For the month of November 2017, the PILP class turned its focus to the topic of transgender rights. Kicking off that discussion, the PILP class met on November 8 with David Topping, the Field Director for Freedom for All Massachusetts, the campaign to preserve Massachusetts’s transgender-inclusive public accommodation laws, which is currently the subject of a repeal effort scheduled to be voted on during the November 2018 elections.
Topping described the recent history of the transgender rights movement, focusing particularly on recent electoral and legislative campaigns across the country concerning the extension of nondiscrimination protections to transgender people in places of public accommodation, which include a wide range of businesses and facilities such as stores, restaurants, public parks, and public restrooms and locker rooms. In October 2016, the Massachusetts Legislature and Governor Baker acted to amend the Commonwealth’s public accommodation laws (see G. L. c. 272, §§ 92A and 99) to extend nondiscrimination protections to transgender and gender-nonconforming people. Shortly after that amendment went into effect, those opposed to the amendment gathered enough signatures to place a repeal measure on the Massachusetts ballot for November 2018. That effort represents the first statewide ballot question concerning transgender nondiscrimination.
Topping described Freedom for All Massachusetts’s efforts to counter false and damaging messages from opponents of transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination laws. Topping explained the group’s strategy, which focuses on educating voters about the experiences of harassment and discrimination faced by transgender individuals. In making the case for extending protection to transgender individuals in public restrooms, the group points the broad base of support for the policy among law enforcement, women’s rights organizations, and groups that advocate for survivors of sexual violence. The PILP class also learned about opportunities to volunteer with Freedom for All Massachusetts, including door-to-door voter-education canvassing.
For more information about Freedom for All Massachusetts, please visit http://www.freedommassachusetts.org. To learn about the BBA’s support for transgender rights in 2016, click here, and to hear about how the new public accommodations law is working in practice, listen to our Issue Spot podcast on the subject, featuring Jill Zellmer of Tufts University, Mason Dunn of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, and Catherine Reuben of Hirsch Roberts Weinstein.
Meeting recap provided by PILP Members Joshua M. Daniels (Solo Practice) and Mark Zglobicki (Massachusetts Inspector General’s Office).
Jon, an associate at Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster, is entering his second year co-chairing the committee and currently focuses his practice on real estate law. Prior to joining Rackemann, he was an associate with a Boston commercial litigation and real estate firm. After law school, Jon served four years on active duty as a Captain in the U.S. Army JAG Corps, serving as a criminal prosecutor for the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C., and as an administrative law and legal assistance attorney for the United States Military Academy at West Point. Jon received the Army Commendation Medal twice and the Army Achievement Medal while serving in the U.S. Army.
Jessica Hopton Youngberg
A staff attorney and Skadden Fellow at Veterans Legal Services (VLS), Jessica assists low-income veterans through the VLS clinics at the Bedford VA Medical Center, the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, and the New England Center & Home for Veterans. She assists clients with a variety of civil matters, including landlord/tenant, public benefits, consumer debt, and family law. Before joining VLS, she served as a law clerk to Magistrate Judge Charles B. Goodwin in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Jessica previously worked with VLS as a summer intern during law school and worked with the Red Cross while living in Korea during her husband’s service in the Army. This will be Jessica’s first year as committee co-chair.
To learn about the work of the committee and to become involved, please contact Cassandra Shavney at firstname.lastname@example.org
Just before Veterans Day, the Society of Fellows and their guests gathered at 16 Beacon Street to kick off the program year at the annual Fall Open House.
Boston Bar Foundation President-Elect and Fellow Diana Lloyd began the evening by sharing the Foundation’s goals for the coming year, including continuing to expand opportunities for Boston’s youth with the Summer Jobs program, making strides in diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, and engaging volunteers to help serve our community in ways the only lawyers can.
Peter Moser (Hirsch Roberts Weinstein), C. Max Perlman (Hirsch Roberts Weinstein), Diana Lloyd (Choate, Hall & Stewart) and William Sinnott (Donoghue Barrett & Singal)
The group also heard from former BBA President Jack Regan of WilmerHale and Bill Sinnott of Donoghue, Barrett & Singal, P.C. to speak to the group about their experience on the Active Duty and Military Veterans Committee of the BBA.
Both Jack and Bill were instrumental in starting the committee, which helped to establish the Military & Veterans Legal Helpline within the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service. The helpline connects veterans, military personnel, and their families with reduced fee lawyers and other legal resources. Jack and Bill detailed the process that went into the committee’s formation in 2009 and how it has continued to service a group of people who otherwise do not have easy access to legal services.
Jack Regan (WilmerHale) and Ernest Haddad.
In 2017, the BBF will grant $960,000 to 20 legal services organizations in the greater Boston area including Veterans Legal Services. The various grantee organizations administer legal aid to the most vulnerable and underprivileged members of the population, such as the homeless, domestic violence survivors, at-risk children, and veterans.
Pledges made by the Society of Fellows are dedicated 100% to the permanent endowment, which provides a lasting and stable base of support for all of the BBF’s work. Today, more than 400 leaders of the Boston legal community are members of this group. For more information about the Society of Fellows, or if you know someone who may be interested in joining, please contact Carolyn Mitchell at email@example.com or (617) 778-1932.
Over the past few years in the spring and early summer, the BBA hosts a pro bono training to teach attorneys to navigate the complex process of representing a veteran in a case related to the status of his or her discharge from the military.
Hundreds of thousands of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan or during prior eras have been wrongfully separated from the military with less-than-honorable discharges, often preventing them from accessing much needed benefits. To correct these injustices and address the enormous need for legal representation in the discharge upgrade process, in 2015, the BBA Active Duty Military and Veterans Subcommittee supported the creation of the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership.
Through that program, the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School has presented three legal education programs in partnership with the BBA, trained more than 100 attorneys and matched them with veterans in need, and provided ongoing case guidance. We caught up with Veterans Legal Clinic’s Dana Montalto, who directs the Partnership, to see how participation in the clinic is going since the BBA began holding trainings.
“Thanks to the growing number of private attorneys who have chosen to dedicate their time to representing those who served our nation in uniform, many more veterans now have the opportunity to have their honor restored and their service recognized,” she said.
If you would like to access videos or materials from the trainings or if you’re interested in connecting with the Partnership, please contact Cassandra Shavney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Among the attorneys at Holland & Knight, veterans, reservists, and active-duty members of the U.S. military have a prominent place.
Nationally, the firm is deeply committed to internal and external initiatives that serve those who have served our country. Hiring attorneys who are veterans is an important part of the firm’s diversity program. These veterans also play a critical role at the helm of Holland & Knight’s pro bono efforts to assist current and former military members with the unique legal challenges they face.
Nicholas Hasenfus, an associate in Holland & Knight’s Boston office, is vice chair of the firm-wide Veterans Group. In his role, he oversees the firm’s pro bono efforts related to helping veterans – efforts that have engaged more than 140 professionals in contributing over $2.3 million in legal service time in 2017 alone.
Hasenfus is one of eighteen members of Holland & Knight’s Veterans Group from the Boston office, ten of whom are veterans. Having served in the Marine Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2006 to 2010, he said he feels “very fortunate to be in the position [he’s] in,” and feels privileged to help fellow veterans when it’s “easy to see veterans [his] age who are homeless or jobless.”
“It could have been me or a lot of friends I served with and a lot of these people just need a little help,” he said.
Hasenfus said many older veterans seek help from Holland & Knight attorneys as well, particularly on issues with disability claims, aid and attendance benefits and assistance with getting into and paying for nursing home care. Cases come from a variety of sources – some veterans and families reach out directly, while many find the firm through the ABA Military Pro Bono Project, for which many lawyers at the firm volunteer, or Veterans Legal Services (where former Holland & Knight attorney Tim McLaughlin, now with Shaheen & Gordon, is a past Board Chair).
In Boston, Hasenfus said other common cases involve landlord/tenant disputes, where the tenant is a low-income veteran facing eviction. Hasenfus said in many cases, simply having an attorney present to navigate the process is enough to keep the client in his or her home.
He also said his colleagues are working on two cases where clients who served in Vietnam are seeking benefits based on long-term health complications from exposure to Agent Orange. The infamous herbicide was used by the U.S. military to kill plants in Vietnam from 1962 to 1971, and has been linked with many serious health problems, including some types of heart disease and cancer.
“We’re providing these veterans with legal services first and foremost, but we think, as a firm, it’s really important to welcome these veterans and get them the care they deserve, especially when some of them may not have received the welcome they deserved when they came home,” he said.
In addition to working with veterans on issues related to housing and benefits, the firm represents many veteran-owned businesses. Hasenfus said he is grateful to Holland & Knight’s leadership, which has enabled the firm’s Veterans Group to have such a robust pro bono practice. In particular, he acknowledged Executive Partner Steven Wright and the Boston Veterans Group Leader Paul Lannon, whose support has given the Boston office an amazing platform for this work.
Nationally, the firm’s efforts involve about 200 attorneys across all 28 Holland & Knight offices. The Chair of the Veterans Group, Daniel Sylvester, an associate in the firm’s Chicago office, coordinates these efforts throughout the firm, which has received the American Bar Association’s Military Pro Bono Project Outstanding Service Award for six straight years.
Sylvester served 11 years in the military. His wife served seven, and now suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As an attorney overseeing Holland & Knight’s effort to help, and the caregiver of a disabled veteran himself, Sylvester said he is proud and grateful to have received so much support from the firm’s leadership.
“It’s the atmosphere and mentality of the firm to do good and take care of people, and it allows us to do so much to take care of veterans across the country. It’s really heartwarming,” he said.
Pro bono work with veterans, active-duty service members, and their families is a large and important part of Holland & Knight’s community commitment. But the firm’s public service projects represent a varied array of causes. The Public and Charitable Service Department of Holland & Knight strives to involve attorneys in many types of cases, and leads firmwide signature efforts in the areas of children and education, civil rights and human rights and social entrepreneurship.
In addition, it encourages its attorneys and professionals to volunteer together, often with clients, family and friends, on non-legal community service projects. On the firm’s annual 9/11 Day of Service, attorneys are encouraged to get out and volunteer in the community, whether at a soup kitchen, a school or center for youth, or an elderly housing facility.
The 9/11 Day of Service was started on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in memory of Glenn Winuk, a Holland & Knight partner in the New York office and volunteer EMT and firefighter, who was killed on September 11, 2001 assisting New York City firefighters at Ground Zero. Working with his brother, Jay, the firm started the nation-wide tradition to help harness the spirit of unity and volunteerism that arose on 9/11.
The aim, according to the Boston office’s Public and Charitable Service Partner Brett Carroll, is to engage attorneys in a fulfilling day-long project in hopes that they will become more deeply invested in representing disadvantaged populations.
“What we’re doing has an immediate impact for the groups that need assistance, but the goal is to get people talking to people in Boston community that might inspire them to do a little bit more to help,” Carroll said.
In Boston, there are between ten and sixteen different 9/11 Day of Service projects. The Boston office’s participation translates to well over 5,000 hours of community service since 2011, and has involved organizations like the Greater Boston Food Bank, the New England Homeless Veterans Center, and the Ronald McDonald House and corporate entities like Baupost, Boston Financial, JetBlue and Welch’s. In addition to the homeless and the hungry, attorneys have helped survivors of domestic violence and Paralympic athletes as part of the 9/11 Day of Service. Working together and with these partners, Carroll says the motto in the Boston office is “it is our privilege to serve.”
“One of the leaders of the firm, Holland & Knight founder and ABA President Chesterfield Smith, truly believed in service,” he said. “It all comes down to something he would encourage others to do, ‘Do good and be somebody.’”
Since 2005, the BBA’s M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program has been providing high school students in Massachusetts with the tools to make informed financial decisions. Through classroom presentations and a visit to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, over 5,800 students have been reached by our volunteers. Topics include Finance & Budgeting, Using Credit & Credit Cards, Financing a Large Purchase, and the final session, Consequences of Poor Financial Management.
If you’re interested in volunteering, the session dates and times for 2018 will be released prior to the new year and will be available for sign-up online. As a volunteer, you will present at least one classroom session lasting about an hour and will receive training and resources prior to visiting the school. Participating high schools are located in the Greater Boston, Worcester, and Springfield areas. This volunteer opportunity is available to lawyers and law students.
To be included on the program notification email list and to be alerted when sign-up has begun, please contact Cassandra Shavney at email@example.com.