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Wilhelm Joseph (file photo)

Legal aid, just not Legal Aid

A woman came to the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau‘s Baltimore office earlier this week irate about the legal services (or lack thereof) she received.

But it turns out she did not contact Legal Aid in the first place, according to Executive Director Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr. Instead, she had been speaking with representatives from the similarly named Legal Aid Legal Services.

“It sounds very suspicious,” Joseph said Thursday afternoon. “We don’t know about their practices.”

So I called Legal Aid Legal Services’ Baltimore-area number on Thursday. The automated voice says the company will help in divorce, custody and child support cases, as well as bankruptcies and  expungements.

It also says it will provide services for anyone who cannot afford an attorney. What’s not immediately clear, however, is Legal Aid Legal Services is not a law firm. Instead, it prepares legal documents for pro se litigants. (Legal Aid Legal Services’ website is a little more direct, stating “it provides document preparation services only. We are not attorneys, nor do we employ attorneys or provide legal advice.)

The representative I spoke to said the company, which does not have a physical office in Maryland, has been around for about six years. I was surprised how willingly he answered my questions about Legal Aid Legal Services but, judging from his voice, I was not the first person he’s talked to who was a little confused about the company.

Joseph said he planned to call the Office of the Attorney General on Friday about the incident at Legal Aid’s office. Alan Brody, a spokesman for the office’s consumer protection division, said the office has no records of any complaints filed against Legal Aid Legal Services.