On Monday evening we kicked off a week of Boston Housing Court events at 16 Beacon with “Trying a Case in Housing Court.” The BBA partnered with the Volunteer Lawyers Project to teach attorneys the ins and outs of trying a Housing Court case from opening to closing – with a special presentation on evidence rules as they pertain to eviction cases. In exchange for the free training, attorneys are expected to volunteer with the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program – which brings us to our next event.
As our readers may remember from this post, we will be celebrating the 15th Anniversary of the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program this Thursday at 5 pm. Be sure to join us and salute the amazing accomplishments of this program (more than 15,000 pro se litigants helped!) and thank our hard working volunteers. Be there!
Monday’s training was a great success, with more than 35 attorneys in attendance. To learn more about the experience, Beyond the Billable sat down with event panelist and seasoned veteran of the housing court Chris Saccardi (The Law Office of Christopher T. Saccardi) to hear more about the training. Here’s what he had to say:
What do you hope attendees learned from the training?
“I hope that attorneys who are considering taking their first pro bono housing case feel a little bit more confident appearing in front of the Housing Court judges and potentially taking their case to trial. Our goal was to give attendees some tips on how to conduct a trial in the Housing Court and to give them the opportunity to hear from Judge Winik, who has been a big supporter of the Volunteer Lawyers Project’s pro bono programs. “
Why should attorneys get involved in pro bono efforts in the Housing Court? How can pro bono experience help attorneys build a practice?
“First, regardless of one’s practice area, taking cases at the Housing Court is an excellent way to gain valuable litigation experience. Because the vast majority of litigants are unrepresented, there are ample opportunities to appear for various motion hearings and, if participants wish, to conduct trials. Second, if an attorney is interested in taking housing cases as part of their private practice, I can’t think of a better way to gain the procedural and substantive knowledge necessary to successfully pursue such cases. Third, while these are pro bono cases and attorneys should not necessarily expect to be paid, there is the potential for an award of attorney’s fees if one wins under a statute that includes a fee shifting provision. Finally, the most important reason to volunteer is because there is a large, unmet need for representation, particularly among the low- and middle-income population that VLP typically serves. These individuals often face an attorney on the other side and the involvement of a volunteer attorney can often make a huge difference in the outcome of the case, sometimes resulting, for example, in a preserved tenancy where an unrepresented tenant might otherwise have ended up homeless.”