Daily Archives: Thursday, January 23, 2014

PILPers talk Public Service with Chief Judge Patti Saris

The 2012-2013 PILP Class met with Judge Patti Saris, Chief Judge for the District of Massachusetts, to discuss public service work in the legal field.

The 2012-2013 PILP Class met with Judge Patti Saris, Chief Judge for the District of Massachusetts, to discuss public service work in the legal field.

Guest Blogger: Jacquelyn Burke, PILP10 Class Member

Last Tuesday, January 21, the 2013-14 PILP class met with Judge Patti Saris, Chief Judge for the District of Massachusetts, in the Judges’ Dining Room at the Moakley Courthouse. The fact that it was one of the coldest and snowiest nights of the winter was no deterrent to Judge Saris, who came early and stayed late, engaging us in a lively discussion of the state of the legal profession for young attorneys, among other challenging topics. BBA President Paul Dacier was in attendance and also provided insights into how young attorneys can give back through legal work.

During the course of the 14-month PILP program, the PILP Fellows spend a lot of time asking questions. We’ve had a series of leaders from the legal community speak to us (including, for example, Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Ralph Ganz and Maura Healey, currently a candidate for Attorney General) and we’ve tried to ferret out from them what they think the unmet needs are in the city and state that the legal community can help to serve. At the dinner with Judge Saris, it was interesting to have the tables turned, as she peppered us with questions about our individual practices and goals, our recently announced Court Service Center Project, and what we thought the pressing issues were for young attorneys today.

Many of us agreed that unemployment among younger attorneys was a constant topic of conversation among our cohort. Even for the employed, career paths can seem uncertain with all the turmoil in the marketplace, and the hands on experience necessary to master important legal skills, particularly courtroom skills, can be elusive. This was true both in private practice and for those who work in the public interest, where budgets change unpredictably from year to year and much of the energy that could be spent on providing legal services is instead spent on fundraising. Judge Saris explained that things were not so different from her perspective on the bench, noting that it had been a full year since she presided over a trial and that cases are now litigated largely on the papers. She and her peers are concerned that young lawyers are not coming through their courtrooms and practicing their skills, and that the bench and the bar will mix less and less if this trend continued. There is also a concern that younger attorneys are not attracted to serving on the bench for various reasons, including salary and lack of exposure to the courtroom. Under Judge Saris’s leadership, the District Court, along with the BBA has begun several initiatives designed to integrate young lawyers into the life of the court, which will be made public as they are finalized.

Judge Saris also spoke about her important work on the United States Sentencing Commission, which is addressing the issue of the length of mandatory minimum sentences for drug commissions, and about other milestones in her long career in public service, including a stint as the Chief of the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Massachusetts. In all, despite the weather outside, we had an inspiring evening hearing about Judge Saris’s commitment to public service, which can serve as a model to PILPers and all young attorneys who would like to give back.

The BBA is currently accepting applications for the PILP class beginning in May 2014. The application deadline is February 14th. More information on PILP and the application process is available here. Please email Susan Helm, Member Programs Coordinator, at [email protected] with any questions.

Four Reasons to Volunteer for the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program

 Through the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, volunteer attorneys teach students how to make smart financial decisions during three-classroom based sessions and a trip to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Through the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, volunteer attorneys teach students how to make smart financial decisions during three-classroom based sessions and a trip to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program kicks off on Monday with sessions at New Mission High School and Boston Community Leadership Academy. Even though the program is about to get started, the BBA is still looking for volunteers to help meet the demand. That’s why Beyond the Billable checked in with one of our Financial Literacy Co-Chairs, Janet Bostwick (Janet E. Bostwick, PC); to hear the four best reasons you should volunteer for the program. Here’s what she had to say:

(1) Because you don’t know the fun you are missing. I have received numerous calls from volunteers after teaching their first class, who tell me they can’t wait to sign up again.  Volunteers enjoy going to the classroom and interacting with the students, while teaching them about budgeting, credit cards or buying a car.
(2)  Because as little as five hours of your time will make a big difference in the lives of the students. From start to finish (training, preparing, travel, and class), the time commitment is typically five hours or less.  Helping the students learn the basics about personal finance and credit will provide them with skills they will use for the rest of their lives.
(3)  Because you wish someone had told you about credit and personal finance when you were their age. Maybe it was your first paycheck (when you saw how little you took home).  Maybe it was that first car you bought (when the salesman talked you into a pricier model.)  Or, maybe it was juggling that first credit card and the minimum payments.  We all had to sort through personal finance and credit issues at some point in our life, but often on our own.  You can help provide these students with the information now, and prepare them for those crossroads.
(4)  Because you will be an ambassador for your profession. This spring we are in 15 schools in Boston, Greater Boston, and Worcester.  Some of our students had little prior contact (or positive contact) with attorneys and the legal profession.  Your presence and involvement will help them have a better understanding about our profession.  (And, maybe you will be the spark for one of them to consider becoming a lawyer in the future.)

Are you convinced? Click here to sign up for an open volunteer session.