October 2019 Volunteer of the Month- Veryl Pow

Veryl Pow has been an active and invaluable volunteer to MVLS for the past two years. We first met Veryl when he began volunteering for the MVLS Consumer Protection Clinic two years ago as part of a Skadden Fellowship. During his two years in the Fellowship, Veryl focused on up-ending bail bonds in Baltimore. Over time, he became an acknowledged expert on bail bonds and how to fight them, and has provided a wealth of knowledge to MVLS staff and volunteers on the topic.

Since completing his fellowship, Veryl has moved on to a position at the University of Baltimore School of Law, where he teaches a clinic. He is currently working on water issues with his students.

Veryl remains involved with MVLS and has supported 219 clients in his short time as a volunteer. Read on to hear more from Veryl about why pro bono matters!

  • Why do you choose to volunteer with MVLS?

In Baltimore City, where job scarcity and low-wage precarious work abound, many low-income residents are forced to borrow money to subsist but end up caught in inescapable cycles of debt to private predatory lenders. These lenders – which include consumer finance companies, debt collection agencies, and bail bond companies – take advantage of the precarity of city residents and offer loans with hidden terms at subprime rates.  To collect their debts, these lenders routinely file collection suits in the District Court for Baltimore City.  Because debtors are often unrepresented, lenders are awarded judgments despite debtors having valid defenses or affirmative claims, such as lack of proof and fraudulent misrepresentation.  This being the reality, I volunteer with MVLS to afford pro se defendants with a fighting chance at reducing or eliminating their debts altogether.

  • Do you have any stand out stories?

My very first representation case was through MVLS.  Shortly after I became barred, I represented a grandmother in early 2018 who was sued by a major bail bonds company located across the street from Central Booking.  During our initial consultation, she was so distraught by the amount she was being sued for.  As a loving grandmother looking after her own, she had signed a contract with the bail bonds company unknowing that payment obligations would follow.  Though her grandson’s criminal case was dismissed, the bail bonds company still relentlessly sued her for the outstanding balance.  When I discovered that the company was unlicensed, I successfully made the argument during a preliminary hearing and the collections case was dismissed.  My client was so relieved that she won her case, and now periodically calls me to check in on my career and offer words of encouragement.

  • What is your favorite part about volunteering with MVLS?

My favorite part about volunteering is collaborating with and learning from the steady crew who works at MVLS’ weekly Consumer Protection Project Clinic, including Amy Hennen, Ellyn Riedl, Pete Lally, Deborah Devan, and Elva Tillman.  As a young lawyer, I have grown tremendously by absorbing their collective wisdom, diligence, and client-centeredness and applying these principles to my practice.

  • Why should other attorneys do pro bono?

In the words of Spike Lee, to “do the right thing.”  As attorneys in a litigious society, we have the unique privilege of possessing a specialized knowledge and skillset to assist those who would otherwise be alone in encountering corporate entities with superior resources and representation on the one hand, and a labyrinth of courtroom bureaucracy and procedures on the other.  The consequences of losing a collections case reverberate collaterally and touch on employment, housing, and even incarceration.  Thus, legal representation matters, and we as attorneys should donate our time to assist the most vulnerable.