New MVLS Clinic – Wicomico County Remote Clinic

When the Wicomico Public Library contacted MVLS asking to set up legal advice clinics in the Salisbury area, MVLS staff knew this was both a challenge and an opportunity. The lower eastern shore is more than two hours away from the highly populated Baltimore-D.C. metropolitan corridor where attorneys and service providers tend to cluster. This leaves lower shore residents comparatively under served, even though local attorneys do pro bono at some of the highest rates in the state. Wicomico county and nearby Somerset and Dorchester counties are only topped in poverty levels by Baltimore City. With lower income levels come more legal troubles related to poverty, and of course, less means to hire a paid attorney.

The Wicomico library staff was both tech-savvy and highly motivated to get legal help for their patrons, and contacted MVLS to provide a remote legal clinic by with video chat software to their patrons. As video chat technology improves, it provides attorneys with an increasingly workable way to provide face-to-face advice, and even representation, to people in far-away towns and cities.

Wicomico clinic volunteers will provide advice on divorce, custody, landlord-tenant, bankruptcy and other consumer issues. These are the legal issues commonly faced by the Wicomico residents who walk into the library asking for help from the trusted community resource. Now library staff will be able to offer residents the option of returning on a designated date to pose their questions to actual attorneys, instead of directing them to scroll-through self-help websites on their own.

Another common issue for Wicomico residents are criminal records. Many people come to the library to get employment support through the library’s Job Search Center, but get written off by employers because of expungeable items on their records. The Wicomico clinic will also provide expungements by video chat. Attorneys will prepare the petitions, and then email them to the client to print and sign at the library. The library staff will mail the petitions for attorneys to file. Because MVLS is a legal services nonprofit, clients won’t have to pay for filing fees, as they ordinarily would if they had to go it alone.

Our panel of volunteer attorneys will play a crucial role in providing advice at these remote clinics. Volunteers will come to the MVLS office in Baltimore, where we will set them up to video chat with clients in Wicomico. MVLS is looking forward to partnering with the Wicomico Public Library to expand access to justice for lower shore Marylanders.

Interested in volunteering? MVLS is in need of volunteers who can take expungement cases, or can provide advice on consumer or family law matters. Volunteers are needed in the Baltimore area and a lower shore attorney who can provide on-site help at the library during the clinic.

MVLS & Wicomico Public Library Legal Clinic 
February 8 | 2 – 4 pm
To register please contact Susan Francis or 443-451-4084