Daily Archives: Monday, January 13, 2014

Kicking Off the New Year by Taking Pro Bono Unemployment Cases

Brian Flynn (GBLS) taught attorneys the basics of unemployment law to prepare them for pro bono cases.

Brian Flynn (GBLS) taught attorneys the basics of unemployment law to prepare them to take pro bono cases through VLP.

Last Thursday, attorneys started out the New Year by attending a pro bono unemployment training at the BBA. Now that the attorneys have learned the basics of unemployment law they can volunteer to take pro bono cases through the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association (VLP). Beyond the Billable checked in with Brian Flynn (Greater Boston Legal Services), who ran the training with Lynn Girton (VLP), to hear more about the training and volunteer opportunities. Here’s what he had to say:

What do you hope that attorneys learned from the training?

“Unemployment benefits for our clients can make the difference between being able to support themselves and their families during this critical time when jobs are scarce. We have had countless clients who have been able to prevent eviction, foreclosure and homelessness because they secured representation. For many clients an unemployment hearing is the first time that they have ever been in an adverse relationship with a state agency and they are often scared and uncertain how to proceed. Having a representative on their side can make all the difference between winning and losing.”

Why should attorneys get involved in pro bono unemployment benefit efforts?

“In all my years of doing this work, I have never heard anyone report back that it was not a positive experience. Some lawyers report back that it is one of the more memorable experiences of their career because of how appreciative the client was for their help. Additionally unemployment insurance representation is the perfect pro bono opportunity because it is a limited time commitment, but during the courts of representation, you draw upon many legal skills: client counseling, factual and legal investigation, cross-examination. Finally, VLP offers a tremendous support system for volunteer attorneys who take these cases and Greater Boston Legal Services is also committed to offering any additional back up support.”

Here’s what Lynn Girton added:

“These are absolutely great cases to work on: they are time limited and you get to explore all the aspects of preparing a hearing. As Brian indicated, these are life-sustaining benefits for clients, and if they win these benefits, their lives will remain stable and not fall apart. Clients are enormously grateful for the lawyer’s assistance. Additionally, we are often able to identify other employment issues for the clients that can be pursued either by the lawyer for the unemployment matter or referred back to VLP or GBLS. ”

If you are interested in future pro bono trainings, please contact Katie D’Angelo at kdangelo@bostonbar.org.