Posts Categorized: Volunteering

Giving Back: Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities at the BBA

With the new program year kicking off, it’s a good time to consider what volunteer opportunities you might like to get involved in during the coming year!   The BBA offers our members a number of ways to give back to the community while developing skills in different areas of law. Below are some of the opportunities that we are currently recruiting volunteers for. Reach out to Public Service & Grants Manager Hannah Poor at [email protected] or 617-778-1938 with questions or to get involved!

HOUSING COURT LAWYER FOR THE DAY
Volunteer attorneys are needed to advise and represent low-income, unrepresented tenants and landlords in Housing Court on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. You will provide access to justice to pro se litigants through advice, mediation, and case litigation, mostly in eviction cases. Learn more here.

CORI SEALING CLINIC
The CORI Sealing Clinic Pilot Project, which the BBA launched earlier this year in partnership with Greater Boston Legal Services and the Boston Municipal Court, connects low-income clients who have questions about their criminal records with volunteer attorneys who can help. The clinic is held the first Wednesday of every month at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse and clients can receive assistance with obtaining, reviewing, and, if advised, sealing or expunging their records. The clinic aims to help clients remove the barrier to housing, employment, and educational opportunities that having a criminal record can pose. Learn more here.

M. ELLEN CARPENTER FINANCIAL LITERACY PROGRAM
This statewide program helps high school students across Massachusetts learn about making informed and effective decisions regarding their finances through educational and experiential opportunities. You can volunteer to present any of the three classroom modules, which cover Personal Finances & Budgeting, Using Credit & Credit Cards, and Financing a Large Purchase. The program culminates with a mock trial presentation in the United States Bankruptcy Court. Learn more here.

BAR EXAM COACHING
The BBA’s Bar Exam Coaching program matches volunteer attorney coaches with applicants preparing to sit for the bar exam in Massachusetts, particularly those who are retaking the exam. Coaches guide applicants through the non-substantive elements of exam prep such as mental preparation, study tips, and time & stress management. We are currently seeking attorneys interested in serving as coaches for bar applicants sitting for the bar exam in February 2020.  Learn more here.

SCHOOL DISCIPLINE KNOW-YOUR-RIGHTS
As part of the BBA’s Service Innovation Project on Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline, the most recent Public Interest Leadership Program class partnered with Greater Boston Legal Services to provide community outreach presentations on school discipline rights, particularly with regards to new rights established under a 2018 settlement agreement that GBLS reached with Boston Public Schools. With the new school year kicking off, we are seeking volunteers to do more know-your-rights presentations to student, parent/caregiver, and community groups throughout Boston! Learn more here.

The BBA’s Public Service programs are made possible with the support of the Boston Bar Foundation. 

Celebrate Pro Bono Month at the BBA!

Clients receive day-of assistance on eviction day through the Housing Court Lawyer for the Day Program

October is Pro Bono Month, recognizing the valuable pro bono contributions made by lawyers throughout the year, and aiming to increase pro bono participation across the state in order to narrow the justice gap.

The BBA Council voted on Tuesday to recognize October 2019 as Pro Bono Month and to “commend Boston attorneys for their ongoing pro bono contributions, and remind all members that by engaging in pro bono work and providing financial support they can make a significant difference in the lives of Boston’s poor who would not otherwise have access to the legal system.”

At the annual Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House, attorneys and law students meet representatives from local legal services organizations to learn about pro bono opportunities

Last year, the BBA trained over 200 attorneys to take pro bono cases in civil appeals, veterans’ issues, housing, citizenship applications, education law, and more.  Meanwhile, more than 500 of our members dedicated their time to community service and pro bono work through our public service programs –whether by helping clients at our monthly CORI Sealing Clinic or by teaching elementary, middle, and high school students about the importance of First Amendment rights and free speech in our democracy.  We are grateful to our members for giving generously of their time and talents – and embodying the spirit of Pro Bono Month all year round by delivering unique services to our community that only lawyers can provide!

In April, BBA members learned about how to represent veterans pro bono in discharge upgrade cases.

This year, we have a robust set of activities planned for Pro Bono Month.  We hope you will think about where you might be able to lend support in the year ahead, and plug into one (or more!) of the many volunteer opportunities we will be highlighting in October.  Together, we can advance access to justice for all people in Massachusetts.

PUBLIC CHARGE ATTORNEY TRAINING
Wednesday, October 2, 12:00-2:00pm, at the BBA
Register here.

This free, in-depth training will provide Massachusetts immigration attorneys with information about the new Public Charge regulation, which takes effect on October 15.  This training will help lawyers assess how the new regulation will affect their clients and determine case strategy.

PRO BONO TRAINING : CHAPTER 7 CONSUMER BANKRUPTCY BASICS
Thursday, October 10, 3:00-6:30pm, at the BBA
Register here.

This program will cover all aspects of representing a low-income consumer debtor in a chapter 7 bankruptcy case, and will qualify participants to take on chapter 7 cases pro bono through the Volunteer Lawyers Project.

PRO BONO RECRUITMENT FAIR & OPEN HOUSE AT SUFFOLK LAW
Tuesday, October 15, 4:30-6:00pm, at Suffolk University Law School
Register here.

The Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House, sponsored by the Boston Bar Association and Suffolk University Law School, is open to law students and attorneys of all levels. Join us to learn about pro bono opportunities with local legal services organizations.

PIZZA AND PRO BONO: MASS LEGAL ANSWERS ONLINE BLITZ
Tuesday, October 22, 5:30-7:30pm, at the BBA
Register here.

Join us for a pro bono pizza party while we work with volunteer attorneys from Massachusetts Legal Answers Online and the Volunteer Lawyers Project to answer legal questions for low-income Massachusetts residents through the Mass Legal Answers Online website.

FINANCIAL LITERACY PROGRAM VOLUNTEER INFO SESSION
Wednesday, October 23, 3:00-5:00pm, at the BBA
Register here.

Learn about how you can volunteer with the BBA’s M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program and help high school students across Massachusetts build the foundational skills to make informed and effective decisions regarding their finances.

PRO BONO TRAINING FOR ATTORNEYS TO HELP CLIENTS SEAL THEIR CORI RECORDS
Monday, October 28, 3:00-5:30pm, at the BBA
Register here.

Learn the skills needed to volunteer at the BBA’s monthly CORI Sealing Clinic and help low-income clients who have questions about their Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) records. CORI Records can pose significant barriers to housing, employment, and educational opportunities, so advising on sealing and expungement is an important way for lawyers to help.

Boston Bar pro bono and public service projects are made possible by funding from the Boston Bar Foundation.

BBA Volunteers Provide Community Outreach on Students’ Rights

Over the summer, the BBA’s most recent Public Interest Leadership Program class and other dedicated volunteers were busy making presentations on school discipline rights to a number of community organizations as part of the Service Innovation Project on Dismantling the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline.  These presentations covered due process rights that Boston Public Schools students are entitled to when faced with a suspension or expulsion, and focused particularly on new rights established under a 2018 settlement agreement between Greater Boston Legal Services and Boston Public Schools.

Volunteers made presentations at the following organizations, reaching over 150 service providers and middle and high school students.

Bird Street Community Center
Boston Children’s Hospital
Boston Youth Sanctuary
Bridge Over Troubled Waters
Brookview House
DotHouse Health
Italian Home for Children
Justice Resource Institute
North End Waterfront Health
South Boston Community Health Center

Volunteers will be doing another round of outreach presentations as the new school year kicks off!  If you are aware of any organizations or groups that might benefit from hearing a Know Your Rights presentation on school discipline, or if you are interested in volunteering with the project, please reach out to Hannah Poor at [email protected].

Attorneys Vaishali Goyal and Leah Segal (Goulston & Storrs) presented on school discipline rights at the Italian Home for Children in August.

Thank you to the volunteers who made presentations this summer:

Genevieve Aguilar, Harvard University Office of the General Counsel
Paula Bagger, Law Office of Paula M. Bagger LLC     
Erin Brummer, Fragomen
Courtney Caruso, Hogan Lovells
Caroline Donovan, Foley Hoag LLP
Vaishali Goyal, Goulston & Storrs
Hillary Harnett, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Susanna Jones, Foundation Medicine, Inc.
Matthew Kane, Laredo & Smith
Elizabeth Levitan, The EdLaw Project
Natasha Lewis, Volunteer Lawyers Project
Micah Miller, Nutter  
Safa Osmani, Hogan Lovells
Rebekah Provost, Justice Resource Institute
Payal Salsburg, Laredo & Smith
Leah Segal, Goulston & Storrs
Cecilia Vega, GE

The BBA’s Service Innovation Project on Dismantling the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline is made possible by the Boston Bar Foundation’s Burnes Innovation in Service Fund.

School Discipline Rights Presentation at Brookview House

Attorneys Paula Bagger and Erin Brummer speak to students at Brookview House.

On Monday, July 21, as part of the BBA’s Service Innovation Project on Dismantling the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline, attorneys Paula Bagger (Law Office of Paula M. Bagger LLC) and Erin Brummer (Fragomen) met with middle and high schoolers at Brookview House shelter to discuss the students’ rights with regards to school discipline. In particular, the attorneys ensured that students knew that, following a 2018 settlement agreement between Greater Boston Legal Services and Boston Public Schools, the rights of students around suspension from school had been expanded.

The attorneys discussed how important it is that students who are suspended receive a letter detailing the reasoning behind their suspension and the length of time a suspension is in effect. They also emphasized that students have the right to a suspension hearing and the ability to appeal suspensions that they disagree with.

Students asked insightful questions about suspensions, such as whether they are allowed to be on school grounds during the time of the suspension. They also asked the attorneys about their rights around school detention and about the consequences of being truant.

Many thanks to Attorney Bagger and Attorney Brummer for their help in spreading the word about students’ rights, and to the students at Brookview for an engaging discussion!

The BBA’s Service Innovation Project on Dismantling the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline is made possible by the Boston Bar Foundation’s Burnes Innovation in Service Fund.

BBA CORI Sealing Project Overview


Paul Kominers, Samuel Dinning, Ray Doucette, Grant Glovin, and Ezra Dunker-Polier of
Anderson & Kreiger; Brandon Schneider, Ryan Rosenblatt, Matt Bailey, Rachel Centz, and Jillian Friedman of Sullivan Law; and Gina Makarem of Boston College Law School volunteered at the CORI Sealing Clinic on July 3rd.

Criminal records are often an obstacle to qualified individuals obtaining housing or employment. And since having a job and a permanent place to live are correlated with successful re-entry, individuals with a publicly-accessible CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) record have greater rates of recidivism.

The Boston Bar Association highlighted the importance of reforms to the length of time that people must wait before their CORI can be sealed, along with other key criminal justice reforms, in our 2017 report No Time to Wait: Recommendations for a Fair and Efficient Criminal Justice System. The report advocated for a reduction in the amount of time individuals must wait to seal their CORI records. In 2018 the Massachusetts Legislature, with the support of Governor Charlie Baker, did indeed reduce the waiting time to seal criminal records; the previous wait time of five years to seal misdemeanors was reduced to three years, and the wait time of ten years to seal felonies was reduced to seven years.

This past February, the BBA launched a CORI Sealing Pilot Project in partnership with Greater Boston Legal Services. The project relies on volunteer attorneys, who assist low-income clients in obtaining, reviewing, and, if eligible, sealing and expunging their CORI records. So far, the CORI Sealing Clinic has helped more than 50 individuals seeking to seal their criminal records. This is a critical service, as sealing can remove or mitigate the barrier that CORI records pose to obtaining housing and employment.  Thank you to our partners, Pepper Hamilton LLP and Sullivan & Worcester LLP for collaborating with us on this project and engaging their attorneys as volunteers.

The Boston Bar Association’s CORI Sealing Clinic takes place the first Wednesday of each month from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Boston Municipal Court – Central Division (24 New Chardon Street, 2nd Floor). The clinic would not be possible without the help of our volunteer attorneys. These attorneys can have a life-changing impact when they assist in sealing records. Volunteering also allows attorneys to connect with fellow practitioners and gain clinic experience in a new area of law. 

Volunteers will be trained in advance on CORI laws and procedures and are able to sign up for the clinic dates that work best for their schedules. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Hannah Poor at [email protected].

Good Luck to July 2019 Bar Applicants

The BBA wishes the best of luck to all applicants sitting for the July 2019 Bar Exam! The Exam will take place on July 30th and July 31st in Boston and Springfield.

Volunteers with the BBA’s Bar Exam Coaching Program, which matches applicants sitting for the bar exam with attorney coaches, are currently supporting 13 bar applicants as they study. Coaches provide study tips, time and stress management assistance, and moral support as the applicants prepare for the exam.

Good luck!

Law Students & New Lawyers Explore Public Interest Careers and Pro Bono Opportunities at the Summer Kickoff Breakfast

Attendees mingle at the Summer Kickoff Breakfast

On Monday, June 24th, the Delivery of Legal Services Section and Law Student Forum hosted a Summer Kickoff Breakfast for Law Students and New Lawyers Exploring Public Interest Careers and Pro Bono Opportunities. Over 80 people attended the networking breakfast, which offered an opportunity for new lawyers and law students to talk with attorneys from non-profit organizations that provide legal services, as well as attorneys who work in government agencies and those who coordinate pro bono efforts at law firms.  Whether the law students and new lawyers were  considering careers in the public interest, or seeking pro bono opportunities, it was a great chance to connect with attorneys experienced in those areas.  Thanks to all who attended!

CORI Sealing Clinic

The BBA’s CORI Sealing Clinic, which launched in January 2019, will have its fifth clinic date next Wednesday, June 5, at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse. This project, which engages volunteer attorneys in helping low-income clients seal their criminal records through the courts, has assisted close to 40 people over the past four months. We are excited to have volunteers from BBA Sponsor Firm Pepper Hamilton staff the clinic next week!

Such assistance is critical, as prior criminal records can create barriers to obtaining housing, employment, and educational opportunities. Massachusetts law permits people with a criminal record to have their records “sealed” from public view after a waiting period by meeting certain legal requirements. The CORI Sealing Clinic helps those who may not be able to undertake this process without the assistance of an attorney, but cannot afford to pay for counsel.

To learn more about the program, click here. If you are interested in volunteering with the clinic, please email Hannah Poor at [email protected]

Taking the Massachusetts Bar Exam in July 2019? Sign up for Bar Exam Coaching!

The BBA invites those taking the Massachusetts Bar Exam in July 2019 to sign up for our Bar Exam Coaching program. We know you’ve got the academic part of your bar prep under control, but let us help with the mental, emotional, and practical preparation. We are ready to connect you with attorney-coaches from diverse personal and professional backgrounds to offer guidance on time management, effective study techniques, and stress management. Our program is designed for those who are retaking the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) in Massachusetts, but first-time takers can also be matched to a coach, based on availability.

To sign-up for the program, please fill out this online information form.

The program has successfully helped more than 200 applicants to pass the exam. Earlier this year, we interviewed Kate Cook of Sugarman Rogers on the success of her coaching partner, a repeat bar applicant who passed the July exam. You can read that story here.

Attorneys Assisting Veterans Pro Bono Hear from Military Review Boards

The Boston Bar Association is proud to have hosted a training on representing veterans pro bono in military discharge upgrade cases this April. The training, sponsored by the Active Duty Military & Veterans Forum, offered volunteers and those working with veterans seeking discharge upgrades with the opportunity to meet and hear from the leaders of the military review boards. Joseph Masterson (Army Review Boards Agency), Elizabeth Hill (Board for Correction of Naval Records), Sean Schrock (Board for Correction of Naval Records), and Nicole Jackson (Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records), reviewed how their boards operate and how pro bono attorneys can best advocate for their veteran clients.

This presentation was the fifth annual pro bono training put on by the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, as part of its Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership. Dana Montalto (Veterans Legal Clinic) provided the training’s attendees with an overview of discharge upgrades and the Partnership, which connects local veterans seeking discharge upgrades with pro bono attorneys who want to give back to those who served in uniform. The Legal Services Center provides ongoing case support throughout the representation. Over the past five years, the Partnership has allowed more than 60 local veterans unjustly discharged from the military obtain pro bono assistance.

This pro bono assistance is critical because many of the men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces are cut off from veterans’ services and benefits because they were given a less-than-honorable discharge. They may have served in combat, experienced military sexual trauma, or have suffered physical or mental wounds, but are nevertheless unable to access much-needed treatment and support from federal and state veterans agencies because of their discharge status. In many cases, the origin of their need for support—for example, service-related post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury—also contributed to the conduct that led to their less-than-honorable discharges.

If you’d like access to the training’s materials, please email Francine Alexandre at [email protected]. If you would like to get involved with the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership, please email Dana Montalto at [email protected].