Monthly Archives: March 2016

Pro Bono Spotlight: DLA Piper

Howell_Geoff

Beyond the Billable is introducing a new feature: Pro Bono Spotlight! In this monthly column, we will catch up with law firms that have dedicated time and resources to public service and pro bono projects.

For our first Pro Bono Spotlight, we spoke to DLA Piper Partner Geoff Howell, who has gotten a team of attorneys at the firm involved with the Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) Housing Clinic on Mondays. The Clinic is designed to help pro se litigants better advocate for themselves in housing court.

What inspired DLA Piper and you personally to get involved with the Housing Clinic? Can you talk about some of the benefits to clients, volunteer attorneys, and the court system as a whole?

I am on the GBLS board and have been talking with them for a long time about the possibility of creating a pro bono project that would allow us to work together. DLA Piper encourages its offices to create “signature” projects that can involve everyone in the office, address issues that are of importance to the community, and have a lasting impact. We packaged together a group of GBLS-related pro bono projects, including the housing clinic, to create a “signature” project in the office.

The benefits of doing this project are many, including providing our attorneys with an opportunity to see how GBLS operates on a day-to-day basis. In addition, of course, a lawyer has an ethical duty to provide pro bono services.  Our lawyers prefer to fulfill that obligation by giving back to the community in which we work. We also value the opportunity to give young attorneys  the opportunity to engage in client counseling. Another ancillary benefit is that the participants in the clinic are better able to represent themselves pro se on their day in housing court, which hopefully helps streamline the court process.

What is the format of the program?

The clinic participants are people who have called or walked into GBLS for assistance on an eviction matter, and have already received a summons and complaint. They are people GBLS cannot take as clients because of staffing constraints. Attendees come to the clinic, which takes 3-4 hours, and they are then prepared to file paperwork in response to the complaint and to represent themselves on the day of their court appearance.

Is there an anecdote from a particular case that you think speaks to the benefit of GBLS’s Housing Clinic and programs like it?

It is very common to encounter a situation where the tenant simply does not understand his or her rights and cannot easily defend against the eviction, or, alternatively, counterclaim to create the leverage needed for a negotiated settlement that will allow them to stay at home. For example, some tenants do not realize they can push for a reduction in rent and/or damages due to bad conditions in the apartment that the landlord must remedy by law.

This week, we helped an elderly woman with dementia build her case so that she can, at worst, appeal for the equitable right to extend the period prior to the effective date of any eviction. At best, she will be able to get the court to require the landlord to adjust its rules to accommodate her disability, which should permit her to continue to stay in her apartment. She was assisted by a social worker, which, unfortunately, is often not the case for the clients of the clinic.

Why would you encourage an attorney in your firm to get involved in this particular partnership between GBLS and DLA Piper?

It is a great opportunity to gain a better understanding of the housing crisis in the city, counsel clients who really need the help, and assist GBLS. It is also an honor and a privilege to work with the GBLS housing attorneys, who are the very best in the business. Barbara Zimbel, Jay Rose, Mac Mcreight and their whole team have been fantastic teachers, hosts and mentors to us.

Why would you encourage attorneys in general to take on pro bono cases?

We have an ethical duty to engage in pro bono and a moral obligation to support organizations like GBLS In addition, the work is rewarding, the clients are appreciative, and it helps attorneys hone their practice skills.

What else should people know about this program?

We hope to enlist other law firms in the city into taking clinic days each month. The clinic runs each Monday and currently GBLS staffs most of them. It would be great to have outside firms handle them all, with minimal supervision from GBLS. That would free up more GBLS time to handle more complicated housing cases and matters. We also refer clients to the BBA’s Lawyer for a Day program in the event that they are going to be appearing in Boston Housing Court, making the programs a good compliment to one another.

Firms interested in participating should feel free to contact me or Thanos Matthai of this office with questions and to get connected to GBLS. I also must give Thanos full credit for his role as the co-leader of our firm’s effort. He has been a great supporter of GBLS and terrific presenter of the clinic.

BBA Volunteers at Greater Boston Food Bank

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Last week, eight BBA members joined a group of other volunteers at the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) to pitch in sorting and packaging food.

The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) is the largest hunger-relief organization in New England, and among the largest food banks in the country. Last year, they distributed more than 54 million pounds of food, enough to provide healthy meals to over 500,000 people

The GBFB also sees over 25,000 volunteers annually. Some help sort the food, like the BBA group did, while others help distribute the food to agencies and individuals and families who need it.

We are grateful to the GBFB for having us! Our volunteers had an amazing experience. If you are interested in more volunteer opportunities with the BBA, here is what we have coming up:

Annual Charles River Clean Up
Saturday, April 30, 2016 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Volunteer on the Farm: The Food Project Serve & Grow
Saturday, May 7, 2016 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM

Spring Woodland Restoration Event at Roslindale Urban Wild
Friday, May 13, 2016 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM

Retired, Esq: Access to Justice Fellows Offer Vital Pro Bono Expertise

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Legal Services organizations need attorneys. Attorneys looking for pro bono work need the time and resources to complete it. One way to bridge that gap is to recruit retired lawyers into partnering with legal services organizations on important projects related to improving access to justice.

That’s how the Access to Justice Fellows Program was born.

A program run by the Lawyers Clearinghouse in collaboration with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Access to Justice Commission, the Access to Justice Fellows Program pairs attorneys who have retired or are approaching retirement with organizations who need their services.

Here’s a snapshot of their five years of pro bono work, which Program Director Mia Friedman presented at a panel on the program hosted by the BBA’s Delivery of Legal Services section this week:

  • 7 fellows participated during the program’s first year
  • 19 fellows are now active in the Access to Justice Fellows program
  • 55 fellows have participated in the program over five years
  • They have completed at least 40,000 hours of legal work

Program Director Mia Friedman said most of the attorneys who participate choose to stay with their project for longer than the mandatory commitment of one year. The work done by attorneys in the program varies greatly, from immigration and tax-related matters to probate and family cases. They work for 10-20 hours per week with the organization to which they volunteer their services.

“One of the important aspects of the program is the monthly lunches” where attorneys in the program get together, Friedman said. “It has developed into this wonderful exchange of ideas and a real sense of community between the fellows.”

To learn how you can get involved with the Access to Justice Fellows program, please visit http://www.lawyersclearinghouse.org/access-to-justice-fellows/.

Job Shadow Day Q & A: What Did the Attorneys Think?

Sparkle Calhoun (Holland & Knight) and a Holland & Knight Summer Jobs student at the Summer Jobs Celebration last summer

Sparkle Calhoun (Holland & Knight) and a Holland & Knight Summer Jobs student at the Summer Jobs Celebration last summer

Recently, four of our Summer Jobs employers participated in the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) annual Job Shadow Day, during which students go to an office to watch professionals do their jobs, ask them questions, and assist them with their work.
The following offices hosted students on Job Shadow Day:

  • Conn, Kavanaugh, Rosenthal, Peisch & Ford
  • Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office
  • Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, PC
  • Holland & Knight

They have also committed to hiring a Summer Jobs student, furthering their efforts to help local students shape their future careers.

The Holland & Knight attorneys who participated are Job Shadow Day veterans, and we reached out to them to see how their experience went this time around. This is what Associate Kevin Bergesen and Partner David Glynn had to say:

BTB:      What was the biggest takeaway from Job Shadow Day for you?

David Glynn: We need to provide more opportunities for high school kids to sit down with adults and ask candid questions about what they actually do in their line of work, whether they enjoy it, and how they got to where they are.  We should always be telling kids to stay in school, but we should also be explaining to kids what they can ultimately achieve if they do, and how to achieve it.

Kevin Bergesen: I enjoy learning about students’ backgrounds and developing a sense of where they come from and how they intend to shape their community in the future.
BTB: What do you think was the biggest takeaway for the student?

David Glynn: My student, in particular, was interested in a career in law and said that he found the experience very educational in terms of charting his course through high school and college on to law school.

Kevin Bergesen: Job Shadow Day helps the students better understand the variety of an attorney’s day – one student noted that he learned that “a lawyer isn’t just a person that argues all day”.

BTB:      Were you surprised by any of the student’s questions, and what were they?

David Glynn: The student I hosted was not only interested in the practice of law, but asked many good questions about how law firms operate, how attorneys attract clients, and how client relationships are maintained.

Kevin Bergesen: The students were very interested in how our firm interacts with other aspects of the Boston community and its legal system, for example, the students asked how closely we worked with the police and the state legislature.

BTB: How many times have you participated in Job Shadow Day and what keeps you coming back each year?

David Glynn: I have participated for the past two years.  I keep volunteering because I think that kids rarely have the opportunity to have a candid discussion with an adult about what they actually do at work, whether their work is satisfying, and how they got to where they are.

Kevin Bergesen: This is my third Job Shadow Day and I will continue to participate to help students feel more comfortable in a professional setting and appreciate that they already possess many of the skills that will make them successful in the workplace.

Chief Justice Ordoñez Weighs in on Importance of LAR at Probate & Family Court Training

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On Tuesday, Probate and Family Court Chief Justice Angela Ordoñez greeted attendees at a Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) workshop aimed at preparing attorneys to represent clients on a limited basis in a probate or family law case.

LAR is a useful tool for clients who might not otherwise have access to legal representation. Rather than paying a large sum as a retainer, they can hire an attorney for one particular motion or hearing, after which the parties can choose to go their separate ways or draft another agreement concerning the next steps.

The only problem with LAR, Chief Justice Ordoñez said, is that not enough people know they have access to it.

“Let people spread the word to their friends, their cousins, their family and all of that. If you spread the word about LAR, you’ll help the court, you’ll help the client and you’ll help yourselves. I see people every day who have no idea what LAR is,” she said.

Panelists Ilene Mitchell (Probate and Family Court Administrative Office) and Laura Unflat (The Law Office of Laura M. Unflat) spoke to attendees about their experience practicing LAR and answered questions about cases that the attorneys in the audience were already working on.

If you’re interested in learning more about LAR, including how to get certified to practice, our next training on April 28 will focus on LAR in the Boston Municipal and District Courts.  Click here to learn more.

Irish International Immigrant Center Presents Pro Bono Training on Immigration Basics

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This week, Rebecca Minahan from the Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC)—a BBF grantee— came to the BBA to lead a well-attended training on the basics of immigration law. The goal of the session was to familiarize attorneys and law students with the process of attaining citizenship.

The IIIC holds an Immigration Forms Workshop, held twice monthly, where attorneys provide pro bono assistance navigating the complicated process. During her presentation, Minahan explained some of the reasons that people most commonly end up in the country illegally, including serious danger or financial struggles in their country of origin.

Minahan went over some commonly used terms, some misconceptions (green cards have not actually been green in color for years, she said), and some of the important reasons that the staff and volunteers at the IIIC do what they do.

“The IIIC, though founded to help undocumented Irish workers, has really grown to serve many immigrants from any background,” she said.

If you missed this program, but are interested in other pro bono opportunities, our next training on April  13 will focus on Pro Bono Appellate Pilot Program. Click here to learn more.

In Their Own Words: What Your Casino Night Ticket Supports

One of the events we look forward to most every year is our Casino Night fundraiser for our Summer Jobs Program, which gives Boston public school students the chance to earn money and gain real-world experience that will help them in college and beyond.

Recently, some students that have participated in the program in the past checked back in with the BBA staff to tell us all about the incredible things they’ve been doing, and how the Summer Jobs Program helped them find their path to success.

Here is what your Casino Night tickets supports, in the students’ own words:
“After the Summer Jobs Program, LPL Financial hired me to stay there for an extended period of time. I worked through December and then applied for a co-op through my college, Bunker Hill Community College, and so I’m currently working within Compliance and Asset Management for Fidelity Investments! Seeing BBA on my resume really intrigues employers, it was such a fulfilling experience. I’m looking to apply for a couple scholarships, as I’ve recently been inducted in Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society.”
— Celine Ramsingh, intern at LPL Financial, Summer 2015
Graduated from Boston Latin Academy

“My name was Yujia Song, and I worked for Goodwin Procter during the summer of 2014. I just wanted to say that I’m doing well. I ended up attending BU with a scholarship, and I’m finishing up my freshman year right now. I also recently became a United States citizen, and changed my name to Alex Song, so that has been very exhilarating.”
–Alex Song, intern at Goodwin Procter LLP, Summer 2014
Graduated from Boston Latin School

“Currently I am a sophomore UMass Boston majoring in Management and Economics. I am thankful to have been an intern under the BBA. My internship helped me network and gain excellent world experience.”
–Chahana Patel, intern at Sunstein Kann Murphy & Timbers LLP, Summer 2013
Graduated from Boston Community Leadership Academy

To learn more about Casino Night, click here or contact Erica Southerland at [email protected].  To read more about our Summer Jobs Program, click here.

Spring into Public Service

Don’t miss the chance to give back to the community this spring. The BBA’s calendar is full of opportunities to expand your pro bono portfolio and make a difference in the community. Check out what’s ahead below:

Immigration Basics – What You Need to Know to Assist Low-Income Immigrants

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Boston Bar Association – 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA

Learn how to assist low income immigrants in completing applications for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

RSVP


Expanding Access to Justice by Engaging Senior Fellows

Monday, March 28, 2016 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM
Boston Bar Association – 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA

Explore how you can get involved in the Access to Justice Fellows Program, which enables senior lawyers and retired judges to partner with nonprofit organizations and courts to increase equal justice for all.

RSVP


Providing Legal Services to Veterans in Family Law Cases

Tuesday, April 5, 2016 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM
Boston Bar Association – 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA

This program will give an overview of specific family law matters unique to veterans and servicemembers.

RSVP


What You Should Know About Post-Conviction Relief: How to Help Noncitizen Clients with Criminal Convictions

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
Boston Bar Association – 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA

Mass. R. Crim. P. 30(b) can offer potent relief to criminal defendants for whom all other hopes have been exhausted. This brown bag program will provide an overview of the types of clients for whom R 30(b) litigation should be considered with a focus on relief for noncitizen clients.

RSVP


Pro Bono Appellate Pilot Program

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Boston Bar Association – 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA

This training will explain the history and purpose of the Pro Bono Appellate Pilot Program, and provide the nuts-and-bolts for volunteer attorneys who will staff the Clinic.

RSVP


Advanced Training for Veterans Discharge Appeals

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Boston Bar Association – 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA

Learn advanced topics in veterans discharge upgrade practice and join the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.

RSVP


Trying a Case in Housing Court

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Boston Bar Association – 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA

This training will guide you through a trial in Housing Court from opening to closing.

RSVP


Questions? Contact Katie D’Angelo at [email protected].

Volunteers Reflect on Reentry Education Sessions

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At the BBA, one of our public service initiatives focuses on helping probationers to understand the complex world of legal and financial obligations they’ll be met with when their sentence is up. Two longtime volunteers with the BBA’s Reentry Education program, David W.S. Lieberman and Brian McLaughlin, caught up with Beyond the Billable to talk about their most recent educational sessions.

Liberman, a former PILP member and Associate at Day Pitney LLP, led a session on financial literacy and responsibility for participants of the CHOICE program in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court.

CHOICE is an intensive probation supervision program in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court. CHOICE offers young adult probationers the opportunity to pursue either educational or vocational goals as an alternative to incarceration.

Lieberman spoke on a range of topics, from including how to open a bank account, track your spending, and understand credit reports and ratings.

“It’s really important to help people understand the building blocks to achieving financial stability particularly how credit ratings are used to make decisions about things like housing and employment.  These concepts are very rarely taught in school and it is vital that people understand them especially as they are trying to get their lives back on track,” Lieberman said. “I am always energized by the level of engagement during these sessions and I am grateful for the opportunity to present to the CHOICE participants.”

The session was part of the BBA’s Reentry Education Program, which aims to help probationers successfully undergo a new beginning.

Our volunteer attorneys also work with probationers in the Federal District Court’s CARE/RESTART program, and McLaughlin, a former PILP member of Brian McLaughlin, Esq. LLC, recently led a presentation on family law. He spoke to a group about navigating complex issues like child support, paternity and custody issues.

“I honestly look forward to this event every year. I always learn something from the audience that I would’ve never thought of. Each year that I do the presentation, I come away with a renewed perspective of family law,” McLaughlin said. “This year’s presentation was among the most interactive and I cannot wait to see what next year’s group brings.”

Learning at the Top: Three local law students to intern at Attorney General’s Office

Courtney Person

Courtney Person, New England Law | Boston

Vaishali Goyal

Vaishali Goyal, Boston College Law School

Holly Haynes

Holly Haynes, Boston University School of Law

 

 

 

 

 

Not everyone can say that her summer boss is the Massachusetts Attorney General, but this year, three local law students will be able to do just that: Vaishali Goyal of Boston College Law School, Holly Haynes of Boston University School of Law, and Courtney Person, New England Law | Boston.

The internships are part of a larger effort of the BBA’s Diversity & Inclusion Section to support and retain diverse young lawyers here in Boston. This year, the program has expanded beyond the courts to include placements in government law offices, like the Attorney General’s.

In this unique opportunity, law students receive substantive and meaningful work – coupled with skill development, mentorship and networking – in an office committed to serving the needs of the Commonwealth’s communities.

  • Vaishali Goyal is originally from South Florida and received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy from Boston College. Prior to law school, Vaishali gained professional experience working at Boston College, at Teach for America in Houston, Texas, and in a law practice in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Vaishali attends Boston College Law School.
  • Holly Haynes is originally from New Brunswick, New Jersey. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. While at Vanderbilt, Holly focused her studies on Medicine, Health and Society, with minors in Spanish and Human and Organizational Development. In 2015, Holly co-founded and oversaw a school garden initiative program for two Nashville elementary schools called Kids & Kale to promote healthy child nutrition. Some of her other employment experiences prior to law school include working as a tutor, as an undergraduate research assistant studying childhood obesity and injury, and special events at the White House. Holly attends Boston University School of Law.
  • Courtney Person is originally from Columbia, South Carolina and attended Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where she majored in Politics and Justice Studies and minored in Psychology and English. While at Claflin University, Courtney received a number of accolades as she played on and captained the Women’s Volleyball Team. She tutored fellow classmates at the Claflin University Writing Center, tutored at risk high school students, and was involved in a number of student organizations and on-campus activities. Prior to starting law school, she interned at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP in Columbia, South Carolina. Courtney attends New England Law | Boston.

Congratulations to Vaishali, Holly, and Courtney! We look forward to getting to know you this summer!