What We Do

Our Mission

The mission of Maryland Legal Services Corporation is to ensure low-income Marylanders have access to stable, efficient and effective civil legal assistance through the distribution of funds to nonprofit legal services organizations.

The Maryland General Assembly established MLSC in 1982 as a nonprofit corporation to distribute funds from the Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program and other sources for the provision of civil legal services to low-income Marylanders. In addition to IOLTA, MLSC receives funding from surcharges on certain court filing fees and a distribution from the Abandoned Property Fund. MLSC currently provides funding to 37 nonprofit grantees throughout Maryland to ensure that eligible clients in all areas of the state have access to legal assistance.

 

Timeline

1982

The Maryland General Assembly established a voluntary IOLTA program and created MLSC to administer it.

1984

MLSC made its first round of grants, totaling $307,500.

1985

The Maryland General Assembly designated $500,000 annually from the state Abandoned Property Fund for the activities of MLSC.

1988

Then-Congressman Benjamin L. Cardin chaired an advisory council to study legal services needs. The resulting “Action Plan for Legal Services to Maryland’s Poor” served as a blueprint for the future of legal services in Maryland.

1989

Stemming from a recommendation in the Cardin Action Plan, the Maryland General Assembly enacted legislation converting IOLTA to a mandatory program.

1992

MLSC funded the Advisory Council on Family Legal Needs of Low Income Persons, which led to the creation of Family Court and many new laws to address domestic violence and improve the practice of family law.

1998

The Maryland General Assembly established modest filing fee surcharges to support MLSC and created the MLSC Fund to house IOLTA, filing fee surcharge and abandoned property funds.

2002

MLSC and the Maryland State Bar Association partnered to create the IOLTA Honor Roll.

The Maryland Court of Appeals began requiring attorneys to file annual reports on their compliance with the IOLTA program.

2003

In response to falling interest rates on IOLTA accounts, the MLSC received a one-time general revenue appropriation of $300,000.

2004

As interest rates continued to fall, the Maryland General Assembly increased filing fee surcharges to avert a crisis in Maryland’s civil legal services.

2007

MLSC celebrated its 25th anniversary and created a video presenting our history and achievements.

2008

After a pilot project, MLSC and the Administrative Office of the Courts initiated the Judicare project to expand private bar representation in contested family law cases.

The Maryland Court of Appeals implemented the IOLTA Comparability Rule, requiring banks to pay rates on IOLTA comparable to other accounts.

2010

As interest rates hovered around 0%, the Maryland General Assembly increased filing fee surcharges, but set the increase to expire in 2013.

2013

With interest rates not budging, the Maryland General Assembly extended the filing fee surcharge increases to 2018 and increased the Abandoned Property Fund distribution to $1.5 million.

2016

After receiving one-time, restricted funding from a Department of Justice settlement, MLSC implemented the temporary Foreclosure Prevention and Workforce Legal Services projects.

2017

The Maryland General Assembly removed the sunset provision on the filing fee surcharge increases and increased the Abandoned Property Fund distribution to $2 million, stabilizing legal services funding.

2018

In response to an evolving legal services delivery system, MLSC launched a pilot Extended Representation Project with funding dedicated to providing low-income Marylanders with an attorney in court.