Liberty Mutual’s Law Department takes pro bono cases through the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program.
At Liberty Mutual’s Law Department, engaging in pro bono activity is a way of life. More than 50 attorneys in the legal department take part in pro bono work in areas including housing, unemployment compensation, social security, and domestic violence. That’s just one of the many reasons they will be honored with the Thurgood Marshall Award at the BBA’s Annual Meeting this Friday.
Specifically, Liberty Mutual has shown commitment to many of the BBA’s public service and pro bono initiatives. This year alone, their attorneys accepted pro bono cases through the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program, helping the program assist over 1,100 landlords and tenants. When the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program more than doubled in size last year, the legal department stepped up to the plate and adopted a classroom at Boston Community Leadership Academy. To learn more about Liberty Mutual legal department’s commitment to pro bono work, please click here.
Last Thursday, the BBA’s Northeastern Co-op students visited the Lawyer for the Day at the Boston Housing Court project to see the volunteers in action. Since the programs inception in May 1999, volunteers have assistant more than 15,000 landlords and tenants. Here’s what the co-op students had to say about their experience:
BBA Co-op students Alixandra Powers and Gaciru Matathia visited the Boston Housing Court last Thursday.
“Attending proceedings at the housing court was an interesting experience for me. I would have to say that the most fascinating aspect of the visit was the sheer volume of cases that the housing court deals with on a regular basis. During my visit, the clerk announced over 100 cases that were scheduled to be handled on that day alone. With such a huge number of cases, it is no surprise that the courtroom was packed to capacity with landlords, tenants and attorneys waiting patiently for their case number to be called. However, even with all the people in the room, there still managed to be a basic sense of order and structure which allowed for the proceedings to move along relatively quickly.”
Gaciru Matathia is working in the BBA Lawyer Referral Service until the end of June. Gaciru studies International Affairs, and is pursuing a minor in Social Entrepreneurship.
“Going to the housing court as an intern was a really interesting and educational experience. I learned a lot about how high volume legal issues are addressed in a court room setting and enjoyed being able to see court proceedings first hand. It was also nice to see so many lawyers volunteering their time to people in need.”
Alixandra Powers is working in the BBA Membership Department until the end of May. Alixandra is a History major, and is a cadet in the school’s ROTC program. She hopes to attend law school after graduation, and is interested in becoming a Judge Advocate General (JAG) in the Military.
Volunteers provide legal advice to landlords and tenants as part of the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program.
For more information on the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program, please contact Katie D’Angelo, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last night, Judge Jeffrey Winik was honored with a Citation of Judicial Excellence for his leadership as the First Justice of the Boston Housing Court. In this role, Judge Winik has dedicated himself to advancing the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program, which he describes as “access to justice in action.” Volunteer attorneys help provide legal advice and representation to landlords and tenants. Approximately 90 percent of tenants and 50 percent of landlords are unrepresented. Since the program began 14 years ago, 12,000 volunteers have helped more than 14, 500 individuals. However, the sheer volume of cases—the housing court can see about 200 eviction cases on a single day—calls for additional volunteer attorneys.
Judge Winik received a Citation of Judicial Excellence at the Law Day Dinner for his leadership as the First Justice of the Boston Housing Court
Here’s how Judge Winik described the volunteer experience:
I guarantee you, you will come away from the experience knowing you have done something important and have helped people who would have been far worse without your assistance.
Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court is the epitome of a meaningful pro bono opportunity. Just a few hours on a Wednesday or Thursday can make the difference between a family losing their home or a landlord being foreclosed on.
For more about the recent volunteers for the program, please click here.
Yugo Nakai (Volunteer Lawyers Project), Heather Ward (Law Office of Heather M. Ward), and Isabel Burney (Volunteer Lawyers Project) provide legal advice to tenants and landlords at the Boston Housing Court.
The Boston Housing Court is crowded on Wednesdays and Thursdays when landlords and tenants can receive legal advice and full representation from volunteer lawyers.
For more information on the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at email@example.com.
This program is supported by the Boston Bar Foundation’s Herbert W. Vaughan Fund, which is dedicated to supporting real estate-related pro bono, public service, and civic programs of the Boston Bar Association.
My first court appearances as a new lawyer were in front of Judge Winik on pro bono matters, I was incredibly nervous, and I remember him being very patient as I stumbled through my arguments. While I certainly do not always prevail, I always get the sense that he appreciates that I am there trying to help someone who would otherwise be unrepresented. Judge Winik’s appreciation of the role volunteer attorneys’ play is clear in his willingness to speak regularly at BBA panels on housing law and to help new attorneys gain the confidence necessary to effectively represent low-income litigants at the Housing Court.
When asked to reflect on Judge Winik’s contributions to the Lawyer for a Day program, a few things stood out to me:
◊ Judge Winik has continued to help the Lawyer for a Day program increase available resources for pro se litigants, with the aim of achieving greater balance and fairness in judicial process even in a time of diminished resources.
◊ He has played a lead role in fostering the use of Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) in the Housing Court, in keeping with the SJC’s guidance.
◊ His example reminds all Lawyer for a Day program volunteers that JUSTICE is about PROCESS not about OUTCOMES.
◊ While being a staunch advocate for the program, Judge Winik has made clear that no ex parte communications of any kind relating to pending cases can be discussed in his presence; showing us all once again his commitment to fairness.
When thinking of Judge Winik’s contributions to the program, Virgil’s quote “None but himself can be his parallel.” comes to mind. The Lawyer for a Day program, the Boston Bar Association and the citizens of the Commonwealth owe Judge Winik a large debt of gratitude.
Judge Winik’s support for the Lawyer for the Day program has been unwavering, and its success is due in no small part to his efforts. When we served together on the Real Estate Pro Bono committee, he was always the calming voice, with the usually sensible suggestion that would lead us out of whatever argument we might be having with each other. After I was appointed to the Land Court, I had the great pleasure of getting to know Judge Winik as a colleague. He is still the calm voice of reason, with the same thoughtful outlook on issues, but with just maybe a bit more leeway to crack jokes! He’s been a great help to me in my first year on the bench. I’m so glad the BBA is honoring him for all his work to support access to justice.
I call Judge Winik’s courtroom the humiliation free zone. Knowing volunteers will not be “made to seem a fool” not only gives them comfort but also empowers litigants who will be appearing pro se. I suggest that new lawyers sit in on Judge Winik’s session to see what goes on there on Thursday eviction days. If Judge Winik notices that he has an audience, he will find them later or call them up to the bench and ask if they have any questions about what they have seen. This is no less than a thrill for the new attorneys, to be noticed and treated respectfully by a member of the judiciary.
I have taken to comparing Judge Winik to Bruce Springsteen for his rock star status among the Lawyer for the Day volunteers. When asked about the comparison, most volunteers have said they would prefer to have Judge Winik come to the Lawyer for the Day table with his advice, gratitude and humility. After all, they opine, Bruce can only sing. Judge Winik is truly THE BOSS.
It’s Thursday morning in the Boston Housing Court, which can only mean one thing – the halls are crowded with landlords and tenants involved in eviction cases. One table in particular, staffed by volunteers from the BBA’s Lawyer for a Day in the Housing Court, seems particularly jam-packed. It’s no wonder. In 2012 BBA volunteers and their partners assisted more than 1,000 litigants.
You may be asking yourselves how our volunteer lawyers have the time to reach so many people each and every Thursday. The answer — through Pro Bono Limited Assistance Representation (LAR). The Boston Housing Court authorized the use of LAR in November 2010, which allows attorneys to appear in court on a limited basis without assuming full representation of the client and all the legal issues that may be related to the legal matter. The benefit is threefold: lawyers who may not have the time to take entire pro bono cases can still assist those in need, LAR provides an opportunity for attorneys to gain valuable courtroom experience and most importantly, and more people with unresolved legal issues that require representation are getting the help they need.
We think the impact of LAR is clear, but don’t just take it from us:
LAR provides an important legal service to many unrepresented litigants who appear in the Boston Housing Court. LAR attorneys represent these litigants on a specific limited matter (that sometimes enables the litigant to resolve the case that day). Attorneys entering LAR appearances gain valuable practical courtroom experience arguing a discrete matter before a judge without having to enter a full appearance. LAR attorneys have been able to acquire new fee paying clients (or new clients with claims that allow for statutory attorney fees) base upon their limited appearances.– Hon. Jeffrey Winik, Boston Housing Court Department of the Trial Court
LAR gets attorneys in the courtroom with clients–so much more effective and powerful than just giving the client advice. Because the attorney is obligated only for that one event of the case, s/he can commit to courtroom advocacy without taking on a case for full representation case that does not fit in their schedule or their practice.–Joanna Allison, Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association.
If you want to learn more about the BBA Lawyer for a Day in the Boston Housing Court please clear here. If you are interested in becoming LAR certified, please click here.