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.
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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.
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.
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!
If you’d like information on the organizations present at the fair, please email Cassandra Shavney at [email protected]
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 two 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/.
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
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
Max Ferullo, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Kellie Fisher, Brown Rudnick LLP
Kate Foley, Mirick O’Connell – Westborough Office
David Gabor, Wagner Law Group, PC
Henry Geberth, Hendel & Collins, PC
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
Amy Lipman-White, Lipman & White
Andrew Lizotte, Murphy & King
John Loughnane, Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP
David Madoff, Madoff & Khoury LLP
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
Adam Ruttenberg, Posternak Blankstein & Lund LLP
Patricia Saint James, Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers, PC
Mary Sharon, Pro Se Debtors Bankruptcy Clinic
Denise Shear, Ostrander Law Office
Richard Sheils, Bowditch & Dewey, LLP – Worcester Office
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
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
Keri Wintle, Duane Morris LLP
Amy Zuccarello, Sullivan & Worcester LLP
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!”
If 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.
With this year’s Summer Jobs students nearing the end of the program, we decided to check-in with a couple of last year’s participants. Read on to see how a summer with the BBA Summer Jobs Program influenced Enrique Pepen and Leslie Bala’s future:
Interned at Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP
Suffolk University, Law and Public Policy
“Participating in the Boston Bar Association’s Summer Jobs Program felt like an opportunity like no other. It exposed me to a world that I once believed was very hard to get into. I had the unique pleasure to work for Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP on State Street, and that firm immediately influenced my path towards my future career. The partnership that the BBA creates between the firms and the students allows inner city students to learn about the legal system in a way that no classroom will be able to do. Not only did the firm serve as an inspiration, but also the field trips to the courts, the guest speakers, and the workshops all together created a scenario that none of us could have imagined. Now I know what I am getting into. I know what I need to get taken care of before I want to enter the legal field. And I am certain that this is what I want to do.”
Interned at Locke Lord LLP
Suffolk University, Government and Public Policy
“The BBA Summer Jobs Program helped me prepare for my future in major ways. It is and always will be such an essential and memorable experience. It was a head start for me in the field I’m pursuing. Before BBA, I participated in the JYC program and decided to continue doing internships that would prepare me for having a real career, for understanding the work life after college, and would show me the importance of building my work ethic as well as my networking and communication skills. During my time at Locke Lord LLP, I worked with the records, and the marketing and IT departments. The internship helped me to comprehend the field of law much more and see what the right fit was for me. I shadowed different types of lawyers, saw how they do their work and heard what led them to choose the path they did. The BBA program opened my eyes and was also another reason I decided to attend Suffolk University. It is once again an experience that I will always be grateful for.”
For more information on the Summer Jobs Program, contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected]
The Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) class of 2016-2017 had their orientation last month, and they are already jumping into some of the BBA’s public service projects!
This week, two members of the class led an enrichment seminar for our Summer Jobs students on the basics of practicing law. In the Fall, they will begin to discuss what they hope to accomplish in the upcoming program year!
To learn more about this year’s PILP class, please click here.