Vicki Schultz, an associate dean at the University of Baltimore School of Law, will replace Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr. as Maryland Legal Aid’s executive director May 31, MLA announced Thursday.
“Maryland Legal Aid is an important organization with a long, storied history” of helping low-income Marylanders in civil matters, Schultz said Thursday.
“I believe there is always more that can be done to expand access to justice,” she added. “I look forward to closing that (justice) gap and moving us closer to the goal of equal justice under the law.”
Schultz, who has been the law school’s associate dean for administration since 2012, will succeed Joseph, who retires after having been chief administrator, lobbyist, fundraiser and cheerleader for the Baltimore-based legal aid organization for more than a quarter century.
MLA reported that during Joseph’s 26-year tenure, the organization’s annual revenue rose from about $9 million to more than $33 million.
“His presence, passion and savvy have served Maryland Legal Aid for many years and that will be his enduring legacy,” Schultz said.
Joseph’s service with MLA, however, was not without controversy.
He survived an internal dust up two years ago when more than 130 former staffers called on him to resign after four managerial attorneys were fired, allegedly for questioning back-to-work orders during the pandemic. The former staffers said the firings were symptomatic of senior management’s callous disregard for MLA employees who tend to the civil litigation needs of an indigent clientele.
Joseph said at the time that the former staffers’ concerns about MLA’s management were coming from “people who don’t have the facts.” As for the firings, Joseph said, “We don’t comment on personnel matters.”
MLA will remain focused on “our No. 1 core value: clients first” amid the pandemic, he added.
Joseph did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment on his tenure and plans for the future.
In a news release announcing his pending retirement, Joseph stated he is “wishing a most fruitful and rewarding tenure for Ms. Schultz as she embarks on this honorable journey of leading Maryland Legal Aid.”
Joseph will remain with MLA until May 31 to aid in the transition, the organization stated.
Schultz’s new role will mark her return to MLA, where she started her legal career in the 1990s handling housing and consumer cases for clients she recalled were “willing to stand up for justice” despite their lack of financial resources.
“My Legal Aid clients are still a part of me,” Schultz said. “I carry their stories, their courage.”
For the past year, Schultz has chaired Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh’s Access to Counsel in Evictions Task Force.
She previously served as deputy assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights under then-Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tom Perez during the Obama administration. She earlier served as senior adviser to Perez when he was Maryland’s labor secretary.
Before joining state service, Schultz worked in community development and directed a statewide project providing legal services to nonprofits.
She said it will be “bittersweet” to leave the University of Baltimore School of Law, which is also her alma mater.
“It’s been a joy to meet and get to know the next generation of lawyers and leaders,” Schultz said. “I have nothing but hope for the future.”
Legal affairs reporter Madeleine O’Neill contributed to this story.