From the Maryland Bar Journal, July 2014
by Barbara Jorgenson and Nakia Gray
In 2000, when our firm's pro bono service began in an organized way, we were a firm of 22 lawyers. Today, we are a law firm of 42 lawyers, with two full-time offices. Are we a small firm? Are we a big small firm? Even an Internet search doesn't help with the definition, but this we know: We are big enough to have rules and policies regulating our pro bono work which attracts us.
However you describe Joseph Greenwald & Laake, P.A., the firm can trace pro bono cases back to its beginning. JGL was founded more than 40 years ago by three then newly barred lawyers. One of those lawyers was the late Fred Joseph, who many may remember was a consummate trial lawyer who loved representing the little-guy underdog, most often for free. When you mention Fred's name, someone almost always tells the story about Fred representing the guy who sold ribs from a food truck on Route 1 in Beltsville when the local government tried to kick him off his spot. This was the pro bono tradition under which your authors were raised and now practice.
Prior to 2000, pro bono at Joseph Greenwald & Laake was entirely self-directed. If you wanted to do it and could make the time, you did it. Then in 2000, things began changing.
In early 2000, co-author Barbara Jorgenson was talking with her partner, Steven Friedman, about the practice of family law in the firm's home county of Prince George's. Friedman mentioned that there had been a pro bono family law clinic in Prince George's County for many years but the mentor had left the county to practice elsewhere. "When he went, so did the clinic," said Friedman.
With that comment, a new pro bono clinic was about to be born.
But there were questions: How do you find pro bono clients? How do you decide among seemingly deserving pro bono clients? What kinds of cases should be included? How many should you take each year? Jorgenson consulted Neal Conway, the longtime executive director of Community Legal Services of Prince George's County (CLSPGC), whose organization had more family law clients in need of representation than lawyers to provide that representation.