Access to Education in Massachusetts: The Education Project Visits PILP

Kicking off the 2017-2018 Public Leadership Interest Program (“PILP”), the PILP class dedicated the month of October to discuss current issues in access to education. On October 11, Matt Cregor, the Director of the Education Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice*, visited the PILP class to discuss the work of the Education Project and two hot topics affecting access to education in the Commonwealth: charter schools and school discipline.

Cregor described the ongoing efforts related to charter school reform, beginning with the failed legislative efforts in the early 2010s, 2016’s Ballot Question 2, and the currently-pending case of Doe v. Peyser, argued in early October at the Supreme Judicial Court. Through all three avenues, reformers have sought to lift the statutory cap on charter schools, arguing that it “arbitrarily and unconstitutionally deprives [students not granted entry into charter schools] of the opportunity to receive an adequate public education.” Proponents of the cap, however, argue that the cap protects funding to traditional public schools, which serve more students of color, students with disabilities, and English language learners.

Cregor also described The Education Project’s focus on school discipline and its impact on access to education. The effects of school discipline are acute: just one out-of-school suspension has been found to double a student’s likelihood of dropping out of school. The Education Project is concerned by the high rates of suspensions — particularly out-of-school suspensions — used in Massachusetts public and charter schools, and the disparate use of these practices on students of color and students with disabilities. Cregor and the PILP class also discussed the state of school discipline in the Commonwealth both before and after the passage of Chapter 222, a new law effective as of 2014 to reduce reliance on out-of-school suspensions. The PILP classed also learned of ways to volunteer with The Education Project’s efforts in working to see that the law is implemented faithfully by Massachusetts schools. Attorneys can volunteer through the Lawyers’ Committee to take pro bono cases, as well as present School Discipline Know Your Rights presentations to students, parents, and community organizations.

For more information on The Education Project, please visit http://lawyerscom.org/projects/education/ 

Meeting recap provided by PILP Members Marley Ann Brumme (Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates) and David Chorney (Donoghue Barrett & Singal).

*The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice is a 2017 grantee of the Boston Bar Foundation.

Taking the Massachusetts Bar Exam in February 2018? Sign-Up for Bar Coaching

The BBA invites those taking the Massachusetts Bar Exam in February 2018 to sign-up for our Bar Exam Coaching Program. We know you’ve got the academic part of your bar prep under control, but let us help out with the mental, emotional, and practical preparation. We are ready to connect you with attorney-coaches from diverse personal and professional backgrounds to offer guidance on time management, effective study techniques, and stress management. Our program is designed for those retaking the bar exam in February 2018. However, if you are a first-time exam taker and believe this program will benefit you, you can let us know on the sign-up form.

To sign-up for the program, please fill out this online information form.

Last week, we caught up with Kate Cook (BBA Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Section Co-Chair) on the success of her match, a repeat bar applicant who passed the July exam. You can read that story here.

October is Pro Bono Month!

The BBA’s Council has officially recognized October as Pro Bono Month, joining the American Bar Association and Governor Charlie Baker in promoting service and access to justice. We hope you can explore one of these opportunities to connect with a new organization in the month ahead and serve the community in the year beyond.

Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House
Monday, October 23, 2017, 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
Suffolk Law School, 120 Tremont Street, Boston, MA

This event is offered to attorneys of all levels, as well as law students. Attendees are encouraged to drop in and meet representatives from local legal services organizations and to learn more about the pro bono opportunities in our community.

Pro Bono Training: Identifying and Pursuing an Innocent Spouse Claim in Tax Cases
Tuesday, October 24, 2017, 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM
Boston Bar Association, 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA

This program will help practitioners identify cases in which the innocent spouse defense can be claimed to relieve the client from joint tax liability. This defense is available to taxpayers under the Tax Code and Massachusetts law. Attorneys handling restraining orders and/or divorce cases, as well as advocates of survivors of domestic violence, are most likely to encounter these issues and will benefit from knowing how to identify them.

Pro Bono Training: Representing Limited English Proficient Clients and Working with Interpreters
Thursday, November 2, 2017, 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM
Foley Hoag, 155 Seaport Blvd, Boston, MA

Sharpen your pro bono skills and attend this training addressing the effects of trauma and its impact on communication with your client, cultivating cultural competency, working with interpreters during court proceedings, and more.

Pro Bono Training: Why Immigration Advocates Should Care About PATH
Monday, November 6, 2017, 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM
Boston Bar Association, 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA

This training will create alert advocates who will know how to spot tax issues and related tax benefits for their immigrant clients, and may be able to prevent clients from missing deadlines for those benefits.

Law Students and attorneys meet with numerous organizations and hear about their work and pro bono opportunities at the 2016 Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House.

Attorneys Learn to Lead Know Your Rights Presentations to Immigrant Communities

On September 27th, the BBA hosted a second training for attorneys and law students to learn how to present to immigrant communities about their rights. Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project’s Anita Sharma (Executive Director) and Courtney Snegroff (Community Engagement Manager) led the training, which provided an overview of the immigration executive orders from the past year, information on resources available to assist immigrants, and an update on DACA. PAIR first started holding Know Your Rights trainings around the community after the 2016 election. Since then, they have coordinated over 400 presentations and they continue to train lawyers to carry out these efforts. Thirty attorneys attended the training at the BBA and are now equipped to sign-up for a presentation through PAIR.

If you are an attorney or law student and would like access to a video recording of the training and to be connected with PAIR for this volunteer opportunity, please email Cassandra Shavney at [email protected].

Anita Sharma and Courtney Snegroff (PAIR Project) train attorneys to lead Know Your Rights presentations.

BBF Funds Summer Jobs Position in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court

During her summer working in the office of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Simone Gerald-Burns found it enlightening to learn that people from all walks of life can find themselves in the unfortunate situation of filing for bankruptcy.

“The most interesting thing to me is to see the judges talk to people,” Gerald-Burns said. “There are a lot of successful people who end up in a bad situation, and there are also a lot of people with nothing left to lose.”

Over the course of seven weeks working in the court, Gerald-Burns said she received hands-on lessons in empathy and fiscal responsibility.  From her coworkers, she learned the value of a collaborative spirit.

“I like being able to see how people interact in an office setting, which is very quiet compared to school,” she said. “You have your own responsibility, but you can also call on others when you need to.”

Going to lunch with her colleagues from time to time, Gerald-Burns valued the chance to hear them talk about the journey through school that led them to their career path.  She said she feels better equipped to make decisions about her own future after hearing about the learning experiences of those in her office.

“Learning to talk to more people who are not just people my age also helped me be more comfortable talking to people in authority,” she added.

Above all, Gerald-Burns came away from her job with a meaningful understanding of concepts she had previously only seen on television.

“Before this job, I didn’t know anything about bankruptcy besides the spot on the wheel in Wheel of Fortune. I think this experience will help me keep good credit and pay my bills on time, and the work experience will certainly help me in my career,” she said.

Gerald-Burns’s position at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court was funded by the Boston Bar Foundation, along with 10 other positions for teens in Boston this summer.

Recap: PILP Hosts Symposium on “Constitutional Battlegrounds”

Mark C. Fleming (Partner, WilmerHale), Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal (Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice), Jack M. Beermann (Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law) and moderator Kent Greenfield (Professor of Law, Boston College Law School) discuss constitutional law and the federal government.

On Monday, nearly 100 people packed the Boston Bar Association for the culminating symposium of the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP): Constitutional Battlegrounds: Civil Rights in a Changing Landscape. For the past year PILP has been meeting twice a month to learn about various issue areas ranging from housing discrimination to the opioid crisis and learning ways they can become involved as attorneys and leaders in their community. During the year, the class also had the opportunity to meet with judges to discuss the courts and the judicial perspective, including Chief Justice Roberto Ronquillo, Jr. and Judge Eleanor Sinnott (Boston Municipal Court).

As their final project, the class decided to hold a symposium to further the dialogue around the constitutional issues in the national spotlight. Inviting local speakers from the area familiar with constitutional law, PILP divided the event into two panels: one focusing on the recent changes in federal law and policy and the other on how states can and cannot react to changes in federal policy. Each presenter spoke about their issue area of focus, but attendees were encouraged to ask their questions to the expert panel.

PILP member Hannah Joseph (Beck Reed Riden LLP) shared a bit about her experience:

“The most rewarding aspect of being involved in PILP was hosting our end-of-the-year symposium, Constitutional Battlegrounds: Civil Rights in a Changing Landscape. The speakers – representing academia, the Commonwealth, civil rights groups, and the private sector – are experts in the area of constitutional law and shared diverse perspectives regarding key issues in today’s political climate. Similarly, the audience, comprising attorneys representing a wide variety of practice areas, was engaged and actively contributed to the discussion. It had the electricity and excitement of a town hall meeting,” she said.

PILP’s 13th class year has now ended and the 14th class is underway. If you’re an attorney who’s been practicing for less than 10 years or you’d like to recommend the program to a colleague, you can find more program information here.

Rep. Michael S. Day (State Representative, Massachusetts House of Representatives), Bessie Dewar (State Solicitor, Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office), Jessie Rossman (Staff Attorney, American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts), and moderator Lawrence Friedman (Professor of Law, New England School of Law) speak about the role of state governments in shaping the law of the land.

Summer Jobs Spotlight: Nelson Mullins

For Lily Doyle, the BBA Summer Jobs Student hired by Nelson Mullins to support the firm’s work this summer, “intellectual property” was a new concept.

As she helped keep records relevant to some of the firm’s IP cases, she was always learning gaining new information from what she was filing.

“I learned a lot of terms and a lot of information from correspondence about how patents are done. It didn’t even dawn on me how these things happen,” she said.

One of the most exciting parts of her summer was learning that some attorneys at the firm went to the same high school as Doyle – Boston Latin School. She said she enjoyed hearing and relating to their personal stories spanning from their teen years to their current careers. On a daily basis, the attorneys’ team of assistants also made her feel very welcome, she said.

All of Doyle’s work experience prior to her summer at Nelson Mullins took place away from a desk. In the past, she did work outside, and held a position at the Museum of Fine Arts.

But working at a law firm helped to prepare her for future office experiences.

“I got a sense of a nine-to-five job for the first time. This is also my first job where I am the only person my age,” she said.

Doyle says she could see herself becoming a litigator in the future, because she finds litigation to be the most fascinating aspect of practicing law. She also enjoyed learning more about city government during the BBA’s mock city council hearing, which the students participated in by debating a fictional city ordinance.

“Working here was different than I expected. From the outside, law firms can seem bureaucratic and not as personal, but I saw the attorneys laugh with each other a lot and everyone seems very close. I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn more about the people,” she said.

VLP Announces July & August 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.

The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association thanks the following attorneys who accepted cases or provided consultation in July & August through Lawyer for the Day at the Boston Housing Court:

John M. Allen
Samuel Ames
Tristan Axelrod
Lisa Bernt
Roger Bertling
Stephanie Biggs
Jared Bishop
Larry Booz
Rebecca Brodie
Alyce Chen
Patrick J. Daly
Seth Davis
Maureen Jones Devine
Vikas Dhar
Julie Dick
Anna R. DiMaria
Sean Donovan
Pauline Edmonds
Michael G. Giarrusso
David Goldman
Sean Grammel
Steven Greenzang
Kelly Neubauer Griffin
James J. Heggie
Patricia Hennigan
Katherine Hughes
David P. Hunt
Maegan Hurley
Katherine Insogna
Jared Iverson
Jonas Jacobson
Sharon V. Jones
Elisia Lau
Helen Lee
Jacqueline Levy
Amy L. Lipman-White
Michael MacDonald
Caryn Mitchell-Munevar
Madelyn Morris
Greg Moscatel
Joanne Moses
Yavor Nechev
Andrew O’Laughlin
Nina Parker
Steven D. Pohl
Stephen Provazza
Jacob Raver
Brittany Rehmer
Lei Reilley
Lola Remy
Zaheer Samee
Kelly Schwartz
Evan R. Segal
Esmeralda Sema
Peter Shapland
Stephen Smith
Sara Suleman
Michael C. Sweet
Kevin Tagliaferri
Samuel E. Thompson
Sharon L. Toffler
William Valletta
Andrew Varshavsky
Teresa Jeanne Walsh
Lawrence A. Wind
Daniel Yuen

 

Summer Jobs Spotlight: Verrill Dana Offers Student Firsthand Legal Experience

Watching Verrill Dana partner Robin Murphy during a pro bono mediation session with a family going through a custody battle, BBA Summer Jobs Student Suzett Amado found herself engaged the whole time.

“Robin just got right to the point. She really listened to them and got them to agree without arguments,” Amado said, impressed.

When she began her summer in the BBA Summer Jobs Program, Amado said she expected the internship to involve a heavy load of administrative tasks. While she did her fair share of those, she said she was pleasantly surprised and grateful to have experienced some aspects of the legal profession firsthand, such as Murphy’s pro bono family law practice.

Over the course of the summer, Amado expanded her legal vocabulary. She learned what a deposition was, and was eventually invited to sit in on one. Amado took BBA President Mark Smith’s advice from the Summer Jobs kickoff event, where he told the students to ask attorneys at their firm about their ‘war stories.’

“When I applied, I never expected to get as much one-on-one experience with attorneys. We get lunch sometimes, where I’ve gotten to talk to real people who have done things like work on murder cases, and that has been really interesting,” she said.

Amado said working at Verrill Dana has been a unique experience compared to past summer employment. Specifically, she said the firm is very organized and employees are expected to be professional, which has made her feel “more prepared to handle a 9-5 job.”

“I feel like I know better now what it means to have an office job, and answer phones and talk to people. I even got to have my name on my cubicle, which was really nice,” she said.

Out of the enrichment seminars the students attended each Wednesday, Amado said the mock city council hearing was her favorite. Led by former city council president and Nixon Peabody partner Larry DiCara, the students had the interactive experience of debating a hypothetical city ordinance.

“I knew that the city’s government existed, but it was cool to be a part of the discussion rather than sitting by and watching,” she said.

Amado, who just began her senior year at Boston Latin Academy, is interested in pursuing a career in law. While she doesn’t know what practice area she would like to focus on, she aspires to one day work as a district attorney.

“The Summer Jobs Program is a good opportunity for anyone who wants to go into law. You learn a lot interning at a law firm – especially a firm like Verrill Dana,” she said.

Volunteer for Citizenship Day 2017

Citizenship Day in Boston is the largest citizenship workshop in New England. This year, Project Citizenship*, the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement, Goodwin Procter, and Eastern Bank are hosting the 4th annual event.

Since 2014, over 600 people have applied for citizenship on Citizenship Day in Boston. Project Citizenship expects to serve over 350 this year!

Citizenship Day in Boston provides free legal services to hundreds of immigrants but they are in need of volunteers for the event. Citizenship Day 2017 will take place on Saturday, September 23rd at the Reggie Lewis Center (1350 Tremont St. Roxbury, MA 02120). Volunteers will assist with a variety of tasks including assisting applicants with completing the 20-page application. Attendance is mandatory at one of Project Citizenship’s training sessions if you want to assist with completing the forms, even if you have volunteered at the event in the past.

To volunteer for the event and select which training you would like to attend, please fill out this form.

If you have any questions regarding the event, don’t hesitate to reach out to Project Citizenship at [email protected] or by phone at 617-694-5949.

*Project Citizenship is a 2017 Grantee of the Boston Bar Foundation.