BALTIMORE – Maryland Legal Aid (MLA) is seeking volunteer (pro bono) attorneys to help staff its Joining Forces telephone hotline for Maryland’s low-income veterans. Launched in 2014 with funding provided by the Legal Services Corporation’s Pro Bono Innovation Grant, the Joining Forces hotline provides individuals who are low-income and who have served in any branch of the military with direct and immediate access to legal assistance and brief advice on a wide range of civil legal issues. Financially eligible veterans who call the hotline and need more extensive legal representation may be referred to Maryland Legal Aid attorneys or volunteer attorneys for further guidance and assistance.
The Joining Forces hotline is staffed by volunteer attorneys on Tuesdays (3:00pm – 7:00pm), and Thursdays (9:30am – 1:30pm). Volunteers can answer hotline calls from the comfort of their own homes or offices. Detailed information, in the form of scripts, about various areas of civil law is provided to volunteers to use as a reference when responding to inquiries from callers. In addition, MLA provides substantial support to volunteers during hotline hours in the event that volunteers receive legal questions that are not addressed in the scripts or are out of the volunteers’ areas of expertise.
Attorneys interested in volunteering can sign up for available hotline shifts at https://apps.mdlab.org/JFH/. Additionally, volunteers who may not be familiar with veterans’ issues can receive assistance through an online training program. “Our goal is to make sure that attorneys who volunteer for the veterans’ hotline receive the training and ongoing guidance they need to be confident when assisting clients over the phone,” says Scott Black, MLA’s Staff Attorney for Special Populations, who manages the hotline. “Maryland Legal Aid will continue to incorporate pro bono attorney feedback to enhance the technology and logistics behind the hotline, and will make adjustments as necessary,” Black adds. “Signing up for the hotline and assisting clients on the hotline should be user-friendly experiences, and pro bono attorneys should feel secure in their knowledge about the different areas in which clients may need help.”
The Joining Forces Project is just one of many opportunities available to private attorneys within MLA’s pro bono program. Other opportunities include providing brief legal assistance at MLA’s Lawyer in the Library clinics throughout the state. For more information about how to become involved with Maryland Legal Aid as a pro bono attorney, contact Pro Bono Program Director, Anais Taboas, at 410-951-7624 or firstname.lastname@example.org.