Posts Categorized: Pro Bono

Pro Bono Preparation for Boston’s Citizenship Day

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On Monday, September 12th, the BBA hosted its first pro bono training of the 2016-2017 program year. The training, run by Veronica Serrato of Project Citizenship and Joy DePina from the City of Boston, was designed to help prepare volunteer law students and attorneys for Citizenship Day in Boston, which will take place on Saturday, September 17th at the James P. Timilty Middle School in Roxbury.

Joy DePina began by expressing the commitment the City of Boston has to assisting the nearly 48,000 permanent legal residents currently living in the city. She also spoke about Mayor Marty Walsh’s own history regarding the naturalization of his parents, as well as the obligation he personally feels in assisting all immigrant residents in Boston.

Veronica Serrato then provided an extensive overview of the US naturalization process, from the general requirements which must be met by applicants, to the intricacies of the 20 page application itself. She also explained what the Department of Homeland Security looks for in these applications, and how to make sure they are being properly filed. The applications will be filled out with the assistance of a volunteer attorney and checked for quality to ensure applicants are not turned away due to errors that commonly occur when filing without legal assistance.
The BBA would like to thank all of those who attended the training, the speakers, and the many volunteers who will be assisting applicants during Citizenship Day.

If you would like to volunteer for Citizenship Day, please click here to sign-up.

“Citizenship Day in Boston” is an event where legal permanent residents across the state are able to receive free legal assistance and guidance in filling out the N-400 citizenship application. Project Citizenship, in unison with The Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement and Goodwin Procter, is expecting to assist over 300 people apply for citizenship at this year’s event. Project Citizenship has been working year round since 2011 to provide assistance to those wishing to become citizens of the United States, and has so far assisted 8,100 applicants, with 3,194 last year alone. This year’s event will be the third yearly Citizenship Day so far, hopefully with many more to come.

Pro Bono Opportunities This Fall

As the weather cools down and the leaves change color, the BBA is getting excited for the best month of the year: Pro Bono Month! While October is officially designated Pro Bono Month, we’d like to make sure you’re aware of all Pro Bono events throughout the fall. See below for programs happening at the BBA and in our community.


September:

Legal Clinic for the Homeless (St. Francis House)
Friday, September 9, 2016, 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Lawyers Clearinghouse – St. Francis House, 39 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02111
Work with homeless clients seeking legal assistance.

What You Need to Know About Naturalization: Pro Bono Preparation for Boston’s Citizenship Day
Monday, September 12, 2016, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Boston Bar Association – 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108
The training will include an overview of citizenship, eligibility, the impact of a criminal history for an applicant, as well as important issues and red flags.

Bankruptcy Roundtable for Pro Bono Lawyers in Massachusetts
Tuesday, September 13, 2016, 12:00 – 1:00 PM
Volunteer Lawyers Project – 99 Chauncy St, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02111
Join us for a question and answer session with experienced consumer bankruptcy attorneys. It will be a forum for discussing case and practice issues with each other and a place where newer attorneys can get advice from experienced practitioners.

Landlord-Tenant Law 101
Tuesday, September 13, 2016, 4:30 – 6:00 PM
Volunteer Lawyers Project – 99 Chauncy Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02111
Join us for a one-session training on working with tenants and landlords facing eviction.

Citizenship Day
Saturday, September 17, 2016, 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Project Citizenship – 205 Roxbury Street, Roxbury, MA 02119
Volunteer through Project Citizenship to help over 300 applicants complete their paperwork and start their journey to US citizenship.

Mass Legal Answers Online – An Innovative New Way to Do Pro Bono
Monday, September 26, 2016, 12:30 – 1:30 PM
Boston Bar Association – 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108
At this program, attorneys will learn more about this innovative pro bono opportunity and how participating in this “bite size pro bono” project can make a real difference for people in need.

Wage and Hour Training
Monday, September 26, 2016, 4:00 – 7:00 PM
Volunteer Lawyers Project – Mass. Attorney General’s Office – Suffolk Law School: Faculty Meeting Room
120 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02108
This one-session training will give you the basics on initiating a wage and hour claim for your client.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Basics
Monday, September 26, 2016, 4:00 – 5:30 PM
Volunteer Lawyers Project – 99 Chauncy Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02111
This training will give VLP volunteers the information they need to handle a pro bono Chapter 7 bankruptcy case using Best Case software.

Unemployment Insurance Appeals
Tuesday, September 27, 2016, 4:00 – 5:30 PM
Volunteer Lawyers Project – 99 Chauncy Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02111
This training is designed for attorneys who are seeking to represent on a pro bono basis clients who are pursuing unemployment benefits.

Family Law 101
Wednesday, September 28, 2016, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Volunteer Lawyers Project – 99 Chauncy Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02111
Attend an introductory training on Domestic Relations Law. This one-session training will give you the basics on initiating a divorce. It will cover filing the Complaint and all the accompanying documents, and serving the opposing party.

Legal Clinic for the Homeless (Pine Street Inn)
Friday, September 30, 2016, 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Lawyers Clearinghouse – Pine Street Inn: 444 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA 02118
Work with homeless clients seeking legal assistance.


October:

Landlord-Tenant Law 101
Tuesday, October 4, 2016, 4:30 – 6:00 PM
Volunteer Lawyers Project – 99 Chauncy Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02111
Attend this one-session training on working with tenants and landlords facing eviction.

Family Law 102
Wednesday, October 5, 2016, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Volunteer Lawyers Project – 99 Chauncy Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02111
Family Law 102 covers Temporary Orders, Pre-Trial Conferences, and how to finalize a divorce or other family law matter.

Pro Bono Work: Serving the Community, Advancing Your Career
Friday, October 14, 2016, 12:30 – 2:00 PM
Boston Bar Association – 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108
Join us to hear about how public service and pro bono work shaped the careers of our panel of attorneys and how the work they performed has impacted the community.

Legal Clinic for the Homeless (Medeiros Center)
Friday, October 14, 2016, 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Lawyers Clearinghouse – Cardinal Medeiros Center, 25 Isabella Street, Boston, MA 02116
Work with homeless clients seeking legal assistance.

Family Law 103
Wednesday, October 19, 2016, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Volunteer Lawyers Project – 99 Chauncy Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02111
Family Law 102 covers joint petition for divorce, Complaint for Modification, Complaint for Contempt, and more!

Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project, Representing Asylum Seekers
Friday, October 21, 2016, 2:00 – 5:00 PM
PAIR – Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, 10 Winter Place, Boston, MA 02108
This Asylum 101 training will cover asylum law and procedure, packaging the I-589 application, how to work with traumatized clients, tips for immigration court practice, and perspectives from the bench.

Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House at Suffolk Law
Tuesday, October 25, 2016, 4:30 – 6:00 PM
Boston Bar Association & Suffolk Law School – 120 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02108
This event introduces attorneys and law students with a range of pro bono opportunities.

Family Law 104
Wednesday, October 26, 2016, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Volunteer Lawyers Project – 99 Chauncy Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02111
Family Law 103 covers establishing paternity, separate support, and adoption.

Legal Clinic for the Homeless (Southampton Shelter)
Friday, October 28, 2016, 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Lawyers Clearinghouse – Southampton Shelter, 112 Southampton St. , Boston, MA 02118
Work with homeless clients seeking legal assistance.

Unemployment Insurance: Helping Out-of-Work Clients Navigate the Unemployment System
Friday, October 28, 2016, 1:00 – 4:30 PM
Volunteer Lawyers Project – Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, 10 Winter Place, Boston, MA 02108
This seminar provides you with the expertise you need to understand the UI system and to help your clients get the UI benefits they are legally entitled.


November:

Introduction to Guardianship of Minors
Wednesday, November 2, 2016, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Volunteer Lawyers Project – 99 Chauncy Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02111
This nuts and bolts training will give participants the tools they need to handle simple guardianship of minor cases from the filing of the petition through the establishment of a permanent guardianship.

Landlord-Tenant Law 101
Thursday, November 8, 2016, 4:30 – 6:00 PM
Volunteer Lawyers Project – 99 Chauncy Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02111
A one-session training on working with tenants and landlords facing eviction.

Legal Clinic for the Homeless (Bridge Over Troubled Waters)
Sunday, November 18, 2016, 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Lawyers Clearinghouse – Bridge Over Troubled Waters, 47 West Street , Boston, MA 02111
Work with homeless clients seeking legal assistance.

Save the Date & Get Your Spot at the Suffolk University Law School Pro Bono Fair

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The hot weather may not have gotten the memo, but fall is almost here! That means it’s once again time for Suffolk University Law School’s Annual Pro Bono Fair – and we want to see as many organizations there as possible!

The BBA and Suffolk University Law School have teamed up for the sixth year in a row to sponsor the event, which will present legal services and other public interest organizations with an opportunity to connect with talented law students, recent graduates, and experienced attorneys about pro bono opportunities.

The fair is held as part of the National Pro Bono Celebration sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service.  At last year’s fair, 30 public interest employers dedicated their time to attend the event and speak with individuals interested in doing pro bono work.  Over 250 students and attorneys participated in the highly successful fair.

The format of the event is similar to a career fair. Participating organizations are assigned tables and representatives from those organizations can distribute information to attendees at the fair. If you would like to reserve a table, please fill out this survey and contact Sarah Bookbinder by October 3. She can answer any questions you may have about the fair.

If you plan to attend the fair to browse the tables and hear from the fair’s organizations, please click this link to RSVP.

We look forward to seeing you next month!

Common Sense Tips on Trying a Case in Housing Court

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This week, the BBA held its last pro bono training for the program year, which focused on trials in Housing Court. The goal of the training was to recruit volunteers for the BBA Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court program, where attorneys help landlords and tenants who would otherwise be unrepresented resolve disputes.

First Justice of the Housing Court Hon. Jeffrey Winik had many helpful tips that were practical in nature. “Never lose sight of the fact that you are looking to resolve a problem,” he advised.

He went on to say that a resolution that is mutually satisfying to both the landlord and the tenant may not be a “winning” verdict, so to speak. He also elaborated on the key to successfully arguing a case in Housing Court.

“A good trial lawyer has to be as familiar with the other side’s case as they are with their own,” he said.

Judge Winik also advised attorneys to vet information given to them by their clients by seeking out documents from other sources, such as city inspection offices.

We would like to thank those who led and those who participated in Pro Bono Trainings at the BBA this year, with special thanks to those who went on to volunteer their time after the training session.

Pro Bono Spotlight: Goodwin Procter’s Neighborhood Business Initiative

 

NBILogo_FINALThis month, Beyond the Billable is thrilled to feature Goodwin Procter’s Neighborhood Business Initiative (NBI) in our “Pro Bono Spotlight” feature. There is a lot to say about all the good the program has done for low-income neighborhoods in the city of Boston, but no one says it better than the attorneys themselves.

We caught up with NBI Founder Anna Dodson, a partner in Goodwin’s Private Equity Group, to hear more about what the firm is doing to help grow the local economy while expanding access to justice.

Can you describe how the Neighborhood Business Initiative began?

In 2001, the idea of providing pro bono legal services to for-profit businesses was in its infancy.  We began offering those services, which would later be formalized into Goodwin’s Neighborhood Business Initiative (NBI). We believe that strong, owner-operated neighborhood businesses are fundamentally important for community development and healthy, vibrant city neighborhoods.

Fast-forward to today: Roughly 500 attorneys and other professionals at Goodwin have provided pro bono business legal services to hundreds of low-income entrepreneurs and small-business owners in underserved neighborhoods through direct representation and neighborhood-based legal workshops and clinics, and by partnering with community-based organizations.

Since 2001, how has the NBI program changed and grown?

Our workshops and other programs have grown both in number and in complexity. We started with the basics – Starting and Growing a Business, developed in collaboration with the Economic Justice Project of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.  Now our suite of 12+ programs includes negotiations, commercial lease, choice of entity, food labelling and doing business on-line.

Is there a particular workshop or clinic that has consistently been the most sought-after or well-attended? If so, what do you think draws people to that program?

As we worked with community partners in Dorchester and Jamaica Plain over the years, we noticed that  many of our program participants were working in the food industry.  These “culinary entrepreneurs” include restaurateurs, caterers and entrepreneurs looking to produce food for retail sale. Responding to the need for specialized assistance, we developed a food labeling curriculum.

Today, a multi-disciplinary team provides interactive workshops on Intellectual Property for food labeling and packaging, food labels and products liability and federal regulation of food labels. Our team frequently collaborates with a corporate partner, such as Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream.  The Boston Beer Company’s team presents the business side of food labeling – creative design, marketing and branding, as well as niche expertise like the rules for beer labels. Our audiences for these business and law of food labeling programs frequently exceed 50 entrepreneurs. We hear from our audiences that the information can be hard to find and that an expert’s insight and strategic perspective is a valuable guide that makes the information more useful.

How does this program benefit specific business owners who participate, their neighborhoods, and the city’s economy? Can you describe why Goodwin Procter has made it a priority to foster the development of small businesses in underserved areas?

From the outset, Goodwin’s NBI program has reflected two core values.  We value access to justice (access to all law for all people) and community development (building neighborhood businesses for diverse, vibrant neighborhoods).  Often, low income business owners are isolated – they may lack sounding boards and advocates. They have to take risks and may have to make hard choices – and often it’s not on a level playing field. Our goal in providing individual representation is to provide legal services to business owners who would not otherwise be able to have the assistance, and to create value that supports the growth of a neighborhood business.

How does this differ from other pro bono opportunities and programs that are out there, both for attorneys and clients? 

Business law attorneys typically have fewer choices than litigators to provide pro bono legal services in an area of law that aligns with their practice. NBI offers Goodwin business law attorneys an opportunity to do good doing what they do best – structuring an entity, negotiating a contract, advising on intellectual property strategy, negotiating a lease, and any number of corporate and transactional matters. It offers an opportunity to develop the strong listening skills needed to undergird strong counseling skills. For the firm’s NBI clients, working with the Goodwin team offers highly responsive, proactive counsel committed to leveling the playing field.

Is there a specific client story or anecdote that you would like to share that exemplifies the impact of this program?

We represented an entrepreneur who was a Brazilian immigrant in taking out a loan from Accion, a nonprofit lender. Goodwin prepared a loan release in Portuguese that would be enforceable in Brazil, a condition to the new loan. Our client used the proceeds of her Accion loan for working capital and to repay a predatory lender who used intimidation tactics. Our legal services were an important component of a transaction that yielded peace of mind and safety for a low income businesswoman, and a well-stocked, woman-owned corner market for the neighborhood.

 

What else would you like someone who has never heard of this program before to know?

One of the biggest challenges of a program like Goodwin’s NBI is reaching eligible clientele.  Most entrepreneurs and small business owners do not think or expect that they would qualify for pro bono assistance, so engaging with them requires a lot of outreach and education. We have made a concerted effort to connect with local business owners through partnering with community organizations, and personally going out into the community and offering clinics and workshops.  At the same time, we are ever sensitive to the need to support small law firms in the neighborhoods, so we dedicate a lot of time and effort to vet potential clients to ensure that, but for our pro bono assistance, they could not otherwise afford to engage legal counsel for the matter requested.  We also define the scope of our representation to discrete requests and do not provide ongoing assistance.  We have essentially created a self-contained legal services group within our firm, and lead it with the assistance of two dozen Goodwin attorneys who serve on local NBI steering committees in Boston, New York and San Francisco.

VLP & Area Firms, Legal Services Groups and Courts Launch Pro Bono Appellate Pilot Program

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We’ve talked about the over-abundance of pro se litigants in housing court, probate and family court. What happens when those cases go on appeal?

Unsurprisingly, many litigants continue to represent their own interests on appeal, contributing to further backup of the court system. That’s why the Volunteer Lawyer’s Project, in partnership with the Appeals Court, nine different law firms and six different legal services organizations, has launched the Pro Bono Appellate Pilot Program in Massachusetts.

The program hosts a weekly Clinic at which volunteer attorneys are available to provide legal assistance to eligible litigants, with the potential for further representation on appeal.  The Clinic is currently housed at the Appeals Court Clerk’s Office and operates every Wednesday from 12:30p.m. to 4 p.m.

At a recent training, a panel made up of attorneys, court personnel and Appeals Court Chief Justice Scott Kafker spoke about the benefits of the program.

“As all of you know, there’s nothing more frightening and confusing than being a party in a lawsuit. That fear and confusion is compounded many times when you are without counsel,” Kafker said. “You are going to make the appeals court more fair, more accessible and more efficient. We are incredibly grateful for that.”

Panelists also shared best practices for helping low-income clients and some basic tips for navigating the appeals process.

If you are interested in Pro Bono opportunities, don’t miss out on these upcoming trainings:

Representing Veterans in Discharge Upgrades (Advanced Training)
Wednesday, May 18 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Trying a Case in Housing Court
Tuesday, June 14 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Retired, Esq: Access to Justice Fellows Offer Vital Pro Bono Expertise

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Legal Services organizations need attorneys. Attorneys looking for pro bono work need the time and resources to complete it. One way to bridge that gap is to recruit retired lawyers into partnering with legal services organizations on important projects related to improving access to justice.

That’s how the Access to Justice Fellows Program was born.

A program run by the Lawyers Clearinghouse in collaboration with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Access to Justice Commission, the Access to Justice Fellows Program pairs attorneys who have retired or are approaching retirement with organizations who need their services.

Here’s a snapshot of their five years of pro bono work, which Program Director Mia Friedman presented at a panel on the program hosted by the BBA’s Delivery of Legal Services section this week:

  • 7 fellows participated during the program’s first year
  • 19 fellows are now active in the Access to Justice Fellows program
  • 55 fellows have participated in the program over five years
  • They have completed at least 40,000 hours of legal work

Program Director Mia Friedman said most of the attorneys who participate choose to stay with their project for longer than the mandatory commitment of one year. The work done by attorneys in the program varies greatly, from immigration and tax-related matters to probate and family cases. They work for 10-20 hours per week with the organization to which they volunteer their services.

“One of the important aspects of the program is the monthly lunches” where attorneys in the program get together, Friedman said. “It has developed into this wonderful exchange of ideas and a real sense of community between the fellows.”

To learn how you can get involved with the Access to Justice Fellows program, please visit http://www.lawyersclearinghouse.org/access-to-justice-fellows/.

Irish International Immigrant Center Presents Pro Bono Training on Immigration Basics

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This week, Rebecca Minahan from the Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC)—a BBF grantee— came to the BBA to lead a well-attended training on the basics of immigration law. The goal of the session was to familiarize attorneys and law students with the process of attaining citizenship.

The IIIC holds an Immigration Forms Workshop, held twice monthly, where attorneys provide pro bono assistance navigating the complicated process. During her presentation, Minahan explained some of the reasons that people most commonly end up in the country illegally, including serious danger or financial struggles in their country of origin.

Minahan went over some commonly used terms, some misconceptions (green cards have not actually been green in color for years, she said), and some of the important reasons that the staff and volunteers at the IIIC do what they do.

“The IIIC, though founded to help undocumented Irish workers, has really grown to serve many immigrants from any background,” she said.

If you missed this program, but are interested in other pro bono opportunities, our next training on April  13 will focus on Pro Bono Appellate Pilot Program. Click here to learn more.

Representing Low-Income Taxpayers: A Recap

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Last week, we wrapped up a three-part series of pro bono trainings geared toward helping to build the first ever low-income taxpayer pro bono panel of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS).

Over the course of the series, attorneys learned about the IRS collections timeline, a client’s right to due process, and the best tactics for removing levies and liens. They also learned about working out payment agreements and other alternatives to full collection of back taxes, and how to best resolve a dispute stemming from an audit.

Expert attorneys as well as IRS representatives made up the panels for these trainings. Over the course of three programs, over 35 attorneys and tax professionals signed on to work with the low-income taxpayer pro bono panel.

We reached out to Keith Fogg, the Director of the Federal Tax Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, and Luz Arevalo, a senior attorney at GBLS, to ask about the major takeaways of the program.

“Legal representation for all taxpayers most obviously helps the taxpayer represented, but it also serves as a check that improves our system of taxation. Working families will avoid much frustration and heartache if they respond promptly and correctly to a tax audit notice. Having an advocate involved early in the process will often translate into quick resolutions of the case.

I believe a paramount principle in taxation is Fairness. This principle is preserved by insuring access to legal representation.”

–Luz Arevalo

“An important takeaway from the most recent training is that the failure to respond to notices from the IRS or the MA Department of Revenue leads to dire consequences including not only a debt but also the loss of a driver’s license or a passport.  The government has created a process of auditing that is very automated and efficient for them.  Low income taxpayers, who will frequently shrink from responding out of fear of the unknown, need resources to assist them in responding and working with the system.  The National Taxpayer Advocate for the IRS has developed statistics showing much higher rates of success by represented taxpayers in the audit process.  The program sought to encourage and enable representatives provide much needed pro bono assistance.

As a new clinic and as a clinic partnering with GBLS, it is important for Harvard to co-host this program in order to help build a cadre of representatives willing and prepared to assist our clients when we reach capacity to assist them with the resources available in our clinic.”

–Keith Fogg

Annual Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Pro Bono Training Draws Crowd

Hsindy Chen (Volunteer Lawyers Project), Jesse Redlener (Dalton & Finegold, LLP), Warren Agin (Swiggart & Agin, LLC), Kate Nicholson (Nicholson Shepard LLC), and Keri Wintle (Duane Morris LLP) led a training on taking Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases pro bono.

Hsindy Chen (Volunteer Lawyers Project), Jesse Redlener (Dalton & Finegold, LLP), Warren Agin (Swiggart & Agin, LLC), Kate Nicholson (Nicholson Shepard LLC), and Keri Wintle (Duane Morris LLP) to prepare attorneys to take pro bono Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases.

Last week, the BBA’s Bankruptcy Public Service Committee teamed up with the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) for the annual Representing a Pro Bono Debtor in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy training. The training aims to recruit attorneys to participate in the Fresh Start Bankruptcy Legal Clinic at VLP and to take pro bono bankruptcy cases.

Beyond the Billable caught up with BBA Bankruptcy Public Service Committee Co-Chair Keri Wintle (Duane Morris LLP) to learn more. Here’s what she had to say about the training:

 What do you hope attorneys learned from the training?

 “I hope that the training demystified the process of filing a consumer chapter 7 bankruptcy case a bit and that we were able to convey just how important the volunteer attorneys are to the program.”

 Why should attorneys volunteer for VLP’s Pro Bono Bankruptcy Clinic?

“The Clinic provides an important and necessary service to those who need it the most, while also providing a practical and gratifying experience to the volunteer.”

Are you interested in getting involved in pro bono work? Check out these two upcoming pro bono trainings: Pro Bono Training: CORI Matters— Learn How to Help Low Income Clients Seal Criminal Records and Pro Bono Training: Family Law Court Clinic