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MLAN Factsheet

General Project Background

The Maryland Legal Assistance Network (MLAN) is a unique collaborative effort among Maryland legal services providers to improve the delivery of legal services to low and moderate income persons in Maryland.

With the support of the judiciary, state and local bars and law schools, the Project's goal is to increase access to justice in civil justice matters through coordination and support of the state's legal services providers, lawyer referral programs, and the private bar. We anticipate that MLAN will serve as a national model for increasing access to legal information, advice and assistance in areas of common concern to low and moderate income persons.

Why was MLAN created?
The MLAN Project is the outgrowth of a set of shared recommendations from two task forces established by the Maryland State Bar Association in 1995 -- the Maryland Coalition for Civil Justice (MCCJ) and the Maryland Moderate Income Access to Justice Task Force -- to improve the delivery of legal services for low and moderate income persons.

What is the MLAN project?
The Project consists of four integrated and interconnected components designed to both support the legal services providers in their work as well as provide additional services to income-eligible MLAN clients. The system will include:

  • Creation of a centralized intake and referral system with a legal advice component among the MLSC-funded legal services providers. Services will be targeted at Marylanders whose income is at or below MLSC guidelines (i.e., 50% of the state median income).
  • Expansion of the Internet-based People's Law Library to increase public access to legal information and legal self-help assistance with a variety of common legal problems. Services are available to any member of the public, although the areas of substantive law development will be of most interest to MLSC-eligible users.
  • Development of an Internet-based legal support and communications system (called MDJustice) to assist legal services and private pro bono attorneys to better serve low and moderate income clients;
  • Creation of a Pro Se/Unbundled Legal Services Project to (1) support, evaluate and expand the activities in the state that assist pro se litigants and (2) explore ways to facilitate the expansion of unbundled legal services in general via work such as efforts to develop appropriate professional guidelines, training of the bar, etc.

Who Is Involved in the Project?
The Project's Oversight Committee under the leadership of Chief Judge Bell (whose membership includes representatives from the Maryland State Bar Association, legal services provider community, judiciary and law schools), MLSC grantees, the Maryland Coalition for Civil Justice, the judiciary, lawyer referral programs, the private bar and any other (nonprofit or for-profit) interested parties providing services to the same constituency.

What is the Role of MLSC?
The Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC) is the recipient of a three year grant from the Open Society Institute to develop the Network. MLSC coordinates and manages the Project activities which are conducted by various grantees and contractors.

What are Unbundled Legal Services?
We have been using the term to refer to any of a number of discrete tasks, short of full service representation, that an attorney might undertake to assist a pro se client. Tasks might include advice, limited document creation, review of pleadings, or coaching prior to court.

What Resources are Being Used for this Project?
The Project is supported by four major contributors of resources:

  • A joint effort of the Open Society Institute (OSI), Program on Law and Society and OSI-Baltimore provided a three-year $1 million grant to develop the project in the late fall 1998. OSI is part of the network of foundations, currently operating in 31 countries, created by George Soros. Through a network of autonomous nonprofit organizations, the foundations seek to strengthen the capacity of marginalized groups to affect their lives and public policy through their own efforts as advocates.
  • MLSC is contributing a significant in-kind and new resource match to the Project.
  • The Project draws from and builds upon the expertise and work of the legal services providers in the state by involving providers in the design, development, implementation and management of the network.
  • MLAN contractors/grantees have pledged to leverage existing resources to provide additional support. In order to maximize the effectiveness of this effort, the Project will also build upon existing resources.

Will There be a Fee for Project Services?
No fee will be charged for any of the direct services provided by the system. Persons who are ineligible will be referred to lawyer referral or other programs and subject to their fee schedules.

We welcome involvement by everyone in the Maryland legal services community.