A rather cynical Charles
Dickens once wrote, Charity begins at home and justice begins next door.
Thank goodness Linda Carroll, Esq. does not feel the same. This notion of
giving back, of helping your community become a better place it’s how I
was raised, Carroll states. It’s part of my background and part of who I
An attorney in Columbia, Maryland, with a solo practice built around immigration and family law, Carroll always knew what she wanted to do with her life. From the time I was seven years old, I knew I wanted to be either a policeman or a lawyer something to do with the law, she admits.
When she got out of law school, Carroll did not let the lack of attorney positions deter her from her goal. She took a job as a paralegal and worked in that position until an attorney position opened up.
After taking some time off to start a family, Carroll decided to go back to work. She started out part-time for a small firm. I didn’t begin with family law in mind, she admits, but I had a wonderful mentor during my early years who was responsible for teaching me domestic law. I had to learn fast. My instructions were, Here is what you need to know. Read this. If you have questions, come and ask.’
Carroll was soon yearning to hang out her own shingle. I knew it was going to be difficult, with three children at home as well as trying to build a private practice, Carroll explains, but as the children grew, so would my business. If we could just tough it out for a little while we would be okay.
Carroll augmented to her on-the-job training and mentoring experience by taking MICPEL courses in domestic and immigration law and taking pro bono cases through Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service. I would take a course and then take a case. If I needed help I would ask somebody, Carroll says. It worked pretty well. I learned a lot, and people got the help they needed.
Carroll still performs pro bono work by working in the Pro Se Clinic, where she helps walk-ins fill out their respective court documents and gives advice on legal matters. She also volunteers doing facilitation and mediation for the cases appearing before the court.
My father, my grandfather, my whole family were always involved in the community, Carroll says. I was taught that financial support wasn’t enough; you also had to get involved, to work towards making the community a better place to live. For example, my grandfather believed that as a Muslim it was important to have a Muslim school in our community. When I was growing up, there were no Muslim schools, only Christian schools. So he worked very hard to bring that about.
There have been many cases over the years, but one case, involving domestic violence, stands out as particularly meaningful. It was a complex case involving some immigration issues. We had to go through so much to get what she was entitled to, but in the end, we did it, Carroll recalls. She was so grateful. It was worth it.
The work is out there, and the need is great in every county in Maryland. Support pro bono work in your community. Add your resources to the fight. For more information on the legal service volunteer opportunities in Maryland, contact the PBRC at (410) 837-9379 or (800) 396-1274, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jon Moseley is Director of Volunteer Services & Community Outreach for the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland.