BBA Around Town: Mass. MOVA Conference & Suffolk University Career Launch Fair

The Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance (MOVA), and Attorney General Maura Healey’s office hosted their annual Victim Rights Conference last Tuesday, April 24th in what was an inspiring morning celebrating the strength and resilience of the human spirit and Boston community.  The BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service was proud to be there showing survivors of crime and other local legal services alike how we serve as a resource to connect Boston-area residents with attorneys every day.

Later in the day we were pleased to be a part of Suffolk University School of Law’s 2018 Graduate Career Launch Fair! The Career Fair gave the Class of 2018 an opportunity to gain valuable information about professional development resources, volunteer organizations, and networking opportunities available to them.

Pro Bono Spotlight: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

When it comes to taking on an immigration case, an in-house legal department may not have the same resources at its disposal as a law firm would. But that didn’t stop Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts from taking on an innovative pro bono project that would help young undocumented immigrants in Greater Boston.

Assistant General Counsel Esty R. Lobovits proposed the program, a partnership with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), in early 2017. Since then, fifteen staff members in the company’s Law Department have collaborated with colleagues across the organization to represent six unaccompanied children in their deportation proceedings. With mentorship and training from KIND attorneys, Lobovits co-leads the initiative with Assistant General Counsel Brandon Clippinger.

An “unaccompanied child” refers to a minor who entered the country illegally and without a parent or legal guardian. Most of the children that KIND works with are intercepted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the border, at which point they are detained. The next step is for federal immigration officials to reunite the child with a relative currently living in the United States who is able to provide for the child’s basic needs. The process of identifying such a relative can become complicated if the child’s next of kin is undocumented as well.

Once the child is released, they are officially going through deportation proceedings. Lobovits, her colleagues, and their partners at KIND work to prove their clients meet the criteria to stay in the United States legally and pursue a path to citizenship.

Most commonly, that means applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). To qualify, the client must be under 18, must have entered the country without a parent or legal guardian, and must be a victim of abandonment, abuse or neglect in his or her home country. Another route is for the child to apply for asylum in the United States.

“It’s a lengthy process – one that starts out in state court, goes on to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services proceedings, and ends up in federal immigration court. We have KIND mentors for the cases, who can answer questions, review a document, and act as a general resource. But we are preparing all the documents and directly representing the kids in court,” Lobovits said.

Because the majority of the children KIND works with are from Central America, thoroughly preparing these cases requires English-Spanish translation. So Lobovits and her colleagues have turned to their colleagues in AZULatinx, Blue Cross Blue Shield’s employee resource group promoting diversity and inclusion for Latino/Latina employees.

“Many of our colleagues in AZULatinx are immigrants themselves or have family members that are immigrants from these countries, so they felt a close personal connection to these kids, their families and their struggle,” Lobovits said.

In the Law Department, nine lawyers, and six paralegals and administrative staff make up the five case teams that are representing six children in their proceedings. Several of these cases are currently in Probate & Family Court, the first step in a process that could take years, Lobovits said.

“Working with KIND has been a great experience.  Our clients have overcome incredibly challenging circumstances to get to where they are today, and their situation remains precarious.  This work feels so meaningful because it has the potential to help our clients achieve a future that is safer, more stable, and filled with more opportunity than they would otherwise have,” Clippinger said.

In addition to the pro bono work of Blue Cross’s legal team which Clippinger coordinates, employees company-wide are encouraged to participate in public service projects through Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Corporate Citizenship program. The numerous options for giving back include a service day, youth mentoring programs, a sabbatical program for BCBS employees to work at a nonprofit, and training to help prepare employees to serve on nonprofit boards.

“It’s really wonderful as a lawyer to be able to have an opportunity to impact a kid’s life,” Lobovits said. “It wouldn’t really be possible for these kids to have opportunities in their home countries because of what they have dealt with, and it’s especially meaningful to be able to give back to my community and improve the lives of children living right here in Greater Boston.”

Sign-Up to Provide a Boston Teen with Summer Employment

There’s still time for your organization to sign-up for the BBA’s Summer Jobs Program and provide a Boston Public School student the chance to gain professional experience and support your office’s needs. The 17 below organizations have pledged to hire at least one student in 2018 and will provide teens a stepping stone for a future career.

Brown Rudnick
DLA Piper
Chu, Ring & Hazel
Conn Kavanaugh
Foley Hoag
Hogan Lovells
Holland & Knight
Jackson Lewis
LPL Financial
Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office
Mintz Levin
Nelson Mullins
Nixon Peabody
Nutter
Proskauer
Sugarman Rogers
Verrill Dana
WilmerHale

We encourage you to contact us to find out how hiring a student can make a difference, for them and for your office! For more information on the program, please click here. If your office is interested in hiring a student this summer, please contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected] for additional information.

Learning About the Realities of Human Trafficking

A lot of the events our Sections put on at 16 Beacon are truly eye-opening, and this week’s presentation on The Realities of Human Trafficking in Massachusetts—sponsored by the Delivery of Legal Services Section and the Boston Bar Foundation, and featuring panelists from the Polaris Project—falls into that category.

The program was hosted by Lavinia Weizel of Mintz Levin, co-chair of the BBA’s Human Trafficking Committee.  You may recall reading about Lavinia—and her co-chair (and Mintz colleague) Alec Zadekin our Issue Spot blog recently, in connection with their efforts to create a streamlined process to allow defendants to vacate convictions for offenses related to their status as trafficking survivors—a proposal the BBA Council recently endorsed.  While that issue was raised during the event, the broader focus was on the various forms of sex- and labor-trafficking that are most common in Massachusetts and specific ways that attorneys can be part of the safety net for survivors.

Our first presenter was Beth Keeley, Chief of the Human Trafficking Division in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and former head of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bureau.  She started with some recent history on the issue, dating back to the enactment in 2000 of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which strengthened pre-existing laws.

While Massachusetts was “late to the game,” passing a state law only in 2011, Keeley argued that it’s a particularly strong law, in that—with no requirement to prove force, fraud, or coercion— it’s easier to make a case.  She also said that our statute, unlike many others, puts the focus on the trafficker/exploiter’s mens rea, rather than on the mind of the victim.

The key to enforcement, Keeley stated, is to follow a multi-disciplinary approach, with prosecutors, investigators, and victim-witness advocates all on staff at AGO, working with the State Police’s dedicated trafficking unit, the District Attorneys (many of whom also have dedicated prosecutors focusing on the problem), and social-service agencies.  Her office is able to use its statewide jurisdiction to pursue defendants across counties, treating their operations as criminal enterprises in order to maximize the impact by identifying and taking down networks.

To date, AGO has mostly gone after sex-trafficking, but they are building up their enforcement in labor-trafficking.  While the former is found most often in massage parlors, brothels, and the Web, the latter shows up in construction, domestic and cleaning work, and the service sector in general.  Still, one always needs to be mindful, in any enforcement action, of the concerns of victims.  They frequently suffer from poverty, abuse, and addiction—all factors that make people vulnerable to traffickers in the first place.  And—although the law provides them with an affirmative defense, and prosecutors, starting with AG Maura Healey, have pledged not to do so—they may be fearful of being prosecuted themselves for offenses they committed, such as sex for a fee or working without documentation.

At the same time, advocates are always striving to raise public awareness of the problem, including the role that demand plays, and exploring what else can be done beyond prosecution—educating law enforcement, holding trainings, working with labor leaders, providing pro bono representation, and advocating for enhanced funding.

We next heard from Rochelle Keyhan, who leads the Polaris Project’s strategic initiative to eliminate illicit massage business (IMB) trafficking in the US, and Francheska Loza, formerly of Foley Hoag LLP and now Polaris’s Disruption Strategies Community Organizer.  Keyhan talked more about the patterns she sees, and the 25 different types of trafficking that Polaris has identified—all of which call for distinct responses.  In the IMB sector, for example, victims tend to be older women from outside the country, often undocumented—especially from China and Korea, cultures where these activities trigger high levels of shame and self-blame, making it even more difficult to come forward to law enforcement.  They frequently fear authorities, carry high debts, lack full awareness of their rights, and are under threat from their abusers.

Two other common loci are bars and strip clubs, where an excessive cover charge may be hiding the illegal activities.  Victims there tend to be younger and come from Latin America—or US-born Latinas.  As with workers in IMB, they are usually targeted based on extreme economic need, and the networks frequently have roots in Latin America.

Labor trafficking can be found in such venues as karaoke bars and nail salons.  These cases, which are often interconnected with sex trafficking, can be easier to prosecute because victims are more willing to come forward and to reveal details to investigators.

Polaris’s disruption strategy, a focus of Loza’s work, includes research, creation of a safety net for survivors, partnership with other stakeholders, and the use of culturally-competent and trauma-informed interpreters.  It’s also critical to try to find connections among survivors, for purposes of identifying networks, since trafficking operations are generally much more sophisticated than a typical pimp’s.

The methods of control used by traffickers, which are important for people to be aware of in identifying possible operations, include:

  • isolation and confinement
  • economic coercion
  • threats directed at the victim or their family
  • intimidation and abuse, including sexual/emotional abuse

So.  Armed with all this information, what can you do to help crack down on trafficking?  Some advice from our panel:

  • Buy smarter.
    • Be suspicious of cash-only businesses, very low prices for services, or when a provider is adamant about getting a large tip.
      • Victims may be receiving little or no base compensation, making it an urgent matter that they maximize the income they generate through tips.
    • Other red flags include…
      • Excessive surveillance cameras.
      • “Body work” establishments. Massage therapists must be licensed, but using this term is a way around regulation.
    • Read online reviews:
      • Many users are up-front in describing the illegal services they’ve bought.
    • Alert someone.
      • Call the property owner, the police, municipal officials, or the Polaris hotline.
    • Call your elected representatives about making the issue a priority.
      • While you’re at it, you can ask your state legislators to support vacatur for survivors.
      • At the local level, ask about strengthening ordinances, since some cities and towns lack the authority to shut down or even investigate a business
    • Take on cases pro bono.
      • Again, you may be able to help with vacatur: Even absent the BBA-endorsed streamlined approach now under consideration in the Legislature, there exists a procedure (albeit lengthy and convoluted) to vacate convictions if the defendant was under the duress of a trafficker.

Finally, watch our Issue Spot blog for updates on the progress of vacatur legislation, and keep an eye on the BBA calendar for more events on human trafficking.

—Michael Avitzur
Government Relations Director
Boston Bar Association

Beth Keeley (Chief of the Human Trafficking Division at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, far right) makes opening remarks at the event. She’s joined on the panel by Lavinia Weizel (Mintz Levin, BBA Human Trafficking Subcommittee Co-Chair, far left), Rochelle Keyhan and Francesca Loza (Polaris Project).

The Latest Organizations Providing Summer Employment for Teens

As we’ve been outlining the benefits of hiring a Boston public high school student to work in your legal office this summer, 16 organizations have signed up so far to hire students this year through the BBA’s Summer Jobs Program. We’re thankful for the below offices that will be providing employment to 18 teens.

Brown Rudnick
Chu, Ring & Hazel
Conn Kavanaugh
Foley Hoag
Hogan Lovells
Holland & Knight
LPL Financial
Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office
Mintz Levin
Nelson Mullins
Nixon Peabody
Nutter
Proskauer
Sugarman Rogers
Verrill Dana
WilmerHale

We encourage you to contact us to find out how hiring a student can make a difference, for them and for your office! For more information on the program, please click here. If your office is interested in providing a Boston public high school student with a meaningful professional experience in 2018, please contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected] for additional information.

Tyeray Williams from English High School (middle) stands with his supervisors from Sugarman Rogers on his first day of work last summer.

Now Accepting Applications for the Public Interest Leadership Program

The Boston Bar Association is pleased to announce that it is now accepting applications for its 2018-2019 class of Public Interest Leaders. The BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) is a unique leadership program for new lawyers that promotes civic engagement and public service by advancing the leadership role of lawyers in service to their community, the profession and the Commonwealth.

If you’re interested in the program, we invite you to join us on Tuesday, March 13th from 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM at the BBA to learn more. The information session will feature PILP alumni who will provide insight into the program, discuss the application process, reflect on their experiences, and answer questions. If you’d like to attend, please register here.

Eligible applicants are BBA Members who have graduated law school within the past 10 years and demonstrate a commitment to public service and their community. The Program has four specific purposes:

  • To identify and recognize present and future leaders in the BBA and the Boston legal community.
  • To contribute to the professional and leadership development of promising young attorneys.
  • To integrate young leaders into the BBA and its public service landscape — at the same time significantly contributing to the public interest.
  • To build a powerful alumni network of lawyer leaders who, by their actions, demonstrate that part of being a successful lawyer is giving back to the community.

To download the application, please click here. Applications are due March 30, 2018  to Cassandra Shavney, [email protected].

This past fall, the 14th Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) started their term. Twenty attorneys were selected for the program based on their experience and dedication to public service and civic engagement. The program now includes over 160 alumni who’ve gone on to serve the BBA in other capacities and carry their passion for serving the public interest into the community.

Meet the 2018 BBF Casino Night Co-chairs

In less than a month, we are bringing back the BBF’s annual Casino Night fundraiser! With table games, a magician, gourmet food and our first top-shelf scotch tasting, this event transforms 16 Beacon Street. It’s sure to bring a crowd!

Casino Night raises money to support the M. Ellen Carpenter fund, which is used to fund programs and projects that help provide opportunities to young people in Boston. We heard from this year’s event co-chairs, Michael McDermott of Dain, Torpy, Le Ray, Wiest & Garner and Nikki Marie Oliveira of Bass, Doherty & Finks, about what they are looking forward to and why the BBF’s work matters to them.

Michael McDermott is a litigation associate at Dain, Torpy, Le Ray, Wiest & Garner, P.C., a commercial real estate boutique law firm. He assists developers, landlords, and commercial owners to resolve disputes concerning land use, environmental, condominium, agricultural, insurance, and consumer credit issues and provides due diligence, permitting, and regulatory compliance services. In addition to his work on Casino Night, Michael serves as a public service co-chair for the BBA’s Senior Associate Forum, as a board member for the Friends of the Blackstone Innovation School, and as an Emerging Leader with A Better City.

“As a resident of Boston, who plans to raise a family in the city, I am personally and professionally committed to making the city a healthier and more supportive environment for working families of all economic backgrounds. I am excited to co-chair this year’s event and work on initiatives that are important to the continued developmentof Boston as a family-friendly city,” he said.

Nikki Marie Oliveira earned her LL.M. in Taxation from the Graduate Tax Program at Boston University School of Law, her J.D. from New England School of Law and her B.S. in Mathematics, magna cum laude, from Roger Williams University. She is admitted to the Massachusetts and Florida Bars. Nikki’s practice focuses on sophisticated tax and estate planning, trust and probate administration, long-term care planning, special needs planning, as well as delicate situations requiring guardianships and conservatorships. She is a Supporting Fellow of the Boston Bar Foundation and has served on multiple committee’s in the BBA’s Trusts & Estates Section.

“I am really excited to be involved with the BBF’s Casino Night this year and am most looking forward to having fun with my colleagues, friends and loved ones at the event!  It is really inspiring that so many companies and individuals are willing to support the event and help make a big difference for Boston youth,” she said.

Get your tickets now and take a chance for a good cause!

Observations from Boston Housing Court’s Lawyer for the Day

 Guest Post: Jack Caplan is the current Lawyer Referral Service Co-op Intern at the BBA. Jack is a sophomore year at Northeastern University studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. After spending the morning shadowing the Lawyer for the Day table at Boston Housing Court, he shared his experience with Beyond the Billable.

Just after 9 am last Thursday morning in the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston, over 200 attorneys and members of the public crammed into one hot courtroom.  It was standing room only as people tried to find any space they could to claim as their own.  The physical bar which typically separates court observers from lawyers (the same bar from which the exam and Association get their names) was soon ignored, thus blurring the line between who’s an attorney and who isn’t.

The Clerk began calling out each case number and the respective plaintiffs and defendants answered with whether they wanted to try mediation or go straight to a bench trial.  Looking around the room you could see a microcosm of Boston itself: an MBTA driver searching for a seat before giving up and standing, much like her passengers at rush hour; a mother and father trying to quiet their young children with toys; and who EMT missed the first call of her case because of a last minute emergency at the end of a long night shift.  The atmosphere was understandably tense considering people’s homes were on the line, but the Clerk and Court Officer kept the mood light through jokes and banter.

A vast majority of those present elected to go to mediation and were directed to a lower floor of the sprawling Courthouse.  This sent them straight past the tables of the Volunteer Lawyers Project where landlords and tenants alike could stop by to ask questions, get help filing motions, and even get representation for mediation as part of a Limited Assistance Representation structure.  Attorneys were running around and talking to clients and the scene upstairs at the peak of the morning could only be described as chaotic.  But speaking with the volunteer attorneys it quickly became clear that they didn’t mind at all – in fact they loved it – their passion was palpable.  They had the chance to help out the roughly 95% of tenants who go into housing court without counsel.  Results for litigants with some level of representation are so vastly and almost unbelievably better than for those who go in totally alone.

Indeed, going to Housing Court while Lawyer for the Day is running can be one of the best antidotes to the otherwise negative feelings brought on by statistics like the one above.  It’s statistics like that, statistics which cast a tragic light on the state of justice in Massachusetts and America, which compel many of these attorneys to volunteer their time.  The impact that the dozen or so attorneys were able to make last week is truly a sight to behold.  Tenants who were convinced that they would lose their homes suddenly had hope provided by the attorneys.  The impact of donated time and expertise was noticed, appreciated, and sometimes immediate.

The Volunteer Lawyer’s Project administers frequent trainings for attorneys interested in helping out.  The Lawyer for the Day program itself occurs each Wednesday from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM (public housing cases) and Thursday from 9:00 AM – 3:30 PM (private housing cases) in front of Courtroom 15 at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse, 24 New Chardon Street, Boston, MA. If you have questions about volunteering or would like to learn more, please contact Cassandra Shavney the Boston Bar’s Public Service Programs Coordinator, or Milton Wong of the Volunteer Lawyers Project.

The need is constant, the difference is instant: consider volunteering today.

Summer Jobs Recruitment Underway

The Boston Bar Association’s Summer Jobs Program has been providing teens with valuable summer internships for 25 years. In that time, over 960 Boston Public School students have participated in the program, gaining important professional experience and insight into the legal profession. As we posted earlier in the month, summer employment for teens is more important now than ever, as work experience is critical for long-term gainful employment and teen employment rates have declined over the past ten years. By partnering with the BBA to hire a high school summer intern, your office can help fill this great need and provide a unique experience for a BPS student curious about the legal field.

Our Summer Jobs students have had a successful record helping with many tasks in a busy professional environment, including data-entry, filing, research, receptionist duties, and more. We encourage you to contact us to find out how hiring a student can make a difference, for them and for your office! For more information on the program, please click here. If your office is interested in providing a Boston public high school student with a meaningful professional experience in 2018, please contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected] for additional information.

We’re thankful for the below organizations that have already committed to hiring a student in 2018!

Brown Rudnick LLP
Chu, Ring & Hazel LLP
Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford, LLP
Foley Hoag LLP
LPL Financial
Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office
Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C.
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP
Nixon Peabody LLP
Nutter, McClennen & Fish LLP
Proskauer Rose LLP
Verrill Dana LLP

Students at the 2017 Summer Jobs Celebration with Attorney Tony Froio (Robins Kaplan, Boston Bar Foundation Board of Trustees President) and Wousthanya Dumornay (Locke Lord LLP), a Summer Jobs participant in 2011.

Spotlight on Service: Behind the Burnes Innovation in Service Fund

At the end of January, we were very excited to announce the launch of the Boston Bar Service Innovation Project, which represents a new approach to public service for the Boston Bar. The pilot will focus on addressing issues around the school-prison-pipeline, and while the project is in its early stages, we have already begun initial outreach efforts to our partners and other community organizations who are currently working on this problem.

The Service Innovation Project was made possible by the Burnes Service in Innovation Fund, established earlier this year by former Massachusetts Superior Court Justice Nonnie Burnes and her husband, Charles River Ventures founder Richard Burnes.

Nonnie is a former secretary of the Boston Bar Foundation and former member of the Board of Trustees. She is also an Executive Fellow of the BBF, and has been consistently dedicated to the organization’s mission to increase access to justice. From her time on the bench, she has been a staunch promoter of excellence in the legal profession, chairing the working group whose 2011 recommendations led to the creation and implementation of the Practicing with Professionalism Course for newly admitted attorneys.

From 2009 to 2012, Nonnie served as a Senior University Fellow at Northeastern University, where she currently sits on the Board of Trustees and chairs the Audit Committee. She also chaired the Board of Directors of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and served as the interim President and CEO in 2014 and 2015. She sits on the board of the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, an international legal advocacy group for women’s health and reproductive rights.

Rick currently chairs the Board of Trustees of WGBH, which is responsible for governing both the radio and television stations and the WGBH Educational Foundation. He also sits on the Board of Trustees for Boston Plan for Excellence, which operates two Boston District Schools and trains teachers to drive exceptional student outcomes. He was one of the founders of Boston Business Leaders for Education, which works with individual Boston public schools and urges the legislature to support education reform in the Boston public schools. He was chair of the board of the Museum of Science and continues on the board. He is also Vice Chair of the Sea Education Association training oceanographers.

Nonnie and Rick have worked to create opportunities for young people in Boston, in particular in the areas of public interest and civic engagement. They are longtime supporters of Discovering Justice, an education nonprofit that teaches elementary and middle school students about the importance of civic responsibility, the justice system and the law’s role in a democratic society. In 1999, they played a major role in launching the Public Interest Law Scholars program at Northeastern University School of Law, creating a new resource for exceptional students pursuing social justice and public service.

In recognition of all their work for the public good, the Boston Bar Foundation presented Nonnie and Rick with the 2018 Public Service Award at its annual John & Abigail Adams Benefit. In his acceptance speech, Rick vocalized his intent to continue to work toward a public school system that enables all students to access the same opportunities.

We are grateful to Rick and Nonnie for their generosity and commitment to Boston’s youth, and for enabling this exciting new initiative. If you are interested learning more about the pilot phase of the Service Innovation Project, please contact Heather Leary at [email protected].