Posts Categorized: Public Service

BBA Summer Jobs Widens the Pipeline

Imagine that you are a high school student again. You have nearly completed your sophomore, junior or senior year.  You are a student in one of the 28 high schools in Boston.   You might be a freshly minted graduate, ready to enter college in the fall. You come from one of the 21 diverse Boston neighborhoods.   In addition to English, you may speak Spanish, Vietnamese, Haitian Creole, Chinese or one of the 77 home languages spoken by Boston Public Schools students.   You decide to apply and are accepted to the Boston Bar Association’s Summer Jobs Program.

Since 1993, the BBA has introduced over 300 young adults to the legal profession.  This year, the Program will provide 56 students with positions in area law firms, legal offices, government and legal services agencies.  This represents a record-breaking number of participants.   Summer Jobs interns represent a motivated and high-achieving group of students in Boston. 

As we enter the 19th year of the Program, Beyond the Billable wanted to reach out to some of Program alumni – to find out where they are now, how they got there and what their experiences as Summer Jobs interns meant for them.   These are their stories. 

Khimmara Greer

Khimmara Greer, Esq.

Contract Attorney

Summer Jobs Program – 1999

I grew up in Dorchester. I attended John D. O’Bryant High School in Roxbury and Regis College in Weston. After graduating from college, I worked at WGBH for three years. Becoming an attorney was always a dream of mine, so I decided to pursue my dreams and entered North Carolina Central University School of Law, located in Durham, NC, in the fall of 2008. I graduated law school in May 2011 and passed the NC bar in July 2011. Since graduating from law school, I have been working as a temporary document review contract attorney on various litigation projects, and continue to seek permanent employment.

Bingham McCutchen, LLP, formerly Bingham Dana, LLP, was the law firm I interned at in the summer of 1999. The most important thing I learned throughout my internship was how to conduct myself in a professional environment. This was my first exposure to the corporate world, as it is for many of the students who participate in the Program, and it laid a solid foundation that I have built on over the past few years. While in college, I was an Inroads intern for three summers (interned at Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA and Fidelity Investments for two summers) and I felt like I was a few steps ahead of some of my colleagues because of my experience as a BBA Summer Intern.

My favorite memory from the Program was being selected as the female student to give a speech at the end of summer graduation. I felt very honored and was very nervous at the same time, but it was a great learning experience for me and gave me the opportunity to work on my public speaking skills. I still have the picture I took with Mayor Menino and the male student speaker. It is a good reminder of how far I have come.

There are many benefits to having a teen in the office. However, in my opinion, the most important benefit is an opportunity for attorneys and their staff to give back to the community by mentoring teens in the community through the BBA Summer Program both directly and indirectly. Giving back to the community is extremely important because positively influencing the lives of teens assist in creating well-rounded adults, and the next generation of professionals.

My experience as a BBA Summer Intern helped me to become an even more diligent student. I admired the attorneys throughout my summer internship and was inspired by their accomplishments, which made me work even harder. One of my goals was to be in their shoes one day, to become a successful attorney, and I continue to persistently work towards that goal.  

Chioma with her father at the Boston College Law School graduation

Chioma Akukwe

Boston College Law School Class of 2012

Summer Jobs Program – 2000

My name is Chioma Akukwe. I recently graduated from Boston College Law School this May, and hope to practice as a litigator here in MA. As a Brighton High School student, I avoided destructive behavior common among inner city youth because of the outreach programs led by lawyers and judges of the Commonwealth. It all started with the BBA Summer Jobs Program.

During my sophomore year in high school, I participated in the Boston Bar Association (BBA) Summer Jobs Program, where I was introduced to the legal profession and the idea of law school as an attainable and attractive goal. While at the BBA Summer Jobs Program, I interned at Rackemann, Sawyer and Brewster.

Thanks to outreach programs like the BBA Summer Jobs Program, I experienced extensive legal-career-related tasks by the young age of 16. I also acquired career role models such as Chief Judge Wolf, who has served as my mentor throughout college and law school. My experience with outreach programs in high school played a critical role in my ultimate decision to go to law school.

I attribute my success at the College of the Holy Cross and Boston College Law School to the public interest lawyers who were determined to make a difference by introducing disadvantaged Boston youth to the inner workings of the justice system.

After my 1L year, I interned at Microloan Foundation (MLF), an organization that helps disenfranchised African women provide basic necessities for their families by giving them small loans to start businesses. I participated in the Boston College Law School’s London Semester Externship Program during the second semester of my 2L year. The externship part of my semester in London took place at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, a large firm in London. When I returned from London, I spent my 2L summer working for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP).

Since my summer with the BBA Program, I have grown to be confident, hard-working, professional and dependable. Having a BBA Summer Program Student at a law firm is not only beneficial to the student, it can also be a rewarding experience for a mentoring attorney. It is a chance to play a positive role in a teenager’s life, and possibly help shape them into a responsible adult. I am a living proof.

Emmanuelle speaking at the 2010 BBA Law Day Dinner about her experience in the Summer Jobs Program

Emmanuelle Renelique

Legal Secretary, WilmerHale

Summer Jobs Program – 2003

The most valuable things I learned during my Summer Jobs opportunity with the Boston Bar Association was the importance of good work ethic and the benefits of networking. I was a high school student who had never worked in an office until I started at Ferriter Scobbo & Rodophele.  I was challenged to perform important tasks in a fast paced environment and quickly learned how crucial it was to ask questions when I did not understand something. The attorneys and staff were very gracious and appreciative when I asked questions as it demonstrated my enthusiasm as well as good judgment in wanting to complete the task well. I also learned the importance of networking. The working relationships I established through the Boston Bar Summer Jobs resulted in many great mentors and friends. My favorite memories from program were the visiting the various courthouses and attending my first Red Sox game!

While Summer Jobs students usually have minimal office experience, they are chosen form a select pool of applicants. Law firms certainly benefit from their zeal and energy. In my opinion and based on my work with other BBA Summer Jobs students, I was able to see the great benefits in having these students exposed to a law office. In addition to the proactive and inquisitive nature of these students, they are also able to seamlessly grasp the technology given the fact that they are “digital natives.” Their creative input could prove to enhance working systems and productivity.

The BBA Summer Jobs program definitely affirmed my decision to pursue of a legal career. As an intern, I had first-hand exposure to corporate law firm culture and the working environment. The experience aided me in obtaining other internships while attending the George Washington University. While GWU, presented many internship opportunities to students, I believe my Boston Bar Summer Jobs experience gave me a competitive edge in the applicant pool.

Memorial Day 2012: Looking Back at a Year of Legal Assistance

On Memorial Day, people throughout the Commonwealth and the country paused to remember and honor the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.  Here at Beyond the Billable, we felt compelled to look back at the initiatives created to assist the service men and women of Massachusetts by the lawyer-volunteers in our community.    

Seeking pro bono legal services for the families of troops from Massachusetts being deployed in increasing numbers for lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army National Guard  approached the Boston Bar Association (BBA) in 2009. Under the leadership of then BBA President, Jack Regan,  the BBA developed an ad hoc committee to analyze the need for these services and to determine how the BBA might help.  The committee was chaired by Bill Sinnott, Corporation Counsel for the City of Boston and a retired Marine colonel, and included people with extensive military, pro bono, and/or legal services experience. After many months of reaching out to community organizations and conducting research, the committee recommended the creation of the Veterans’ Initiative and the Delivery of Legal Services Active Duty Military, Family Members & Veterans Committee.

Since then, the BBA has supported the following programs – all of which seek to address the unique legal needs of military personnel, veterans and their families. 

The Yellow Ribbon Project

Lawyer volunteers from a variety of practice areas serve as educators at Yellow Ribbon events — pre and post deployment informational sessions open to members of all five branches of the military. At the Yellow Ribbon events, BBA volunteers provide legal advice to military personnel, veterans and their families throughout the state in areas of law that include: bankruptcy, consumer debt & credit, family, financial education, labor and employment and trusts and estates.  Lawyer volunteers have also developed teaching materials and power points presented and distributed at these events.

Financial Education Veterans Initiative

Veterans and families of veterans are experiencing financial hardship brought about by deployment and the reduction in income that deployment may result.  In addition, many veterans are experiencing financial hardship for reasons relating to the current downturn in the economy.  The Yellow Ribbon Project has expanded to include a financial education outreach program.  Through the Bankruptcy Section of the BBA, lawyer volunteers provide speakers to veterans’ organizations in Massachusetts on the topic of personal finance, including managing credit and mortgage modification programs.   These programs are designed to increase the financial knowledge of servicemen and women and their families.   Members of the Section are also working with the Bankruptcy Court to reach a broader audience.

Military Legal Helpline

In December 2010, the Delivery of Legal Services Active Duty Military, Family Members & Veterans Committee created the Military Legal Helpline to connect military personnel, veterans and their families to pro bono and low fee attorneys.  This program represents a partnership of the BBA, Legal Advocacy & Resource Center (LARC), Shelter Legal Services and Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association (VLP).  The Helpline is housed and operated by LARC.  Callers are referred to VLP, Shelter Legal Services and the BBA Lawyer Referral Service based on income guidelines.  

To support the Helpline, the John A. Perkins Fund of the Boston Bar Foundation provided funding for the creation of an informational brochure that is widely distributed by our partner organizations.

BBA Lawyer Referral Service Military Panels

The BBA Lawyer Referral Service is committed to serving military members, veterans, and their families. Since February 2010, BBA lawyers have assisted more than 4,500 troops and their families from MA National Guard, Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Reserve. The Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service has attorneys who certify that they meet certain experience requirements and have completed specialized training to help military members, veterans, and their families with legal issues in a variety of practice areas, including Bankruptcy Law, Employment Law, Family Law, and Trusts & Estates.

To reach the BBA Lawyer Referral Service please call (617)742 0625 or (800)552-7046 Monday through Thursday, 8:30 am to 5:30 pm; Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. You can also email us at [email protected] or visit us on the web at www.bostonbarlawyer.org.

If you are interested in learning more about these projects, please contact Stephanie Lee, Public Service Programs Coordinator at [email protected].

BBA Seeks to Foster Diversity with Law Student Internship Program in the Courts

Background. . .

In the beginning it was an informal initiative designed to provide unpaid internships, introducing law students to the inner workings of the courts. The brainchild of Boston Municipal Court Judge Robert Tochka, the program helped provided needed assistance to the trial courts during a time marked by funding cuts and staff layoffs.

Over time, Judge Tochka made an effort to reach out to more law students, providing them with the opportunity to volunteer their time to him, observe courtroom proceedings and enhance their legal research and writing skills. Word of the program began to spread and other BMC judges were eager to become involved.

In 2010, the BBA Diversity and Inclusion Section heard of this internship program and saw it as a unique opportunity for the BBA to use its resources to help expand and formalize this project as a modest but important step towards providing diverse law students with valuable mentoring and professional experience, and supporting the courts.

By the spring of 2011, the BBA Diversity and Inclusion Section conducted extensive outreach to career services offices at Boston law schools to recruit candidates who could benefit from semester long internships, and helped place students with judges.

Fast forward to the May 15, 2012 meeting of the BBA governing Council. . .

Following a presentation by BBA Diversity Section Co-Chair and Choate, Hall & Stewart partner, Macey Russell, the BBA Council voted to partner with the BMC to formalize this initiative for the purpose of helping to retain a diverse and inclusive population of young lawyers here in Boston.

Students are required to work 15 hours per week, with one day being in court. In addition to completing assigned tasks from their judge, they are required to work on the Massachusetts Case Summaries blog which summarizes important Massachusetts cases.

The next session will begin in the fall; applications will be accepted in August. Interested participants are encouraged to contact Susan Helm at [email protected] or 617-778-1984.

Public Interest Leader Supports Law Day Program

PILP member Emily Hodge speaking to a third grade class at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School

Walking into the Josiah Quincy Elementary School in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood, a visitor is struck by the sheer amount of colors in the building.  The hallways are awash in a bright and cheerful orange.  Student drawings and elaborate crafts hang from the walls.  Green plants line the window sill as a reminder of yesterday’s science lesson.  There is no shortage of evidence that the Quincy School is an active and lively institution. 

Emily and the students discuss the concept of “justice.”

This week, the students and educators of the Quincy School and other Boston Public Schools opened their doors to BBA lawyer-volunteers for the Law Day in the Schools program.  The program is a Boston Bar Foundation-funded public service initiative that began in 1986 – to introduce legal concepts and ideals to students.  Guided by the theme, “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom,” students participated in a mock trial designed to focus on due process and ensuring access to the justice system.  With the assistance of volunteers, the students assumed the roles of the victim, the accused, law enforcement, prosecutor and defense counsel.

Students listen attentively as Emily speaks about the justice system in America

Beyond the Billable caught up with Emily F. Hodge, an associate with Choate Hall & Stewart and member of the BBA’s new Public Interest Leadership Program (class of 2012-2013) to find out what it was like.  Emily shared her thoughts on the students, how the exercise engaged the class and why she donated her time to the program.   

I arrived at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School for a Law Day class with Ms. Yang’s third grade class, and was escorted to the classroom by two bright and bubbly girls who had a lot of questions about being a lawyer.  One said she wanted to be a lawyer when she grew up – and also a fashion designer and a dentist.  When I arrived in the classroom there was a lot of activity and energy.  We began our Law Day discussion talking about what a lawyer or attorney is, and what they do.  Almost all of the students knew what a lawyer was, some knew a few lawyers personally, and a couple of the students were sure they wanted to become lawyers when they grow up.  We talked about what “justice” means, and the students offered up the following adjectives: fair, equal, liberty.  Every student was engaged and enthusiastic.  I encouraged the students to think about why we have a justice system, and about the role that lawyers might play in that system.  The students offered up great ideas and were clearly thinking hard about the justice system and the role of lawyers. 

We turned to the fact pattern, and reviewed it together as a group.  The students were buzzing with comments about whether Tomika really could have taken Maria’s book bag.  Most students seemed to think Tomika was innocent, but others noted, “what about the fact that her locker was locked with the bag inside?”  We split into groups, and everyone had a lot to say about their roles – some were excited, and others found it hard to think about the case from a point of view they didn’t agree with.  Each of the groups had energetic discussions about what their arguments would be, and every one of the group representatives made compelling arguments.  It was incredible to watch the students argue their positions – one, who played Tomika, adamantly asserted that Maria had accused her simply because her brother was in jail and the girls were no longer friends, which was “just not fair.”  Another stepped up without any notes and delivered the position of the police officer in a clear and confident voice, asserting that the bag was found in Tomika’s locked locker, so it made sense to accuse her.  Some students thought very creatively about the case and really worked to make the best arguments they could for their positions.   The defendant and her counsel each decided that the true explanation for the theft of Maria’s backpack was that Katie, the accuser, had framed Tomika – that Katie had watched Tomika enter the combination to her locker and gone back later to put Maria’s bag inside!

 Participating in Law Day was a great way to step outside the daily practice of law and take part in educating young students about the role that the law, justice and lawyers might play in their own lives.  Each of the students seemed to think hard about what it might mean to participate in a case like this one, and how important it was to have a process and a system in place to ensure that every voice was heard.  Listening to the students’ thoughts about justice and our legal system was fascinating, and it was rewarding and inspiring to see how energized the students were about vigorously defending each of their positions.

A Snapshot of the Boston Public Schools:

 

 The Numbers:

The BPS consists of 125 schools

57,000 students are enrolled in the BPS

78% of BPS students are eligible to receive free and reduced-priced meals in school

53% of students are eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

43% of students speak a language other than English as their first language

BPS students come from more than 110 countries and speak 77 different languages

BBA Volunteers Help Clean Up the Charles

On Saturday, April 21st, 25 volunteers organized by the BBA’s New Lawyers Section joined in an effort to clean up the banks of the Charles River.    This event ties in with the BBA’s Task Force on Environmental Sustainability, a group charged with expanding the BBA’s public service capacity to include volunteer opportunities that benefit the environment. To read more about the work of the Task Force, please visit The Sustainable Lawyer, the BBA’s blog dedicated to issues of environmental sustainability.

The event, coordinated by the Charles River Watershed Association, marked the 13th Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup.  It’s estimated that some 4,000 volunteers from Milford to Boston removed 15-20 tons of rubbish from alongside the River and the surrounding areas. 

BBA Members Gather to Volunteer for the 13th AnnualCharles River Clean Up.

BBA Council member, Christina Miller hard at work

No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom! Will You Be Teaching on Law Day?

Under the leadership of alums from the BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP), the BBA is gearing up for the annual Law Day in the Schools Program scheduled to be held on May 1st, 2nd and 3rd.  Funded by the Boston Bar Foundation , this public service initiative began in 1986 — to celebrate Law Day and to introduce students to both the legal profession and the role the law has played in shaping our constitutional democracy.

Through this interactive civics program, lawyers donate time to visit classrooms throughout city, teaching elementary, middle school and high school students and leading mock trials focusing on constitutional issues.

The theme for 2012 will be “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom.”   The exercise provided to volunteers  will focus on due process and ensuring access to the criminal justice system amid growing state budget constraints.  A highlight of the 2012 curriculum developed by the PILP alums will be a mock trial involving stolen property.  Students will play the role of the victim, the accused, law enforcement, prosecutor and defense counsel.

Volunteers aim to teach the lesson within a class period, but are flexible to the teacher’s schedules.  The BBA provides volunteers with all the written materials for the Program.   The commitment for the Program —  including preparation, travel and teaching time–  is no more than six hours.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, we will be hosting a training on April 24, 2012.  To RSVP, please click here.

We would like to thank the following Public Interest Leadership Program alumni for their valuable assistance in developing the Program:

Aaron Agulnek

Jewish Community Relations Council

Jane Harper

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

Dara Kesselheim

Choate Hall & Stewart LLP

Nicole Murati Ferrer

City of Boston

Jesse Redlener

Dalton & Finegold, LLP

Anita Sharma

PAIR Project