The BBA’s CORI Sealing Clinic, which launched in January 2019, will have its fifth clinic date next Wednesday, June 5, at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse. This project, which engages volunteer attorneys in helping low-income clients seal their criminal records through the courts, has assisted close to 40 people over the past four months. We are excited to have volunteers from BBA Sponsor Firm Pepper Hamilton staff the clinic next week!
Such assistance is critical, as prior criminal records can create barriers to obtaining housing, employment, and educational opportunities. Massachusetts law permits people with a criminal record to have their records “sealed” from public view after a waiting period by meeting certain legal requirements. The CORI Sealing Clinic helps those who may not be able to undertake this process without the assistance of an attorney, but cannot afford to pay for counsel.
To learn more about the program, click here. If you are interested in volunteering with the clinic, please email Hannah Poor at email@example.com.
The Boston Bar Association is proud to have hosted a
training on representing veterans pro bono in military discharge upgrade cases
this April. The training, sponsored by the Active Duty Military
& Veterans Forum, offered volunteers and those working with
veterans seeking discharge upgrades with the opportunity to meet and hear from the
leaders of the military review boards. Joseph Masterson (Army Review Boards
Agency), Elizabeth Hill (Board for Correction of Naval Records), Sean Schrock
(Board for Correction of Naval Records), and Nicole Jackson (Air Force Board
for Correction of Military Records), reviewed how their boards operate and how
pro bono attorneys can best advocate for their veteran clients.
This presentation was the fifth annual pro bono training put
on by the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law
School, as part of its Veterans
Justice Pro Bono Partnership. Dana Montalto (Veterans Legal Clinic)
provided the training’s attendees with an overview of discharge upgrades and
the Partnership, which connects local veterans seeking discharge upgrades with
pro bono attorneys who want to give back to those who served in uniform. The
Legal Services Center provides ongoing case support throughout the
representation. Over the past five years, the Partnership has allowed more than
60 local veterans unjustly discharged from the military obtain pro bono
This pro bono assistance is critical because many of the men
and women who served in the U.S. armed forces are cut off from veterans’
services and benefits because they were given a less-than-honorable discharge.
They may have served in combat, experienced military sexual trauma, or have
suffered physical or mental wounds, but are nevertheless unable to access much-needed
treatment and support from federal and state veterans agencies because of their
discharge status. In many cases, the origin of their need for support—for
example, service-related post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain
injury—also contributed to the conduct that led to their less-than-honorable
If you’d like access to the training’s materials, please email Francine Alexandre at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to get involved with the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership, please email Dana Montalto at email@example.com.
Established in 2015, the Veterans
Justice Pro Bono Partnership at the Veterans Legal Clinic at the
Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School assists veterans seeking discharge
upgrades. The partnership connects veterans to private attorneys and provides
ongoing support and expert resources to those attorneys throughout the case.
For the past four years, the BBA has hosted an annual training to introduce
interested attorneys to this opportunity and bolster the skillset and knowledge
of existing pro bono volunteers. The next training will provide attendees the chance
to hear perspectives from the military board of directors for the Air Force,
Army, and Navy. They will discuss how the boards operate and how pro bono
attorneys can best advocate for their veteran clients. The pro bono training
will also include an update about recent changes in the law. You’re invited to
attend on Thursday, April 25th from 2:30 – 5:00 PM at the BBA. A
networking reception with the Active Duty Military and Veterans Forum will
immediately follow the training. Read more and register to attend here.
Note that this training will build on those from 2015-2018. Convenient
videos and materials from past trainings are available through our Learn Online
library’s dedicated pro bono and
public interest page. Easily watch the videos and review the
materials whenever your schedule permits and wherever works for you, whether at
your office or on the go!
Earlier this week, the BBA hosted an information session and alumni reception for its Public Interest Leadership Program. The program, which now includes nearly 200 alumni, is currently seeking applicants for its 16th class. At the information session, Rich Baldwin (PILP 2016-2017, Foley Hoag) described his experience in the program as both inwardly and outwardly fulfilling. Participants in the program meet twice a month and hear from guest speakers across a variety of public interest issue areas. These presentations and conversations enrich the PILP members’ understanding of their community and introduce them to new ways to volunteer and engage with service providers in the Greater Boston area. Additionally, PILP members are each responsible for planning and executing two meetings for the class, as well as working together toward a culminating project for the year. Baldwin spoke about how this project is a significant outward facing element of the program. Each class has the opportunity to dive into a public interest issue area and educate and support their peers and the public through the project. During Baldwin’s PILP year, his class organized and held a symposium at the Boston Bar Association focusing on Constitutional Battlegrounds: Civil Rights in a Changing Landscape. After hearing from Baldwin and BBA Staff, prospective applicants were able to mingle with PILP alumni and hear their perspectives on the program.
The application for the 2019-2020 class is available to download here and is due on March 29th. Applicants must be attorneys within their first 10 years of practice, public interest minded, and able to commit to the 14-month program, beginning in June 2019. Questions about the program or application can be directed to Cassandra Shavney at firstname.lastname@example.org
On May 22, members of the private bar gathered to learn about representing veterans pro bono in military discharge upgrade applications. Dana Montalto, Betsy Gwin, and Evan Seamone of the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School presented a comprehensive training for those who are interested in serving the veterans community. Their presentations offered a step-by-step approach to developing a persuasive petition, provided guidance about addressing common legal and practical challenges in discharge upgrade representation, and concluded with information about recent legal updates.
This presentation was the fourth annual pro bono training put on by the Veterans Legal Clinic, as part of its Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership. Through that Partnership, the Clinic connects local veterans seeking discharge upgrades with pro bono attorneys who want to give back to those who served in uniform and provides ongoing case support throughout the representation. Over the past three years, the Partnership has allowed dozens of veterans unjustly discharged from the military obtain pro bono assistance.
This pro bono assistance is critical because many of the men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces are cut off from veterans’ services and benefits because they were given a less-than-honorable discharge. They may have served in combat or have suffered physical or mental wounds, but are nevertheless unable to access much-needed treatment and support from federal and state veterans agencies because of their discharge status. In many cases, the origin of their need for support—for example, service-related post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury—also contributed to the conduct that led to their less-than-honorable discharges.
If you’d like access to a video recording of the training and its materials, please email Cassandra Shavney at email@example.com.
Guest Post: Jack Caplan is the current Lawyer Referral Service Co-op Intern at the BBA. Jack is a sophomore year at Northeastern University studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. After spending the morning shadowing the Lawyer for the Day table at Boston Housing Court, he shared his experience with Beyond the Billable.
Just after 9 am last Thursday morning in the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston, over 200 attorneys and members of the public crammed into one hot courtroom. It was standing room only as people tried to find any space they could to claim as their own. The physical bar which typically separates court observers from lawyers (the same bar from which the exam and Association get their names) was soon ignored, thus blurring the line between who’s an attorney and who isn’t.
The Clerk began calling out each case number and the respective plaintiffs and defendants answered with whether they wanted to try mediation or go straight to a bench trial. Looking around the room you could see a microcosm of Boston itself: an MBTA driver searching for a seat before giving up and standing, much like her passengers at rush hour; a mother and father trying to quiet their young children with toys; and who EMT missed the first call of her case because of a last minute emergency at the end of a long night shift. The atmosphere was understandably tense considering people’s homes were on the line, but the Clerk and Court Officer kept the mood light through jokes and banter.
A vast majority of those present elected to go to mediation and were directed to a lower floor of the sprawling Courthouse. This sent them straight past the tables of the Volunteer Lawyers Project where landlords and tenants alike could stop by to ask questions, get help filing motions, and even get representation for mediation as part of a Limited Assistance Representation structure. Attorneys were running around and talking to clients and the scene upstairs at the peak of the morning could only be described as chaotic. But speaking with the volunteer attorneys it quickly became clear that they didn’t mind at all – in fact they loved it – their passion was palpable. They had the chance to help out the roughly 95% of tenants who go into housing court without counsel. Results for litigants with some level of representation are so vastly and almost unbelievably better than for those who go in totally alone.
Indeed, going to Housing Court while Lawyer for the Day is running can be one of the best antidotes to the otherwise negative feelings brought on by statistics like the one above. It’s statistics like that, statistics which cast a tragic light on the state of justice in Massachusetts and America, which compel many of these attorneys to volunteer their time. The impact that the dozen or so attorneys were able to make last week is truly a sight to behold. Tenants who were convinced that they would lose their homes suddenly had hope provided by the attorneys. The impact of donated time and expertise was noticed, appreciated, and sometimes immediate.
The Volunteer Lawyer’s Project administers frequent trainings for attorneys interested in helping out. The Lawyer for the Day program itself occurs each Wednesday from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM (public housing cases) and Thursday from 9:00 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 Cassandra Shavney the Boston Bar’s Public Service Programs Coordinator, or Milton Wong of the Volunteer Lawyers Project.
The need is constant, the difference is instant: consider volunteering today.
From teaching a record 1,700 students through Law Day in the Schools to releasing a compelling report on criminal justice reform, 2017 was a successful year at the BBA. For highlights and our favorite photos from the year, read on to see how you and your colleagues contributed to our public service initiatives over the past year.
The 2017 Public Service Award presented at the Boston Bar Foundation’s annual John & Abigail Adams Benefit Ball honored Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall in January. Chief Justice Marshall addresses the crowd at the Museum of Fine Arts, reminding every one of the importance of being good and just in their work.
MIT Bhangra, an award-winning dance group, entertained the crowd at the Adams Benefit. 2017’s Ball raised over $650,000 in support for local legal services organizations providing civil legal services to those in need. In June, the Foundation granted $960,000 to 20 such organizations.
Each January, hundreds of attorneys travel to the State House to Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. The Equal Justice Coalition coordinates this annual event to call on our legislators to adequately fund the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation through the state budget. Carol Starkey, 2016-2017 BBA President, highlights the importance of civil legal aid as noted in the BBA’s Investing in Justice report, which details that 2 out of 3 income eligible clients are turned away from legal services due to a lack of resources.
In response to President Trump’s Executive Order Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States, then BBA President Carol Starkey reaffirmed the BBA’s aim to “support the rule of law, as well as the core values of access to justice and diversity and inclusion, which help keep the fundamental promise that all of us will enjoy due process and equal protection under the law.” Over the course of the year, the BBA worked with many legal services organizations to connect attorneys to volunteer opportunities. Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project presented a number of Know Your Rights trainings for attorneys wishing to present to community groups about their immigration rights. Here, attorneys William Graves (Graves & Doyle) and Seth Purcell (PAIR Project) welcome over 60 attorneys to the first training at the BBA.
Paulette Brown (left, Locke Lord) accepts the Beacon Award for Diversity and Inclusion for her work as president of the American Bar Association convening the Diversity and Inclusion 360 Commission. One result of the Commission’s work was the passage at the ABA of Resolution 113, an initiative designed to increase diversity in the legal profession. In November of 2016, the BBA announced its strong support for the Resolution and is working with other partners in Boston on its implementation.
Raquel Webster (right, National Grid) introduces presenter Brian McLaughlin (McLaughlin Law) to a group of probationers at the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The BBA’s Reentry Education Program, which was developed by the Public Interest Leadership Program, engages with dozens of probationers annually on useful topics related to community reentry, including family law, reinstating a driver’s license, public benefits, and more.
Secretary Francisco A. Ureña (Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services) addresses the crowd at a Memorial Day reception hosted by the BBA’s Active Duty Military & Veterans Forum. The reception was held after the annual pro bono training for attorneys representing veterans in discharge upgrade cases. Since 2015, the BBA has worked with the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School to hose these trainings to support their Veterans Legal Clinic.
One night a year, the BBA is transformed from a meeting space to a casino floor. Seventeen organizations sponsored this year’s Casino Night for Summer Jobs, the proceeds of which support the Summer Jobs Program and support internships for high school students at legal services organizations, government agencies, and courts. Attendees at Casino Night celebrate beating the house and eagerly await the mystifying reveal of a magic trick.
Law Day in the Schools, one of the BBA’s most popular volunteer opportunities, introduces Boston Public School students to the legal profession and particular areas of the law. This year, volunteers including Jill Brenner Meixel (left) and Allison Belanger (right) of Krokidas & Bluestein introduced students to due process and the importance of having fair rules and laws for all. There were a record 15 schools and over 1700 students in the program this year.
Throughout the year, the New Lawyers Section’s Public Service Committee coordinates volunteer events with organizations throughout the city. In addition to serving food at the Pine Street Inn, attorneys also helped sort donations at Cradles to Crayons, keep the esplanade clear at the Charles River Clean-up, and other important volunteer initiatives in the area.
High school students convene with Chief Justice Melvin S. Hoffman (U.S. Bankruptcy Court) after listing to a mock hearing in bankruptcy court. This session, which teaches students about the consequences of filing for bankruptcy is part of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, which began in 2005. Since it began, over 5800 students statewide have been introduced to the importance of budgeting, understanding credit, and financing a large purchase.
Over 1,000 attorneys came together for this year’s Law Day Dinner in Back Bay. Congressman Seth Moulton provided keynote remarks and highlighted the importance of lawyers and upholding the rule of law now more than ever.
This year’s Thurgood Marshall Award, honoring an attorney in private practice in Greater Boston for their extraordinary efforts in enhancing the human dignity of others by providing legal services to Massachusetts’ low income population, went to Elaine Blais (Goodwin). Blais volunteers with both the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) representing both children and adults in various immigration cases.
Anne Mackin (Greater Boston Legal Services) accepts the John G. Brooks Legal Services Award, an award presented to professional legal services attorneys for their outstanding work on behalf of indigent people in the Boston area. Mackin has worked in legal services for nearly 30 years, and joined GBLS’s Immigration Unit in 2013. Since then, she has helped people from all over the world who have witnessed or experienced unspeakable tragedies and faced severe persecutions. Her efforts have ensured that many who are fleeing extreme discrimination and danger are able to seek justice and safe harbor.
Members of the Society of Fellows experience a tour of the Museum of Fine Arts’ summer exhibit, Matisse in the Studio. Each Fellows pledge supports the work of the Boston Bar Foundation’s many public service initiatives. The growing number of Fellows, now over 400, learn about the work their gifts support, including programs supporting Boston’s youth and grants to legal services organizations, at events throughout the year.
Boston Public High School students stand with Natashia Tidwell (center left, Collora) and Mark Smith (center right, BBA President, Laredo & Smith) on the morning of the first day of work with the Summer Jobs Program. The program, a partnership with the City of Boston and the Boston Private Industry Council, employs students in internships at legal offices across the city. In 2017, 52 students gained valuable office experience and were given insight into the legal profession.
Attorneys network surrounding the chocolate fountain, a staple at this year’s Boston Bar Foundation Summer Fundraiser. Guests at the event are treated to delicious dishes from area restaurants while learning about the public service programs their contribution supports.
The Public Interest Leadership Program’s class of 2016-2017 hosted their symposium, Constitutional Battlegrounds: Civil Rights in a Changing Landscape, earlier this year. The event’s speakers addressed a number of issues recently in the national spotlight, both in the media and the courts. Nearly 100 attorneys and interested members of the community packed the BBA to hear insights from the panels of experts.
This fall, the 14th Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) started their term. Twenty attorneys were selected for the program based on their experience and dedication to public service and civic engagement. The program now includes nearly 200 alumni who’ve gone on to serve the BBA in other capacities and carry their passion for serving the public interest into the community.
Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black, addressed the audience at the BBA’s Annual Meeting. Kerman, a former prisoner, discussed her work bringing prison issues to the forefront of national conversation. She also acknowledged the BBA’s report No Time to Wait: Recommendations for a Fair and Effective Criminal Justice System, which was released this fall. The report commends the reforms proposed earlier this year by Massachusetts leaders based on research by the Council of State Governments (CSG), but strongly urges lawmakers to enact broader reforms designed to further reduce recidivism, and make the criminal justice system fairer and more cost-efficient.
Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) staff attend the Massachusetts Conference for Women to introduce the public to the services it offers. Thousands of requests come through each year and referrals are made out to experienced attorneys practicing nearly 350 areas of law. The LRS also houses a dedicated Military Legal Help Line, which connects veterans, military personnel, and their families with lawyers and other legal resources appropriate to their needs.
The three award recipients at November’s Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion stand with members of the Beacon Award Selection Committee. Brent Henry received the Voice of Change Award for his work recruiting and retaining diverse legal talent while at Partners Healthcare. The Empowerment Award went to Iván Espinoza-Madrigal for his work on civil rights issues, including racial justice, immigrant rights, and LGBT/HIV equality, as the Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. Susan Alexander accepted the Corporate Champion Award on behalf of Biogen. Biogen’s legal department has developed a system of diversity metrics which the legal team uses when choosing outside counsel. Above, left to right: Brent Henry (Mintz Levin), Iván Espinoza-Madrigal (Lawyers’ Committee), Susan Alexander (Biogen), Sarah Kim (Treasurer and Receiver General of Massachusetts), Kate Cook (Sugarman Rogers), Stephen Hall (Holland & Knight), and Damon Hart (Liberty Mutual).
Hosted at Suffolk University Law School, the annual Pro Bono Recruitment Fair and Open House connects law students and attorneys to volunteer opportunities across the state. Over 25 organizations recruited at the fair this year.
BBA President Mark Smith (right) met with Principal Danladi Bobbitt of the John D. Philbrick Elementary School in Roslindale. As a participant in the Principal Partners event, hosted by Boston Public Schools, Boston Plan for Excellence, and Bank of America, the BBA President has the opportunity to visit a school and engage in meaningful conversations about the role of education in our society.
Dozens of law students and area attorneys were plugged into pro bono this week at the Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House. This annual event, sponsored by the Boston Bar Association and Suffolk University Law School, brings together legal services organizations, non-profits, and government agencies with potential volunteers looking for legal opportunities during Pro Bono Month. Check out our pictures from the event below.
Representatives from MetroWest Legal Services discuss their volunteer opportunities.
Jessica Youngberg (Veterans Legal Services, and BBA Military & Veterans Committee Co-Chair) and Emily Tabor (Health Law Advocates) wait for the event to begin.
Suffolk University Law School staff pose with event attendees.
If you’d like to be connected with organizations represented at the Fair or are looking for pro bono opportunities, please contact Cassandra Shavney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The BBA’s Council has officially recognized October as Pro Bono Month, joining the American Bar Association and Governor Charlie Baker in promoting service and access to justice. We hope you can explore one of these opportunities to connect with a new organization in the month ahead and serve the community in the year beyond.
This event is offered to attorneys of all levels, as well as law students. Attendees are encouraged to drop in and meet representatives from local legal services organizations and to learn more about the pro bono opportunities in our community.
This program will help practitioners identify cases in which the innocent spouse defense can be claimed to relieve the client from joint tax liability. This defense is available to taxpayers under the Tax Code and Massachusetts law. Attorneys handling restraining orders and/or divorce cases, as well as advocates of survivors of domestic violence, are most likely to encounter these issues and will benefit from knowing how to identify them.
Sharpen your pro bono skills and attend this training addressing the effects of trauma and its impact on communication with your client, cultivating cultural competency, working with interpreters during court proceedings, and more.
This training will create alert advocates who will know how to spot tax issues and related tax benefits for their immigrant clients, and may be able to prevent clients from missing deadlines for those benefits.
Law Students and attorneys meet with numerous organizations and hear about their work and pro bono opportunities at the 2016 Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House.
Panelists will cover the basics of Massachusetts wage and hour laws, and introduce participants to the AGO’s newly launched Wage Theft Clinic. After this seminar, attendees will have a better understanding of wage and hour laws, including minimum wage, overtime, timely payment of wage, and related laws. After the training, participants will be eligible to provide free consultations at the monthly Clinic, and may be retained by workers for legal representation post-Clinic.
Join us for a pro bono pizza party while we work with volunteer attorneys from Mass Legal Answers Online (MLAO) and the Volunteer Lawyers Project to answer legal questions for low-income Massachusetts residents through Mass Legal Answers Online. You can make an immediate difference to someone struggling to resolve their legal problem.