Human Services

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, Inc.

"Justice for all"

aka MVLS

Baltimore, MD

Mission

MVLS provides free quality civil legal services to Marylanders of limited means by matching them with experienced volunteer lawyers.  Our clients typically need representation in the following areas: divorce and custody, foreclosure, landlord/tenant, housing conditions, consumer disputes, filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, guardianship of adults or children, denial of public benefits, denial of long-term level of medical care, and criminal record expungement. MVLS serves the entire State of Maryland except Montgomery, Prince George's, and Allegany counties and the five Mid-Shore counties.

Ruling Year

1981

Executive Director

Ms. Bonnie A. Sullivan Esq.

Main Address

201 North Charles St Ste 1400

Baltimore, MD 21201 USA

Keywords

pro bono, civil legal services, free lawyer, low income, access to justice, consumer debt, landlord/tenant, name change, foreclosure prevention, legal aid

EIN

52-1225979

 Number

5810938264

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Human Service Organizations (P20)

IRS Filing Requirement

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

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Social Media

Programs + Results

What we aim to solve New!

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. A recent study, Accessing Justice in the Contemporary USA, found that 66% of adults in the United States faced at least one civil legal issue in the past 18 months.

The poor, working poor and middle class 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. Tragically, unresolved civil legal issues that affect an individual's livelihood, health, housing and family, can cause a family teeter

Our programs

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

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Core Pro Bono Program

Adult Protective Services & Guardianship Review Board Project

Low Income Taxpayer Clinic

Judicare Family Law Reduced-Fee Project

Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project

Workforce Development Project

Human Trafficking Prevention Project

Where we workNew!

Our Results

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one. These quantitative program results are self-reported by the organization, illustrating their committment to transparency, learning, and interest in helping the whole sector learn and grow.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Number of clients served

TOTALS BY YEAR
Population(s) served

Adults,

Economically disadvantaged, low-income, and poor people

Number of volunteers

TOTALS BY YEAR
Population(s) served

Adults,

Economically disadvantaged, low-income, and poor people

Context notes

Year after year, MVLS volunteer attorneys 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

TOTALS BY YEAR
Population(s) served

Adults,

Economically disadvantaged, low-income, and poor people

Context notes

FY17 volunteer attorney time is valued at nearly $4.1 million. FY16 volunteer attorney time is valued at more than $4.4 million.

Number of overall donors

TOTALS BY YEAR
Population(s) served

No target populations selected

Number of first-time donors

TOTALS BY YEAR
Population(s) served

No target populations selected

Charting Impact

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

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have and haven't they accomplished so far?

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.
IV. Strategic Objectives:
MVLS currently provides legal services consisting of brief advice, counseling and direct representation in a variety of consumer/finance and family law cases. MVLS will continue to provide these services, including all of the other types of civil cases MVLS currently accepts for placement with volunteers.

In addition, as a specific strategic objective over the next several years, MVLS will focus effort and resources on addressing a subset of “high volume" Consumer/Finance cases that have been identified as a priority. It is understood that by identifying certain types of cases, MVLS does not intend to limit the type of cases eligible for pro bono services going forward. A longer term strategic objective will be to direct additional efforts and resources to expanding MVLS' reach in the area of helping people of low to moderate income in Family Law cases.

This strategic plan establishes priorities, goals and dates to ensure that by the year specified every person and family of low to moderate means living within the identified geographic area has access to legal information, assistance and/or counsel as necessary in matters covered by identified core pro bono program.

The need for expanded legal services is great and currently unmet by the legal services community. MVLS is well positioned to expand our services to low-income clients with consumer issues that will have a significant impact in their lives. Consumer law advocacy will address our clients' most pressing financial matters and is a viable option for program expansion. In addition to existing partnerships that will enable us to grow this area of work, it is an attractive practice area for growth of our volunteer panel of attorneys. Many of these cases are attractive to volunteer attorneys because they can be efficiently managed and closed relatively quickly. Another incentive for volunteers is the opportunity for fee shifting in certain consumer cases, which can help not only to recruit new volunteer attorneys, but also deter bad actors who want to avoid costly litigation.

MVLS is striving to be the catalyst for statewide efforts to provide free or low cost, quality, civil legal assistance to Marylanders with limited income. We will do this by focusing on high volume consumer finance cases as a pilot project over the next three years, building organizational capacity to support our program services and engaging the private bar.

By innovating and evaluating its programs and services, MVLS will be able to continue to provide free or low cost, quality civil legal assistance to Marylanders with limited income. Through this robust planning process, four thematic strategic priority areas emerged. The strategic initiatives that will guide MVLS' work over the next three years include:

• Legal Services - Provide pro bono services statewide (MVLS counties) by establishing a new pilot program that will be focused on high volume consumer finance cases.
• Capacity - Build organizational capacity that allows MVLS to attract and retain top talent, ensure financial viability and sustainability and build a strong brand and reputation in the legal community.
• Alliances - Strengthen and formalize strategic alliances with other legal services providers and community groups that work with MVLS.
• Engagement – MVLS will engage the public and private bar to expand access to justice.

Metrics and Accountability. MVLS senior staff have identified key metrics to measure progress on implementing the strategic plan. These metrics will be tracked, measured and evaluated by MVLS staff and progress will be shared with the board of directors. The strategic planning committee is recommending the adoption of a balanced scorecard to be used with the board of directors. This widely used strategic planning tool will align organizational activities to the vision and strategy of the organization, improve internal and external communications and monitor organization performance against strategic goals.

MVLS has a long history of providing legal services to consumers. Since 1990, MVLS volunteers have provided Chapter 7 bankruptcy assistance and debtor relief in 5,409 cases and 1,545 collection/repossession/deficiency judgment/garnishment cases. We currently have 73 volunteer lawyers on our panel who specialize in consumer law matters. Their offices are located in Central Maryland, Montgomery and Prince George's counties, all within or near the initial target population.
MVLS also incubated the successful Baltimore CASH Campaign between 1999 and 2009. CASH provides free income tax preparation services to low income residents, financial literacy counseling and asset building resources. It partners with government agencies, banks and community-based nonprofits to provide services that increase financial stability for low-income Baltimore residents. MVLS continues to work with CASH by accepting referrals of taxpayers with an IRS tax dispute.
MVLS will be able to attract legal and community partners in part because of our reputation in the consumer finance area. MVLS has successfully partnered with PBRC and Civil Justice in the Debtors Assistance Project at the US Bankruptcy Court and the Foreclosure Prevention Project. We have close relationships with both law schools in the area through our Low Income Taxpayer Clinic and most recently JustAdvice Clinic.
We expect to attract a variety of funders, including major banks and credit unions, to support our campaign to provide access to justice because it promotes economic well-being and supports self-sufficiency. As fiscal agent for the Baltimore CASH Campaign, MVLS was able to secure large grants from the Abell, Goldseker, Annie E. Casey and Weinberg foundations because of the “asset building" component of CASH services. Major banks such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo also support the CASH Campaign's goals of financial literacy and economic self-sufficiency. MVLS should be able to tap these same funders to support our consumer cases.

MVLS is well positioned to expand our services to low-income clients with consumer issues that will have a significant impact in their lives. In addition to existing partnerships that will enable us to grow this area of work, it is an attractive practice area for growth of our volunteer panel of attorneys. Many of these cases appeal to volunteer attorneys because they can be efficiently managed and closed relatively quickly. General practitioners, who may not specialize in this area of the law, will be less hesitant to accept a consumer case if MVLS has the ability to provide on staff assistance and support. Another incentive for volunteers is the opportunity for fee shifting in consumer case, which can help not only to recruit new volunteer attorneys, but also deter bad actors who want to avoid costly litigation.

Our strategic plan contains metrics and dates to measure our success. We have multiple strategic objectives under each major initiative we are undertaking under our plan. The following summary from our plan is illustrative

A. Strategic Objective: Expand MVLS' capability and service offering in the area of consumer finance, including bankruptcy, consumer debt relief and foreclosure prevention.

Action Items:

FY2014 (January – June 2014)
• Assume responsibility for scheduling clients and volunteers at the DAP (Debtor Assistance Project) clinic in Greenbelt and Baltimore City

 Train MVLS Foreclosure Prevention Project Manager to understand the subject, process and issues and provide guidance to management as we enter this arena

Year 1 - FY2015
Metrics:
 Conduct 24 clinics in the area of consumer finance
 Train 25 volunteers to handle high volume, consumer finance cases
 Serve 500 people in the high volume, consumer finance cases (brief advice, counseling and representation)
• Develop staff expertise to help with questions on consumer rights and debt buyer defense to assist volunteer attorneys and clients
 Metric: Attend 2 consumer CLE courses and the annual National Consumer Rights Coalition Conference.
• Train staff on new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau regulations which took effect January 1, FY2014, and gaining competency in related federal regulations, e.g., TILA & RESPA
• Support volunteer attorneys with tools and knowledge on new CFPB regulations and how to pursue private rights of action while representing homeowners in foreclosure defense cases
• With legal partners and OAH to develop onsite resources at busiest foreclosure mediation sites
 Metric: Launch onsite legal resources at OAH in Hunt Valley
• Work in conjunction with partners, including PBRC, the University of Maryland School of Law and University of Baltimore School of Law, to establish and staff debt buyer brief advice clinics at Baltimore City and Baltimore County District Courts
 Metric: Execute two MOUs with partners to establish legal advice clinics
• Conduct outreach to non-profits, churches and other social service organizations, especially in remote geographic areas, to share self-help tools and on-line resources
 Metric : 15 outreach sessions focused on high volume, consumer finance
• Research the possibility of conducting a tax sale brief advice clinic in Baltimore City District Court
• Implement targeted outreach to Baltimore City census tracts most affected by tax sales in Baltimore City
 Metric: Conduct 8 outreach sessions
• Create self-help materials in simple language that explain the tax sale process, how to challenge fines and charges
 Metric: Publish tax sale materials on website and distribute in flyer form
• Develop effective communication tools and outreach to Spanish and non-English speakers as well as seniors in Baltimore City
 Metric: Publish tax sale flyers in English and Spanish

MVLS has achieved all of the programmatic goals established of our 2014 to 2017 strategic plan. The following is a brief summary of major achievements: 1) Conducted more than 48 consumer clinics, including weekly affidavit judgment clinics in Baltimore City District Court, Debtor Assistance Project Clinics, 53 clinics, 3 days a week at US Bankruptcy Courts in Greenbelt and Baltimore City, 7 Tax Sale Clinics, 10 self-help bankruptcy clinics and expanded Ask a Lawyer self-help clinic to Anne Arundel County and conducted 61 at the AA Law Library. 2) Trained 75 volunteers in consumer and bankruptcy law 3) Served 1114 consumer clients, 704 received counseling and 271 full representation 4) Trained MVLS staff lawyers in consumer law 6) Launched Bankruptcy Bypass Clinic to help seniors who are collection proof avoid bankruptcy 7) Updated website to be mobile responsive and include an on-line intake module that operates much like TurboTax.

External Reviews

Awards & Accreditations


Since 2004

Affiliations & Memberships

Association of Fundraising Professionals - Member

American Bar Association

Photos

Financials

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, Inc.

Fiscal year: Jul 01 - Jun 30

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  • Address, phone, website and contact information
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Operations

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

Need more info?

FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2017, 2017 and 2016
A Pro report is also available for this organization for $125.
Click here to see what's included.

Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

BOARD ORIENTATION & 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 & 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

In order to support nonprofits and gain valuable insight for the sector, GuideStar worked with D5—a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy—in creating a questionnaire. This section is a voluntary questionnaire that empowers organizations to share information on the demographics of who works in and leads organizations. To protect the identity of individuals, we do not display sexual orientation or disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff. Any values displayed in this section are percentages of the total number of individuals in each category (e.g. 20% of all Board members for X organization are female).

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Gender

Race & Ethnicity

Sexual Orientation

This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Board Members.

Disability

This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Board Members.

Diversity Strategies

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We track retention of staff, board, and volunteers across demographic categories
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We track income levels of staff, senior staff, and board across demographic categories
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We track the age of staff, senior staff, and board
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We track the diversity of vendors (e.g., consultants, professional service firms)
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We have a diversity committee in place
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We have a diversity manager in place
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We have a diversity plan
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We use other methods to support diversity