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Suffolk Family Law Court Clinic Training Readies Attorneys for New Volunteer Opportunity

The Volunteer Lawyers Project, in partnership with the Women’s Bar Foundation and Community Legal Services and Counseling Center*recently began a weekly Family Law Clinic at the Court Service Center in the Edward Brooke Courthouse in Boston. The clinic provides legal advice and helps draft pleadings on family law issues including divorce, custody, and more. The Boston Bar Association recently hosted a training for attorneys and law students interested in volunteering with the clinic. This opportunity is open to attorneys of all skill levels. Law students and new lawyers are able to build skill sets by interacting with clients and drafting pleadings. More experienced practitioners are able to do pro bono work without commitment of full case and have mentorship opportunities.

The Family Law Clinic is every Wednesday from 9-1 PM at the Suffolk Probate & Family Court. Volunteers are able to sign-up online for any week and as often as one would like.

*The Volunteer Lawyers Project, Women’s Bar Foundation, and Community Legal Services and Counseling Center are 2016 Grantees of the Boston Bar Foundation.

Rep. Michael Day Recounts How PILP Encouraged Him Toward Public Service

Earlier this month, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) welcomed Representative Michael Day to the Boston Bar Association. Rep. Day is currently in his second term in the Massachusetts State House representing the 31st Middlesex District of Massachusetts, which includes Stoneham and Winchester. Rep. Day is also a partner at Torres, Scammon, Hincks & Day, LLP where his practice focuses on business and criminal litigation.

When asked what prompted his interest in public service, Rep. Day cited his time in PILP in 2008-2009 as the tinder that lit the fire. Working on programs like Law Day in the Schools and the Charitable Board Service Information Session helped Rep. Day realize his passion for community based work. After PILP, Rep. Day joined the BBA’s Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Section Steering Committee and went on to co-chair that section until he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 2015.

Rep. Day described his schedule to PILP and explained how he balances his political duties and being a firm partner. He also described how PILPers, as residents of Massachusetts, can raise concerns with their representatives and become more civically engaged on issues they’re passionate about. On the state level, Rep. Day noted that one’s state representative has the closest tie to their constituents because they represent an area far smaller than state senators. PILP was encouraged to reach out to their state representative with any question or concern.

You can read more about Rep. Day here.

If you’re interested in applying to PILP, applications for the 2017-2018 Class are being accepted until March 31, 2017. Please contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected] if you’d like to apply.

Volunteers from the Civil Appeals Court Honored

Pictured from left: Joanna Allison, Executive Director of the Volunteer Lawyers Project; Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants; Attorney Kimberly Parr, Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office; Conlan Orino, Analyst, Analysis Group; Attorney Daniel Goodrich, Law Clerk, Massachusetts Appeals Court; Appeals Court Chief Justice Scott L. Kafker; and Attorney Susan Finegan, a Member of the Litigation Section and the Pro Bono Partner of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.

At a reception at the John Adams Courthouse on Thursday, March 2, 2017, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants and Appeals Court Chief Justice Scott L. Kafker delivered remarks and honored three volunteers for their outstanding pro bono work in the Civil Appeals Court Clinic run out of the Appeals Court Clerk’s Office. Since 2015, volunteer attorneys from the Volunteer Lawyers Project and Boston-area law firms have helped at least 230 low income litigants who are representing themselves in civil appellate court matters on a number of issues, ranging from housing to family law. The Civil Appeals Court Clinic volunteers who were presented with certificates were: Kimberly Parr, Daniel Goodrich, and Conlan Orino. For more information about the Civil Appeals Court Clinic, including how to get involved, visit https://www.vlpnet.org/volunteer/item.6901-Civil_Appeals_Clinic.

PAIR Hosts Asylum Training at BBA

Anita Sharma, executive director of the PAIR Project.

At a recent well-attended training at 16 Beacon Street, the Boston Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project brought experts in the legal and medical fields to talk about best practices for representing asylum seekers.

The training was geared toward those who have never taken on an asylum case before, and introduced attendees to PAIR’s method of assigning teams of attorneys to tackle these multifaceted, challenging cases. PAIR’s executive director, Anita Sharma, stressed the importance of teamwork, creative thinking and empathy in asylum cases, which require a mix of legal prowess and sensitivity from attorneys.

“It’s one thing to read the language of this law, but when you are dealing with an actual human being who has been through terrible trauma, and you’re trying to … check off all the boxes (to make sure they meet the qualifications to obtain asylum), it becomes very difficult,” she said.

Even a phrase as seemingly straightforward as a “well-founded fear of persecution,” which one must demonstrate to qualify for asylum, is subject to multiple interpretations. The panel of experts walked attendees through each piece of the legal requirements for asylum. They also discussed the distinction between asylum status and refugee status, gave tips on working with interpreters, and offered advice on coaxing clients to talk about what they have endured.

“It’s human instinct: you go through something horrible and you want to forget it. But we (as attorneys) are in this terrible position where we have to ask for every single detail” in order to strengthen the client’s case, Sharma said.

Sonda Crosby, a physician at Boston Medical Center and an associate professor of medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine, spoke about the importance of a forensic medical examination in proving a client’s claims in a situation where they have been physically harmed.

Ilana Greenstein (Law Office of Macias & Greenstein) and David McHaffey (McHaffey & Associates) also lent their expertise to the training.

Check out our calendar  page for more public service programs and pro bono trainings and if you’re interested in volunteer opportunities related to immigration issues, please complete this online survey.

The Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project is a 2016 Grantee of the Boston Bar Foundation.

Reentry Education Program Addresses Family Law with Probationers

Reentry Education Program Committee member Raquel Webster (National Grid, far right), introduces speaker Brian McLaughlin (McLaughlin Law, center).

The Reentry Education Program engages those reentering the community post-incarceration by providing workshops on a range of relevant topics.  In the first presentation of 2017 at the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, Attorney Brian McLaughlin, McLaughlin Law, presented on a variety of family law issues. While the presentation was a broad overview, the content was extremely useful to those who’ve never navigated family law issues before or who may have questions on ongoing matters. From paternity and child support to child custody and parenting time, McLaughlin defined many of the common terms associated with family law matters and explained the Probate and Family Court’s role in these affairs. The attendees were also provided with a comprehensive list of resources to further research how to navigate the court and find legal counsel if needed.

The Reentry Education Program continues next month with a workshop on Driver’s License Reinstatement. Future topics will include CORI management, employment law, public benefits, and more, please email Cassandra Shavney at [email protected] if you’re interested in becoming a presenter.

Peek into the Pro Bono Fair

On Tuesday, law students and attorneys mingled with legal services organizations at Suffolk University Law School to learn about pro bono opportunities across the Commonwealth. Over 30 organizations passed out flyers and collected information on potential volunteers. If you were unable to make it to the event, we’ve included a few photos from the evening below and we hope you join us next year!

Representatives from Mass Legal Answers Online and the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association speak with attendees.

Representatives from Mass Legal Answers Online and the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association speak with attendees.

 

Ting Chiu tables for Greater Boston Legal Services

Ting Chiu tables for Greater Boston Legal Services.

 

A Suffolk law student hears more information on Political Asylum Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project

A Suffolk law student hears more information on the Political Asylum Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project.

 

Abbe Hershberg, BBA Family Law Public Service Committee Co-Chair, Carolyn Mitchell and Cassandra Shavney of the BBA, and Michael McDermott, New Lawyers Section Public Service Committee Co-Chair, table on behalf of the Boston Bar Association

(Left to Right) Abbe Hershberg, BBA Family Law Section Public Service Committee Co-Chair, Carolyn Mitchell and Cassandra Shavney of the BBA, and Michael McDermott, BBA New Lawyers Section Public Service Committee Co-Chair, table on behalf of the Boston Bar Association.

 

Law Students and Attorneys meet with numerous organizations and hear about their work and pro bono opportunities.

Law Students and attorneys meet with numerous organizations and hear about their work and pro bono opportunities.

 

An attendee learns about the work of Project Citizenship

An attendee learns about the work of Project Citizenship.

 

Barbara Oro and Rochelle Hahn prepare to explain the new Mass Legal Answers Online Project.

Barbara Oro and Rochelle Hahn gladly explain the new Mass Legal Answers Online Project.

 

If you’d like information on the organizations present at the fair, please email Cassandra Shavney at [email protected]

Pro Bono Spotlight: Nixon Peabody Associates Volunteer with PAIR Project

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Nixon Peabody’s website boasts impressive pro bono numbers. In 2015, 84% of attorneys firm-wide participated in pro bono projects.  The firm logged 34,001 total pro bono hours in 2015 with participation from attorneys, paralegals, professional specialists and staff members.

But behind the numbers are the people. In recognition of Pro Bono Month, we spoke to two associates in Nixon Peabody’s Boston office who have devoted a considerable amount of their time and energy to the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) project in Boston.

The staff at PAIR match attorneys with immigrants who are seeking asylum or have been unjustly detained in Massachusetts. PAIR offers training and

mentorship, particularly to attorneys who may not regularly practice immigration law. That describes Hannah Bornstein and Troy Lieberman, who concentrate on white collar criminal defense and intellectual property litigation, respectively.

Some of their clients have survived horrors like abuse and torture, and are forced to leave family members behind when they flee their home country. Many do not speak English and do not have the funds to hire an attorney to help them navigate the complex process of applying for asylum.

“I have bornstein_hannahtwo little kids. Imagine having to leave overnight and go to a country where you don’t know anyone, you don’t speak the language, and the only reason you do it is because if you stay where you are, you’ll be killed,” Bornstein said. “You hear these stories, and everyone is in tears, and it’s really heartbreaking.”

Bornstein began volunteering with PAIR when she was in law school, and has stuck with it for the last 10 years. Her enthusiasm inspired Lieberman to get involved, and he said the work has been appealing and inspiring on many levels.

Attorneys who take part in Nixon Peabody’s various pro bono projects are not only improving the lives of their clients, they are sharpening their professional skills in practice areas that might differ significantly from their own. In these types of immigration and asylum cases, where clients have been through trauma, becoming extremely familiar with documents is important, Bornstein said. Sometimes building their case revolves around telling a story that moves from point A to point B coherently.

Lieberman echoed these comments, and also said working with PAIR clients helps him to gain perspective on his work.
“Clients come in so upbeat and optimistic in spite of everything, and it makes you realize how fortunate we are,” he said.

 

Volunteering with PAIR does not require expertise in a specific practice area. Bornstein and Lieberman both praised the staff at PAIR for their seemingly endless capacity to work through issues and make themselves available to help. But it does require patience and immense sensitivity.

“The level of trust it takes for these clients to confide in you and talk about these things they’ve been through is what really stays with me. It doesn’t happen in the first, second,
or even third meeting, usually. It takes a high level of trust and a lot of listening. There’s a huge human element to the process,” he said.

Bornstein said working with PAIR clients inspires her to be grateful, particularly for the freedoms Americans have that people in other parts of the world are denied.

“My clients show up with a smile on their face and they are happy and grateful for our help. It speaks to resiliency and how people can overcome a lot. I think it’s the clients that are the heroes of these stories,” she said.

The Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) project is a grantee organization of the Boston Bar Foundation. To find out more about their work, please visit http://pairproject.org/.

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Thank You to Our 2016 Financial Literacy Volunteers

With the end of the BBA Summer Jobs Program comes the end of another successful year for the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program. Because of the attorneys who volunteer their time to this unique educational experience, students all over Massachusetts are able to better understand how to manage their finances.

Thank you to Chief Judge Melvin S. Hoffman, Hon. Frank J. Bailey, Hon. Henry J. Boroff (Ret.), Hon. Joan N. Feeney, and Hon. Christopher J. Panos for their support of this program.

We would also like to thank our partners at the Hampden County Bar Association and Hampshire County Bar Association for bringing the Carpenter Financial Literacy Program to students throughout the Commonwealth.

Thank you to all of this year’s volunteers!

Amane Abdel Jaben

Karen Adamski, O’Brien & Adamski

Warren Agin, Swiggart & Agin, LLC

Jesse Angeley, McLane Middleton, Professional Association

Joseph Baldiga, Mirick O’Connell – Westborough Office

Amanda Blaske

Janet Bostwick, Janet E. Bostwick, PC

Christopher Candon, Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green- NH

Jeffrey Cedrone, Sun Life Financial

Stephen M Cohen, Choate Hall & Stewart LLP

Michele Collins, MetLife

Christopher Condon, Murphy & King

Jaime D’Almeida, Duff & Phelps

Jeanne Darcey, Sullivan & Worcester LLP

John Davis, Cooley Shrair, P.C.

Mark DiOrio, Bulfinch Companies, Inc.

Danielle D’Onfro, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP

Deborah Dong

Max Ferullo, U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Kellie Fisher, Brown Rudnick LLP

Kate Foley, Mirick O’Connell – Westborough Office

Harrison Freeman

David Gabor, Wagner Law Group, PC

Henry Geberth, Hendel & Collins, PC

Talia Gee

Lane Goldberg, Goldberg Law

Jonathan Goldsmith, Law Office of Jonathan R. Goldsmith

Michelle Greco, Sun Life Financial

Nancy Gregory, BlumShapiro

Nicholas Grimaldi, Fierst, Kane & Bloomberg, LLP

Lisa Halbert, Bacon & Wilson, PC

David Hansen, Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green PA

Richard Harper, U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission

William Harrington, U.S. Department of Justice – Office of the U.S. Trustee

Lee Harrington, Nixon Peabody LLP

Benjamin Higgins, U.S. Bankruptcy Court

D. Ethan Jeffery, Murphy & King

Kevin Kam, Mirick O’Connell – Worcester Office

Geraldine Karonis, U.S. Department of Justice – Office of the U.S. Trustee

Elizabeth Katz, Rescia & Katz, LLP

Michael Katz, Bacon & Wilson, PC

Ryan Kelley, Pierce Atwood, LLP

Justin Kesselman, Posternak Blankstein & Lund LLP

Eric Kornblum

Peter Lane

Deborah Levine

Amy Lipman-White, Lipman & White

Andrew Lizotte, Murphy & King

John Loughnane, Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP

Cornelio Lozada

David Madoff, Madoff & Khoury LLP

Janice Marsh

Wendy Mead, Kressler & Ehrhard PC

Dragica Mijailovic, Sun Life Financial

Rose Miller, Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General

Rebecca Mitchell, Brown Rudnick LLP

Vanessa Moody, Goulston & Storrs PC

John Morrier, Casner & Edwards, LLP

Karen Murphy, Pioneer Valley Legal Associates, LLP

Sean Nehill, Boston Redevelopment Authority

Andrea O’Connor, Hendel & Collins, PC

Laura Otenti, Posternak Blankstein & Lund LLP

Gregory Pakhladzhyan, American Student Assistance

Jessica Pettit, Sun Life Financial

Steven Pohl, Brown Rudnick LLP

Jesse Redlener, Dalton & Finegold, LLP

Douglas Rosner, Goulston & Storrs PC

David Rozenson

Adam Ruttenberg, Posternak Blankstein & Lund LLP

Patricia Saint James, Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers, PC

Megan Schaubhut

Mary Sharon, Pro Se Debtors Bankruptcy Clinic

Denise Shear, Ostrander Law Office

Richard Sheils, Bowditch & Dewey, LLP – Worcester Office

Deborah Sonnenschein

Danielle Spang, Law Office of Danielle Spang

Jennifer Spavins Holme

Leslie Su, U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Ryan Swartz, McLane Middleton, Professional Association

Lisa Tingue, U.S. Department of Justice – Office of the U.S. Trustee

Tali Tomsic, Feinman Law Offices

Christina Turgeon

Jacob Walker, Block & Leviton LLP

Adrienne Walker, Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.

Gary Weiner, Weiner Law Firm, PC

Thomas Wilson, Dunn & Wilson

Toby Wilson

Keri Wintle, Duane Morris LLP

Amy Zuccarello, Sullivan & Worcester LLP

 

Peabody HS at Bankruptcy Court

Students from Peabody High School visited Judge Feeney’s chambers at the Bankruptcy Court in April to learn the consequences of filing for bankruptcy.

Newest Pro Bono Opportunity: Mass Legal Answers Online

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Mass Legal Answers Online (MLAO) is a brand new way for busy attorneys to do pro bono in Massachusetts. Through Mass Legal Answers Online, low-income  Massachusetts residents can ask civil legal questions on the web at www.masslao.org. This program, administered by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute with help from the Volunteer Lawyers Project, will function like a “virtual legal clinic,” providing attorneys with a 21st-century platform to give free legal advice.

Eligible site users can post legal questions, and volunteer attorneys can choose which questions they would like to answer.  MLAO helps alleviate the time and place constraints that clients and attorneys sometimes face in a traditional legal clinic or on the phone.

On Monday, Rochelle Hahn from the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and Barbara Siegel from the Volunteer Lawyers Project spoke at  a BBA program about this innovative project and how to participate.   If you missed the program, here are some things you should know:

  • Mass Legal Answers Online is part of a national initiative sponsored by the American Bar Association (ABA).
  • The ABA provides malpractice insurance to cover any activity that occurs through the secure site.
  • Volunteer sign-up is easy! Attorneys just need to provide basic contact information and certify that they are in good standing with the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers by providing their BBO number.
  • Attorneys can subscribe to receive alerts when new questions are posted in their specific practice area
  • As a volunteer, the Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 6.5 applies to conflicts, because of the pro bono nature and limited scope of the advice provided through MLAO. The only conflicts of interest that would preclude an attorney from answering questions are conflicts that are known at the time the client’s question is reviewed.

This project embodies the idea of “bite-sized pro bono” and, according to Rochelle Hahn, “is an ideal opportunity for busy attorneys who want to help, but have limited time. It allows you to virtually share your expertise with people struggling to navigate the legal system — without committing to ongoing representation or a set schedule. Answering even just one question a month can make a real difference to people in need. Sign up and give it a try!”

Curious and want to find out more?  For more information about the program and all aspects of participation, please email [email protected] or contact Rochelle Hahn at [email protected].

“My First Office Job:” Learning Professionalism at Sunstein Kann Murphy & Timbers

IMG_9754If you ask the staff at Sunstein Kann Murphy & Timbers what stands out about Fatima Adam, their Summer Jobs student, they will talk about her sense of humor.

But over the past two months, Fatima has done more than just come out of her shell around her supervisors. She says she has learned to be more professional, efficient and organized.

“This is my first office job,” she said. “I find that I am interacting with adults much more. You learn quickly to be professional and friendly, and say ‘good morning.’ There is a level of professionalism in any office that isn’t there at other kinds of summer jobs,” she said.

In the past, Fatima has volunteered overseas for the Meseret Humanitarian Organization, an initiative to reduce vulnerability among children and women in Ethiopia. She believes she wants to focus on business and international relations in her future career, and she is considering going to law school after college.

“When I first heard about the program, I wanted to participate because it sounded really interesting and I wanted to see if I really wanted to do law,” she said.

Fatima said she has also discovered other interests during the weekly enrichment seminars offered to the students. During a mock city council hearing earlier in the summer, she was excited to learn that eligibility to run for Boston’s city council begins at age 18. Someday, she might want to serve as an elected official, she said.

“I love the enrichment seminars because some of the office work can be more administrative but the seminars give us the chance to learn about something different,” she said.

Fatima plans to study international relations at Bunker Hill Community College in the fall.