Posts Categorized: Pro Bono

Fair Debt Collection Pro Bono Training Draws Crowd

Attendees at last week's Fair Debt Collections training took careful notes to prepare to volunteer for the Lawyer for the Day Program.

Attendees at last week’s Fair Debt Collections training took careful notes to prepare to volunteer for the Lawyer for the Day Program.

In honor of Pro Bono Month, the BBA partnered with the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) and Senior Partners for Justice to hold a Lawyer for the Day: Fair Debt Collection training last week. Attendees learned about defending debt collection lawsuits, answering and filing discovery requests, asserting counterclaims under the FDCPA, and other consumer protection statutes. Now that the Lawyer for the Day Program is expanding outside of the Boston Municipal Court, volunteers are in high demand. Here’s why Emily Jarrell, a Staff Attorney at VLP, thinks you should volunteer for the program:

“The Lawyer for the Day Program allows volunteers to learn a new area of the law by seeing how the court works and watching more experienced volunteers take on cases.  It also allows volunteers to do pro bono work without needing to commit to a full representation case.  Volunteers can commit to just a couple hours a week using limited assistance representation.  The debt collection projects are also a great way to meet other lawyers and get experience litigating in District Court.”

If you’re interested in this project, VLP staff members will be talking about all of the pro bono opportunities available through their organization at the Pro Bono Fair on Monday, October 19th from 4:30-6 pm. Click here to learn more.

Don’t Miss THE Pro Bono Event of the Year!

Barbara Mitchell, former Executive Director of Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC), talked to law students and new lawyers about volunteer opportunities at last year's Pro Bono Fair.

Barbara Mitchell, former Executive Director of Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC), talked to law students and new lawyers about volunteer opportunities at last year’s Pro Bono Fair.

Have you been searching for the perfect pro bono opportunity? Head on over to Suffolk Law School this Monday between 4:30-6 pm for the BBA and Suffolk’s annual Pro Bono Fair. Representatives from local legal services organizations will be onsite to discuss opportunities to volunteer with their organizations. The event draws over 300 law students and attorneys each year. Don’t miss out on the chance to celebrate Pro Bono Month by finding your next volunteer opportunity!

Click here to learn more.

Nationally-Recognized Expert Visits BBA for Human Trafficking Training

Martina Vandenberg (The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center) and Julie Dahlstrom (Casa Myrna and Boston University School of Law Human Trafficking Clinic) led a training on using federal law to obtain justice for trafficking survivors.

Martina Vandenberg (The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center) and Julie Dahlstrom (Casa Myrna and Boston University School of Law Human Trafficking Clinic) led a training on using federal law to obtain justice for trafficking survivors.

At the end of September, the BBA hosted a very special guest from Washington, DC. Martina Vandenberg, the President and Founder of The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center traveled to the BBA to lead a training on using federal law to obtain justice for trafficking survivors. She was joined by local expert, Julie Dahlstrom, a Senior Staff Attorney at Casa Myrna and Clinical Legal Fellow at the Boston University School of Law Human Trafficking Clinic.

In the United States, trafficking survivors rarely have access to justice. In 2013, federal prosecutors brought just 161 criminal cases against traffickers in the entire country. Pro bono attorneys can play a huge role in advocating for the rights of survivors. We reached out to Attorney Vandenberg to learn more about the training. Take a look below to learn more:

What do you hope attendees learned from the program?

I hope that the attorneys who participated learned: 1) that pro bono lawyers can make a significant difference in the lives of trafficking survivors; 2) that trafficking survivors have the right to sue their traffickers for damages in federal court; and 3) that pro bono attorneys can get involved by volunteering with a local non-governmental organization or with HT Pro Bono [The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center].  Pro bono attorneys have a fantastic track record in this field.  HT Pro Bono has one key goal: ensuring that every trafficking victim who wants a lawyer gets a pro bono lawyer.

Why should attorneys get involved in pro bono human trafficking work?

This is some of the most rewarding pro bono work that an attorney can do. The cases are compelling.  The clients are inspiring.  Civil litigation against human traffickers draws on skills that attorneys in private practice have already mastered. Trafficking work also provides an opportunity to be on the cutting edge of a new legal field.  In October 2015, pro bono attorneys at WilmerHale filed the first-ever federal human trafficking civil suit ever brought in Massachusetts.  Pro bono attorneys can also fight to vacate convictions resulting from crimes that traffickers forced the victims to commit.  This is pro bono work that provides intellectual challenge, direct client interaction, and concrete results in trafficking survivors’ lives.  It is also an area where extensive technical assistance is available — from HT Pro Bono, from local NGO attorneys, and from experts throughout the United States.

If you’re feeling inspired to get involved in pro bono opportunities of any kind after reading this article, don’t miss the Pro Bono Fair at Suffolk University this Monday, October 19th from 4:30-6:00 pm. Representatives from local legal service organizations will be onsite to tell you about opportunities to volunteer with their organizations. Click here to learn more.

Hone Your Skills With the Pro Bono Panel for Low-Income Taxpayers

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Last week, the BBA kicked off the first of three pro bono trainings to help build the inaugural low-income taxpayer pro bono panel of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and Greater Boston Legal Services. As you may remember from this article, the Boston Bar Foundation also supports the Low-Income Tax Clinic (LITC). Beyond the Billable reached out to Keith Fogg, the Director of the Federal Tax Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, to learn more about the training. Here’s what he had to say:

Why should attorneys join the low-income tax pro bono panel?

It’s an easy way for them to receive pro bono case referrals.  They can refer individuals seeking pro bono assistance to one of the clinics to vet, and then get the cases that meet the pro bono criteria.  Aside from using the panel as a screening mechanism for handling pro bono cases, attorneys receive support on their cases from the clinicians if questions arise about facts or law in the cases they receive.

Also, working cases from the pro bono panel provides the opportunity to handle tax controversy cases the attorney might not handle in their ordinary practice, and so they can learn from the experience and gain valuable skills that might assist them in their practice.

But even without the other professional benefits mentioned, helping others who need it is very rewarding.  Pro bono panels provide an opportunity to help others while using and honing the skills that tax attorneys have learned through training and practice.  Rather than engaging in pro bono assistance in an area of the law in which they do not ordinarily practice, being a part of the pro bono tax panel will put their skills to use.”

What should attorneys expect in the next tax program?

Most of the clients seeking help do so because they cannot pay the liability already assessed against them.  This makes the collection panel the most relevant to pro bono practice.  Some of the clients with collection problems really need assistance reopening the question of whether they owe.  Others have no basis for challenging the assessment but very low prospects for paying the debt.  These clients need assistance pulling together their financial information in order to make a successful presentation to the IRS to obtain debt relief through an offer in compromise, debt forbearance through currently not collectible designation or debt postponement through an installment agreement.  The program will explain how to work with the client and the IRS to achieve a beneficial resolution.”

Click here to learn more about the upcoming collection panel.

If you’re interested in joining the pro bono panel, please contact Katie D’Angelo at [email protected].

 

Pro Bono Perspectives: Volunteers Share Their Experiences from Citizenship Day

Citizenship

The day was hectic. More than 200 people from 29 different countries arrived, some of them coming from adverse circumstances, some of them confused by the process they had to go through to apply to become a U.S. citizen.

On September 26, those gathered at the Timilty Middle School in Roxbury represented just a small part of a population with a huge unmet need – immigrants who need assistance filling out their applications for citizenship. That’s why the BBA partnered with Project Citizenship to hold a training prior to Citizenship Day in Boston, where volunteers learned how they could help.

But for Wadner Oge, Staff Attorney with the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners, the focus of the day quickly shifted from processing applications to facilitating conversations. Wadner, who was born in Haiti and became a citizen in 2000, volunteered to act as a translator shortly after arriving. Of the 242 applicants for citizenship that day, 76 of them were from Haiti – the highest number from any single country. Wadner immediately recognized a need for volunteers who spoke their native language.

“As a interpreter, I had to be able to interact with the group of the people that the service (Citizenship Day) was designed for,” he said. “There was a misconception among some of them about how the process works, so I explained it to many of them in Haitian Creole. It was a very busy day and a lot of people came. I was very happy to be in a position to help.”

Wadner said he was motivated to get involved due to the high price of an attorney to assist with a citizenship application under normal circumstances. He estimated the average attorney might charge as much as $1,000, money that many immigrants can’t spare.

To Analisa Smith-Perez, a BBA member who works at the Brooke courthouse, the most moving part of her volunteer experience at Citizenship Day was watching 175 people sworn in as citizens during a naturalization ceremony at the school.

“What I really loved about the whole day was that here, you’re helping people, and then you get to see what happens at the end of the whole process if everything goes according to plan,” she said.

Analisa volunteers actively with the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and considers herself familiar with the many obstacles those who hope to become citizens face. Events like Citizenship Day can help prevent immigrants from turning to someone for legal help who may not have a law degree and may take advantage of them, Analisa said.

“There are so many instances of fraud, especially in the immigrant community, that we need to fight against,” she said. “Sometimes these people charge an exorbitant amount of money, they don’t necessarily do a good job, and once you make a mistake on your paperwork, you get rejected. They don’t always necessarily tell you why you got rejected. It isn’t cheap, and it’s very disheartening. It can make a person just want to stop trying.”

Analisa said she would encourage anyone to get involved and volunteer with Citizenship Day and other pro bono opportunities.

“It’s important to do this type of work because it emphasizes and reaffirms why I became an attorney in the first place. I became an attorney to help people,” she said. “When you do a project like this, it reminds you so much of the human element that is always present in what we do.”

Proclaiming October Pro Bono Month

Governor Charlie Baker presented BBA President Lisa Arrowood with his proclamation of October as Pro Bono Month at Annual Meeting.

Governor Charlie Baker presented BBA President Lisa Arrowood with his proclamation of October as Pro Bono Month at Annual Meeting.

Tomorrow’s the first day of October, which means only one thing in the legal community—the start of Pro Bono Month. It turns out we aren’t the only fans of this month. If you attended the BBA’s Annual Meeting a few weeks ago, you may remember Governor Charlie Baker, our keynote speaker, handing a copy of his proclamation for Pro Bono Month to BBA President Lisa Arrowood on stage.

In additional to the Governor’s proclamation, the BBA has its own resolution. Check it out below:

Recognizing October as Pro Bono Month

Whereas, the promise of equal justice under law is the most fundamental tenet of our justice system; and

Whereas, the bench and bar face a crisis of unmet need for legal representation for the poor; and

Whereas, Boston attorneys donate thousands of hours of pro bono legal services and make annual financial contributions directly to legal services organizations, to help address the huge unmet need for legal assistance to Boston’s poor, especially in light of the current economic situation; and

Whereas, the Boston Bar Association actively promotes pro bono participation in a variety of ways on an ongoing basis and gives special recognition annual for outstanding pro bono contributions made by its members; and

Whereas,  the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has designated October as Pro Bono Month to recognize the valuable pro bono contributions made by lawyers throughout the year, and to increase pro bono participation across the state to narrow the justice gap;

Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved that the Boston Bar Association recognizes October as Pro Bono Month, commends Boston attorneys for their ongoing pro bono contributions, and reminds all members that by engaging in pro bono work and providing financial support they can made a significant difference in the lives of Boston’s poor who would not otherwise have access to the legal system.

If you’re looking to get in the spirit of Pro Bono Month, don’t miss the “Lawyer for the Day Training: Fair Debt Collection” Pro Bono Training on Thursday, October 8th. It’s a great way to gain new skills and give back through the Volunteer Lawyers Project’s Fair Debt Collection Program. Click here to learn more.

State Rep. Chris Walsh Visits Housing Court

State Rep. Chris Walsh visited the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program this morning and met with the BBA's partners for the program, including Joanna Allison for the Volunteer Lawyers Project.

State Rep. Chris Walsh visited the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program this morning and met with the BBA’s partners for the program, including Joanna Allison from the Volunteer Lawyers Project.

Standing outside Courtroom 15 at Edward W. Brooke Courthouse, State Rep. Chris Walsh said he is concerned about his constituents in Framingham who may be embroiled in a legal dispute between landlord and tenant, but can’t afford an attorney.

Rep. Walsh stopped by the BBA’s Lawyer for the Day Program on September 17 to learn more about the volunteer attorneys who represent such clients. Every Wednesday and Thursday and one Monday a month, law students and lawyers give their time to clients with a case in Housing Court and no legal representation.

“I am very interested in the access to justice issue,” Rep. Walsh said after he sat in the courtroom and listened to the beginning of the day’s proceedings. “I think that housing issues are complex. Housing Court addresses those issues quickly and with an evenhanded approach.”

Rep. Walsh went on to say that he “looked forward to bringing the issue back to the Statehouse” in hopes of expanding access to Housing Court to the residents of the Commonwealth who don’t have it. He estimated that encompassed about 1/3 of the population of Massachusetts.

Through a partnership between the BBA, the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association, Greater Boston Legal Services, WilmerHale Legal Services Center and Boston Housing Court, the program gives attorneys and law students the chance to complete pro bono work with a steady stream of clients.

The Program relies on dedicated volunteers, such as Rob Skinner (Ropes & Gray) and Amy Roy (Ropes & Gray) pictured above, who provide legal assistance to landlords and tenants each week.

The Program relies on dedicated volunteers, such as Rob Skinner (Ropes & Gray) and Amy Roy (Ropes & Gray) pictured above, who provide legal assistance to landlords and tenants.

“For lawyers who are not litigators, Housing Court represents an opportunity to do pro bono work without having to stand up in front of a courtroom, which can be intimidating,” Rob Skinner, a partner at Ropes & Gray said.

He and Amy Roy, counsel in the securities litigation group at the firm, began volunteering with the Lawyer for the Day program because of the buzz the program generated among their colleagues.

“It’s really nice to know that you can help. We know that without us, they’re going to go without representation,” she said.

Calling All Law Students and New Lawyers: Give Back this Fall

Last year, a group of volunteers headed to the Prison Book Project to help sort books. Don't miss the opportunity to volunteer at this event this year.

Last year, a group of volunteers headed to the Prison Book Project to help sort books. Don’t miss the opportunity to volunteer at this event.

If you’re a law student or New Lawyer looking to give back to the community and meet other legal professionals don’t miss these upcoming opportunities:

Volunteer with the Prison Book Project
Saturday, September 19, 2015 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM or 1:00 PM to 4 PM
United First Parish Church – 1306 Hancock Street, Quincy, MA

Volunteers will be split into three groups: tasks are either to read the prisoner’s request and find the appropriate book for each prisoner, to make sure the books are appropriate and fill out an invoice, or to prepare the books for mailing.

Volunteer with The Greater Boston Food Bank
Saturday, October 3, 2015 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Greater Boston Food Bank – 70 South Bay Ave., Boston, MA

Come join members of the Public Interest Leadership Program as we partner with other volunteers to help ‘End Hunger Here.’ Most volunteers work in the GBFB warehouse, inspecting, sorting, and packing food and grocery products.

What You Need to Know About Naturalization: Pro Bono Preparation for Boston’s Citizenship Day
Monday, September 21, 2015 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Boston Bar Association, 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108

Get trained to volunteer at the second annual Citizenship Day in Boston on September 26, 2015. This training will teach law students and attorneys to prepare the citizenship application for attendees.

Justice for Trafficking Victims: Civil Litigation, Vacatur, Criminal Restitution and the Pro Bono Bar
Wednesday, September 30, 2015 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Boston Bar Association, 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108

Attendees will gain insight into all remedies available to trafficking survivors in the United States, including many legal rights overlooked for nearly a decade.

Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House
Monday, October 19, 2015 4:30 PM to 6:00 PM
Suffolk Law School (1st Floor Function Room) – 120 Tremont Street, Boston, MA

This event, sponsored by the BBA and Suffolk Law School, provides attorneys and law students with the chance to explore pro bono opportunities.

If you’re a barred attorney or 3:03 certified law student, you may also be interested in these trainings:

Lawyer for the Day Training: Fair Debt Collection
Thursday, October 8, 2015 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Boston Bar Association, 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108

The BBA is teaming up with the Volunteer Lawyers Project and Senior Partners for Justice to train attorneys to provide pro bono assistance to debtors and creditors through the Fair Debt Collection program.

Pro Bono Training: Landlord Tenant Law & Practice
Tuesday, November 17, 2015 3:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Boston Bar Association, 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108

Each Thursday, more than 150 eviction cases are scheduled at Boston Housing Court. More than 90% of the tenants are pro se. This training will prepare you to assist landlords and tenants through the Lawyer for the Day Program of the Boston Bar Association.

Questions? Contact Katie D’Angelo at [email protected].

Sneak Peek at Public Service this September

The Delivery of Legal Service Section's Human Trafficking Subcommittee is planning another pro bono training to rally pro bono attorneys to assist survivors. This program is one of three large pro bono trainings taking place at the BBA in September.

The Delivery of Legal Service Section’s Human Trafficking Subcommittee is planning another pro bono training to rally pro bono attorneys to assist survivors. This program is one of three large pro bono trainings taking place at the BBA in September.

The BBA’s public service department is kicking off the start of the program year with a bang. With the help our sections, we have a number of fascinating pro bono trainings lined up for September. Take a look below for more information:

What You Need to Know About Naturalization: Pro Bono Preparation for Boston’s Citizenship Day
Monday, September 21, 2015 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM

September 26, 2015 will be “Citizenship Day in Boston 2015″ with a goal of 250 citizenship applications.  This training will prepare law students and attorneys to complete the 21 page citizenship application for applicants.  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.

Representing Low-Income Taxpayers in Tax Court Training: Part One
Tuesday, September 29, 2015 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Don’t miss the opportunity to join the inaugural pro bono panel of the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic at Greater Boston Legal Services and the Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School.  Each year the United States Tax Court sees over 20,000 pro se taxpayers seeking relief from proposed or existing tax assessments. In this seminar, representatives from the IRS Counsel’s Office, the Office of Appeals, and the Court will demystify court procedures and prepare attorneys to provide pro bono representation to the 70 % of Tax Court petitioners who are unrepresented. Attendees will also hear from representatives from the IRS concerning how best to work with the agency, and from clinicians familiar with representing clients in these cases.

Justice for Trafficking Victims: Civil Litigation, Vacatur, Criminal Restitution and the Pro Bono Bar
Wednesday, September 30, 2015 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM

In the United States, trafficking survivors rarely have access to justice. Trafficked persons have significant rights under U.S. law, but they cannot exercise these rights without competent legal counsel. Pro bono attorneys can change the game, allowing trafficking survivors to participate fully in criminal cases against traffickers, and in launching civil suits against the perpetrators. Martina Vandenberg, President and Founder of The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center, will lead a training on using federal law to obtain justice for trafficking survivors. The training will cover crime victims’ rights in federal criminal matters, criminal restitution orders for victims, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and civil litigation against traffickers in federal courts.

Keep an eye on our calendar because we have a number of other trainings in the pipeline for October and beyond!

BBA to Welcome Prominent Human Trafficking Speakers in September

Photo courtesy of U.S. State Department

Photo courtesy of U.S. State Department

The bottom line is that this is no time for complacency. Right now, across the globe, victims of human trafficking are daring to imagine the possibility of escape, the chance for a life without fear, and the opportunity to earn a living wageWe hear you, and we will do all we can to make that dream come true.”      – John F. Kerry, Secretary of State

On Monday the U.S. State Department released its annual Trafficking on Persons Report, which ranks 188 countries on their efforts to combat trafficking.  The report aims to assist international organizations, foreign governments, and nongovernmental organizations to examine where resources are most needed.

Want to know what you can do to help? In an effort to raise awareness about this important issue and to prepare attorneys to assist victims of trafficking, the BBA is holding a training on Wednesday, September 30th from 4-6 pm called “Justice for Trafficking Victims: Civil Litigation, Vacatur, Criminal Restitution and the Pro Bono Bar.”

We are honored to host Martina Vandenberg, the President and Founder of The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center in Washington, DC. She will join local expert, Julie Dahlstrom, a Clinical Legal Fellow at the Boston University School of Law Human Trafficking Clinic, for this much anticipated program.

Don’t miss this important and compelling program. Click here to learn more.