As 2012 comes to a close, we begin to shift our focus to the New Year with anticipation. For those of you looking to get more involved and give back to the Greater Boston Community in 2013, the BBA is offering a number of public service trainings and programs in January to give you a head start. Here are a few ways you can get involved:
• Receive Limited Assistance Referral Certification at the training on January 9th from 3-4:30 pm. You can sign up for the certification here. This program will certify participants as LAR attorneys and teach them the basics on going into court for a single event in a case. The training will be followed by two separate breakout sessions on Family and Probate Law and Land Court. You can sign up for the Probate and Family Court session here or the Land Court session here.
• Attend the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program training on January 14th from 4-6 pm. The program is partnership between the BBA and the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts and teaches high school students how to make smart financial decisions. This opportunity offers volunteers of all backgrounds an opportunity to get involved in the community by teaching classes on topics that include personal finance, budgeting and using credit. The time commitment is just a few hours but the impact on these students is substantial. Sign up for the training here; however, the training is not mandatory.
• Join the New Lawyers and Tax Sections for an accelerated training session for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program on January 16th from 4-8 pm. The program is coordinated locally by the Boston Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition and annually trains volunteers to prepare income tax returns for low income taxpayers at community sites in the greater Boston area. No previous experience is required and non-attorneys are welcome to participate. Please note that volunteers will need to complete the certification test separately. Please sign up for the training here.
• Learn how to build your practice while helping your community at the upcoming “Building Your Practice Through Pro Bono” event on January 23rd from 12:30- 1:30 pm. Please sign up here.
• Join the Bankruptcy Public Service Committee for the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Training on January 24th from 4-7 pm. The program will cover the basics of preparing and filing a Chapter 7 consumer bankruptcy case for a pro bono debtor. The topics covered will include pre-filing considerations, preparation of the petition, schedules and statements, the 341 meeting of creditors, practice pointers and advice about handling a pro bono consumer bankruptcy case. Please sign up here.
For more information on the programs, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator at [email protected].
A few weeks ago, I volunteered at the legal clinic at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home and had the privilege of meeting a former World War II veteran who served in the South Pacific. My role was minor, as a staff attorney from Shelter Legal Services explained each of the legal documents in question. During this process, the client would intermittently interject with stories of his life and family which will stay with me for a lifetime. He shared his delight at being selected for the military band thinking he would not see combat, but then laughed as he told us that they, “shipped us off to the front anyway.” As I left the building, I couldn’t help but think how times are different and how lucky I am to be a lawyer. I felt privileged to meet these remarkable folks and help them, if only for a short time.
I’ve learned through my pro bono experiences with service members that they often have a lot bigger issues on their minds than just the legal issue in front of us and we need to be patient as attorneys. As a volunteer working with service members, I have been confronted with complex socioeconomic issues which are a different challenge from my day-to-day practice. Every time I take a case I always come away with a new appreciation for the service they provide us and am reminded to always be more patient with my clients. I think that these experiences have helped me to manage my other clients with more patience and empathy.
I found opportunities to help service members through the BBA’s Yellow Ribbon Events and through Shelter Legal Services, a non-profit funded in part by the Boston Bar Foundation.
When volunteering with Shelter Legal Services or at a Yellow Ribbon Event, you are supported by the experts for the entirety of the volunteer session. There is no need for formal training; you just need to have an open mind and a willingness to serve those who risked their lives for us.
To find out more about the Yellow Ribbon Events or Shelter Legal Services please contact Katie D’Angelo at [email protected].
Brian McLaughlin is the owner and sole proprietor of the Law Offices of Brian McLaughlin, specializing in the areas of education and family law. He is a Board Member at Shelter Legal Services and is a Yellow Ribbon panel attorney for the BBA.
Each week we talk about the valuable work our volunteer and pro bono lawyers are doing in the community. They advocate for clients of limited means, mentor students, teach life skills and assist unrepresented litigants. Our programs are successful because of the time and energy that our volunteers dedicate each year. However, it takes more than lawyers to create successful programs.
The BBA’s Public Service department oversees the Lawyer Referral Service and all other BBA public service programs — including the Public Interest Leadership Program. We also initiate and nurture relationships with non-profit organizations that facilitate pro bono engagement by lawyers or provide for the direct delivery of civil legal services to the indigent. In addition, the BBA’s Public Service Staff participates in and supports the work of the BBF Grants Committee, and administers BBF special funds grants that support specific BBA projects.
Over the past year, the BBA’s staff’s hard work and dedication has given us much to be proud of. Through the BBA’s unique relationship with the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) we have been able to grow the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program (Financial Literacy). This past summer Financial Literacy expanded to include students working at Sovereign and Citizens Banks. In addition, this spring, with the help of PIC, Financial Literacy will add an additional five Boston Public High Schools whose students are participating.
Staff worked tirelessly to cultivate the very productive partnership with the Boston Debate League (BDL). This partnership has led to meaningful, new volunteer opportunities for BBA members. For BDL, the partnership with the BBA has helped them recruit talented judges and mentors for their urban high school debate teams. The partnership has truly benefited both organizations.
The department is staffed by four people: a Manager, a Public Service Programs Coordinator, a LRS Intake Coordinator and a LRS intern.
Sonia Shah, the Public Service Manager is a former legal services attorney with deep connections to the legal services and Greater Boston non-profit community.
Katie D’Angelo, the Public Service Programs Coordinator, recently joined the BBA and provides daily support for all of our programs.