Community Development Clinic and Community Law Center hold daylong event to provide free legal help to nonprofits

Community Development Clinic teaching fellow Parag Rajendra Khandhar provided the following report:

On Saturday, Feb. 28, the University of Baltimore School of Law Community Development Clinic and Community Law Center Inc. held a daylong program to provide free advice and legal consultations to Maryland community based nonprofits. The program organizers scheduled free, 45-minute meetings between Community Law Center attorneys and representatives of 21 organizations from Baltimore City and elsewhere. The event took place in the John and Frances Angelos Law Center at the University of Baltimore.

The event, the third in a series, evolved from an initiative planned last spring by student-attorneys in the Community Development Clinic (CDC) and by Community Law Center. To date, the collaboration has provided legal advice, counsel and resources to more than 60 organizations across the state, while more than 20 groups have submitted applications for further services.

“Clients walk in with so much hope and inspiration for their projects, but also with some real fear. They wonder ‘Am I doing this right?’ and ‘What am I missing?’” said Jaime E. Lee, assistant professor of law and director of the Community Development Clinic.

At the Feb. 28 event, seven Community Law Center attorneys and a CDC clinical professor worked with a rotating group of eight CDC student-attorneys to interview representatives of community groups and nonprofits. They met organizations with tax and compliance questions, and groups with complex concerns regarding startups and exciting new initiatives. They were even asked a basic question or two that the attorneys could answer on the spot.

“Community Law Center was delighted to partner with the University of Baltimore School of Law’s Community Development Clinic once again to provide access to free legal advice for Maryland’s community and nonprofit organizations,” said Kristine Dunkerton, the group’s executive director and an alumna of the University of Baltimore Community Development Clinic.

The critical, and largely unmet, need for free and affordable legal services for poor and middle-class Marylanders has been well documented by the Maryland Access to Justice Commission. However, the need for organizational and transactional legal services for small nonprofits and community enterprises that serve those populations remains understudied. Most groups surveyed after the Feb. 28 event reported that they had never spoken to an attorney about corporate, tax, employment and other areas of law and compliance that directly affect their ability to operate.

“By offering these free brief advice sessions, we were able to assist 21 nonprofits and answer a wide array of legal questions,” said Kelly Pfeifer, a supervising attorney with Community Law Center.

The two collaborating programs continue to plan initiatives to meet the demonstrated need for free and affordable legal services for community groups and organizations throughout Baltimore and Maryland as a whole.

Learn more about UB’s Community Development Clinic.

Learn more about Community Law Clinic, Maryland’s only legal services organization dedicated solely to strengthening neighborhoods and the nonprofit sector.

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