Bono Pulse. Our goal is to bring you the latest insights into the world of pro bono and share how your support and commitment make a difference for those in need. PBRC is at the heart of the pro bono effort in the state, serving as the connection between the legal community and pro bono service opportunities. This is an exciting time for us, with a new board, innovative programs, expanded services, and plenty of opportunities to get involved.
The Tenant Volunteer Lawyer of the Day (TVLD) program represents our newest innovation. Baltimore City District Court is inundated with roughly 150,000 cases against tenants for failure to pay rent each year, resulting in as many as 7,000 household evictions. While many tenants have legitimate escrow defenses based upon inhabitability—with stories of horrifying living conditions ranging from lack of water to rodent infestations and more—the process is extremely challenging without legal help.
The only program of its kind in the state, PBRC’s Tenant project engages volunteer lawyers to triage cases in court and represent those who may be able to avoid eviction. In just a few months, 79% of the cases handled by our volunteers were dismissed or sent into escrow proceedings. Another 20% resulted in reduced payment amounts owed to their landlords. While we continue to expand the scale of the project, each client served means one less eviction, the prevention of homelessness and a safer and more secure home for the tenant’s family. The volunteer time commitment is just a few hours; but the impact enormous. Given that we operate the clinic four days a week, we could use as many willing lawyers as possible. As a pilot, we are also hopeful that the successful model will be replicated across the state.
PBRC has created similar innovative initiatives by bringing in partners to help seniors age in place, defend against wrongful debt collection practices, save homes from foreclosure and tax sale and resolve issues for families in strife. To join this program or any others offered by PBRC or our partners around the state, visit our website, www.probonomd.org. We chose to launch our newsletter in October to time it with the National Celebration of Pro Bono Month in Maryland. PBRC coordinates the publicity of events for the state during this special month, so check the National Celebration of Pro Bono calendar! There are countless opportunities for you to learn, volunteer, donate, or recognize outstanding pro bono efforts. To learn of ongoing events, trainings, and case options, you can join our E-Bulletin at no cost.
In November, we offer a unique opportunity for solo practitioners, as we partner for the first time with the Maryland State Bar Association’s Solo Summit on November 10. The Summit will include two practical educational sessions focused on helping veterans: handling criminal records expungements and conducting intake for veterans’ clinics. A discount is being offered for volunteers. It is particularly fitting to become involved at the Summit the day before we commemorate Veterans’ Day.
Thank you for your interest in the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland. Whether you are a volunteer, a donor, or simply care about those less fortunate—please know that PBRC is here to make engaging in the public good easy. And we can’t do it without you. Thank you for your talent and compassion. And thank you for joining us in offering access to justice for all.
Sharon E. Goldsmith, Esq.