An Interview with Margaret Maupin, Staff Attorney at Maryland Legal Aid.
Since she was a little girl, Margaret Maupin has always known that she wanted to help people and serve underprivileged communities. Margaret has made it her mission as an attorney to provide representation to underserved populations in Maryland. In an interview with WMS Legal Assistant, Alanis Walker, Margaret Maupin spoke about her career working at nonprofits like the Center for Family Advocacy, and the third largest law firm in Maryland- Maryland Legal Aid.
Photo: WMS Staff & Margaret, November 09, 2018
What is Maryland Legal Aid?
Maryland Legal Aid, (MLA), is a private, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services to qualifying low-income people within the state (Maryland Legal Aid, 2023). Maryland Legal Aid has 12 office locations across the state, and practices in 23 of Maryland's Counties (Maryland Legal Aid, 2022). They offer representation for cases regarding family law, housing, public benefits like Social Security, criminal record expungements, as well as representing abused and neglected children in CINA proceedings (Child in Need of Assistance).
MLA is one of the largest law firms in the state. During 2021, MLA served 81,048 individuals and families in Maryland. During that year, 36% of their cases were CINA, 21% were Employment related, 16% involved Housing issues, and 11% were family law cases, (Cowger, pg.4, 2022).
Image from pg.16 of the 2021 Maryland Legal Aid Report
Margaret Maupin was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. She attended the University of Colorado as an undergraduate, and then graduated from the American University School of Law in 1987. After passing the bar exam, Margaret started her career at a private practice in Washington D.C. Before long, she moved on to work for a private practice in Leonardtown, MD. Margaret says that she has spent the majority of her career here in Southern Maryland.
After 10 years in private practice, Margaret and one of her colleagues proceeded to focus their efforts on a program, named the St. Mary's Women's Center, for women who were survivors of Domestic Violence. Its focus was to offer a safe place for information, referrals and support, (Center for Family Advocacy, 2022). The center accomplished this by partnering with local institutions, for example the courts, law enforcement, shelters and counseling providers (Center for Family Advocacy, 2022). As the program expanded into Charles and Calvert counties, it became the Southern Maryland Center for Family Advocacy.
After working for what is now known as the Southern Maryland Center for Family Advocacy, Margaret began working at Maryland Legal Aid. She still works there, 21 years later. At MLA, Margaret works mainly on housing issues and family law. Margaret told me during our interview that since the start of the pandemic, the housing issue in Maryland has risen significantly, as has her work on eviction cases.
During our interview, I asked Margaret if she felt as though she had experienced any bias for being a female attorney. She said that she had, but the bias didn't stem from a malicious place, "it was unintentionally, but it felt undermining." "In the beginning [of my career], it was hard to get attention and to garner respect," from the men she worked alongside of. For example, a supervisor would often refer to Margaret as "young lady," despite them being the same age. Or, when an opposing counsel would address her in letters as, "Dear Mrs." although Margaret is unmarried, and prefers the title, "Ms." As the times have changed, she stated that these microaggressions have become less frequent, and the tools to deal with them have improved.
Words of Wisdom
"There is great joy in practicing law, but the process is hard."
When I asked Margaret if she had any advice for women looking to enter law the field of law, she spoke on the importance of finding mentors and a support system for yourself. "There is great joy in the practice, but the process is hard," meaning that the process of becoming an attorney, and practicing law is difficult and taxing, but ultimately very rewarding to those wanting to help others. For young women, "find others who can support you and understand your situation." Even with an attorney with as much experience as Margaret, she still looks for the support of other women. She mentions how one of the best things about working at an organization like Maryland Legal Aid is that the staff has a close relationship. "When I was just starting out, I would always look to older women to help me through the process."
Cowger, G. (2022). 2021 Annual Report (I. Bravo, J. Lavella, & A. Chase, Eds.). https://www.mdlab.org/wp-content/uploads/MLA_Annual-Report-2021.pdf.pdf
History — The Southern Maryland Center for Family Advocacy. (2022). The Southern Maryland Center for Family Advocacy. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from https://www.smcfa.net/partners
Phone interview between Alanis Walker and Margaret Maupin, March 28th, 2023.
Maryland Legal Aid. (2023). About Us. Maryland Legal Aid. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from https://www.mdlab.org/abot-us/.
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