& National Updates
About Unbundled Law
Background and Agenda
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
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?
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
- 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
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.