The mission of Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Services (MVLS) is to connect low-income Marylanders with volunteer lawyers and community partners to deliver free civil legal assistance because there should be justice for all, not just for those who can afford it.
The many pro bono programs MVLS offers are described below.
Core Pro Bono Program
MVLS is the largest pro bono legal services provider in the state both in terms of volunteers, 2,600 lawyers on its panel, and clients served, more than 100,000 since our founding in 1981. Our core pro bono program expands the capacity of Maryland’s overburdened legal services delivery system, which serves only 20% of low-income clients in need of civil legal services. MVLS volunteers help approximately 5,000 low-income Marylanders every year.
Cases MVLS Accepts
- Guardianship (Adult and Child)
- Name Changes/Birth Certificate Corrections
- Unaccompanied Youth Project
- Landlord/Tenant Disputes
- Foreclosure & Tax Sale
- Deed Changes
- Ground Rent
- Other property issues
- Bankruptcy (Chapter 7)
- Contract and other consumer disputes
- Income Tax Disputes
- Estate Planning and Administration
- Uninsured Motorist Tort
- Non-Profit Organizations
Adult Protective Services and Guardianship Review Board Project (APGRB)
For over 20 years, MVLS has received funding from the Maryland Department of Social Services to represent over 450 Baltimore City and County adults under public guardianship at semi-annual review hearings as well as adults with alleged disabilities in emergency guardianship hearings.
Advance Planning Project
The Advanced Planning Project is an outreach effort designed to stabilize neighborhoods, preserve family assets and reduce the number of Baltimore City properties with deed and title entanglements that prevent homes from being in productive use. MVLS has formed a network of community partners from the faith, healthcare, and civic communities in order to raise awareness about the importance of estate planning, namely the risks and costs involved in failing to prepare, but also the tremendous benefits of having the proper legal documentation in order as we look to the future of our families and communities.
Baltimore City Workforce Development Project
Through support from the Maryland Legal Services Corporation, MVLS’ Workforce Development Project provides legal services to job trainees. A continuation of the One Baltimore for Jobs demonstration grant, this project aims to remove barriers to employment for Baltimore’s vulnerable populations. Our project staff provide legal consultations and full representation, as well as know your rights presentations at these community workforce sites: Biotechnical Institute of Maryland, Bon Secours Community Works, Caroline Center, Civic Works Center for Sustainable Careers, Jane Addams Resource Center, and Jobs Opportunity Task Force.
Baltimore Health Corps
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for Baltimore City residents. In response, MVLS has partnered with the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Employment Development and the Baltimore City Health Department on a timely project. MVLS joined the project to provide direct legal support and representation to contact tracers, care coordinators, and other workers hired under the Baltimore Health Corps. The Baltimore Health Corps is working to contain the spread of COVID-19, address the social needs of vulnerable residents, provide job opportunities during a time of record unemployment, and generate long-term career paths.
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 to the debtor 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. Volunteer attorneys answer questions about eligibility, court procedures and whether bankruptcy may be used to help prevent foreclosure. To sign up, click here.
Elder Justice Program
The Elder Justice Program provides direct legal services to adults over 60 who are victims of elder abuse through financial exploitation, and are facing other civil legal challenges related to housing, consumer law and debt collection, estate planning, and family law. This program is supported by a sub award from Equal Justice Works as part of an original award from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, Award Number 2019-V3-GX-K033. https://www.equaljusticeworks.org/
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 and foreclosure staff attorneys to help distressed homeowners in Maryland.
In addition to full representation, MVLS also operates a brief advice clinic for homeowners who are facing foreclosure in Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County, and Charles County. Homeowners meet with an experienced foreclosure attorney to get information about foreclosure mediation, the court process and more.
The Human Trafficking Prevention Project (HTPP) focuses on reducing the collateral consequences of criminal legal involvement for survivors of human trafficking and those populations made most vulnerable to exploitation. The HTPP is a partnership between MVLS and University of Baltimore School of Law’s HTPP Clinic. MVLS leverages our staff and volunteer attorneys to represent survivors of sex trafficking seeking to vacate, or set aside, their prostitution convictions under Maryland’s 2011 “vacating convictions” law, as well as provide criminal record review and representation in expungement and shielding cases for survivors and populations at risk of future exploitation. HTPP clients are also screened for additional civil legal needs and connected with MVLS volunteer attorneys for help with family law matters, consumer debt, landlord/tenant disputes, name and gender marker change, tax controversy, and other legal matters. As with all MVLS programs, services are provided regardless of race, nationality, ethnicity, age, religion, disability status, sex assigned at birth, gender identity, gender presentation, immigration status, or sexual orientation.
The HTPP also provides training for volunteer attorneys and firms that provide pro bono legal services to HTPP clients, and training and technical assistance to service providers on the availability of post-conviction relief within the state of Maryland, as well as on working with survivors of trauma and other marginalized populations.
Please visit www.mvlslaw.org/ht to learn more, volunteer, or apply for services.
The Judicare Project provides 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.
My Home, My Deed, My Legacy Program
MVLS provides homeowner clinics to help Baltimore City residents stabilize their homes and secure critically important resources for the long-term ability to remain in their homes. The Program also entails significant community outreach and public awareness about the need to ensure the homeowner’s name is on the deed to their home so they can secure benefits like the Homeowners’ Property Tax Credit, water credits and access to home repair programs.
Project Household is a coalition of legal service nonprofits who provide legal services 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 help older Baltimoreans remain in their homes. Typical legal issues may include tax sale, foreclosure, debt collection, deed and probate issues, and financial exploitation. Project Household provides full representation, legal advice, and legal 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 self-represented litigants with family law cases or matters.