Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, Inc.

"Justice for all"

aka MVLS   |   Baltimore, MD   |  https://mvlslaw.org

Mission

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) removes barriers to justice through free civil legal help, community engagement, and advocacy for equitable laws. Our vision is for a fair legal system that is free of injustice and equitably serves underrepresented Marylanders.

Ruling year info

1981

Executive Director

Ms. Susan Francis Esq.

Main address

201 North Charles St Ste 1400

Baltimore, MD 21201 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

52-1225979

NTEE code info

Human Service Organizations (P20)

Legal Services (I80)

Human Service Organizations (P20)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

In the United States, only people charged with a criminal offense have a constitutional right to a lawyer. There are no free Public Defenders for low-income Marylanders defending critical civil cases, like home foreclosure, child custody, consumer debt or tax disputes. Low-income individuals who can't afford a private lawyer's hourly rate must rely on an underfunded and overburdened legal aid system that currently meets just 20% of the need (according to the Legal Services Corporation's Documenting the Justice Gap in America). The remaining 80%, who can't get a lawyer, are at a severe disadvantage when they face sophisticated creditors or skilled opposing counsel in court. Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) removes barriers to justice through free civil legal help, community engagement, and advocacy for equitable laws.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Core Pro Bono Program

Annually serving about 5,500 individuals, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) staff and volunteer lawyers, CPA's, and enrolled agents provide free civil legal representation to Maryland families who can't afford to hire an attorney in critical civil legal cases. MVLS advocates for racial equality, equity, and fairness in Maryland’s legal system and provides direct legal services at no cost to under resourced families because we believe it's a grave injustice that Marylanders do not have a civil right to legal counsel in most civil cases. Our services and programs are designed to create a level playing field where all people – regardless of income level or race – can have a voice in their legal process and in their futures. MVLS leverages professional volunteers to provide pro bono representation across the state of Maryland in civil cases such as foreclosure, name changes, deed changes, divorce, custody, consumer disputes, including Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people
Unemployed people

MVLS coordinates a weekly clinic offering free legal advice to consumers who are facing debt collection cases in Baltimore City District Court. Volunteer attorneys provide assistance with credit card cases, auto loans, landlord/tenant matters, and more at the clinic and with ongoing representation. They also provide information on the court process, settlement options and what may happen to the debtor post judgment.

Similarly, the Debtor Assistance Project provides pro se debtors a half-hour free consultation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney at the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts in Baltimore and Greenbelt. Volunteer attorneys answer questions about eligibility, court procedures and whether bankruptcy may be used to help prevent foreclosure.

MVLS assists approximately 800 clients a year with legal representation for bankruptcy and debt collection relief.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people
Families

MVLS volunteer tax lawyers provide legal assistance to low-income taxpayers with IRS tax controversies, including denial of the Earned Income Tax Credit, audits, innocent spouse relief, filing back taxes, and setting up payment plans with the IRS.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people
Adults

Family law reduced-fee program that authorizes MVLS payment to experienced family law attorneys who represent low-income clients in highly contested family law cases ($100 an hour up to $3,000 per case). MVLS operates its Judicare Project in 13 Maryland counties and Baltimore City.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Families

MVLS volunteers provide legal services to distressed homeowners across Maryland. Eligible homeowners facing foreclosure are matched with trained volunteer lawyers who represent them during foreclosure mediations and at trial.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Economically disadvantaged people

MVLS partners with six workforce development sites in Baltimore City to provide job trainees with civil legal services that remove barriers to employment such as criminal record expungements, child support modifications, child custody, tax disputes, student loan and other consumer debt. Most recently, the Program expanded to partner with the Baltimore Health Corps, a citywide program that equitably provides employment to trusted community members who conduct contact tracing and care coordination across the city amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. MVLS performs individual legal consultations with Baltimore Health Corps employees on a variety of civil legal issues.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people
Adults

In early 2017, MVLS launched our Human Trafficking Prevention Project in partnership with the University of Baltimore School of Law (UB Law). The project, which is an outgrowth of UB Law’s Human Trafficking Clinic, focuses on reducing the collateral consequences of criminal legal involvement for survivors of human trafficking and those populations made most vulnerable to exploitation. MVLS volunteer attorneys and UB Law student attorneys 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 representation to survivors and populations at risk of future exploitation in expungement and shielding cases. MVLS also provides HTPP clients with additional free civil legal services to address family law, housing, consumer debt, tax, and other legal matters. The HTPP 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. The HTPP currently has partnerships with seven community agencies (including neighborhood drop in centers, domestic violence shelters, and sex worker outreach programs) in the Baltimore metro area where it provides regular on-site legal intake, and the program leverages MVLS’ statewide pro bono network to connect clients throughout Maryland with free legal assistance.

Population(s) Served
Sex workers
Adults

MVLS, in collaboration with other legal services partners, is providing legal services to older adult homeowners in Baltimore City to assist them in maintaining home ownership, by avoiding tax sale and taking advantage of the City's property tax credits, water bill credits, and home repair programs.

Population(s) Served
Seniors
Families

MVLS provides homeowner clinics to help Baltimore City residents stabilize their homes and secure critically important resources for their long-term ability to remain in their homes. The Program focuses on creating paths for wealth building primarily in communities of color by helping families pass their most important asset, their home, to the next generation. It 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.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people
Families

The Elder Justice Program, funded through Equal Justice Works, provides free civil legal services and resources to older adults who have been the victims of elder abuse, neglect or financial exploitation.

Population(s) Served
Seniors
Victims and oppressed people

Where we work

Accreditations


Since 2004

Standards for Excellence - Initial Accreditation 2004

Standards for Excellence - Most Current Renewal 2019

Affiliations & memberships

Association of Fundraising Professionals - Members 2021

Maryland Access to Justice Commission 2021

Maryland Standing Committee on Pro Bono 2020

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of clients served

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adults, Economically disadvantaged people

Related Program

Core Pro Bono Program

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

MVLS captures all client and case related data in our cloud-based database, LegalServer. We track demographic information about the client, case type, case milestones and case outcomes.

Number of volunteers

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adults, Economically disadvantaged people

Related Program

Core Pro Bono Program

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Year after year, MVLS volunteer attorneys and tax professionals step up to the challenge and help thousands of low-income Marylanders resolve critical legal issues.

Total number of volunteer hours contributed to the organization

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adults, Economically disadvantaged people

Related Program

Core Pro Bono Program

Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

FY20 volunteer attorney time is valued at over $6 million.

Number of overall donors

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Low-income people

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of first-time donors

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

MVLS' vision is that all low and moderate income Marylanders will have access to civil legal representation and legal resources needed to protect individual dignity, family, and home.

MVLS’s core pro bono service areas include: (1) family law (e.g., divorce, custody, guardianship), (2) consumer finance (e.g., individual debtors’ rights, bankruptcy), (3) housing (e.g., landlord/tenant disputes, foreclosure & tax sale, deed changes), (4) estate planning/administration, (5) expungement and (6) tax controversy.

MVLS strives to expand statewide free, quality, civil legal assistance to Marylanders with limited income. We will do this by focusing on volunteer lawyer recruitment and retention, expanding community-based partnerships, and targeted advocacy on behalf of our clients. To sustain the programs that advance this vision, MVLS will expand efforts to secure major donors to our program from a diverse mix of individuals, including lawyers, and business and technology leaders.

By focusing on volunteers, community partners, fund development and advocacy, MVLS will be able to sustain its core pro bono program that provides free, quality civil legal assistance to Marylanders with limited income. Through this focused planning process, MVLS has identified four strategic priority areas. The strategic initiatives that will guide MVLS’s work over the next three years include:

(1) Volunteer Recruitment and Retention - Extend MVLS’s reach into the legal community to increase recruitment of volunteers from all sectors of the legal community in Maryland with a special focus engaging lawyers with less than 7-year’s experience. Our program also will continue to meaningfully engage and recognize current volunteers to enhance retention.

(2) Community Partnerships - Improve outreach to community partners to identify and select partners who can help direct more eligible clients to MVLS and extend our geographical reach to areas beyond Central Maryland.

(3) Fund Development and Major Donor Strategy - Create a targeted funding strategy to sustain the work of MVLS and grow the availability of unrestricted funds to allow the organization to innovate and provide services.

(4) Advocacy – Develop an advocacy agenda to highlight MVLS staff as subject matter experts on the issues impacting our clients and build awareness of these significant issues among volunteers, community partners, and donors.

(1) Volunteer Recruitment and Retention – MVLS was founded in 1981 as a volunteer based organization and has a longstanding expertise in recruiting and retaining volunteer attorneys. We have a panel of 1,744 volunteer lawyers, who provided $4,685,017 worth of pro bono life changing legal aid just last year. Additionally, our staff and board have established strong relationships with the Maryland bench and bar, which allow us to continue to recruit new volunteers. In the next several years, MVLS will build upon this existing relationships to engage newer lawyers and meaningfully engage and recognize newer volunteers.

(2) Community Partnerships - MVLS has always recognized the importance of community
partners and engagement but did not always have dedicated outreach staff who would be engaged with community programs that provide services to the same clients that we serve. Through the One Baltimore for Jobs (1B4J) project, MVLS invested significant time and energy to create new community partnerships. Over the project life, there were two major lessons learned. One was that these partnerships made MVLS more effective at our core work. The second is recognition that there is a fundamental lack of understanding and knowledge in community programs about the value of legal services, how to identify legal issues and how to engage effectively with our program. MVLS's staff has expanded our community partnerships to work effectively with our program by making referrals and hosting clinics or know your rights presentations. MVLS plans to continue to expand our engagement with community programs, utilizing existing community relationships through board members, and developing outreach strategies to these groups for future engagement.

(3) Fund Development and Major Donor Strategy – Over the past 25 years, MVLS has developed a broad fundraising strategy that secures funding from diverse sources. MVLS needs to increase unrestricted funding from individual major donors and corporations in order to support existing programs when either government or foundation grants end. MVLS has developed a robust fundraising strategy to incentivize giving from a variety of sources and a range of giving levels. The organization has an above average donor retention rate compared to the industry standard and has grown total giving over the past three years. To do so successfully, MVLS will increase major donor fundraising through expansion of our Partners Club campaign and develop more consistent revenue streams including initiating a formal planned giving campaign, expanding acquisition donor appeals and increasing the number of monthly donors in our Sustainers Circle campaign.

(4) Advocacy – MVLS has developed substantial subject matter expertise in several areas and often is asked to provide testimony and participate in various activities, primarily focused on consumer, foreclosure/tax sale, expungement, and advanced planning and estate administration.

MVLS has made significant progress towards many of the programmatic goals established in our current strategic plan. The following is a brief summary of major achievements:

1) MVLS has conducted outreach to all of the major law firms in the area about the launch of our online pro bono portal for case
placement.
2) MVLS has developed at least 3 ongoing relationships with law firms who provide volunteers to staff our legal clinics.
3) MVLS has launched its Community Action Network (CAN) for newer lawyers to assist in recruiting new lawyers to join the MVLS
volunteer panel.
4) MVLS has developed a robust monthly webinar training program to engage volunteers with trainings on substantive legal areas and
“soft skills”.
5) MVLS has surveyed the board about their connections to community partners and board members are providing introductions
between MVLS staff and these partners.
6) MVLS has developed a periodic eNewsletter for community partners to highlight developments in key program areas of interest.
7) MVLS has engaged regional pro bono programs in a quarterly meeting to identify case priorities and share information.
8) MVLS has engaged local media in rural areas to feature stories about our volunteers and programs.
9) MVLS has begun to research new potential major donors and ability to give to MVLS.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Paper surveys,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve,

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners,

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback,

Financials

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, Inc.
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, Inc.

Board of directors
as of 11/18/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. Anthony Ashton

NAACP

Anthony Ashton, Esq.

NAACP

Charles Morton Jr., Esq.

Venable LLP

Dana McKee, Esq.

Brown Goldstein Levy

Penny Minna, Esq.

DLA Piper

David Sommer, Esq.

Gallagher Evelius & Jones LLP

Alexandra Montanio, Esq.

Gordon Feinblatt, LLC

James Tansey, Esq.

Maryland Office of the Attorney General

Amy McClain, Esq.

Ballard Spahr

Michael March, Esq.

Crepeau Mourges

Matthew Bryant, Esq.

Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, PA

Richard Costella, Esq.

Tydings Law

Dennis Shaffer, Esq.

Whiteford Taylor Preston

Derek Roussillon, Esq.

Miles Stockbridge

Jhonell Campbell, Esq.

T. Rowe Price

Kerby Baden, Esq., CPA

Canto, Rausch, Deck & Co., PA

Reba Letsa, Esq.

Baker Donelson

Shereefat Balogun, Esq.

State Employees Credit Union of Maryland (SECU)

Brian Gordon, Esq.

Brown Advisory

Marc Shach, Esq.

Coon & Cole, LLC

Ann Irvine, PhD

Resilience Cyber Insurance Solutions

Tyree Ayers

Erickson Senior Living

Robin Leone

Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP

La'Tika Howard

Womble Bond Dickinson

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 7/8/2021,

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or other sexual orientations in the LGBTQIA+ community
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

Disability

Equity strategies

Last updated: 10/23/2019

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.