Standing outside Courtroom 15 at Edward W. Brooke Courthouse, State Rep. Chris Walsh said he is concerned about his constituents in Framingham who may be embroiled in a legal dispute between landlord and tenant, but can’t afford an attorney.
Rep. Walsh stopped by the BBA’s Lawyer for the Day Program on September 17 to learn more about the volunteer attorneys who represent such clients. Every Wednesday and Thursday and one Monday a month, law students and lawyers give their time to clients with a case in Housing Court and no legal representation.
“I am very interested in the access to justice issue,” Rep. Walsh said after he sat in the courtroom and listened to the beginning of the day’s proceedings. “I think that housing issues are complex. Housing Court addresses those issues quickly and with an evenhanded approach.”
Rep. Walsh went on to say that he “looked forward to bringing the issue back to the Statehouse” in hopes of expanding access to Housing Court to the residents of the Commonwealth who don’t have it. He estimated that encompassed about 1/3 of the population of Massachusetts.
Through a partnership between the BBA, the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association, Greater Boston Legal Services, WilmerHale Legal Services Center and Boston Housing Court, the program gives attorneys and law students the chance to complete pro bono work with a steady stream of clients.
“For lawyers who are not litigators, Housing Court represents an opportunity to do pro bono work without having to stand up in front of a courtroom, which can be intimidating,” Rob Skinner, a partner at Ropes & Gray said.
He and Amy Roy, counsel in the securities litigation group at the firm, began volunteering with the Lawyer for the Day program because of the buzz the program generated among their colleagues.
“It’s really nice to know that you can help. We know that without us, they’re going to go without representation,” she said.