Can you tell me a little about your private practice?
ESG Legal Solutions, LLC is a majority woman-owned firm that is owned and operated by attorneys providing experienced law and non-law professional advice in the emergent and all but exploding space of Environmental Social Governance (ESG).
How has the pandemic impacted your own practice?
I actually pivoted my practice into the ESG space during the pandemic. That is, I started this new practice area in response to market forces and anticipated regulatory changes during the pandemic. Happily, it has been the perfect time.
Which of PBRC’s projects do you volunteer with, and how did you get involved?
I primarily volunteer with the Consumer Protection Clinic and the Home Preservation Project. I am also interested in immigration, but I haven’t had a chance to try that out yet!
I got involved a few years ago when I was in the first class of fellows for the PBRC Professional Skills Academy. I had dabbled with volunteer legal work in the past, but I felt like this gave me a structured program and guidance to jump into pro bono work. I enjoyed all aspects of the program - from meeting the other fellows, trying out the different areas to volunteer, the classes, and the mentors.
What is the problem this project addresses, and what do you do as a volunteer to help?
The Consumer Protection Clinic works with clients at the affidavit judgment docket in Baltimore City. Clients have often not been able to connect with debt collectors in advance, or don’t know what their options are, so we are able to reach out and help them avoid getting a judgment against them.
I have done various things with the Home Preservation Project, including tax sale, utility bill, and estate planning clinics. At the estate planning clinics, we write wills, health care directives and power of attorney documents.
What do you find interesting about this work?
I love the opportunity to work with people. My ESG legal work is for public companies and other large businesses, but not people. I truly enjoy working with and assisting individuals.
What, if anything, did you find surprising about remote volunteering?
During the pandemic, I was thankful that we could connect with clients remotely, and I thought PBRC did an amazing job of transitioning to make that possible, but I much prefer in-person service. I like to be able to see the clients I am working with and to know they are understanding what I am saying and that we are on the same page. It makes it much easier to connect with the person.
How does the project make it easy to volunteer?
PBRC makes it so easy for you to volunteer. If you are volunteering in an area of law that is new to you, or if you just need a refresher, there are online training resources to watch ahead of time. When I first started volunteering, I liked to shadow other attorneys who had more experience before I took cases on my own. And even after I started taking my own cases, I review the issues with the staff mentors.
Tell me about a client you have met while working with PBRC.
While volunteering with the Consumer Protection Clinic, I had a client a couple of weeks ago that was my daughter’s age. She had a young child at home and had been waitressing to make ends meet but had struggled maintaining her hours during Covid. It’s a similar story we have heard from so many people during these especially challenging times. I was able to speak to the lawyer for the debt collector and they agreed to a payment plan for a reduced amount. We helped the client avoid having a judgment entered against her and set her up to be able to pay off her debt.
Additionally, another client that stood out for me was a woman who came in for a will while I was volunteering with the Home Preservation Project. When her mom passed away a few years back she did not have a will and it caused a huge amount of heartache and strife for her family. My client was so thankful that history would not repeat itself and that things would be clear and defined for her children. She kept expressing her gratitude and relief knowing she was doing the right thing for her family.
What message would you give to attorneys thinking about volunteering?
It’s so easy to do and you feel great about it! The staff mentors at PBRC are fabulous and the clients truly appreciate the assistance. The mentors are comfortable holding your hand and walking you through the issues or sitting back and supporting you in whatever needs to get done. I always feel like they have my back and that I can ask any question. It is fun to be part of a team and I enjoy knowing I am making a difference in the lives of my clients.
For more information about volunteering in Maryland, contact:
Dave Pantzer, PBRC Director of Education, Outreach and Technology