Posts Categorized: Pro Bono

Eight Takeaways from Environmental Law Public Service Brown Bag

Last week's Environmental Law brown bag focused on how and why to get involved in your local conservation commission.

Last week’s Environmental Law brown bag focused on how and why to get involved in your local conservation commission.

Last week, the Environmental Law Public Service Committee hosted an interactive brown bag program called “Getting to Know Conservation Commissions: Their Role as a Local Environmental Agency and How to Get Involved in Your Local Commission.”

So what can attorneys do to support their local conservation commission? They can help draft orders and other regulatory documents for the commission, help the commission understand regulations, and keep the commission consistent with the Open Meetings Law and Public Records Law.

Here are eight reasons why Eugene Benson, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, thinks you should get involved in your local commission:

  1. Help your city or town protect wetlands and open space
  2. Add your expertise and knowledge to a local regulatory body implementing state law
  3. Gain experience in administering an environmental statute and regulations
  4. Gain visibility in your community
  5. Meet and work with the wonderful people on your local commission
  6. Meet others in town/city government
  7. It can be fun and challenging
  8. Make a positive difference

Public Service: A Year in Photos

Blizzards and slow public transportation didn’t stop our volunteers from getting out in the community and giving back during 2015. Take a look below for highlights from the BBA’s 2015 public service efforts:

Lawyers braved the snow and marched to the Massachusetts State House for the annual Walk to the Hill. The 2015 Walk to the Hill was more important than ever. As you may remember, the BBA Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts released its long-awaited report in November called Investing in Justice, which found that the majority of clients seeking legal assistance are turned away and made the business case for an additional $30 million in civil legal aid funding. The Legislature appropriated $17 million to fund civil legal aid, a satisfying increase in a year marked largely by level funding.

Lawyers braved the snow and marched to the Massachusetts State House for the annual Walk to the Hill. The 2015 Walk to the Hill was more important than ever. As you may remember, the BBA Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts released its long-awaited report in November called Investing in Justice, which found that the majority of clients seeking legal assistance are turned away and made the business case for an additional $30 million in civil legal aid funding. The Legislature appropriated $17 million to fund civil legal aid, a satisfying increase in a year marked largely by level funding.

In January 2014, the John & Abigail Adams Benefit raised over $650,000 to help to fund grants to 23 Massachusetts community organizations providing legal services in areas such as immigration, domestic violence and homelessness.

In January 2014, the John & Abigail Adams Benefit raised over $650,000 to help to fund grants to 23 Massachusetts community organizations providing legal services in areas such as immigration, domestic violence and homelessness.

With the help of PILP 11, the BBA Reentry Education Program expanded to provide civil legal workshops to participants in the CHOICE Program at Boston Municipal Court, Roxbury. Overall, volunteers led 12 sessions with a total of 103 participants to prepare participants to address civil legal issues they may face upon reentry.

With the help of PILP 11, the BBA Reentry Education Program expanded to provide civil legal workshops to participants in the CHOICE Program at Boston Municipal Court, Roxbury. Overall, volunteers led 12 sessions with a total of 103 participants to prepare participants to address civil legal issues they may face upon reentry.

In 2015, over 160 volunteers taught 570 high school students in 12 schools about personal finance and budgeting, credit cards, and buying a car through the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program. As you may remember, the BBA partners with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to run the program throughout the state.

In 2015, over 160 volunteers taught 570 high school students in 12 schools about personal finance and budgeting, credit cards, and buying a car through the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program. As you may remember, the BBA partners with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to run the program throughout the state.

The BBF’s popular Casino Night once again drew a large crowd. The event, which supports the BBA Summer Jobs Program by funding paid internships for Boston high school students in nonprofit and government agencies each summer through the program, raised more than $34,000.

The BBF’s popular Casino Night once again drew a large crowd. The event, which supports the BBA Summer Jobs Program by funding paid internships for Boston high school students in nonprofit and government agencies each summer through the program, raised more than $34,000.

The Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program didn’t slow down this year! With the help of 350 volunteers, the program assisted over 1,213 landlords and tenants in the Boston Housing Court.

The Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program didn’t slow down this year! With the help of 350 volunteers, the program assisted over 1,213 landlords and tenants in the Boston Housing Court.

This spring, 77 volunteer taught over 1,000 Boston public school students from kindergarten through seniors in high school about the importance of laws through the BBA’s Law Day in the Schools Program.

This spring, 77 volunteer taught over 1,000 Boston public school students from kindergarten through seniors in high school about the importance of laws through the BBA’s Law Day in the Schools Program.

The BBA presented three public service awards to deserving recipients at the annual Law Day Dinner. Barbara Mitchell, the former Executive Director of Community Legal Services and Counseling Center, received the John G. Brooks Legal Services Award to honor her leadership and commitment to legal services; Al Wallis, the Executive Director of Brown Rudnick Center for Public Interest, received the Thurgood Marshall Award for his leadership in public interest and corporate social responsibility; and Jack Ward, the former Associate Director for Finance & Development at Greater Boston Legal Services, received the President’s Award for this leadership and guidance at Greater Boston Legal Services.

The BBA presented three public service awards to deserving recipients at the annual Law Day Dinner. Barbara Mitchell, the former Executive Director of Community Legal Services and Counseling Center, received the John G. Brooks Legal Services Award to honor her leadership and commitment to legal services; Al Wallis, the Executive Director of Brown Rudnick Center for Public Interest, received the Thurgood Marshall Award for his leadership in public interest and corporate social responsibility; and Jack Ward, the former Associate Director for Finance & Development at Greater Boston Legal Services, received the President’s Award for this leadership and guidance at Greater Boston Legal Services.

The BBF held the second annual Passports to Pairings event, where 100 % of the proceeds supported the BBA Public Service Programs. The event raise nearly $34,000, featured food and beverage pairings, and gave attendees an opportunity learn more about the BBA and BBF’s work in the community.

The BBF held the second annual Passports to Pairings event, where 100 % of the proceeds supported the BBA Public Service Programs. The event raise nearly $34,000, featured food and beverage pairings, and gave attendees an opportunity learn more about the BBA and BBF’s work in the community.

The BBA continued to step up its commitment to the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program by placing a record-breaking 65 Boston high school students in paid internships at Boston law firms, legal departments, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations through the BBA Summer Jobs Program. The BBF also increased its commitment to the program by funding 15 of these paid positions at non-profit community organizations, government offices and courts.

The BBA continued to step up its commitment to the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program by placing a record-breaking 65 Boston high school students in paid internships at Boston law firms, legal departments, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations through the BBA Summer Jobs Program. The BBF also increased its commitment to the program by funding 15 of these paid positions at non-profit community organizations, government offices and courts.

While October is officially Pro Bono Month, the BBA celebrated pro bono all year-round. Since January 2015, the BBA has trained over 400 attorneys to take pro bono cases in a range of areas, including landlord tenant law, veterans discharge appeals, and debt collections.

While October is officially Pro Bono Month, the BBA celebrated pro bono all year-round. Since January 2015, the BBA has trained over 400 attorneys to take pro bono cases in a range of areas, including landlord tenant law, veterans discharge appeals, and debt collections.

The BBF held an inaugural Society of Fellows Appreciation Breakfast at the Liberty Hotel in Boston this November. The Breakfast was an opportunity to recognize members of the Society for their support of the BBF and to celebrate what their generosity has allowed the BBF to accomplish in the last year.

The BBF held an inaugural Society of Fellows Appreciation Breakfast at the Liberty Hotel in Boston this November. The Breakfast was an opportunity to recognize members of the Society for their support of the BBF and to celebrate what their generosity has allowed the BBF to accomplish in the last year.

The Claflin Center was packed on November 12th for the Veterans Day Reception, which featured a lively speech and Q & A with Congressman Seth Moulton, a former Marine Corps Captain who served four tours in Iraq. This event aimed to build a community for servicemembers in the legal field to share common experiences and challenges.

The Claflin Center was packed on November 12th for the Veterans Day Reception, which featured a lively speech and Q & A with Congressman Seth Moulton, a former Marine Corps Captain who served four tours in Iraq. This event aimed to build a community for servicemembers in the legal field to share common experiences and challenges.

BBA President Lisa Arrowood spent the morning observing a humanities teacher meeting, greeting students, and visiting classrooms at the Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester through BPE’s Principal for a Day Program.

BBA President Lisa Arrowood spent the morning observing a humanities teacher meeting, greeting students, and visiting classrooms at the Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester through BPE’s Principal for a Day Program.

The BBA Lawyer Referral Service participated in a number of community events this year, including the Massachusetts Conference for Women which drew a crowd of nearly 10,000. These events help to raise awareness of about the largest public service program of the Boston Bar Association, which fielded over 7,700 calls last year.

The BBA Lawyer Referral Service participated in a number of community events this year, including the Massachusetts Conference for Women which drew a crowd of nearly 10,000. These events help to raise awareness of about the largest public service program of the Boston Bar Association, which fielded over 7,700 calls last year.

Pro Bono Trainings Draw Crowds Aiming to Give Back

The BBA teamed up with Greater Boston Legal Services and the Legal Service Center of Harvard Law School for the second in a series of three pro bono trainings to assist low-income taxpayers.

The BBA teamed up with Greater Boston Legal Services and the Legal Service Center of Harvard Law School for the second in a series of three pro bono trainings to assist low-income taxpayers.

Last week the BBA hosted two popular pro bono trainings to recruit volunteers to address unmet legal needs in our community. The trainings included the annual Landlord Tenant Law & Practice Pro Bono Training for the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program and the second training in the series pro bono trainings for the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.

So far this year, the BBA has held six pro bono trainings and trained over 200 attorneys to take pro bono cases through local legal service organizations. We are so grateful to our members who attended the trainings and who volunteer in the community.

Attorneys who attended the Landlord Tenant Law Pro Bono Training last week can now volunteer for the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program pictured above.

Attorneys who attended the Landlord Tenant Law Pro Bono Training last week can now volunteer for the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program pictured above.

If you’re interested in getting involved, don’t miss the pro bono trainings coming up this winter:

Volunteer Lawyer Training: Representing a Pro Bono Debtor in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Thursday, January 21, 2016 4:00 PM to 7:30 PM

CORI Matters— Learn How to Help Low Income Clients Seal Criminal Records
Tuesday, February 2, 2016 4:30 PM to 6:00 PM

Representing Low-Income Taxpayers When the IRS and/or DOR Audits Their Return: Part Three
Thursday, March 3, 2016 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Annual Pro Bono Fair Draws Crowd

Law students and new attorneys learned about pro bono volunteer and internship opportunities at organizations like Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC) at Monday's Pro Bono Fair.

Law students and new attorneys learned about pro bono volunteer and internship opportunities at organizations like Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC) at Monday’s Pro Bono Fair.

On Monday, over two hundred law students and new lawyers gathered at Suffolk Law School to learn about volunteer opportunities at the annual Pro Bono Fair. Each year the BBA and Suffolk Law School team up to connect law students and new attorneys interested in giving back with local legal services organizations, nonprofits, and government agencies seeking assistance. If you missed the event but still want to get involved, click here to view the guide to learn how you can help.

Take a look below for more photos from the event:

Project Citizenship shared internship and volunteer opportunities with attendees.

Project Citizenship shared internship and volunteer opportunities with attendees.

Lynn Girton, the Pro Bono Director at Veterans Legal Services, spoke with law students and lawyers about opportunities to assist veterans.

Lynn Girton, the Pro Bono Director at Veterans Legal Services, spoke with law students and lawyers about opportunities to assist veterans.

Milton Wong, a staff attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project, offered attendees additional information about the various pro bono opportunities at his organization.

Milton Wong, a staff attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project, offered attendees additional information about the various pro bono opportunities at his organization.

Hot Off the Press: BBA & BBF Release 2015 Public Service Report

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The BBA & BBF are excited to announce the release of the 2015 Public Service Report. The report highlights the work of our 12,000+ members giving back and helping our community through programs like Law Day in the Schools and the Reentry Education Program. Take a few minutes to read through the report and learn more.

If you’re feeling inspired to get involved, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at [email protected].

Upcoming Brown Bag Tackles Issue of Long-Term Solitary Confinement

Massachusetts is one of only a few states in the country where inmates can be sentenced for up to ten years in solitary confinement for one disciplinary infraction. Leslie Walker, Executive Director of Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, is one of many activists looking to educate the community about the risks of this practice.
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On October 26th, she will host a Brown Bag Lunch from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. where attendees will have the chance to watch a presentation, hear a former prisoner’s story and ask questions of Leslie and her staff. The primary goal of the Brown Bag is education about solitary confinement regulations in the Commonwealth, and about proposals to reform those regulations.

“Now is the time, because much of the rest of the country is realizing that long-term solitary confinement does much more harm than good and has a negative impact on public safety,” she said. “President Obama has spoken out against solitary confinement, and Associate Justice Kennedy of the Supreme Court has said it drives men mad.”

Leslie and her organization are in favor of a plan that would keep inmates in solitary confinement only as long as they are considered dangerous. In other states, studies have found that prisons become less violent when prisoners in solitary are allowed to gradually reenter the general population.
Leslie said she would encourage anyone with an interest in prisoners’ rights, especially law school students, to attend the Brown Bag event later this month.

“I would have people leave the Brown Bag educated as to the state of solitary confinement in Massachusetts and aware of the solutions that are out there,” she said.

Click here to register for the event.

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].