December 2018 – Franzella Starkey

Franzella Starkey has been volunteering with MVLS since 1996. During her time with us, Franzella has taken a staggering total of 91 cases, including bankruptcy, adoption, custody, and divorce. She is also a member of our Judicare project, which provides funding to experienced family law attorneys who accept contested family law cases and has worked with many clients who speak limited English. Franzella is an incredibly dependable attorney who is always there for our paralegal staff.  She has dealt with a number of complicated cases and has shown strong determination in ensuring that these clients receive the help and resources they need, often going above and beyond and has been known to say “yes” to a case before even seeing the case summary. This past summer, Franzella took a case where the client was a mother in an immigration detention center. The client’s husband had abused her in the past and was threatening deportation as leverage to gain custody of their children. Franzella stepped in and was willing to go to the detention center to work with the mother, who had limited English proficiency, without any hesitation whatsoever. MVLS is unbelievably lucky to have dedicated, talented volunteers like Franzella. You can read on below to learn more about her experiences and why she values pro bono work in her practice.

1. Why do you choose to volunteer with MVLS?

I choose to volunteer with MVLS because I am provided the opportunity to help improve the quality of life for the qualifying individual that has a legal problem on the Lower Eastern Shore. Most of my more than thirty years of legal experience has been dedicated to public service, more than fourteen years with the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau and almost ten years as an Assistant State’s Attorney for Wicomico County. Public service is rewarding to me, therefore, volunteering with MVLS affords the opportunity to provide public service. Volunteering with MVLS also helps to fill the gap left for so many who can not afford competent and qualified legal representation.

2. Do you have any stand out stories?

Each case in which the client’s goals and objectives have been fulfilled is a stand out case.  However, my most stand out cases all involve keeping minor children in the care and custody of the parent who has served as the primary custodian before a challenge was filed by the opposing party.  Maintaining stability for children is important; therefore, when that goal is achieved, the results stand out.

3. What is your favorite part about volunteering with MVLS?

Helping people who really want and need help achieving their legal goals is the most favorite part of volunteering with MVLS. Hearing the appreciative “thank you” at the close of a successful case is always a positive event.

4. Why should other attorneys do pro bono?

There’s an old adage that says, “If you’re not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem”. In my opinion, we all can be part of the solution of providing legal services to those in need, one referred case at a time. Helping at least one person resolve a legal issue is an opportunity to improve the quality of the community at large, one problem at a time.

5. What has your experience been working with clients who know limited English?

I have had several clients who know limited English. Fortunately, in each case the client was able to bring along a friend or family member who was more fluent in English. In the few times that an interpreter was not present, more time was spent explaining to the client in very plain and simple English how the case would proceed. In each case the client was explained that the Court will have interpreters available to assist once the case reached the court level.

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