City Hall Square soon becomes a finished reality when the Legal Aid Bureau moves to its new, 62,000-square-foot headquarters at the corner of Gay and Lexington streets, between the Fire Department headquarters and the War Memorial.
This five-story building (with a parking garage) fills the last undeveloped parcel on the square, one of Baltimore's most important public spaces. The proximity of this private, non-profit law firm of last resort so close to the centers of municipal power will be a constant reminder of the many needs that prevail among the city's citizens.
With 145 lawyers and a support staff of 200, Legal Aid Bureau ranks among Maryland's biggest law offices. Organized in 1911 to provide representation in civil matters to residents unable to afford private counsel, the bureau has 14 offices throughout Maryland. Last year alone, this network counseled an estimated 25,000 new clients, in addition to some 35,000 continuing cases.
"We are here to solve problems without getting into fancy litigation," says Charles H. Dorsey Jr., Legal Aid Bureau's executive director. An increasing number of the cases involve abuse and neglect of children, from newborn infants left by a distraught or irresponsible mother on a trash heap to custody battles.
The $6.3 million headquarters building was financed with important contributions from the state and the city. The bureau's annual operating budget of $12.5 million is funded from no fewer than 23 different revenue sources.
In moving to City Hall Square from rented space in the Candler Building, the Legal Aid Bureau is completing a historic loop. In 1953, Baltimore became the first city in the nation to provide specially designed facilities in a courthouse for a Legal Aid organization when the group was given the keys to the third floor of the old People's Court Building overlooking the square.
To celebrate its new headquarters, the Legal Aid Bureau has launched a $2 million capital campaign to scale down its mortgage. The names of many rooms are for sale. For $1.5 million, a donor can even name the building! This way, more money can be devoted to Legal Aid's operating budget.
We urge Maryland's legal and corporate communities to support this worthwhile drive.