Join us at the BBA 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.
This event, Mass Legal Answers Online Blitz, will take place on Wednesday, July 19th from 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM at the Boston Bar Association, 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108.
What is MLAO? MLAO is a secure and confidential website where low-income Massachusetts residents can ask a lawyer for help with a legal issue. Qualified users post questions about civil legal problems. When a volunteer lawyer logs in to the site, there is a list of questions that the volunteer can pick from to answer. It’s like a virtual walk-in legal clinic! MLAO is a limited scope service — all help is provided through the website, and there is no expectation of long-term representation. There is no fee for the use of the system or for the advice and information provided by the attorney.
What’s a Q and A Blitz? It is an in-person session where attorneys and law students gather to research and brainstorm answers to questions that have been posted to MLAO. Experienced attorneys and MLAO staff will be on hand to guide you in answering questions. It’s a great way to get started using MLAO, an opportunity to provide pro bono service from your desk! The most common question topics are family law, housing, and consumer law, but help with all civil issue areas is needed.
Both attorneys and law students are invited to participate in this Blitz – those who are not yet licensed will work with an attorney volunteer who is registered with Mass Legal Answers Online.
Please bring a laptop if you have one! Attorneys who have not yet registered with MLAO directly are encouraged to do so in advance of this event; register at this link. It only takes a minute.
The Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project (PAIR)* has been leading a number of trainings at the BBA in response to national immigration concerns; most recently, they educated over 50 attorneys on how to assist clients in gaining release from immigration detention. The training presenters, Amanda Ekey and Elena Noureddine, told attendees that they estimate there are 500-600 non-citizens currently detained across four detention centers in the Commonwealth. Those detained are both from Massachusetts and also southern states that do not have the capacity in their own detention centers to hold an increased number non-citizens. Detainees are held prior to their court hearing and potential removal from the United States. They are also not appointed counsel before appearing in immigration court, which makes pro bono assistance even more crucial for adequate representation. The training’s attendees are able to volunteer with PAIR and begin providing pro bono services to detainees.
PAIR’s next training at the BBA is scheduled for Monday, April 24th from 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM and will prepare attorneys to lead immigration Know Your Rights workshops in the community. These workshops instruct community members what rights non-citizens have under the constitution and what to do if questioned by ICE or other law enforcement authorities. To sign-up to attend, please click here.
*The PAIR Project is a 2016 Grantee of the Boston Bar Foundation.
On February 27, several dozen people gathered at the BBA to learn about the Access to Justice Fellows Program, an innovative collaboration between the Lawyers Clearinghouse* and the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission that pairs retired attorneys and judges with non-profits to work on year-long access to justice projects.
Program director Mia Friedman, co-founders Martha Koster (a partner at Mintz Levin) and Sue Finegan (co-chair of the Access to Justice Commission and the pro bono partner at Mintz Levin), and several Fellows spoke to the group about the increasing need for pro bono work, and the diverse range of projects available. This year, for example, Fellows are: representing low-income veterans, advocating for policies that promote clean renewable energy, mentoring new attorneys working with clients of modest means, writing about the vital services provided by the legal aid community, supporting a new website that provides pro bono advice online, and promoting quality educational standards in the Boston Public School system.
It was also noted that there is a great level of personal enrichment and intellectual satisfaction that goes along with serving as an Access to Justice Fellow. Mia spoke about the rich community of Fellows, who exchange ideas, volunteer on each other’s projects, and form friendships. Martha noted that many Fellows continue to work on their projects for several years. There are now 74 Access to Justice Fellows who have completed well over 50,000 hours of pro bono service.
To learn how you can get involved with the Access to Justice Fellows program, please visit their website here.
*Lawyers Clearinghouse is a 2016 Grantee of the Boston Bar Foundation
In small claims court, there is a tremendous unmet need for counsel to help vulnerable clients argue their cases against collection agencies. With the launch of the Lawyer for the Day Fair Debt Collection Clinic in Small Claims Court, the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association (VLP) and its volunteer partners are hoping to change all that.
Hsindy Chen, a staff attorney at VLP, gave us some details on an upcoming training that will ready attorneys for participation in the clinic.
“This training is for the lawyer for the day clinic in small claims court which aims to level the playing field between debt collectors and pro se debtors. The debt collection industry has notoriously targeted the most vulnerable consumers, often without providing adequate proof that they own the debt. Approximately 75% of all small claims cases in Massachusetts are brought by debt collectors seeking to enforce debts against consumers. Nearly all of these consumers appear for trial without counsel. However these cases often have significant defenses, of which these consumers are unaware or unable to effectively argue. Attorneys will learn the substantive law for debt collection, as well as practical skills for client interview, negotiations, and making arguments before a clerk magistrate. After the training, attorneys will be ready to take their own pro bono cases at the lawyer for the day clinic in small claims court. The lawyer for the day clinic is a great opportunity to volunteer on a limited basis as the cases are typically resolved that same day through trial or settlement. Attorneys will get hands-on experience in court and develop litigation skills in a fast-paced but manageable environment.”
Over the next few weeks, we have a busy schedule of pro bono trainings available to attorneys who are looking for ways to help those in need. Besides the clients who benefit from pro bono services, there’s no one better to explain why these trainings are so important than the attorneys who lead them!
We asked Emily Jarrell (Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association) and Seth Purcell (Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project) to talk about two panels coming up at the BBA.
“At this training, attorneys will learn the basics of filing Chapter 7. It will have a particular emphasis on helping low-income clients. The Volunteer Lawyer’s Project works with low-income clients with a simple Chapter 7 case, but having an attorney makes a big difference for the client, because it stops the debt collection calls and stops the court proceedings that may be taking them out of work and causing extra stress. The training is tailored to attorneys looking to take their first bankruptcy case,” Jarrell said.
She also noted that attendees will get an overview of the resources available to them through VLP, such as mentoring for new attorneys and a bankruptcy filing system.
“We are one of many organizations watching closely, and we anticipate a lot of rapid policy changes under the new administration. This training will give attorneys the opportunity to become familiar with the basics of asylum law, including the differences between filing an affirmative application and a defensive application. Asylum law is something that many attorneys may not be familiar with from their regular practice, so we always appreciate the opportunity to hold these trainings at the BBA,” Purcell said.
Purcell also said the training will cover important issue associated with asylum cases, such as strategies for helping clients that have been through extreme physical and/or emotional trauma. The training will also cover the importance of testimony from medical experts in asylum cases.
Start your new year by attending one of the BBA’s upcoming public service programs. From pro bono trainings to informational brown bags, there’s sure to be a program that interests you. Take a look below!
No Buyers, No Business. Combatting Human Trafficking by Targeting the Demand Monday, January 23, 2017, 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM
At this program, you’ll learn the role of demand reduction in combatting commercial sexual exploitation, the scope of the issue of commercial exploitation in Boston, local efforts deployed by CEASE Boston to combat demand, and the role prosecutorial innovation can play in support of efforts to increase the consequential penalties for the purchase of illegal commercial sex by buyers.
Pro Bono Training: Representing Debtors in Small Claims Court Thursday, February 9, 2017, 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
The panelists will discuss the launch of the Lawyer for the Day Fair Debt Collection Clinic in Small Claims Court at the Boston Municipal Court Central Division and how attorneys can volunteer at the clinic.
From teaching over 1,500 students their Miranda Rights to instituting a Bar Exam Coaching Program, 2016 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 services initiatives in 2016.
Over 1,000 guests attended the 2016 John and Abigail Adams Benefit at the Museum of Fine Arts. Each year, our premier fundraiser provides support for the legal services organizations in our community. We’re grateful for the over $600,000 raised in 2016.
Molly Baldwin, Executive Director of Roca, accepts the 2016 Public Service Award on behalf of the organization. Roca was recognized for their work reducing recidivism and improving employment rates for young men in Massachusetts.
Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, addresses the crowd at Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Each year, hundreds of private attorneys and civil legal aid advocates converge on the Massachusetts State House to demonstrate their support for state funding of civil legal aid.
Anuj Kheterpal, Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, leads a session of the Reentry Education Program at the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. Presenting on topics ranging from family law, affordable housing, and CORI sealing, the Reentry Education Program provides useful information and resources to probationers in our community.
The BBA’s Military and Veterans Committee works throughout the year to both address the legal needs of our veterans community and also provide a space for attorneys who have served or are serving in the military the chance to connect. Luncheons held throughout the year provide an informal, conversational means for veteran attorneys to connect.
One of the most anticipated events of the year is always the BBA’s Casino Night for Summer Jobs. Inside the BBA, the rooms are transformed into a functioning casino spaces for guests to enjoy throughout the building. All proceeds from the event support our Summer Jobs program. Specifically, donations allow high school students the opportunity to work at legal services organizations, courts, and government agencies that may not otherwise have the resources to hire a student.
For over ten years, the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy program has taught high school students financial responsibility. Above, students from Peabody Veterans Memorial High School visit Judge Joan N. Feeney’s courtroom to learn the consequences of filing for bankruptcy.
Members of the Boston Bar Foundation’s Society of Fellows gaze at an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts last spring. The Society of Fellows is a group of over 400 attorneys who’ve pledged their support for the BBA’s public service initiatives.
An active group within the BBA, the New Lawyers Public Service Committee plans nearly monthly volunteer events for attorneys to give back to their community through direct service. Here, BBA volunteers are working with the Charles River Watershed Association to clean-up the banks of the Charles River.
As part of the annual Law Day activities each spring, the BBA hosts its Law Day in the Schools program through which attorney volunteers introduce students in kindergarten to 12th grade to the legal profession and legal issues. In 2016, Law Day in the Schools focused on Miranda Rights, which seemed especially to resonate with students during a year marked by discussion of the balance of power between law enforcement and citizens.
At the 2016 Law Day Dinner, former BBA President Jack Regan, WilmerHale, was presented the Thurgood Marshall Award for his commitment to public service. Regan has tirelessly worked to support pro bono services for military personnel, veterans, and their families.
The John G. Brooks Legal Services Award was presented at Law Day Dinner to Daniel Nagin, founder of the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. Nagin also helped start the Low Income Tax Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.
Pairings: A Gourmet Evening for Public Service supports all of the public service programs of the BBA. Guests of the event are treated to delicious dishes from area restaurants while learning about the programs their contribution supports.
Throughout the year, the BBA hosts numerous pro bono trainings on a range of practice areas. We partner with many legal services organizations to connect our members to their pro bono opportunities. Above, attorneys lead a training on how to volunteer for the Family Law Court Clinic at the Court Service Center.
Massachusetts State Senator Jamie Eldridge addresses the audience at the BBA’s Juvenile Restorative Justice Program. The symposium focused on restorative justice initiatives in the Commonwealth as particularly related to the state’s youth. This event was the culmination of the 12th Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) class’ 14-month program. PILP promotes civic engagement and public service by advancing the leadership roles of new lawyers. Throughout the program, the class examines various issues facing our community and concludes with a symposium of entirely their design.
Summer is a beloved time at the BBA because it means that law firms, courts, government agencies, and legal services organizations across the city will host high school student interns as part of our Summer Jobs Program. Students gain valuable insight into the legal profession and office work experience as they intern during their summer break. Students are also provided Enrichment Seminars, which enhance their experience and provide exposure to various legal careers, the workings of the Supreme Judicial Court, and more.
Janet Bostwick, Janet E. Bostwick, PC, was acknowledged this past year for her devotion to the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program. Bostwick was appointed head of the Financial Literacy Committee by her dear and late friend, M. Ellen Carpenter in 2004 and has since grown the program to teach over 500 students a year. Bostwick stepped down from the Committee after 12 years and we’re thankful for her service.
Law students and attorneys met with various legal services organizations and government agencies as they browsed the Pro Bono Fair & Open House in October. The event draws scores of people each year and provides organizations the chance to attract new volunteers.
BBA President Carol Starkey, Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford, LLP, meets with Katy Buckland, principal of UP Academy Boston. The BBA President participates in Principal for a Day each year to gain insight into the day-to-day activities of the students many of our public service programs impact.
Thank you for a wonderful year, we can’t wait to kickoff 2017 with you!
Recent comments by Attorney General Maura Healey on Boston Public Radio demonstrate the extent of human trafficking in the Commonwealth. Often unseen, the AG’s Office reports that 1 in 5 men in the state have tried buying sex online. Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) Boston, a network of organizations devoted to ending human trafficking, is trying to stop the demand by targeting buyers. Through their strategy, they hope to hold sex buyers accountable and provide educational insight into the additional effects of human trafficking. On Monday, January 23rd at 12:30 PM, the BBA will host a program with speakers from CEASE Boston to further discuss the program’s objectives and strategies. We hope you’ll join us to hear more on this pervasive issue.
Click here to read more on the reports from the AG’s Office. To RSVP for the BBA program, No Buyers, No Business. Combatting Human Trafficking by Targeting the Demand, please click here or email Cassandra Shavney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, over 20 attorneys and law students attended the Boston Bar Association’s Pro Bono Training on Landlord/Tenant Law Basics. Attendees heard from Hon. Jeffrey M. Winik of the Boston Housing Court, Joanna Allison, Executive Director of Volunteer Lawyers Project, Dick Bauer, Of Counsel, National Consumer Law Center, and Felicia Higginbottom, Law Office of Vesper Gibbs Barnes & Associates. The training covered the basics of summary process and after the training, attendees were invited to volunteer with Volunteer Lawyers Project and Lawyers Clearinghouse.
Volunteer Lawyers Project hosts Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court on Wednesdays from 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM and Thursdays from 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM. Attorneys and 3:03 certified law students are able to advise and represent low-income tenants and landlords in the Boston Housing Court. For more information on how to become involved, please contact Milton Wong at email@example.com.
Lawyers Clearinghouse runs a Legal Clinic for the Homeless at various area homeless shelters and welcomes attorneys wishing to do pro bono work. Please contact their Program Director, Mia Friedman, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.
Let the BBA connect you with opportunities to serve the community alongside fellow Members – become trained as a Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court, volunteer at the Greater Boston Food Bank or with Cradles to Crayons. You can also help give hope and guidance to a law school grad preparing to take the Bar Exam.
Come join members of the New Lawyers Section as we partner with other volunteers to help “End Hunger Here.” This event will be an excellent opportunity to enjoy the company of fellow lawyers in a non-professional setting.
This training will cover the basics of summary process law in landlord / tenant cases and how to represent both landlords and tenants in a summary process eviction matter.You’ll be prepared to volunteer for Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court.
We are seeking attorneys to serve as coaches to bar exam applicants sitting for the Massachusetts Bar Exam this February. This is a short term commitment with a big impact. Coaches are not expected to answer substantive law questions, but will be trained to offer guidance on mental preparation, confidence, study tips, time & stress management, and dealing with anxiety. To sign-up to volunteer, fill out this information form. If you would like to share information about this program with a law school graduate preparing to take the February exam, please direct them to this sign-up form.
If able, please join us at the Bar Exam Coaching Kick-Off Reception. You’ll meet with applicants, coaches, judges, and bar leaders and talk with recent exam-takers about strategies that worked for them.
Join members of the BBA in processing and packaging donations that will be distributed to children across the state through Cradles to Crayons. Cradles to Crayons provide homeless or low-income children with the essential items they need to thrive at home, at school, and at play.