Anthony Butler of TBMG Law has been on the MVLS volunteer panel since 2005. Over the years, he has taken on 75 cases ranging from bankruptcy, tax, family law, adult guardianship, name changes, deed changes, expungements, and estate planning. Anthony has been immensely helpful with our Wicomico Cyber Clinics and was able to jump right in and help several clients get their criminal records expunged. This past winter, Anthony accepted a pressing adult guardianship case, and is assisting a client and their family who have been in need of legal help for a long time. In addition to all of his wonderful work with MVLS’s pro bono program, Anthony is also an active member of the MVLS Board of Directors. You can read more below about Anthony and why he feels pro bono is an important part of his life.
Can you describe a rewarding pro bono case that you took on?
One that is not complete yet but sticks out is a step-parent adoption I’m working on. In this step-parent case actually Mom passed away, and the minor kids are still with the step dad. Even from my own private practice experience these have been something that are my own most memorable cases period. Whether it be MVLS or not, its step-parent adoption cases—I just think this it’s a good thing to do.
But this one is more complicated and sad, because mom passed away and dad is still stepping up and wants to be legal father of the minor children and doesn’t have the resources to get the services on his own, so he went to MVLS. I was asked to step in and help out so we’re in the process of doing that now. Although it’s not complete, I think that’s the kind of case that really speaks to what we do at MVLS, and it’s not the kind of case that you would typically think about when you think about legal services. I think for me, I expect it to be memorable and rewarding, so it’s the kind of case that makes me stay with MVLS.
Can you describe the benefits of pro bono to you and your practice?
Definitely for me it started out because—and so I’m in my thirteenth year of volunteering with MVLS—ten years ago it was to learn new practice areas, get access to mentors, get forms, get some substantive training, so there was a real practice benefit for me as well. Additionally, I’m not from the Baltimore area, so I was starting out in the area without a local database. I had a core group of friends who were critical in keeping me afloat for the first couple years, but when you’re starting out it’s another way for more branding more experience.
I think that is it’s easier that way, and it’s easier to decline pro bono work from people who are not from MVLS. When someone comes in they say, “Hey, can you help out?” And if they don’t have any resources, I say, “You should really go to an agency that will help support that. I highly recommend you go to MVLS.” And I send clients that way. It’s my nice way of saying I don’t do pro bono work, but I do, but only through MVLS. So it has been a great way to manage the amount of pro bono I do, and make it pro bono that I do on purpose.
What would you tell a new attorney who just passed the bar about pro bono, or in your case, someone who just moved here from out of state?
[Pro Bono is] something we value in this state. In addition to MVLS, there are several other agencies, so that no matter what your passion is you can find a way to help people. And in the end you’re going to do it anyway, so I would recommend get attached and align yourself with an agency that fits your values and the population you want to help. Do it that way, in a structured programmatic way, rather than the random family’s got a question or friends got a question kind of way.
I think this is a way to get help, especially someone who’s new. You can start learning like I did, start the process with a program. That way you can manage your pro bono, manage your time. That way you really know what you’re doing, and you get the support of an agency as well.
What motivates you personally to provide legal help pro bono?
I tell people all the time, sometimes as lawyers, depending on the type of work you do, you see the worst of society, especially if you’re in criminal work. Even if you’re in family law work, you see people at their ugliest, deepest, darkest most depressed times. But helping someone who didn’t have access to the legal system, helping someone who didn’t have resources to afford a private attorney, helping them navigate through that process, and that person might still be involved with some of that dark stuff we see, but to see that you’re providing a service to someone who desperately needs it, and is not using the system to gain or to get over on someone else, but is using MVLS and other agencies like it to really navigate through the system, to get help and in some cases to find justice—I think that’s what really helps me find that balance. Sometimes I feel like I’m on the dark side, and then I get an MVLS case and I feel like I did something good.