Jon May, Partner at RMG
Role within Organization: Advisory Board, Member (formerly a member of the Board of Directors)
Number of Years/Months Involved: 6 Years
Why do you volunteer your time specifically with this organization?
MVLS provides critical assistance to low income individuals who need legal services; it is truly a multiplying effect because they connect volunteer lawyers with the people who need their legal expertise. They aren’t a huge organization but they make a huge impact. MVLS is doing something where there is a true social need because there are thousands of individuals who need legal services but simply have no access and can’t afford it. As a lawyer, I feel like part of our job is to make sure that more people have access to justice; that was the reason I was interested in being involved with MVLS. And they actually accomplish it. Some of the matters that they handle may seem small, but they are able to assist a large number of people who need legal help (they are the glue that connects a person in need with a lawyer who is willing and able to help). For a relatively modest investment of grants and contributions they use to operate, MVLS does a ton of good.
Does this organization affect Baltimore as a whole?
Yes, it impacts Baltimore in a number of positive ways because its primary strategic goals is to help people who are in the lower income strata gain access to legal services in matters where they could not otherwise; MVLS has focused on helping people on financial matters (such as home foreclosure, barriers to employment, or having to deal with a creditor chasing them for collection); MVLS can help make life better for people and better for the community by assisting people in sorting out things that are barriers to achieving their goals. MVLS holds expungement clinics: a person who has a record may not know if parts of that record are expungable, and they are not familiar with the process. A record may keep them from getting jobs, limit their ability to rent apartments, etc. By removing these barriers, you are giving someone a chance to elevate their situation.
What is your favorite memory of working with this organization?
My favorite memory is the thought and effort that went into developing MVLS’s current strategic plan—after much good work by the strategic planning committee the board approved the new strategic plan, which was a gratifying moment. At my last meeting as a director, the executive director said that since they adopted the new strategic plan, the organization had doubled the current number of client matters and grown its staff. The plan allowed us to focus our efforts in order to maximize our impact on the community. In turn, MVLS has received more grants, hired more people and affected more change in the communities it serves.
A former colleague told me a story of an MVLS case that he accepted, and told me that it was gratifying for him because he felt that he really was able to positively impact on his client’s life (by helping the client to get back a security deposit on a rental apartment). MVLS volunteers come back because they get something out of helping MVLS clients – you feel that you have returned to the calling of why you became a lawyer in the first place, and the client gets a service to which they may not have otherwise had access.
If you could do one thing to change the organization for the better, what would it be?
MVLS could always use more contributions and financial support – new funds would allow MVLS expand the lawyer volunteer pool, which is a critical part of the strategic plan.