Jeffrey Kaplan on his legal career helping victims of abuse


Jeffrey Kaplan’s father discouraged his son from pursuing a legal career even though he and his two uncles were lawyers.

(Greg Dohler Photography)

So, at Towson University, Kaplan studied to be an accountant. He did well at his first job, but grew bored working with numbers. He switched to sales and considered real estate. Again, not the right fit.

“Then I ended up dating somebody who was in law school at the time,” Kaplan recalled. “She told me she had so much work, and I asked her if I could see it.”

His eyes widened when he saw her homework. “I thought it was awesome. I really wanted to do it for her. I was, like, this was clearly what I should be doing.”

He got accepted to the University of Baltimore School of Law. After graduation, he practiced in his own law firm for ten years — a thankless job, he felt. Then the Towson resident joined Maryland Legal Aid in 2019 and found true career satisfaction — helping victims of abuse and handling family law disputes.

“I know I’m good at litigating, and I really like helping people who can’t otherwise afford an attorney,” Kaplan said. “It’s rewarding to put them on the same footing as people who can afford to hire a lawyer.”

Kaplan, 42, is now chief attorney of the Domestic Law Unit in the city of Baltimore. In that role, he manages a staff of six while handling cases of divorce, custody, child support and domestic violence issues such as protective orders.

“These are almost all women who are in desperate need of attorneys that don’t have the income or wherewithal to pay for their own attorney,” he said. “The other side has the money and the control until we come on board.”

One of the referral agencies to his office is CHANA, known for serving Jewish victims of abuse in Baltimore. The other referral agencies are Springboard Community Services and TurnAround.

“We are set up to help women that have suffered domestic violence,” Kaplan said.

With his experience and supervisory position, Kaplan takes on the more complex cases in family law. One involved a woman disabled from multiple sclerosis. She was unable to work, and her husband was trying to force her out of their house so he could move in with another woman and her family.

“He was cheating on my client,” Kaplan said. “He was a terrible person. He left her there with nothing, no money to support her. It was a very long trial, especially during COVID. We ended up doing very well.” She received 85% of the proceeds of the house sale, $30,000 extra and half of his pension.

Kaplan deals with parties trying to hide money and withdraw cash. “You have to be a sort of detective to go through financial statements to see where all the money is going. That takes a lot of time, but in the end it’s worth it because you’re recovering money for our clients who desperately need it.”

Kaplan’s other role from which he recently stepped away was acting director of the Victims Assistance Project, a service for women who suffer from domestic violence. The staff helps women get final protective orders to keep their abusers away. “Moving forward, we help victims get a divorce or custody or child support, whatever services they need,” Kaplan said.

“These are women who are scared and traumatized and have nowhere to turn to. It’s extremely important to make them feel protected and also heard.

“You try to understand what they’ve gone through. You become not only a lawyer, but somewhat of a therapist and you do the best you can do to really address all of their concerns in the current space and in the future. We are heavily involved in their lives.”

The clients are so thankful just to have representation, he said. “Then they’re over the moon when you get them what they wanted,” Kaplan said. He receives notes, calls and texts of appreciation.

Growing up, Kaplan had a Jewish education in Pikesville. He went to Beth El Congregation for Hebrew school and had his bar mitzvah at Beth Tfiloh Congregation. He traveled to Israel on a Birthright trip.

“I’ll be having my own family soon,” he said. “I have a girlfriend, and I’ll be proposing to her shortly. We’re already planning for kids.”

Meanwhile, Kaplan loves his job at Maryland Legal Aid. “I think it’s a great organization. It definitely puts clients before anything else. Our main goal is to help as many people as we can that otherwise can’t afford attorneys. I think that’s a great mission to have.”

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