Shore Legal Access recognized the incredible contributions of the nonprofit’s volunteer attorneys with an annual awards ceremony and reception held on October 26 at the Ivy Café in Easton, Maryland. Shore Legal Access relies on volunteers to represent people with limited means in court, prepare documents, and provide legal counseling and advice.
The event was also part of the annual National Celebration of Pro Bono, sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Center for Pro Bono Committee to recognize pro bono work as a professional responsibility and an individual ethical commitment of each lawyer.
“Not all heroes wear capes,” remarked Shore Legal Access Executive Director Meredith Lathbury Girard, Esq. at the event. “Truly every single volunteer attorney is a hero for the people we serve.”
Volunteer Attorney of the Year awards were presented at the event to Criminal Record Expungement recipient Kristin Gilbert, Esq. of Gilber Law, LLC in Salisbury, Maryland, Family Law recipient Stephanie Hambleton, Esq. of Hambleton Law, LLC in St, Michaels, Maryland, Housing recipient Cathleen Massey, Esq. of Oxford, Maryland, and Life Planning recipient Judith Showalter, Esq. of Easton, Maryland.
The Hon. Karen Murphy Jensen Award for Pro Bono Service and Mentorship was presented to Donna McElroy, Esq., of the Law Office of Donna B. McElroy in Berlin, Maryland. The award was created to honor a member of the legal community who demonstrates a commitment to pro bono service in addition to mentoring those who are new to the profession or seeking to increase their skills in service to the community.
“Because of these attorneys standing in their corners, the people we serve can stand a little taller, breathe easier, and get better outcomes in their case,” said Girard.
She says that because of volunteer attorneys, the people served by Shore Legal Access feel seen and heard, and always have better outcomes with representation.
“Legal representation shouldn’t be reserved only for those who can afford it,” says Girard.
“The feedback we receive from our partners and the people we serve says it all,” said Girard. “A local circuit court judge wrote, “We on the bench are so grateful for your volunteers.” One client said, “Because of my financial situation, I never felt that anyone would give my case attention, but my attorney through Shore Legal Access gave 100%.”
“Another wrote, “My attorney through Shore Legal Access was able to support me during a hard time. I can’t thank you enough. I felt like my attorney was a voice for me and stood up for me. “”
Shore Legal Access relies on its network of volunteers to represent people with limited means in court, prepare documents, and provide legal counseling and advice. In 2022, Shore Legal Access volunteers provided 8,350 hours of free legal help, resulting in access to legal representation valued at more than $2 million in financial benefits for Eastern Shore residents.
“The people of the Eastern Shore are extremely fortunate to have the volunteer work of these dedicated attorneys,” said Girard. “And we are always looking for more attorneys to become volunteers with us and who share our passion for providing access to legal representation in civil matters for everyone, regardless of anyone’s ability to pay.”
Shore Legal Access was founded as Mid-Shore Pro Bono in 2005 by a small group of dedicated and compassionate local judges and attorneys who recognized the overwhelming need for basic civil legal services in the five Mid-Shore counties. It became the first regional pro bono organization in Maryland to connect private attorneys with people unable to afford representation for their civil legal issues.
Since then, Shore Legal Access has been dedicated to making representation affordable and accessible to Eastern Shore residents facing civil legal challenges in the areas of family law, life planning, consumer debt relief, housing, and criminal record expungement, including cannabis-related records. Shore Legal Access’s staff and volunteer attorneys work with individuals and families to resolve legal issues while helping those new to the law understand their rights and responsibilities. Each year, Shore Legal Access connects more than 3,000 individuals with legal help they might otherwise not have received, ensuring that justice truly is for all.
The people served by Shore Legal Access gain an attorney in their corner, connections to community services, and a new perspective on the law. Each year, Shore Legal Access connects more than 3,000 individuals with legal help they might otherwise not have received, with more at www.shorelegal.org. More about the American Bar Association’s Center for Pro Bono is at www.americanbar.org/groups/center-pro-bono.
Shore Legal Access of Easton and Salisbury, Maryland recently presented its Volunteer Attorney of the Year awards as part of the annual National Celebration of Pro Bono. Pictured from left: Hon. Stephen Kehoe, Hon. Lynn Knight, Hon. Karen Jensen, JP Novak, accepting on behalf of Donna McElroy, Judith Showalter, Kristin Gilbert, and Magistrate Mary O’Donnell. Shore Legal Access connects more than 3,000 individuals with legal help they might otherwise not have received through a network of volunteer attorneys, with more at www.shorelegal.org.