Sharon E. Goldsmith
Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland
As the founding director of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland Inc. (PBRC), Sharon E. Goldsmith has recruited, trained and referred thousands of volunteer lawyers to legal services programs throughout Maryland since 1990. Under her leadership, the organization has trained and deployed nearly 20,000 lawyers and paraprofessionals in areas of the law that enable them to serve those in marginalized communities.
In 2008, the PBRC was asked to orchestrate and lead the Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project, establishing legal clinics in neighborhoods across the state
This work served as the foundation for its tax sale prevention work, which helped save hundreds of homes for at-risk homeowners in distressed neighborhoods. These efforts also inspired an estate-planning clinic model where volunteers help seniors complete wills, powers of attorney and advance directives.
As housing remains one of the most pressing issues for low-income people, the PBRC developed legal clinics in Baltimore City Rent Court and Prince George’s County to assist individuals with affordable and safe housing.
The organization also created a legal clinic in Immigration Court to screen and triage cases for those unable to hire legal counsel. The majority of clients are unaccompanied children fleeing violence and abuse who are trying to be reunited with family in the state. In 2019 alone, the center served 2,880 clients.
“I have been exceedingly privileged to create an organization from the ground up that utilizes the talents and skills of the legal profession to not only fulfill its professional responsibility, but to give back to the community in profound and impactful ways,” Goldsmith said. “I am also proud that since the inception of PBRC, we have seen a dramatic shift in our legal culture with a vibrant, diverse and effective volunteer delivery system, inspiring the best of the profession in Maryland.”
Before the PBRC, Goldsmith said, the state supported a modest level of pro bono service, handling about 1,800 cases a year. Today, pro bono lawyers close more than 9,500 cases annually, which translates into direct legal help for tens of thousands of low-income and marginalized individuals and families. The Pro Bono Resource Center has served as a model locally and is recognized as a model nationally.
“Ms. Goldsmith exemplifies all the professional and personal qualities one should possess to be called ‘excellent’ in the legal community. She has dedicated almost the entirety of her legal career to ensuring that ‘access to justice for all’ is more than a motto but rather a present reality within reach,” retired Caroline County Circuit Court Judge Karen Murphy Jensen said.
What is a key decision you made in your career that made the difference?
Taking the leap from private practice and going into public interest work. I had a great experience while I was working in private practice, worked with really wonderful people an learned a lot, but my heart was really in public interest law, so I decided to take the risk and have not ever regretted it.
I have been exceedingly privileged to create an organization from the ground up that utilizes the talents and skills of the legal profession to not only fulfill its professional responsibility, but to give back to the community in profound and impactful ways.”