I recently heard a commentator discuss how impressed he was at the basic civility of people. It made me wonder how he would react to the immense generosity and compassion of so many lawyers in our community who give of themselves to help strangers in need.
Each year the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland honors outstanding volunteer lawyers and law firms from across the state who provide pro bono legal help to those without the means to afford legal counsel. Several members of the Prince George's County bar have earned that distinction and the Law Foundation of Prince George's County's pro bono program received the Pro Bono Program Service Award in 1996. What is striking, however, is what motivates lawyers to become involved. Time and again volunteers emphatically state that they do pro bono work because it is simply the right thing to do and that they want to give back to the community in some meaningful way.
PBRC is the statewide clearinghouse and support center for pro bono legal services. For over ten years the Center has successfully recruited, trained and matched thousands of volunteer lawyers with legal services providers across Maryland. PBRC believes it is important for pro bono lawyers to be given cases or work on issues that matter to them and that will have some tangible benefit to the client. By promoting a wide variety of pro bono opportunities, PBRC can help lawyers find something that is relevant to their practice area or is especially rewarding to them. PBRC provides support services and technical assistance to the diverse group of pro bono programs that exist as well as to the volunteers, including free or discount MICPEL seminars, free access to LEXIS/NEXIS services, and volunteer court reporting services.
Part of the Center's mission is to advocate for policy changes to improve the effectiveness of the volunteer effort and increase access to justice. PBRC is constantly looking for opportunities and incentives for partnering volunteers with providers and stimulating collaboration within the legal community. Members of the bar and bench from Prince George's county have been an integral and effective part of several initiatives that have strengthened the pro bono and legal services network, including PBRC's Board of Directors, the PBRC-sponsored statewide Legal Services Partnership Conference, and the Maryland Judicial Commission on Pro Bono. Such collaboration has made a true difference to the legal services community and those residents relying on a system of equal justice.
For information on interesting and diverse pro bono opportunities or assistance in starting a pro bono project, contact the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland at: (800) 492-1964; (410) 837-9379; firstname.lastname@example.org .
By Sharon E. Goldsmith, Esq.
Executive Director, Pro Bono
Resource Center of Maryland, Inc