Monthly Archives: October 2019

Celebrating Pro Bono Month: A Recap

As October comes to a close, another Pro Bono Month is in the books, and we have a lot to celebrate.

In total, the BBA trained over 200 attorneys to take pro bono cases and engage with the BBA’s public service projects. This included trainings on representing low-income debtors pro bono and preparing attorney volunteers to teach high school students the importance of making informed decisions through the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program.

Take a look below for highlights from this month and check out our photo album here:

October 2ndThe BBA teamed up with lawyers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) New England Chapter, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI), and the Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) Coalition to provide information about the new Public Charge regulation. Though the regulation has thus far been blocked from going into effect, advocates were trained on how to talk about the topic with clients.

Public Charge Attorney Training

October 10thThrough our longstanding partnership with the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP), a Boston Bar Foundation grantee, dozens of attorneys were trained on all aspects of representing a low-income consumer debtor in a chapter 7 bankruptcy case pro bono through VLP’s bankruptcy panel.

Pro Bono Training: Chapter 7 Consumer Bankruptcy Basics

October 15th – BBA staff joined hundreds of law students and attorneys at Suffolk University Law School for the Annual Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House, sponsored by the BBA and Suffolk. This provided an opportunity for attendees to learn about pro bono opportunities with local nonprofits and legal services organizations.

Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House at Suffolk Law

October 18thRepresentatives from the Mass Health Connector and Health Law Advocates hosted a training to help lawyers understand the most common legal concerns that individuals face when they consider applying for healthcare through the Health Connector, including immigration concerns.

October 22ndBBA members joined volunteer attorneys from Massachusetts Legal Answers Online (MLAO) and VLP  to answer legal questions for low-income Massachusetts residents through the MLAO website, as part of our recurring “Pizza and Pro Bono Blitz” programming. During the session, 11 individuals received online pro bono advice for their legal concerns. 

October 23rdAttendees received information about how to volunteer with the BBA’s M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program to help high school students across Massachusetts build the foundational skills to make informed and effective decisions regarding their finances. Keynote speaker State Senator James Eldridge described why efforts to increase financial literacy are so important to the Boston community and the entire Commonwealth.

Financial Literacy Info Session with Senator James Eldridge

October 24thThe BBA hosted a speed networking event with representatives from VLP, MLAO De Novo, the Court Service Centers, and the Women’s Bar Foundation to learn about family law pro bono opportunities.

October 28th Attendees learned the skills needed to volunteer at the BBA’s monthly CORI Sealing Clinic and help low-income clients who have questions about their Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) records. CORI records can pose significant barriers to housing, employment, and educational opportunities, and as such advising on sealing and expungement is a critical way for lawyers to help.

Pro Bono Training for Attorneys to Help Clients Seal Their CORI Records

Thank you to our members who donated their time and talents in support of Pro Bono month—and to those who embody the spirit of Pro Bono all year round by providing the unique services to our community that only attorneys can. Even though October is over, there are still more opportunities to engage: On Thursday, November 7th, the BBA will be hosting a Fall Networking Breakfast for Law Students and New Lawyers Exploring Public Interest Careers and Pro Bono Opportunities. Find out more and register today.

Missed any of these programs, but still want to find a way to get involved?  Reach out to Community Programs Assistant Doug Newton with questions at [email protected].

Boston Bar pro bono and public service projects are made possible by funding from the Boston Bar Foundation. To support our pro bono and public service initiatives click here or contact Erica Southerland at [email protected].

Public Service Spotlight: Helping Future Lawyers Pass the Bar

Taking the Bar Exam is stressful. And for those who have already taken the exam and are sitting for it again, the anxiety may be even greater. The BBA’s Bar Exam Coaching program offers free coaching to help applicants navigate the process, anxiety, and expectations that come with preparing for the Bar Exam.

The program focuses on providing support to applicants who are retaking the Uniform Bar Examination in Massachusetts, although first-time takers can also be matched with a coach based on availability. Applicants are matched with volunteer attorney coaches who have received training from experienced bar prep staff to assist with the non-substantive elements of preparing for the exam, including mental preparation, effective study techniques, and time management. Over half of applicants participating in the program work full time while studying for the bar exam, making the support of a coach who can help with time management and study schedules even more critical. Since the program’s official launch in 2017, 57% of participants served by the program have been bar applicants of color.

If you know an applicant taking the exam in February of 2020 who would like to be connected with a coach, you can send them this online information form.

Boston Bar pro bono and public service projects are made possible by funding from the Boston Bar Foundation.

Pro Bono Month Spotlight: Sullivan Supports the Transformative Power of Education in Dorchester Through Longstanding Pro Bono Partnerships

Of the many pro bono relationships maintained by Boston-based law firm Sullivan & Worcester LLP (“Sullivan”), those with College Bound Dorchester, Inc. and the Neighborhood House Charter School are the longest-standing.

In 1965, former corporate partner Charlie Cabot helped establish College Bound Dorchester (then known as Federated Dorchester Neighborhood Houses, Inc.) by merging three settlement houses (Denison House, Little House and Dorchester House) with the goal of better serving the Dorchester community and its minority, immigrant and low-income populations.  Over the years, College Bound has included many additional programs including Kit Clark Senior Services, a summer camp, an alternative middle school and a food pantry.  In the mid-1990s, College Bound became the incubator of one of the first charter schools in Massachusetts, the Neighborhood House Charter School.

College Bound’s current focus is on transforming neighborhoods through education, particularly those affected by generational cycles of poverty, street level violence and a widening economic inequality gap.  Its ‘Boston Uncornered’ solution engages gang-involved or formerly incarcerated youth and turns them into positive leaders in their neighborhoods by training them as trusted peer mentors.  They in turn support program participants who receive educational supports and a weekly stipend that affords them the space to pursue educational opportunities to help them turn away from the streets for good.  Michelle Caldeira, Senior Vice President of Strategy & External Affairs at College Bound Dorchester, cited the program’s continued success.  They have served over 500 young people in the city each year with a 70% college matriculation rate and a reduced recidivism rate of 91%.

“We are grateful for the significant dollar value of their pro-bono work, we are indebted to Sullivan & Worcester for all the additional ways in which they support College Bound and Uncornered – serving as officers on our board of directors, providing guidance on personnel matters, shepherding the sale or acquisition of capital assets, amplifying our work and even filing copyright applications. I also want to note David Guadagnoli’s work on managing the partnership always being available to answer a quick question or dig deep on thorny issues, doing it all with amazing efficiency and a sense of humor,” said Caldeira.

In the Pope’s Hill neighborhood of Dorchester stands the K-7th grade campus of NHCS, whose mission is to provide students with the skills and support they need to graduate from high school and pursue post-secondary education on the path to achieve life success.  The School now serves over 700 students, the majority of whom are drawn from one of Boston’s most diverse neighborhoods.  Until recently a K-8th grade school, NHCS is in the process of expanding through to the 12th grade.

“Working with these organizations offers many, if not all, of our attorneys the opportunity to do pro bono work within their respective areas of expertise, which is rare among pro bono clients,” said David Guadagnoli, a Tax Partner at Sullivan.

For over half a century and at least 21,000 pro bono hours later, Sullivan remains a fierce champion for and partner of both entities.  Guadagnoli, who currently serves on the Board of College Bound Dorchester and leads Sullivan’s relationship for both entities, explains how this unique partnership has provided opportunities for lawyers throughout the firm, regardless of practice area, to contribute pro bono services and make a unique impact in the community.

With the same types of challenges faced by for-profit clients, Sullivan has remained steadfastly committed to both organizations, in large part because each offers virtually every Sullivan attorney the opportunity to contribute in their own specialty area – corporate lawyers have rewritten bylaws, managed filings, overseen restructurings and provided guidance in critical areas of governance; real estate attorneys have bought and sold properties and negotiated leases; financing lawyers have helped each organization finance and refinance short and long term debt; tax attorneys have helped each organization maintain their tax-exempt status and avoid tax traps; employment attorneys have supported the management teams with HR support and advice; litigators have defended each organization as needed; intellectual property attorneys have helped with trademark and copyright issues; and benefits attorneys have assisted in ensuring that each organization offers a robust menu of benefit offerings.  In addition to pro bono legal work, several Sullivan attorneys have served as directors, trustees and clerks of each of these organization through the years.

Molly Stearns, Director of Strategic Projects at NHCS, says that “Sullivan has become our ‘downtown home,’” supplying meeting space for the school leadership in addition to thousands of hours of pro bono work and service.

“We are so grateful that Neighborhood House Charter School has benefited from an extraordinary 25-year pro bono partnership with Sullivan.  Their advice on matters ranging from governance, to real estate transactions, to personnel matters, to employee benefits has been invaluable.  Sullivan attorneys have served as ad hoc members of various Board committees and presented to our middle schoolers about the legal profession on Career Day.  In ways large and small, Sullivan has helped Neighborhood House sustain a 25-year track record of success.  It’s an honor to have gotten to know so many wonderful lawyers at Sullivan along the way.”

As these two organizations remain committed to supporting those in need of opportunities, they have each found a steadfast partner and friend in Sullivan.

PILP Explores Climate Change and Environmental Justice

On Wednesday, October 16th, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) class heard from the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) about the intersection of environmental justice and climate change.  The presentations focused on how to use the traditional tools of environmental law, like the Clean Air Act and planning and zoning laws, to address climate change while meeting the needs of underrepresented groups.

The first speaker, Staci Rubin, is a senior staff attorney at CLF where she focuses on transportation issues.  Rubin informed the class that in Massachusetts, transportation is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions—the key driver of climate change. The Commonwealth is one of the leading states in adopting policies to curb emissions, including a pending bill to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.  However, it is crucial that the transition to cleaner transportation is equitable and just.  Latinx and Black Americans are exposed at least 50% more pollution than they produce, compared to non-Hispanic white Americans, who are exposed to 17% less pollution than they produce.  Rubin also noted that public transit service tends to be less available and reliable in communities of color.  For example, the Fairmont commuter-rail line used to pass through Dorchester, a predominantly Black neighborhood, to Hyde Park, a mainly white neighborhood.  The Dorchester community absorbed the pollution from the train but did not have access to the transportation benefits until recently, when the Blue Hills Avenue station opened.  Through examples like these, Rubin illustrated that equitable access to transportation is not just an economic issue—it is also a climate change issue.

Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal (Executive Director) and Lauren Sampson (Civil Rights Fellow) from LCR then discussed their organization’s launch of a new practice area focused on climate resilience and environmental justice in low-income communities of color.  The new initiative was sparked in part by the realization that much of the organization’s current work, such as immigration advocacy, overlaps with climate change.  For example, many immigrants arrive in the United States due to natural disasters and food shortages aggravated by climate change, but asylum law does not recognize claims based on environmental conditions.  LCR also has litigated successfully against the Trump administration’s attempts to rollback Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which might protect these climate migrants.  LCR also already advocates for increasing transportation equity for low-income communities of color and immigrant communities, opposing the MBTA’s cancellation of late-night service and cashless fares.  As it develops this new practice area, LCR plans to partner with other organizations like CLF and community groups to further its civil rights mission. 

The meeting ended with a conversation about the importance of viewing our clients’ challenges through a climate change lens.

For more information on Conservation Law Foundation’s transportation work, visit: https://www.clf.org/strategies/modernizing-transportation/

For more information on the Lawyers for Civil Rights’ new race and climate justice program, visit: http://lawyersforcivilrights.org/what-we-do/race-and-climate-justice/

Meeting recap provided by PILP Members Katie Stock (Miyares and Harrington LLP) and David Lyons (Anderson & Kreiger)

BBA’s Military & Veterans Mentoring Program Now Seeking Mentors and Mentees

The BBA is seeking mentors and mentees for the 2019-2020 year of our Active Duty Military & Veterans Forum Mentoring Program.

Military-affiliated BBA Members with four years or more of experience in the legal profession can sign-up as mentors. Mentors will be matched with a law student or new attorney hoping to meet and learn from experienced legal professionals with military backgrounds. A mentor can offer guidance on resume writing or interview prep, as well as offer perspective on practicing law in Boston as a servicemember/ veteran. Law students and attorneys with less than four years in practice with military affiliation are invited to sign-up as mentees.

Mentors can sign up here.

Mentees can sign up here.

Contact Hannah Poor at [email protected] with additional questions.

BBA’s Bar Exam Coaching Program Now Seeking Coaches and Applicants

Taking the Bar Exam is stressful. And for those who have already taken the exam and are sitting for it again, the anxiety may be even greater. Since establishing the Bar Exam Coaching program in 2015, the BBA has helped more than 200 people, pairing them with attorney-coaches, who volunteer to help guide applicants through the process of preparing for the exam. This program is specifically designed for those who are retaking the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) in Massachusetts, but first-time takers can also be matched to a coach, based on availability.

This program is now open for sign-ups for both volunteer coaches and bar applicants for the February 2020 Bar Exam. Coaches are trained by experienced bar prep staff to guide applicants through the non-substantive elements such as mental preparation, study tips, and time & stress management.

Volunteer coaches can sign up here.

Bar applicants can sign up here.

Contact Hannah Poor at [email protected] with additional questions.

Public Interest Leadership Program Learns About the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Approach to Criminal Justice Reform


Donna Patalano, General Counsel for Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins’s Office, recently spoke to the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) about what criminal justice reform looks like on the ground in Suffolk County. Specifically, Ms. Patalano discussed recent steps the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office has taken to implement reform-minded policies and procedures that aim to protect the community, while simultaneously addressing the underlying issues that often lead to recidivism.

Ms. Patalano explained that many of these policies have been codified in The Rollins Memo. The memo, released in March 2019, outlines the office-wide goals of minimizing the impact of the criminal justice system and reducing racial and socioeconomic disparities. Additionally, the memo presents specific guidelines for the prosecution of some of the most common- but least serious- criminal offenses in Suffolk County’s district and municipal courts. One of the guidelines contained within the memo is “The List of 15,” which is a list of low-level offenses where the presumption is that those charges should be declined or dismissed by prosecutors pre-arraignment and without conditions. The declination and diversion guidelines also provide for prosecutors to exercise their discretion and continue arraignment of charges for diversion or conditional dismissal. Furthermore, prosecutors may still arraign a defendant for a charge on “The List of 15” due to an aggravating factor or an identifiable exception to the presumption of dismissal.

With respect to cash bail, Ms. Patalano explained that the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office has adopted a presumptive recommendation of release on personal recognizance for all individuals who are not charged with an offense that is eligible for detention under M.G.L. c. 276, §58A. For those defendants who are charged with Section 58A eligible offenses, there is still a presumption of release on personal recognizance unless prosecutors feel there are no conditions of release that would ensure the safety of an individual or the community.

Finally, Ms. Patalano discussed upcoming initiatives within District Attorney Rollins’s office. The first of those initiatives is the Project for Unsolved Suffolk Homicides. This was created to offer a fresh set of eyes and renewed interest on unsolved homicide cases in Suffolk County, as well as to express the office’s deep commitment to residents who have lost a loved one to violence. Additionally, Ms. Patalano passionately described the creation of a new Conviction Integrity Bureau within the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. This bureau is designed to review the integrity of prior convictions, pending criminal cases, sentencing, and law enforcement involvement.

To learn more about District Attorney Rollins’s office, visit https://www.suffolkdistrictattorney.com/

Meeting Recap provided by PILP Member Julianne Campbell.