Posts Categorized: Training

Pro Bono Perspectives: Volunteers Share Their Experiences from Citizenship Day


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.”

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.

Attorneys Pick Up Tips on How to Tackle Special Immigrant Juvenile Cases

Panelist share useful tips with attorneys who may support immigrant children in special juvenile cases.

Panelist shared useful tips to help attorneys support immigrant children in special juvenile cases.


Panelist Laurie Carafone (Kids in Need of Defense), Elizabeth Badger (Kids in Need of Defense), Jay McManus (Childrens Law Center of Massachusetts), and Jennifer Klein (Committee for Public Service Counsel –Somerville) gathered at the BBA last Monday to discuss special immigrant juvenile cases. The panelists shared their personal experiences and gave the attendees some advice on how they can approach similar proceedings to gain the best outcome for children involved.

Beyond the Billable reached out to Elizabeth Badger for more information. Here’s what she had to say about why she believes it’s important for attorneys and judges to educate themselves about special proceedings in immigrant juvenile cases:

“Noncitizen children appearing before the juvenile courts are often the children most in need of stability, which SIJ can provide them.  That same court proceeding to address those needs is able to provide them with the orders needed to petition for SIJ status.  However, very few families and attorneys are aware of the court’s ability to provide this relief and pathway to stabilize the children’s lives.”

Practice Makes Perfect! Media Training Puts Potential Spokespeople in the Interview Hot Seat

Attorneys learn how to use the media to their advantage.

Attorneys learned some useful tips and tricks about how they can use the media effectively.


If a reporter called you right now, would you be pleased or panicky? Confident or concerned? Members of the Affinity Bar Leadership Institute now place themselves comfortably in the former category, having attended this week’s “Media Preparedness and Training” workshop at the BBA.

The training answered questions like: Why seek media coverage? What do I need to know before developing a communications strategy? When should I use a press release, a statement or a pitch? How do I decline an interview tactfully? In addition, participants learned interview tactics and techniques, and had the opportunity to practice their skills in one-on-one mock interviews.

For a copy of the presentation, contact Communications Director Kerry Crisley at [email protected]

VLP and Mintz Levin Launch Pro Bono Pilot Program in Appellate Court

Appellate attorneys and legal services attorneys discuss appellate procedure and strategies, and highlight special considerations for housing and family law appeals.

Appellate and legal services attorneys discuss appellate procedure and strategies, and highlight special considerations for housing and family law appeals.

Every day, self-represented litigants make their way through the justice system bringing appeals before the court; and until now, they were doing so entirely on their own.

In response to this unmet need, the Pro Bono Appellate Committee recently established a pro bono civil appellate program designed to assist low-income litigants recommended by the Volunteer Lawyer Project by offering brief legal consultations or legal representation in court.

The program, managed by the VLP and supported by Mintz Levin, will operate out of the established Court Service Center at the Brooke Courthouse, which houses the Central Division of the Boston Municipal Court, the Boston Housing Court, the Suffolk County Juvenile Court, and Suffolk Probate & Family Court.

The BBA recently held an initial training for the clinic, featuring remarks from justices of the Appeals Court and panels consisting of representatives from across legal services, private practice, and the courts.

How was this need determined? In 2013, the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission established the Pro Bono Appellate Committee to study self-represented appellants in the court system and whether a pro bono program should be established to assist them.

The data doesn’t lie: It showed that a significant number of appeals-related cases were brought up in the SJC for the County of Suffolk every week – from formal appeals to informal requests for advice. As of January 2014, over 225 civil appeals that involved at least one self-represented litigant were pending. Most of these cases are based in family law or landlord-tenant law issues, as well as some prisoners’ rights, mortgage forfeitures, and contract or tort cases.

With this evidence in mind, and knowing that many self-represented litigants struggle with the complexities of the court system, the Pro Bono Appellate Committee began working with the VLP to create this pilot program. The program has three main aspects: a weekly Lawyer for the Day appellate clinic; referral to a Pro Bono Appellate Screening Panel that reviews potentially meritorious cases; and assignment of pro bono attorneys for cases selected by that Panel. This arrangement allows attorneys and court staff to give some guidance to cases that don’t necessarily need full representation, while also allowing for greater involvement if a case warrants it.

The program also represents the cooperation of the courts, legal services, and private practice. While the VLP is overseeing the program in the court, volunteers from Mintz Levin will assist with coordinating clinic volunteers and tracking cases. Over time, the program is expected to expand to include other legal services organizations in the Boston area and enlist the assistance of area law firms.

As with programs like Lawyer for the Day in Housing Court and the Court Service Center, the pilot pro bono civil appeals clinic could fundamentally change the way the court interacts with self-represented litigants and vice versa, and allow justice to be served properly.

If you are interested in volunteering, we at the BBA will keep you updated about the progress of the program and future training opportunities.

BBA Hosts Annual Trying a Case in Housing Court Training

First Justice Jeffrey Winik (Boston Housing Court), Larry Wind (The Law Office of Lawrence A. Wind), and Maureen MacDonagh (Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School) walked attendees through the steps of trying a case in the Boston Housing Court on Tuesday evening.

First Justice Jeffrey Winik (Boston Housing Court), Larry Wind (The Law Office of Lawrence A. Wind), and Maureen MacDonagh (Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School) walked attendees through the steps of trying a case in the Boston Housing Court on Tuesday evening.

On Tuesday night, attorneys interested in getting involved with the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program came to 16 Beacon for the popular “Trying a Case in the Housing Court Pro Bono Training.” The all-star panel featured First Justice Jeffrey Winik (Boston Housing Court), Larry Wind (The Law Office of Lawrence A. Wind), and Maureen MacDonagh (Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School).

Beyond the Billable checked in with attendee John Hanify (Jones Day) to hear why he chose to attend the training and why his firm plans to get involved in the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program. Here’s what he had to say:

Hanify, John 02112005“I attended the Housing Court Program because my responsibilities at Jones Day include helping young lawyers gain experience in trial law and coordinating our pro bono service. A pro bono commitment in the Housing Court provides critical representation to fellow citizens in need of counsel but also opportunities for young lawyers to develop their skills in trial settings and before very gifted trial judges. Jones Day has a long history of pro bono work, public service and community involvement across the nation- a tradition which we have continued here since the Jones Day Boston office was opened in 2011.”

Looking Ahead in Public Service

The Annual Charitable Board Training, which always draws a big crowd, is one of the many public service events coming up in January.

The Annual Charitable Board Service Program, which always draws a big crowd, is one of the many public service events coming up in January.

Happy 2015! If you’re still looking for a New Year’s resolution, here’s one: commit to getting more involved in the BBA’s public service efforts. Take a look below at upcoming trainings and events:

M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Program Training
Tuesday, January 13th 4:30-6:00 pm

The M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program may be the perfect fit for you. After completing this training, volunteers go into high schools and educate students about the importance of making smart financial decisions.

Representing Debtors in Debt Collection Suits: Making Creditors Prove Ownership of Debts
Thursday, January 15th 4:00-6:00 pm

If you’re searching for a new pro bono opportunity, look no further! The Volunteer Lawyers Project is seeking volunteers to represent debtors in collection suits. Seasoned debt collection defense practitioners, Thomas Beauvais and Danielle Spang, will discuss their strategies and insights for discovery in debt defense cases.

Learning From City of Brockton v. Energy Facilities Siting Board: Environmental Justice Strategies and Collaboration
Friday, January 16th 12:00-1:00 pm

Don’t miss the Environmental Law Public Service Committee’s upcoming brown bag where practitioners Lisa Goodheart and Gene Benson share their perspective on the SJC’s decision in City of Brockton v. EFSB. The program will cover the environmental justice implications of the decision and the role of pro bono representation in environmental justice issues.

Building Your Practice Through Pro Bono
Wednesday, January 21st 4:00-6:00 pm

Learn how other solo and small firm attorneys have successfully incorporated volunteer service into their law practices and share your own successes as well.

4th Annual Charitable Board Service Program (Free)
Thursday, January 22nd 8:00 -11:30 am

Serving on a charitable board is an opportunity to contribute to a worthy cause or mission. You will also gain meaningful experience, broaden your career horizons, and use your skills to serve your community in an area of your interest. This program will address what you need to know in order to be an effective member of a charitable board, as well as how to find the right board for you.

Victim Rights Law Center’s Rape Survivors’ Law Project
Wednesday, January 14th 9:30-11:30 am
Proskauer Rose, One International Place, Boston, MA

Join our friends at the Victim Rights Law Center for a training that will address the realities and dynamics of sexual assault, how to effectively and sensitively work with a victim of sexual assault, and the best practices applicable to our most common pro bono cases. To attend, please RSVP to [email protected].

Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid Meet Up
Thursday, January 29th 10:00-11:00 am

Want to Walk to the Hill? Join the New Lawyers and the Solo & Small Firms Sections for a networking breakfast before walking over to the State House as a group. Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid is one of the largest lobbying events held at the Massachusetts State House. This annual event is critical to obtaining funding for civil legal services. Following “Investing in Justice,” the report of the BBA Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts, we now know more about the justice gap than ever before.

John & Abigail Adam’s Benefit
Saturday, January 31st 6:30 pm
Museum of Fines Arts, Boston, MA

We couldn’t leave out the premier charity event in the legal field, the John & Abigail Adam’s Benefit. As you may know, 100 percent of the proceeds from the event will be used for direct grants to organizations that serve thousands of individuals and families struggling with issues such as homelessness and domestic violence. This year’s event will feature a new twist– Late Night at the Museum — a dessert and dancing event starting at 9:00 p.m. for young lawyers and law students. There will be a variety of live entertainment throughout the museum, an abundance of gourmet food and beverages and beautiful galleries and exhibits to explore.

Preparing Attorneys to Give Debtors a Fresh Start

Last Thursday, attorneys gathered in the Conference Center at 16 Beacon for the annual Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Pro Bono Training, co-hosted by the BBA and Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association (VLP).  Expert Panelists Jesse Redlener (Dalton & Finegold, LLP), Warren Agin (Swiggart & Agin, LLC), Kate Nicholson (Parker & Associates), and Hsindy Chen (Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association) walked attendees through the basics of representing a Chapter 7 debtors pro bono.

Chen - Hsindy02Now that attendees have completed the training, they are ready to assist debtors through VLP’s Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Program. We reached out to panelist and VLP Staff Attorney Hsindy Chen to learn more about why attorneys should get involved in VLP’s Bankruptcy Pro Bono Project. Here’s what she had to say:

“Through VLP’s bankruptcy pro bono project, volunteer attorneys provide legal representation to indigent debtors on a pro bono basis.  Filing bankruptcy provides a “fresh start” for many consumer debtors.  This is especially true for legal services clients who lack support and resources in their everyday lives.  It is an enormous consolation for our clients during times of crisis to know that they have representation in their bankruptcy.  Without the assistance of pro bono attorneys, our clients would be forced to file pro se, risking dismissal of their cases.  Filing bankruptcy prevents, among other things, wage garnishments, utility shut offs, and continued harassment from creditors.  Our clients are extremely grateful for the representation and our volunteers develop into competent and ethical bankruptcy attorneys through their volunteer work.  The pro bono relationship is truly symbiotic – calling your client to inform them of the Order of Discharge is a truly gratifying experience for an attorney!” 

Panel Discusses Human Trafficking Cases

The expert panel discussed the federal and state human trafficking laws and walked attendees through two case studies.

The expert panel discussed the federal and state human trafficking laws and walked attendees through two case studies.

You may remember this Human Trafficking Symposium that PILP 9 put together a few years ago. Last night, the Delivery of Legal Services Section’s Human Trafficking Subcommittee reconvened attorneys to discuss this important topic.  The expert panel, which featured Julie Dahlstrom (Ascentria Care Alliance), Deb Bercovitch (Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General), Alec Zadek (Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.), and moderator Erin Albright (International Institute of New England), walked attendees through two case studies to highlight issues that attorneys may face when representing trafficking victims.

Beyond the Billable reached out to panelist and Human Trafficking Subcommittee Co-Chair Alec Zadek (Mintz, Levin Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C.) to hear more about the training. Here’s what he had to say:

What do you hope attorneys learned from the program?

“I hope that the attorneys who attended the program became more familiar with the state and federal laws that criminalize human trafficking and learned creative ways in which they could help survivors of human trafficking.”

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

“Based on my experiences, survivors of human trafficking often have complex legal needs that require substantial time and effort on the part of their attorneys, but do not have the resources to hire an attorney or attorneys who are capable of addressing their legal issues.  An additional complication is that survivors often have had unpleasant experiences with the legal system and may feel disenfranchised from it.  As a result of these factors, when you provide pro bono legal services to survivors of human trafficking, you have the opportunity to markedly improve that person’s life by helping with an obstacle hindering their success – whether it be representing them in a deportation proceeding, moving to seal a criminal record that is hindering their job opportunities, advising them regarding a criminal proceeding in which they may be called as a witness, or any other issue – and, equally as important, you have the opportunity to show your client that the legal system can be a powerful tool to protect their rights and benefit them.”