The mission of Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Services (MVLS) is to provide quality civil legal assistance to Marylanders with limited income at low or no cost. The many pro bono MVLS programs are described below.
Core Pro Bono Program
MVLS is the largest pro bono legal services provider in the state both in terms of volunteers, over 1,600 lawyers on its panel, and clients served, more than 75,000 since our founding in 1981. Our core pro bono program expands the capacity of Maryland’s overburdened legal services delivery system which can serve only 20% of low-income clients in need of civil legal services. MVLS volunteers help approximately 3,000 low-income Marylanders every year. Learn more with the MVLS program descriptions below.
Cases MVLS Accepts
|Administration of Small Estates||Adoption|
|Adult and Child Guardianship||Bankruptcy (Chapter 13 only in conjunction with foreclosure)|
|Contract Disputes||Consumer Disputes|
|Criminal Record Expungement||Deed Changes|
|Denial of Public Benefits (Food Stamps, Medical Assistance)||Divorce|
|Name Changes/Birth Certificates||Non-Profit Organizations|
|Power of Attorney||Property Issues|
|Professional License Revocation||School Suspensions|
|Tax Sale||Tax (Income) Disputes|
|Torts Defense||Unaccompanied Youth Project|
|Unemployment Compensation||Uninsured Motor Tort|
Adult Protective Services and Guardianship Review Board Project (APGRB)
For over 15 years, MVLS has received funding from the Maryland Department of Human Resources to represent over 300 Baltimore City indigent adults under public guardianship at semi-annual review hearings as well as alleged disabled adults in emergency guardianship hearings. In 2013, the APGRB Project expanded to serve 110 clients in Baltimore County.
Bankruptcy Bypass Program
Bankruptcy is not the best option for everyone. Through this program, volunteer attorneys assist clients in determining if they are collection proof, meaning that their income and assets could not be garnished by consumer lenders. MVLS staff then sends letters to creditors requiring the creditors to cease collection phone calls and suggesting the creditors close their file.
Community Development Project
The Community Development Project provides free legal advice and representation to nonprofit organizations across Maryland that serve low-income communities. The Project matches nonprofits with volunteer lawyers who review contracts, negotiate leases, prepare personnel manuals, answer tax questions, provide advice on complying with regulations and help with other transactional legal needs.
Consumer Protection Clinic
At the request of the Baltimore City District Court, in the fall of 2014, MVLS began coordinating a clinic offering free legal advice to consumers who are facing debt collection cases in District Court. Consumers meet with a volunteer attorney for a 10 – 15 minute consultation to get advice on his or her case. Volunteers provide assistance with credit card cases, auto loans, landlord/tenant matters, and more. They also provide information on the court process, settlement options and what may happen post judgment.
Debtor Assistance Project (DAP Clinic)
Launched in March of 2008, the Debtor Assistance Project provides pro se debtors a half-hour free consultation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney at the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts in Baltimore and Greenbelt. Volunteer attorneys answer questions about eligibility, court procedures and how bankruptcy may be used to help prevent foreclosure.
Foreclosure Prevention Project
Since the national foreclosure crisis began in 2008, MVLS has been the largest pro bono legal services provider in the statewide Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project. MVLS relies on trained foreclosure volunteer lawyers, our foreclosure staff attorneys, and an MVLS foreclosure prevention counselor to help distressed homeowners in Maryland.
In addition to full representation, MVLS also runs a brief advice clinic for homeowners who are facing foreclosure. Homeowners may meet with an experienced foreclosure attorney to get information about foreclosure mediation, the court process and more.
Human Trafficking Prevention Project (HTPP)
The Human Trafficking Prevention Project (HTPP) helps survivors of trafficking get the legal services they need to address the collateral consequences of their criminal justice involvement. MVLS leverages our staff and volunteer capabilities to take full advantage of all that the law can do for victims of sex trafficking, including expungement, shielding, and vacatur. HTPP is a partnership of MVLS and the University of Baltimore’s Human Trafficking Prevention Project Clinic.
The Judicare Project is a reduced fee program designed to provide free legal services to clients who otherwise would be unable to afford representation in high conflict family law cases. Judicare panel attorneys must have at least three years of family law experience.
Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic
The MVLS Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic provides pro bono legal assistance to low-income Marylanders with IRS tax issues. These issues include a wide variety of tax problems, including denial of the Earned Income Tax Credit, audits, refund claims, innocent spouse relief, US Tax Court litigation, and collection issues (such as setting up payment plans and currently –not-collectible status, offers in compromise, levy and lien release). Note that MVLS does NOT do tax return preparation except in conjunction with an already existing tax dispute. Although MVLS receives funding from the IRS, the clinic, its employees, and its volunteers are not affiliated with or endorsed by the IRS or its employees. A taxpayer’s decision to utilize services from an LITC will not affect the taxpayer’s rights before the IRS.
One Baltimore For Jobs (IB4J)
Through support from the Maryland Legal Services Corporation, MVLS is part of IB4J, a workforce development demonstration project operated by the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Economic Development. MVLS provides legal screenings, clinics, know your rights presentations, brief advice and full representation at four community workforce sites: Caroline Center, Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare, Jane Addams Resource Center, and Jobs Opportunity Task Force.
Project Household is a coalition of legal service nonprofits in Baltimore City. The coalition members are Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, Maryland Legal Aid, Senior Legal Services, and Pro Bono Resource Center. The goal of Project Household is to provide legal help in order to keep older Baltimoreans in their homes. Legal issues may include foreclosures, debt collection, deed and probate issues, and financial exploitation. Project Household provides full representation, legal advice, and clinics.
Washington County Courthouse Clinic
MVLS operates a Family Law Self-Help Clinic in the Circuit Court of Washington County, where an experienced family law attorney provides free advice and other services to pro se Washington County litigants who are filing family law actions.