Many Americans may take the right to vote, or run for a seat in local government, for granted. But one organization in Boston has dedicated its resources to ensuring that Americans are truly on equal footing when it comes to voter registration, representation in government and other disparities in politics stemming from socioeconomic issues.
Demos began as a think tank in 2000, and has since evolved to include a litigation component in addition to its focus on federal and state policy work. Vice President of Policy & Legal Strategies Barbara Wright said one of Demos’s priorities is to expand the options available to people looking to register to vote. Voter registration, they argue, is a responsibility that should be shared by the government and not entirely assumed by the individual voter. The importance Demos’ places on voter registration is backed by the U.S. Census Bureau’s data on the 2008 presidential election voter turnout. Many have heard that 64% of eligible voters turned up at the polls; however, nearly 90% of registered voters voted, demonstrating that once registered, citizens will exercise their right to vote.
In recent months, Demos has released publications on a wide variety of subjects related to economic inequality, including the racial wealth gap in the U.S. and the danger of being a student debtor in today’s economy. Earlier this month, Demos released a report detailing the effects of Supreme Court rulings that have altered the regulations governing election spending.
To learn more about Demos’s, work, please click here.
At the last Veterans Meet & Greet Luncheon, two dozen active duty military and veteran attorneys and law students, members of the BBA’s Military & Veterans Committee, and fellow BBA members mingled over lunch at the BBA. Attendees also met with two guests from the Veteran Entrepreneurial Training & Resource Network (VETRN).
Leland Goldberg, Founder, and Marie Shirley, Program Manager, of VETRN were invited to provide information on their organization. Goldberg shared that after he returned from duty in Vietnam, he was hired by a veteran to work at John Hancock. Since then, Goldberg has been the CEO of numerous companies and started VETRN’s StreetWise ‘MBA’ program to help veteran small business owners grow their business. Program participants participate in a 26-week program that includes educational sessions and mentorship.
VETRN is currently recruiting for their next program year and is accepting applications. Goldberg encouraged the group to share the program application with anyone that may be interested. Additionally, the program is always looking for mentors. As a mentor, you’ll be matched with a veteran in the program to help guide them as they work on implementing the lessons learned in their business.
Please email Cassandra Shavney at [email protected] if you’d like to connect with VETRN on mentorship opportunities.
Since 1999, volunteers at Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court have helped landlords and tenants by providing advice, mediation, and even case litigation. The program is a partnership between the BBA, Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association, Greater Boston Legal Services, the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, and the Boston Housing Court. Attorneys and 3:03 certified law students are able to volunteer with Lawyer for the Day through a variety of opportunities:
- Staff an advice and information table (one-day commitment).
- Accompany parties into mediation sessions (time commitments vary).
- Provide full representation to individuals during eviction trials (time commitments vary; the Court aims to process matters quickly when possible).
The Volunteer Lawyers Project frequently hosts trainings for those unfamiliar with Housing Court to prepare to volunteer at Lawyer for the Day. We encourage anyone interested in volunteering to attend VLP’s next Landlord-Tenant Law 101 Training on Tuesday, April 11th from 4:30 – 6:00 PM. You can sign-up here.
Lawyer for the Day occurs each Wednesday from 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM (public housing cases) and Thursday from 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM (private housing cases) in front of Courtroom 15 at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse, 24 New Chardon Street, Boston, MA. If you have questions about volunteering or would like to learn more, please contact Milton Wong at [email protected].
The Volunteer Lawyers Project, in partnership with the Women’s Bar Foundation and Community Legal Services and Counseling Center*recently began a weekly Family Law Clinic at the Court Service Center in the Edward Brooke Courthouse in Boston. The clinic provides legal advice and helps draft pleadings on family law issues including divorce, custody, and more. The Boston Bar Association recently hosted a training for attorneys and law students interested in volunteering with the clinic. This opportunity is open to attorneys of all skill levels. Law students and new lawyers are able to build skill sets by interacting with clients and drafting pleadings. More experienced practitioners are able to do pro bono work without commitment of full case and have mentorship opportunities.
The Family Law Clinic is every Wednesday from 9-1 PM at the Suffolk Probate & Family Court. Volunteers are able to sign-up online for any week and as often as one would like.
*The Volunteer Lawyers Project, Women’s Bar Foundation, and Community Legal Services and Counseling Center are 2016 Grantees of the Boston Bar Foundation.
At this month’s BBA Reentry Education Workshop at the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, volunteers spoke to probationers about how to manage their Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI). In Massachusetts, all criminal records and information is stored on an individual’s CORI and can be requested for viewing through the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS). Often potential landlords or employers will access one’s CORI during the housing or employment application process. Our presenters, D’Andre Fernandez (Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office) and Renay Frankel (Harvard Law School), instructed the attendees how to access their CORI, check it for potential mistakes, and search who has requested their CORI in the past. They also reviewed the criteria for CORI sealing and provided information on legal clinics that can assist with sealing.
Presenters D’Andre Fernandez and Renay Frankel review CORI management with the attendees.
Earlier this month, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) welcomed Representative Michael Day to the Boston Bar Association. Rep. Day is currently in his second term in the Massachusetts State House representing the 31st Middlesex District of Massachusetts, which includes Stoneham and Winchester. Rep. Day is also a partner at Torres, Scammon, Hincks & Day, LLP where his practice focuses on business and criminal litigation.
When asked what prompted his interest in public service, Rep. Day cited his time in PILP in 2008-2009 as the tinder that lit the fire. Working on programs like Law Day in the Schools and the Charitable Board Service Information Session helped Rep. Day realize his passion for community based work. After PILP, Rep. Day joined the BBA’s Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Section Steering Committee and went on to co-chair that section until he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 2015.
Rep. Day described his schedule to PILP and explained how he balances his political duties and being a firm partner. He also described how PILPers, as residents of Massachusetts, can raise concerns with their representatives and become more civically engaged on issues they’re passionate about. On the state level, Rep. Day noted that one’s state representative has the closest tie to their constituents because they represent an area far smaller than state senators. PILP was encouraged to reach out to their state representative with any question or concern.
You can read more about Rep. Day here.
If you’re interested in applying to PILP, applications for the 2017-2018 Class are being accepted until March 31, 2017. Please contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected] if you’d like to apply.
Over the weekend, members from the Boston Bar Association volunteered at the Greater Boston Food Bank helping to sort and pack food for families across Eastern Massachusetts. The volunteers for the day made 13, 356 meals possible and sorted over 16, 500 lbs of food. Thank you to our BBA members dedicated to giving back to the community!
BBA members after their volunteer shift at the Greater Boston Food Bank.
Pictured from left: Joanna Allison, Executive Director of the Volunteer Lawyers Project; Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants; Attorney Kimberly Parr, Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office; Conlan Orino, Analyst, Analysis Group; Attorney Daniel Goodrich, Law Clerk, Massachusetts Appeals Court; Appeals Court Chief Justice Scott L. Kafker; and Attorney Susan Finegan, a Member of the Litigation Section and the Pro Bono Partner of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.
At a reception at the John Adams Courthouse on Thursday, March 2, 2017, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants and Appeals Court Chief Justice Scott L. Kafker delivered remarks and honored three volunteers for their outstanding pro bono work in the Civil Appeals Court Clinic run out of the Appeals Court Clerk’s Office. Since 2015, volunteer attorneys from the Volunteer Lawyers Project and Boston-area law firms have helped at least 230 low income litigants who are representing themselves in civil appellate court matters on a number of issues, ranging from housing to family law. The Civil Appeals Court Clinic volunteers who were presented with certificates were: Kimberly Parr, Daniel Goodrich, and Conlan Orino. For more information about the Civil Appeals Court Clinic, including how to get involved, visit https://www.vlpnet.org/volunteer/item.6901-Civil_Appeals_Clinic.
The Boston Bar Association’s Active Duty Military, Family Members, and Veterans Committee will host its next Military and Veterans Meet & Greet Luncheon on Thursday, March 23rd from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM. Current members of the military, veterans, and their families and friends in the legal community are invited for lunch at the BBA. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow attorneys who served in the military and attorneys currently working in veterans legal services.
We’re excited to welcome two speakers from the Veteran Entrepreneurial Training & Resource Network (VETRN) to speak about their organization. Leland Goldberg (Founder) and Marie Shirley (Program Manager) will discuss VETRN’s work training veterans with the skills necessary to manager a successful small business. Veterans in their program participate in a six month program that provides the knowledge needed to grow their business. To learn more about the VETRN program and how you can volunteer as a mentor, attend our luncheon on March 23rd!
To register for the event, please visit our website here.
On February 27, several dozen people gathered at the BBA to learn about the Access to Justice Fellows Program, an innovative collaboration between the Lawyers Clearinghouse* and the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission that pairs retired attorneys and judges with non-profits to work on year-long access to justice projects.
Program director Mia Friedman, co-founders Martha Koster (a partner at Mintz Levin) and Sue Finegan (co-chair of the Access to Justice Commission and the pro bono partner at Mintz Levin), and several Fellows spoke to the group about the increasing need for pro bono work, and the diverse range of projects available. This year, for example, Fellows are: representing low-income veterans, advocating for policies that promote clean renewable energy, mentoring new attorneys working with clients of modest means, writing about the vital services provided by the legal aid community, supporting a new website that provides pro bono advice online, and promoting quality educational standards in the Boston Public School system.
It was also noted that there is a great level of personal enrichment and intellectual satisfaction that goes along with serving as an Access to Justice Fellow. Mia spoke about the rich community of Fellows, who exchange ideas, volunteer on each other’s projects, and form friendships. Martha noted that many Fellows continue to work on their projects for several years. There are now 74 Access to Justice Fellows who have completed well over 50,000 hours of pro bono service.
To learn how you can get involved with the Access to Justice Fellows program, please visit their website here.
*Lawyers Clearinghouse is a 2016 Grantee of the Boston Bar Foundation