Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : February 2007

|

 PRO BONO Profile:  

Helping in Harford County

In every county you can usually find a service "jewel", tucked away in the background, quietly offering much-needed help to the public. Harford County has that jewel in the Harford County Bar Foundation and the many programs it offers.

The Foundation office is located in the Harford County branch of the Legal Aid Bureau. The two agencies enjoy a close working relationship, with each acting as a resource for the callers and clients of the other. The Foundation was formed in 1991 and from the outset pro bono work has been a part of its mission and purpose. That program offers referrals to free and reduced-fee legal representation to the financially disadvantaged of Harford County.

The mission of the Harford County Bar Foundation also includes being a community educational resource, helping citizens of Harford County understand the broad range of public and private legal services available to them at both the state and local level. In addition, the Foundation serves to promote a better understanding of the legal system for the general public, as well as providing continuing legal education for the Association's members.

Being housed alongside the Legal Aid Bureau has distinct advantages for the Foundation. "Many times we are the next place a client calls if the Bureau has a conflict of interest, or the client's income makes them ineligible for service," says Brandy Miller, Executive Director of the Harford County Bar Association. "We are able to help by offering services to people who would otherwise have none."

Since its beginning, the Foundation has been instrumental in soliciting over 10,000 reported pro bono service hours in Harford County. With a roster of over 120 attorneys to call for help, the Foundation is able to offer a broad range of referrals in many areas of law. So clients who need legal assistance with child support, custody or domestic violence issues as well as housing, unemployment and bankruptcy can call the Foundation to find the help they need. It is also possible to place some criminal cases with reduced-fee attorneys for individuals who have been referred by the Public Defender's Office.

Over the past several years the Foundation has seen increased growth in the reduced-fee category. More and more people who are calling the Foundation are not destitute but simply do not make enough money to hire an attorney at full market rate. The Foundation is instrumental in finding attorneys willing to take on these cases at a reduced rate.

All of these benefits come through the efforts of only two staff members and a tightly-run ship. The Foundation exists solely on grants, such as Maryland Legal Services Corporation and others, a few fundraising events and the very generous support of Harford County attorneys. The same lawyers who donate their time also support the Foundation financially. As expected, the lion's share of the assistance goes to Harford County residents. However, according to Miller, "occasionally, we will get calls from people who live in other counties, but their cases are being heard in Harford. We are able to get them help also."

In a manner of speaking, the Foundation has become a kind of "hotline" for Harford County legal information. "Our name seems to be spreading around the County," states Miller. "We are getting more and more calls from people for whom this is their first interaction with the legal system and they just need some direction."

Whether it is help with directions or referrals, the Harford County Bar Foundation continues to be a great resource for the people of Harford County. If you would like to volunteer, contact the office at (410) 836-8202 and ask for the Bar Foundation.

For more information on volunteer opportunities in Maryland, please contact Jon Moseley, Director of Volunteer Services and Community Outreach, Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, at (410) 837-9379 or (800) 396-1274.

previous next
Publications : Bar Bulletin: February 2007