Pro Bono Spotlight: Goodwin Procter’s Neighborhood Business Initiative

 

NBILogo_FINALThis month, Beyond the Billable is thrilled to feature Goodwin Procter’s Neighborhood Business Initiative (NBI) in our “Pro Bono Spotlight” feature. There is a lot to say about all the good the program has done for low-income neighborhoods in the city of Boston, but no one says it better than the attorneys themselves.

We caught up with NBI Founder Anna Dodson, a partner in Goodwin’s Private Equity Group, to hear more about what the firm is doing to help grow the local economy while expanding access to justice.

Can you describe how the Neighborhood Business Initiative began?

In 2001, the idea of providing pro bono legal services to for-profit businesses was in its infancy.  We began offering those services, which would later be formalized into Goodwin’s Neighborhood Business Initiative (NBI). We believe that strong, owner-operated neighborhood businesses are fundamentally important for community development and healthy, vibrant city neighborhoods.

Fast-forward to today: Roughly 500 attorneys and other professionals at Goodwin have provided pro bono business legal services to hundreds of low-income entrepreneurs and small-business owners in underserved neighborhoods through direct representation and neighborhood-based legal workshops and clinics, and by partnering with community-based organizations.

Since 2001, how has the NBI program changed and grown?

Our workshops and other programs have grown both in number and in complexity. We started with the basics – Starting and Growing a Business, developed in collaboration with the Economic Justice Project of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.  Now our suite of 12+ programs includes negotiations, commercial lease, choice of entity, food labelling and doing business on-line.

Is there a particular workshop or clinic that has consistently been the most sought-after or well-attended? If so, what do you think draws people to that program?

As we worked with community partners in Dorchester and Jamaica Plain over the years, we noticed that  many of our program participants were working in the food industry.  These “culinary entrepreneurs” include restaurateurs, caterers and entrepreneurs looking to produce food for retail sale. Responding to the need for specialized assistance, we developed a food labeling curriculum.

Today, a multi-disciplinary team provides interactive workshops on Intellectual Property for food labeling and packaging, food labels and products liability and federal regulation of food labels. Our team frequently collaborates with a corporate partner, such as Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream.  The Boston Beer Company’s team presents the business side of food labeling – creative design, marketing and branding, as well as niche expertise like the rules for beer labels. Our audiences for these business and law of food labeling programs frequently exceed 50 entrepreneurs. We hear from our audiences that the information can be hard to find and that an expert’s insight and strategic perspective is a valuable guide that makes the information more useful.

How does this program benefit specific business owners who participate, their neighborhoods, and the city’s economy? Can you describe why Goodwin Procter has made it a priority to foster the development of small businesses in underserved areas?

From the outset, Goodwin’s NBI program has reflected two core values.  We value access to justice (access to all law for all people) and community development (building neighborhood businesses for diverse, vibrant neighborhoods).  Often, low income business owners are isolated – they may lack sounding boards and advocates. They have to take risks and may have to make hard choices – and often it’s not on a level playing field. Our goal in providing individual representation is to provide legal services to business owners who would not otherwise be able to have the assistance, and to create value that supports the growth of a neighborhood business.

How does this differ from other pro bono opportunities and programs that are out there, both for attorneys and clients? 

Business law attorneys typically have fewer choices than litigators to provide pro bono legal services in an area of law that aligns with their practice. NBI offers Goodwin business law attorneys an opportunity to do good doing what they do best – structuring an entity, negotiating a contract, advising on intellectual property strategy, negotiating a lease, and any number of corporate and transactional matters. It offers an opportunity to develop the strong listening skills needed to undergird strong counseling skills. For the firm’s NBI clients, working with the Goodwin team offers highly responsive, proactive counsel committed to leveling the playing field.

Is there a specific client story or anecdote that you would like to share that exemplifies the impact of this program?

We represented an entrepreneur who was a Brazilian immigrant in taking out a loan from Accion, a nonprofit lender. Goodwin prepared a loan release in Portuguese that would be enforceable in Brazil, a condition to the new loan. Our client used the proceeds of her Accion loan for working capital and to repay a predatory lender who used intimidation tactics. Our legal services were an important component of a transaction that yielded peace of mind and safety for a low income businesswoman, and a well-stocked, woman-owned corner market for the neighborhood.

 

What else would you like someone who has never heard of this program before to know?

One of the biggest challenges of a program like Goodwin’s NBI is reaching eligible clientele.  Most entrepreneurs and small business owners do not think or expect that they would qualify for pro bono assistance, so engaging with them requires a lot of outreach and education. We have made a concerted effort to connect with local business owners through partnering with community organizations, and personally going out into the community and offering clinics and workshops.  At the same time, we are ever sensitive to the need to support small law firms in the neighborhoods, so we dedicate a lot of time and effort to vet potential clients to ensure that, but for our pro bono assistance, they could not otherwise afford to engage legal counsel for the matter requested.  We also define the scope of our representation to discrete requests and do not provide ongoing assistance.  We have essentially created a self-contained legal services group within our firm, and lead it with the assistance of two dozen Goodwin attorneys who serve on local NBI steering committees in Boston, New York and San Francisco.

VLP Announces March and April Honor Roll

Every Wednesday and Thursday volunteer attorneys assist landlords and tenants through the BBA Lawyer for a Day at the Boston Housing Court Program. VLP relies on volunteers to deliver pro bono services to those in need.

Every Wednesday and Thursday volunteer attorneys assist landlords and tenants through the BBA Lawyer for a Day at the Boston Housing Court Program. VLP relies on volunteers to deliver pro bono services to those in need.

The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association thanks the following attorneys who accepted cases or provided consultation in March and April:

Samuel Ames
Christina Bitter
Lisa Callahan
Milton D’Andrea
Richard Evans
Andres Garron
Nashwa Gewaily
Mindy Green
Jasmine Jean-Louis
Sharon Jones
Timothy Jones
Daniel Kon
Michael Levesque
Julia Lindsey
Corrine Lusic
Marc Migliazzo
Madelyn Morris
Justin Murphy
Linda Neary
Vanessa O’Connor
Allison Orpilla
John Polley
Stephen Provazza
David Rome
Ryan Sakoda
Arielle Schwartz
Jordan Smith
Kelly Towns
Olivia Uitto
Irina Vaglica
Christopher Versfelt
Katy Ward
Ajay Zutshi

Reflecting on the First Year of the Harvard Low-Income Tax Clinic

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Daniel Nagin, Faculty Director of the Legal Services Center & Veterans Legal Clinic of Harvard Law School, recently sat down with us to talk about how the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic there has fared in its first year. With financial support from the Boston Bar Foundation, the IRS, and the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust, and the donation of time and resources of members of the private bar, the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic aims to increase access to legal aid for low-income taxpayers with legal problems related to taxes.

One of the priority populations the Clinic serves is low-income veterans.  This year, tax attorneys from the Legal Services Center, Greater Boston Legal Services, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue and the IRS led a series of trainings at the BBA with the goal of recruiting pro bono attorneys to accept overflow cases from the Clinic. Nagin said over 35 attorneys and tax professionals signed on to our pro bono panel as a result of these trainings.  In October, the Clinic also arranged a lunch time program at the BBA with the National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina Olson.

These are the questions we asked about the Clinic’s successes and plans for its future:

Q: How would you sum up the Clinic’s first year?

A: There has been tremendous momentum due to a number of intersecting forces. First, there are a substantial number of people who have tax controversies with the IRS and no recourse. Understandably, they feel intimidated, overwhelmed, and often they have no idea that there are defenses available to them. Another force has been the interest from the private bar. There are many attorneys looking to do pro bono work in the area of tax law. We are gratified to the BBF’s partnership in bringing these forces together.

Q: What plans do you have for the Clinic’s future?

A: We are seeing an increasing number of taxpayers with issues with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, so that is one area of our work that we are trying to build out. In the future we hope to address not only federal tax issues, but related state issues. Unfortunately, like many other segments of the community, low-income veterans often have not only one legal problem but multiple legal problems. So, we also have a substantial number of clients who are referred internally at the Legal Services Center from the Veterans Legal Clinic to the Tax Clinic when they contact us about veterans’ law issues but also have tax issues.

Q: Why do you think there is such a need for this type of clinic in the community?

A: It is not uncommon for people who have tax problems to be afraid and unsure what to do—which can lead to people doing nothing and letting deadlines and opportunities to challenge IRS claims pass . Our mission is to eliminate barriers and increase access to help, to make it as easy as possible for people in these situations to get legal representation. The Tax Clinic is now on the list of resources that the Tax Court gives to pro se litigants, so we now have cases referred to us through the Court itself. While we’re not happy that there is such a depth of need in the community, we are gratified to play a role in helping to close the access to justice gap.

Q: Can you share a specific instance of the Clinic helping a taxpayer in need?

A: The Clinic recently completed representation of a disabled combat veteran who had almost $200,000 in tax liability, but it was the result of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder issues that made it extremely difficult for him to function and that led him into extreme financial distress . The Clinic developed the record to highlight his financial circumstances and developed medical evidence to demonstrate his service-connected mental health issues. In the end, the IRS made the decision to waive nearly the entirety of the tax liability.  In another case, this one also involving a disabled veteran, the Clinic is fighting not only an incorrect IRS allegation that the client owes $500,000 in back taxes, but is also arguing that the IRS actually owes the client a refund as a result of seizing his funds to satisfy the incorrect liability.  In addition to its work on individual cases of low income taxpayers, the Clinic is pursuing numerous systemic reform efforts to improve tax procedures and tax laws that harm low-income taxpayers.

Q: Why would you encourage an attorney to get involved with the Clinic?

A: There is a tremendous unmet need in the community.  Our intake line is overwhelmed with clients seeking legal help who are unable to afford an attorney.  Joining our pro bono panel will ensure that we are matching the incredible pro bono energy from the private bar with the pressing need that exists in the community. The cases are also very meaningful. It’s a powerful experience to help someone challenge the IRS when that person would otherwise go without an advocate and be left to his or her own devices in a complex and intimidating matter.  The Taxpayer Advocate has done studies showing that taxpayers have a much higher success rate when they are represented.  Additionally these cases present opportunities to learn and deepen understanding of tax procedure and the tax laws.

The Importance of Reentry Education

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The New York Times Editorial Board recently gave their input on the issue of giving former inmates a fair shot when they leave prison, in a weekend editorial entitled “Labels Like ‘Felon’ Are an Unfair Life Sentence.” Their stance is evident from the headline, but the piece makes a series of compelling arguments for making it easier for convicts to rejoin society.

At the BBA, we run a series of workshops on civil legal issues through the BBA Reentry Education Program to help make probationers aware of the resources available to them. In light of the Times piece, we caught up with Lizbeth Ginsberg from Greater Boston Legal Services, who recently led a BBA Reentry Education Program session with participants in the CHOICE program on public benefits.

CHOICE is an intensive probation supervision program in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court. CHOICE offers young adult probationers the opportunity to pursue either educational or vocational goals as an alternative to incarceration.

Here is what Ginsberg had to say:

“I think it is important to do outreach to folks dealing with re-entry issues to give them information about benefits for which they may be eligible and which may provide critical support.  I was also glad to see that some of the Committee for Public Counsel Services attorneys were very engaged and asking questions. My hope is that they’ll hold onto the information for future clients so that it might benefit other folks in addition to the CHOICE participants who were there for the presentation.”

Later this month, volunteer attorneys will hold a workshop on finding affordable housing for federal probationers who have recently left prison.

Veterans, Benefits and Discharge Status: How Attorneys Can Help the Wrongfully Excluded

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The BBA would like to highlight a paper authored by Dana Montalto, Staff Attorney & Liman Fellow at the Veterans Legal Clinic of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, a BBF grantee.  The paper, titled Underserved: How the VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans with Bad Paper, highlights how many of the men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces are cut off from veterans’ services and benefits because they were given a less-than-honorable discharge. They may have served in combat and have suffered physical or mental wounds, but are excluded access to much-needed treatment and support from federal and state veterans agencies because of their discharge status.

We hope you take time to read the paper here, but these are four takeaways:

  • Veterans with bad paper discharges are twice as likely to commit suicide and at a much higher risk of becoming homeless.
  • Veterans are four times as likely to be denied services and benefits today as during World War II. According to the paper, the devastating uptick is due almost entirely to the VA’s own discretionary policies, not any statute.
  • 90% of post-2001 veterans with bad paper discharges haven’t been reviewed for eligibility by the VA, and are categorically turned away from healthcare and housing services.
  • The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps each have its own separation regulations and policies, with significant disparities. Thus, service members who engage in similar misconduct may receive different treatment.

Veterans with a bad-paper discharge must first apply to the VA to receive a Character of Discharge review or to the military review boards for a discharge upgrade, and that’s where lawyers can help.

To find out more about how you can get involved and assist veterans with their COD reviews, please mark your calendars for May 18th from 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM for a training session at the BBA designed to help lawyers handle discharge status upgrades.  For more information, and to register, please click here.

The Ins and Outs of Serving on a Charitable Board

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The BBA Tax Exempt Organizations Section’s annual Charitable Board Service Workshop always draws a crowd, and this year was no exception.

The day was broken into two panels, the first of which discussed different types of board membership and traits that are desirable in a board member. The heads of three local nonprofits shared insights about the importance of an organization’s mission, how various boards are composed and what the role of a charitable board typically entails.

After lunch, attorneys who serve on boards of local charitable organizations spoke about their responsibilities. Nora Mann, Deputy Division Chief of the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division of the Attorney General’s Office, spoke about compliance issues, including appropriate documentation and filing tax forms.

Attendees were urged to check out the 17th Annual Board Connection hosted by the United Way on May 12 from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Click here for more information.

BBA Volunteers Clean That Dirty Water

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The BBA is all about giving members an opportunity to give back to the community as attorneys, using their expertise in the legal profession to benefit those who need it. But we also love to see them give back simply as Bostonians, like this group of attorneys did at the Annual Charles River Cleanup.

Kate Swartz, Co-Chair of the New Lawyer’s Section Public Service Committee, said the turnout was great and all of the attorneys had a great time clearing trash and debris from the banks of the Charles.

Volunteers from the BBA New Lawyers Section and Environmental Law Section, as well as the South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston made up the team. Over 3,000 volunteers participated in all, from organizations based all over the city.

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If you are interested in upcoming volunteer opportunities, check out these events:

Volunteer on the Farm: The Food Project Serve & Grow
Saturday, May 7, 2016 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM

 Spring Woodland Restoration Event at Roslindale Urban Wild
Friday, May 13, 2016 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM

Law Day in the Schools Attorneys in Action

During 30 years of Law Day in the Schools, our volunteers have had so many wonderful opportunities to enter classrooms in Boston and interact with students from kindergarten all the way up through high school.

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Anthony Scibelli (Barclay Damon) oversees a mock trial in a fifth grade class at Josiah Quincy Elementary School

This year’s topic of Miranda rights seemed especially to resonate with students. In elementary school classrooms, students were asked to determine whether the so-called “big, bad wolf” made infamous by the story of the three little pigs was truly guilty of a crime. They discussed the book “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, with remarkable maturity. Some classes even ended up with a hung jury, our volunteers have reported.

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Saqib Hossain (Burns & Levinson)shows preschoolers at the Nathan Hale School what a courtroom looks like.

Meanwhile, high school students had pithy discussions about the history and case law surrounding Miranda rights. Some students were able to relate the lessons from the attorneys to their own lives, or to recent events in the news.

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Heather Gamache (Prince Lobel) and BBA President-Elect Carol Starkey (Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford) read to second graders at Mozart Elementary School.

More than 30 BBA sponsor firms have adopted a classroom this year. Over 1,500 students will be served by the program, which continues through the month of May. Click here to check out more photos from Law Day in the Schools!

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Dusty Hecker and Nancy Puleo (Posternak Blankstein & Lund) in a first grade class at Samuel Adam Elementary School.

BBA Welcomes PILP Class of 2016-2017

The BBA would like to congratulate and welcome the thirteenth iteration of the Public Interest Leadership Program. This group of seventeen attorneys represent a wide variety of practice areas, including attorneys from firms, legal services, and solo practice. We wish them the best of luck, and look forward to the accomplishments they will achieve as Public Interest Leaders.

orcutt_amandaAmanda Orcutt-Holland & Knight LLP
Hometown: Saratoga Springs, NY
Law School: Syracuse University College of Law

Amanda is an associate in Holland & Knight’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution group, where her practice encompasses a wide array of commercial disputes, including employment disputes, contract disputes, and business torts.  Amanda also maintains an active pro bono practice representing individuals and non-profit organizations.  She has successfully handled several prisoners’ civil rights claims, and recently obtained a large jury verdict for a client in federal court.  Prior to joining the firm, Amanda served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa.  Amanda is a graduate of Syracuse University and Syracuse University College of Law, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of Syracuse Law Review.

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Brian McLaughlin- Brian McLaughlin, Esq. LLC
Hometown: Easton, MA
Law School: Boston College Law School

Based in Boston, Brian practices in the areas of family law, special education law, disability law, real estate law, and both unemployment and veterans benefits. He uses his experience with mediation and collaborative law to give the best legal advice to his clients. Brian zealously represents his clients, researching all possible legal issues to their fullest extent. Brian is currently undergoing CASA volunteer training where he will become appointed by the Court to write briefs to help judges determine the best interest of the child. He also currently collaborates with the Volunteer Lawyer Project, and serves on the board of Shelter Legal Services and the Assistive Technology Loan Committee, which seeks to provide low interest loans to folks seeking to obtain assistive technology. Brian is a co-chair of the Legal Policy Committee for the Special Needs Advocacy Network.

Prior to starting his own practice, Brian worked as an Intelligence Analyst for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and as an outreach coordinator for the Massachusetts Office on Disability. Brian has served in the private sector for the small litigation firm, Healy & Healy, assisting in civil tort litigation matters, both plaintiff and defendant.

scheffler_davidDavid Scheffler- Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General
Hometown: Newton, MA
Law School: Boston College Law School

David M. Scheffler is an Assistant Attorney General in the Medicaid Fraud Division of the Office of Attorney General Maura Healey.  He prosecutes criminal and civil cases involving fraud on the Massachusetts Medicaid program, MassHealth.  He has investigated and prosecuted cases against physicians, laboratories, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and providers of in-home health care services, in connection with fraud schemes including false claims, kickbacks, and off-label marketing.  In 2014, he received the Office of the Attorney General’s Outstanding Team Award for his work prosecuting a physician office laboratory that paid illegal kickbacks to the owners of sober houses to induce referrals of lucrative drug-screening business.  Prior to joining the Attorney General’s Office, David served as a law clerk to the Honorable George A. O’Toole, Jr., United States District Judge for the District of Massachusetts, and as an Associate at Ropes & Gray LLP, where his practice focused on complex business litigation and health care fraud.  He serves as a basketball coach at the John H. Barry Boys & Girls Club of Newton and in the Middlesex Magic AAU program.

jennings_emily_mEmily Jennings- Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Home town: Hingham, MA
Law School: Boston College Law School

Emily is an associate in the Litigation Group at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.  Her practice involves a wide range of complex commercial, securities, insurance and regulatory matters.  Emily has litigated in state and federal trial courts within the Commonwealth and has advised clients in connection with various government and internal investigations.  She also maintains an active pro bono practice and has represented individuals in connection with the Boston Bar Association’s Marathon Assistance Project and the Women’s Bar Foundation’s Family Law Project.  Emily is a graduate of Villanova University and Boston College Law School.

joseph_hannahHannah Joseph- Beck Reed Riden LLP
Home town: Queens, NY
Law School: Boston College Law School

Hannah T. Joseph practices complex business litigation at Beck Reed Riden LLP, where she represents corporate and individual clients in matters involving restrictive covenants, trade secret law, close corporation shareholder disputes, employment law, and complex commercial disputes. Hannah is also very active within the Boston legal community, as a co-chair for the BBA’s Intellectual Property Committee (and former liaison between the New Lawyers Section and the Intellectual Property Section), and as a co-founder of the Boston Associates’ Networking Group. Hannah received her J.D. from Boston College Law School. At BC Law School, Hannah represented underserved populations through the school’s Legal Assistance Bureau. She also coordinated fundraising efforts for BC Law School’s Public Interest Law Foundation, which provides stipends to law students taking public interest summer internships. Hannah is proud to be a Big Sister through the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston.

tran_henryHenry TranPrince Lobel Tye LLP
Home town: Mountain View, California
Law School: Northeastern University School of Law

Henry Tran is a litigation associate at Prince Lobel Tye LLP, where he practices in a range of civil litigation matters including employment discrimination, state and federal regulatory compliance, and complex commercial disputes.  Before entering private practice, Henry completed placements at the Special Litigation Section of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Enforcement Division of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, where he developed specialties in state enforcement matters and high-stakes securities litigation.  Henry previously served as the Executive Lieutenant Governor for the ABA Law Student Division and, prior to law school, spent two years abroad working in government relations and international development in China and the United Kingdom.  Henry is a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law and the University of California, Irvine.

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Jane Lovins- U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts
Law School: Boston College Law School

Jane is the career law clerk for United States District Court Judge George A. O’Toole, Jr. She recently served as the law clerk dedicated to the proceedings in United States v. Tsarnaev (Boston Marathon bombings case). Previously, she was a senior associate at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP. Her practice included complex commercial litigation and securities litigation and enforcement. She also maintained an active pro bono practice focusing on juvenile justice, education, and family law. While in law school, Jane served as Note Editor of the Boston College Law Review, was a Rappaport Fellow in Law and Public Policy at the Office of the Governor’s Legal Counsel, and helped found the Pro Bono Pledge Program. Prior to attending law school, she taught in the South Bronx as a Teach for America corps member and in the Boston area as a research teacher at Tufts University. Jane is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, and Boston College Law School, where she graduated summa cum laude and was the recipient of the Richard G. Huber Award, Equal Justice America Fellowship, and Pro Bono Excellence Award.

Michael Koehler- Kkoehler_michaeleegan Werlin LLP
Hometown: Reading, MA
Law School: Suffolk University Law School

Michael J. Koehler is an associate at Keegan Werlin LLP specializing in energy and regulatory, public utility and environmental, municipal and land use law. He represents energy and utility clients before administrative agencies such as the Department of Public Utilities, the Energy Facilities Siting Board and the Cape Cod Commission, as well as various local authorities. His representative matters have involved rate issues, long-term power purchase agreements for renewable energy, net metering and the siting and permitting of an array of different energy infrastructure facilities.

Before joining the firm in 2008, Mike served as a law clerk for the Justices of the Superior Court of Massachusetts. He is admitted to practice in Massachusetts and is an active member of the Boston Bar Association, where he has served as co-chair of the Energy and Telecommunications committee; a member of the BBA’s Environmental Sustainability Task Force; and a member of the Education Committee. In addition to his professional pursuits, Mike serves on the Alumni Council of Phillips Academy (Andover) and on the Board of Trustees for Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center in Boston Harbor.

connolly_nicholasMatthew ConnollyNutter McClennen & Fish LLP
Home town: Cambridge, MA
Law School: Northwestern Pritzker School of Law

Matthew Connolly is a senior associate in Nutter’s Litigation Department.  Individuals and companies rely on Matt for a variety of litigation matters, especially in complex business disputes and white collar defense and investigations.  A wide range of clients, from individuals and small businesses to some of the largest companies and banks in the United States, frequently select Matt to represent them in federal and state courts, and before multiple agencies, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission.  In particular, Matt has extensive experience representing energy companies and traders in enforcement and compliance matters, including a matter that resulted in the largest public settlement in FERC’s history.

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Mark WoodroffeCooley LLP
Home town: Tampa, FL
Law School: Boston College School of Law

Mark Woodroffe is a corporate associate at Cooley LLP in Boston.  His practice includes advising public and private life sciences and technology companies on matters ranging from entity formations and financings to M&A transactions, public offerings, and securities law compliance.  Mark is an active member of Cooley’s Pro Bono Committee, representing low-income entrepreneurs and child immigrants.  He also works to promote diversity through his involvement with the Hispanic National Bar Association, the Boston Lawyers Group, and Cooley’s Diversity Committee.  Mark is a cum laude graduate of both the University of Florida and Boston College Law School, where he served on the Executive Board of the Boston College Law Review and received the Richard G. Huber Award for Scholarship and Leadership in Extra- and Co-Curricular Activities.  Prior to becoming an attorney, Mark worked for the Detroit Lions, The Honda Classic, and the Florida State Golf Association.

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Max RiffinChu, Ring & Hazel LLP
Home town: Newton, MA
Law School: Boston University School of Law

Max Riffin is a corporate associate at Chu, Ring & Hazel LLP. His practice focuses on the representation of investment funds, mature private companies, and emerging growth companies through all stages of the company lifecycle.  He regularly counsels clients in connection with entity formation, capital structure, corporate governance, mergers and acquisitions, venture capital financings, private placements, and general corporate matters.  He also assists clients with licensing matters, the negotiation of commercial agreements, employee benefit and equity ownership plans, and employment matters. In addition, Max advises the firm’s investor clients in connection with equity and debt financings and matters related to their portfolio companies.  Prior to joining the firm, Max practiced as a corporate bankruptcy and restructuring associate in the Delaware and Boston offices of a few national and international law firms.

granik_mariaMaria GranikSullivan & Worcester LLP
Home town: Moscow, Russia
Law School: Boston University School of Law

Maria Granik is an associate at Sullivan & Worcester LLP, where she focuses on complex commercial litigation, as well as on environmental law and employment cases.  In her pro bono work Maria has helped clients in a variety of criminal, administrative and civil cases ranging from a habeas petition to asylum proceedings and restraining order hearings.  She is also the firm’s representative on the Domestic and Sexual Violence Council, an advocacy organization for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  As a law student, Maria was selected as a Rappaport Fellow in Law and Public Policy, working at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services on issues such as equal access to healthcare and mental health law.  Before becoming a lawyer, Maria earned a PhD in philosophy and taught at Boston University and at the College of the Holy Cross. Her teaching and academic research focused on questions of ethics, political philosophy, and history of philosophy. Maria is a graduate of Tufts University and Boston University where she earned both her PhD and JD.

btfitz_20131120_0207_MNicholas Brown- Pierce Atwood LLP
Home town: Staten Island, NY
Law School: University of Connecticut School of Law

Nick is a litigation associate at Pierce Atwood LLP with a focus on business disputes, construction law claims, and land use matters. His practice involves both the prosecution and defense of contract claims on behalf of corporate clients, insurance companies, and contractors. In addition, Nick represents municipalities, businesses, and individuals in land-use and real estate disputes. Nick has also devoted substantial time to providing pro bono legal services to those in need. His pro bono work has focused on representing minors from Central America who have fled poverty, violence, and gang-related crime in their home countries. Nick represents his pro bono clients in both state and federal courts to obtain legal immigration status.

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Peter Obersheimer-Murphy & King, P.C.
Home town: Elma, NY
Law School: Boston College Law School

Peter is an associate in Murphy & King, P.C.’s business litigation group.  His practice includes representing both individual and corporate clients in a variety of fields, including business torts, commercial lease disputes, health care litigation, and employment law.  In collaboration with the Disability Law Center, Peter has represented clients with intellectual disabilities in state eligibility appeals on a pro bono basis.  Peter is an active volunteer leader with Best Buddies, a social integration program for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and serves on the Emerging Leaders Board for St. Francis House, the largest homeless day shelter in Massachusetts.  Prior to joining Murphy & King, Peter worked as a litigation associate at a firm in New York State, and was recognized as the 2012 recipient of the New York State Bar Association’s President’s Pro Bono Award for the 8th Judicial District for his work on immigration and social security disability appeals.  In 2015, Peter was named a New England Super Lawyers Rising Star in Business Litigation.  Peter is a graduate of Boston College and Boston College Law School.

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Rachel Irving Pitts- Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC
Home town: Pittsfield, IL
Law School: Boston University School of Law

Rachel Irving Pitts has been practicing in Mintz Levin’s Health Care practice since 2008.  She relocated to Boston in 2002 from Illinois, and worked for the Massachusetts Medical Society before attending Boston University School of Law. Her practice primarily involves healthcare transactions and regulatory matters, and she has represented a variety of pro bono clients for Mintz Levin, assisting a small business and arguing for a client’s Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.  Rachel was a Special Assistant District Attorney as part of Mintz Levin’s rotation program with the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office.  Rachel is on the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program’s Emerging Leaders Board, and is a member of the BBA, MBA, ABA and AHLA.

baldwin_richardRichard Baldwin- Foley Hoag LLP
Home town: Arlington, MA
Law School: Boston College Law School

Rich is a commercial litigation associate at Foley Hoag LLP.  He regularly represents individuals, business and foreign sovereigns in state and federal court and in domestic and international arbitration.  He also maintains an active pro bono practice representing individuals in housing, bankruptcy, special education and immigration matters and in obtaining court orders protecting clients from abuse.  Last year, Rich coached a group of students as they became the first team from their school to compete in the Mass Bar Association’s High School Mock Trial Program.  In 2013-14, Rich served as a Special Assistant District Attorney in the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office.  Rich is a graduate of Boston University and Boston College Law School.

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Tovah Miller- New England Law | Boston
Home town: Manlius, NY
Law School: Syracuse University College of Law

Tovah is currently the Assistant Director of Career Services and Recruitment Coordinator for New England Law | Boston.  Prior to joining New England Law, Tovah was the Program Specialist for the American Bar Association Commission on Disability Rights, where she counseled law students with disabilities on obtaining accommodations for law school and associated exams; campaigned to increase the inclusion and visibility of attorneys with disabilities in the legal field; and was a member of the ABA Staff Diversity Council.  She is a member of the BBA Committee on Attorneys with Disabilities and their Allies and the BBA Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee.

Learning to Teach: Preparing for Law Day in the Schools

Before we send more than 100 of our members into the city’s public schools over the next several weeks to teach students about the importance of Miranda Rights, we wanted to acquaint them with their curriculum.

This week, we held a volunteer training and reception to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Law Day in the Schools. During the session, volunteers had the opportunity to hear from Christopher Day, a teacher at Charlestown High School who spoke about the impact the volunteer attorneys have had on his students.

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Chris Day, a teacher at Charlestown High School, gave volunteers an overview of the Boston Public Schools and offered teaching tips to prepare the volunteers for their upcoming sessions.

“They know the (courtroom) drama from TV, but to know they have these rights in real life is a really powerful thing,” Day said.

He added that students “know they matter” when lawyers take time out of their busy professional lives to visit their schools and help them to understand an important legal concept.

“To take the time out of your day shows effort, and they will recognize that effort,” Day said.

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Michael McDermott and Kimberly Calvi (Dain, Torpy, Le Ray, Wiest & Garner, P.C.) will be using the book, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, to teach kindergarteners at the Blackstone Innovation School about the importance of hearing all sides of a story later this month.

After Day addressed them, the attorneys headed into separate sessions to learn about the curriculum for the specific age group they will be teaching. This year’s program will serve over 1,500 students in grades K-12. Younger children will hear the “True Story of the Little Pigs,” which portrays the wolf as a sympathetic character, and conduct a mock trial. Middle and high school students will learn more about the history and case law surrounding Miranda Rights.

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Bruce Falby and Michael McGurk, partners at DLA Piper, led fourth grade students at Samuel Adams Elementary School in East Boston through a mock trial of the big, bad wolf from the story of the Three Little Pigs.

A special thanks to law firms and companies who have adopted a classroom:

Anderson & Kreiger LLP; Arrowood Peters LLP; Barclay Damon, LLP; Beck Reed Riden LLP; Burns & Levinson LLP; Choate Hall & Stewart LLP; Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford, LLP; Dain, Torpy, Le Ray, Wiest & Garner, P.C.; DLA Piper LLP; Donoghue Barrett & Singal; Duane Morris LLP; Goulston & Storrs PC; Greenberg Traurig, LLP; Holland & Knight LLP; Krokidas & Bluestein LLP; Locke Lord LLP; Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.; Morgan Lewis; Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP; Peabody & Arnold LLP; Posternak Blankstein & Lund LLP; Prince Lobel Tye LLP; Schwartz Hannum P.C.; Sherin and Lodgen LLP; State Street Corporation; Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C.; Sullivan & Worcester LLP; Ropes & Gray LLP; Verrill Dana LLP; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP; and White and Williams LLP