October 2018 – Erik Atas

Erik Atas has been volunteering with MVLS since September 2017, and throughout this short time of just over one year, he consistently works with at least three or more client at one time, providing tremendous help with MVLS expungement cases. In just the month of August, Erik took on a record number of 15 expungement cases at one time and overall, has taken 31 clients since accepting his first case. When he isn’t helping MVLS clients, Erik additionally takes on hundreds of expungements with substance abuse programs completely pro bono, using his own time. Erik has also been involved with the Job Opportunities Task Force (JOTF) in discussions about potential changes for expungement law moving forward to create a more equitable future for clients like ours. MVLS staff knows that we can count on Erik to provide expungement clients with the help they need to work toward a brighter future without being burdened by issues in their past. Read on below to learn more about Erik’s commitment to providing pro bono legal help to clients in need.

1.Why do you choose to volunteer with MVLS?

I love my job. Being a private practitioner in the legal profession has given me the opportunity to be the kind of lawyer that I always wanted to be: someone who can fight for people with a variety of issues. Prior to being in private practice, I was a Public Defender in Baltimore City. I loved that job, too. One of the things that I loved most about it was that it was never in doubt whether I was going to represent someone. They applied and I was their lawyer. It was simple.

When and where I can, I try to incorporate that approach into private practice. If something is incredibly straightforward to me, why complicate it with an expensive retainer agreement? Just do it! People come to MVLS with criminal records and questions. My training and experience provide me the answers to all of those questions. MVLS needs attorneys who are ready, willing, and able to help. I’m all about “see a need, fill a need.” It really can be that simple.

2. Do you have any standout stories?

 I do not have one standout story so much as a standout response from MVLS clients who are seeking expungements of their criminal records: Grown men crying tears of joy in my office at the news that all or most of their criminal record is going to be erased. You want to see pure joy? Tell someone who could not get a decent job for decades that they no longer have a criminal record. You will never get a better thank you.

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

I appreciate that MVLS is very organized. They are a well-oiled machine, sending me such complete information about new clients that my client interviews are pretty much mere formalities.

4. Why should other attorneys do pro bono?

Every lawyer joke has one common theme… there are too many lawyers. Why? I hate that. Perhaps there is a perception that we are doing really well and not giving back in a meaningful way. In reality, it is not that there are too many lawyers, so much as there are too few generous lawyers.

Most people cannot afford attorneys. If we gave away some of our services, the people receiving those benefits would feel like they have won the lottery. Can you imagine winning the lottery? Want to bottle up that feeling and give it to others?

So maybe 100 lawyers at the bottom of the sea is a good start. But I know none of my clients want me down there. Handle pro bono cases and work hard on them. Helping out your fellow man lifts us all up.