Daily Archives: Thursday, September 11, 2014

One Year Later: The BBA Military & Veterans Legal Help Line


Solana Goss – Lawyer Referral Service Intake Coordinator

For the past year, I have had the opportunity to work firsthand expanding the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service’s reach to service members, veterans and their families through the Military & Veterans Legal Help Line. September marks the one year anniversary that the Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) has housed the help line, which was developed in 2011 to connect this underserved population with the legal resources they need.  As the Intake Coordinator of the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service, I connect hundreds of callers per week with attorneys, legal services, and community organizations. Whenever I pick up the phone and the caller identifies as a disabled veteran struggling to pay their mortgage, or an active duty military member facing family law disputes, I am reminded of the strength, courage, and dedication that these individuals put forth to serve our country.  That this need exists so prevalently in our society helps motivate me to do what I can to improve access to legal services for the individuals and their families who served our nation.  I leave each call remembering that there is more than we can do for veterans. Instead of just thanking veterans for their service, I am fortunate enough to show my thanks by offering and connecting them with assistance. The legal community has the opportunity to show their thanks and appreciation for the sacrifices of service members in another way – by agreeing to take cases on their behalf.

Goss_Solana2The BBA and the Lawyer Referral Service has made considerable progress through the Legal Help Line this year. Since September 2013, we have connected 340 active-duty military, veterans, and their families to lawyers and legal services, a 161% increase in the amount of individuals that we were able to serve than the year prior. The LRS maintains a panel of attorneys who are trained to understand the nuances of representing this population, and our Active Duty, Family Members and Veterans Committee is ready to address new challenges in the year ahead.  Despite this great success, we still need more attorneys to take cases. If you are an attorney who wants to help support the BBA’s Military & Veterans Legal Help Line, contact me at sgoss@bostonbar.org, or the BBA’s Public Service Manager Sonia Shah at sshah@bostonbar.org.

The BBA has an ongoing commitment to support service members and their families…so what’s next? On September 23rd the BBA will host the first part of a two-part series to raise awareness about the critical issue of military sexual assault.  U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas will be lending her expertise on the issue and her highlighting her work fighting against sexual assault in Congress.  For more information and to register, click here.

NY Times Says Eviction Rates Are On the Rise – Here’s How You Can Help

On Wednesday and Thursday mornings at the Housing Court, volunteers offer legal assistance to pro se landlords and tenants.

On Wednesday and Thursday mornings at the Housing Court, volunteers offer legal assistance to a packed hallway of pro se landlords and tenants.

We hope our readers saw this New York Times article featured in last week’s issue of BBA Week. While we appreciate the shout out to a 2012 study by the Boston Bar Association (thanks, NYT!), the article included some sobering statistics that shed light on the impact of a booming real estate market on tenants.

Here are some highlights from the article:

  • Massachusetts experienced an 11 percent increase in evictions between 2010 and 2013.
  • The majority of people facing evictions are people of color, people with disabilities, people who have suffered extreme health crises or a long-term chronic illness.

So, what can be done? Is there any way we can help reverse this startling trend? Well, we wouldn’t be Beyond the Billable if we didn’t offer our readers some way help solve the problem. The BBA’s Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program allows lawyers to give back and directly affect rising eviction rates by assisting unrepresented tenants and landlords directly on site at the Boston Housing Court on eviction day. Consider the following when reading the statistics below – the BBA’s 2012 study on Civil Right to Counsel found that renters with lawyers were two times as likely to avoid eviction than those without. So, what type of difference are we making? Since the program’s inception in 1999, volunteers have assisted more than 15,500 landlords and tenants. This year alone, volunteers assisted over 1,000 individuals.

Impressive numbers aside, there’s always more to do — and we need your help. If you are interested in helping tenants who are facing eviction, and landlords dealing with housing issues, click here to learn more or contact BBA Public Service Programs Coordinator Katie D’Angelo at kdangelo@bostonbar.org.