Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : March 2007


Western MD Attorneys Go Extra Mile in Pro Bono Service

Following the creation of Maryland Rule 16-903 (enacted July 1, 2002), which officially required all Maryland attorneys to report their pro bono activities annually, one region has consistently produced the highest percentage of lawyers who render pro bono service. Since 2002, the agrestic counties of Garrett, Allegany and Washington have annually averaged approximately 70 percent of their lawyers providing pro bono services; comparatively, the major metropolitan areas located in the Capital and Central counties fluctuated around 50 percent during the same time period.

Those results were cited in the 2005 Current Status of Pro Bono Service Among Maryland Lawyers Report, released on November 8, 2006. As reported in the January 2007 edition of the Bar Bulletin, the assessment concluded that pro bono service as a whole in the state of Maryland has steadily risen over the last few years. The report continued to enumerate evidence of the Western region's excellent pro bono service record. For instance, Washington and Allegany are the top two counties in the state, with 70.2 and 69.5 percent of their respective lawyers contributing any pro bono hours. Washington has also posted the greatest percentage increase of lawyers with any pro bono hours over the last three years. Additionally, the gaggle of western counties placed no lower than 15th on the list of percentage of lawyers contributing 50 pro bono hours or more (most notably, Garrett placed seventh with 36.4 percent); conversely, five of the last six place slots were filled by Capital and Central counties.

Though there are considerably fewer attorneys practicing in the Western region than the Capital or Central, the fact remains that these rural attorneys deliver more in the pro bono arena than those that draw most of the legal-related headlines – a condition seemingly rooted in camaraderie.

Terri Ann Lowery

Terri Ann Lowery

One major pro bono attorney in the Western region is Terri Ann Lowery, a bankruptcy attorney for Trozzo, Lowery, Weston & Rock, LLC. Based in the town of Cumberland (Allegany's County-Seat), Lowery's pro bono service has gained a great deal of recognition. In 2002, the MSBA awarded Lowery with the Lee A. Caplan Award due to her extensive pro bono service over many years. Her pro bono work was again recognized in October 2005, when the Allegany County Bar Association (ACBA) awarded her with the Suzanne McGrath-Dale Award. Lowery was nominated anonymously for both.

"I have never taken a pro bono case so that someone would say, ‘Oh, that's great that you did that,'" explains Lowery. "But it is nice to be recognized that I do [pro bono work] because maybe it'll encourage other attorneys to say, ‘I can do that.'"

Born and raised in Western Maryland, Lowery was working for the U.S. Trustees Office in Greenbelt, Maryland, in 1995, when she decided to move back to Cumberland to raise her family. Lowery appreciated the quaint, small-town aspects such as making your own hours, the companionship between colleagues and the familiarity between clients and attorneys.

"You really become so involved with these people and their lives," remarks Lowery. "They start asking you for all kinds of advice. It's so different than with the government, when you really never see your client, whereas now, people come in off the streets or I see them at the mall and they have lots of questions. They look at me as their friend, and you become really involved with them."

G. Douglas Reinhard

G. Douglas Reinhard  

Upon re-acclimating herself in Cumberland, Lowery worked with the Allegany Law Foundation, a group that provides pro bono service to low-income clients through in-house attorneys or locates an attorney to do pro bono work. Created by the ACBA in the mid-1990s, the Foundation has had a strong impact on impoverished residents of Western Maryland. Advertised through brochures, word-of-mouth and general court bureaucracy, the Foundation has been contacted to handle various issues including landlord/tenant disputes, custody cases and family law cases. In such an eclectic area, it is imperative that various attorneys step up to the plate when called upon.

"There are very few attorneys who do bankruptcy around here," notes Lowery, "so when [Allegany Law Foundation] would get [any bankruptcy] cases, I said, ‘Just send them to me.'"

The Foundation's President, G. Douglas Reinhard, was also born and raised in Allegany County. He admires the benevolence displayed by his hometown's legal community towards the people in need and one another.

"We have a Bar where everyone gets along well, and you are not out there to cut people off," notes Reinhard.

Cumberland attorney Paul J. Kelly, Jr., echoes Reinhard's sentiments by acknowledging that his colleagues give each other some flexibility and allowances, because everyone is professional and collegial with each other.

But these allowances are not explicit to other attorneys. Kelly – another attorney who practices in his childhood surroundings – has a firm grasp on his area's affairs and has displayed a motivation, much like his colleagues', to aid the needy throughout Western Maryland.

"Because of the average income out here, you find a lot of people have legitimate needs, but [they are] without the funds," explains Kelly. "That's how a lot of practitioners do it out here – there is a legitimate need, and we don't mind helping. In this small town, if I do pro bono work for someone, there is a good chance I will see them again and again. I think that's a good deal."

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: March 2007