About Us

Our Vision

To lead in providing high-quality legal services; to build on mutual respect for clients, staff, and others; to advocate for justice; and to add maximum positive value to all who request legal assistance.

Our Mission

To provide high-quality legal services to the State’s poor through a mix of services and to bring about the changes poor people want in the systems that affect them.

Our Values

To grow out of in-depth conversations with our clients across the state about the issues that they and their families face everyday. Maryland Legal Aid has adopted a human rights framework to our advocacy.

What We Do

Maryland Legal Aid (MLA) is the largest provider of free, direct legal services in Maryland and the state’s 3rd largest law firm*. As a private, non-profit law firm, MLA provides a full range of free civil legal services to low-income people statewide, in Baltimore City and in Maryland’s 23 counties, from 12 office locations. Financial support for our services comes from federal, state and local governments, foundations, law firms, the United Way, and from individual donors.

MLA handles civil (not criminal) cases involving a wide range of issues, including child custody, housing, public benefits, consumer law (e.g., bankruptcy and debt collection), and criminal record expungements to remove barriers to obtaining child custody, housing, and employment.

Many of MLA’s local offices represent children in CINA (Child in Need of Assistance) proceedings. Other vulnerable populations, such as victims of abuse and domestic violence, seniors, migrant farmworkers, veterans, and nursing home and assisted living residents, also receive specialized representation. MLA’s services include representation before federal and state trial and appellate courts, brief advice and counsel, and referrals to other sources of assistance.

*The Daily Record 2019

Senior Management

Board Members

Executive Director’s Message

Maintaining safe and affordable housing. Securing life-saving benefits and resources. Clearing the way for second chances. These are just a few of the ways that MLA and pro bono attorneys impacted 125,000 people in 2018. Without the assistance of attorneys providing free civil legal assistance, these real-life client scenarios could have had dramatically different outcomes. Studies consistently show that low-income litigants are far more likely to receive favorable outcomes when they have legal representation.

By providing access to justice for hundreds of thousands of Marylanders each year, MLA brings equity, stability, and empowerment to individuals, families, and communities. Support from donors and pro bono attorneys plays a critical role in MLA’s statewide delivery of legal services. Contributions of time, talent, and treasure have and will continue to have a significant impact on MLA’s ability to serve the needs of vulnerable Marylanders in every part of the state.

MLA’s client victories, organizational successes, and achievements are made possible by dedicated staff, donors, pro bono attorneys, Board members, members of the Equal Justice Council and Equal Justice Associates, volunteers, foundations, and governmental funders—most notably theMaryland Legal Services Corporation and the federal Legal Services Corporation—and all of our community partners. Thank you for your continued and invaluable support.

Wilhelm H. Joseph, Jr., Esq.
Executive Director

Human Rights Framework

Maryland Legal Aid was among the first legal services organization in the country to adopt a human rights framework to its advocacy. The idea grew out of a needs assessment in 2009 with our clients across the state about the issues that they and their families face every day. Among their major concerns were finding affordable housing, earning a living wage, and receiving proper healthcare.

The problems identified from the assessment were not limited to the clients with whom we spoke—they were systemic and, as such, needed to be dealt with in a broader, more holistic manner. To do that, Maryland Legal Aid looked inward to our roots as “poverty warriors” and decided to join with advocates from a cross-section of disciplines who were leading the worldwide struggle for human rights.

Human rights are rights that every person has just because they are part of the human race. The concept of modern human rights grew out of the Second World War, when world leaders and governments developed a way to promote the concepts of peace, freedom, and dignity among the citizens of the world. What they created was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which declares that everyone is equal in dignity and entitled to certain rights and freedoms, including social and economic rights.

In the United States, we have the Bill of Rights. These are the rights enshrined in our Constitution that limit what the government cannot do—for example, it cannot stop us from assembling or hold us without due process. Something that the Bill of Rights does not talk about, though, is what the government must do—for example, that it must provide education or access to health care, or housing, or unemployment benefits or food. This is where human rights come into play. For a person to live in dignity, all of these things are necessary and connected and government has a duty to fulfill these things for its people. This is what Maryland Legal Aid believes, too.

For more than 100 years, Maryland Legal Aid’s work has been about upholding the principles and values behind human rights. Maryland Legal Aid’s human rights framework enables our advocates to fight for and assert clients’ rights in new international and regional forums, and bring the conversation about social and economic rights to the forefront of legal advocacy.

More Information:

Maryland Legal Aid’s brochures are to be used for general information only and are not intended to provide specific legal advice. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the material presented in the brochures. To understand how the law applies to your individual circumstances, however, you should seek legal counsel. In addition, please check our contact page for the most up-to-date list of Maryland Legal Aid office locations and telephone numbers.

Brief History