A Morning with Lawyer for the Day at the Housing Court

Guest Post: Elena Kuran is the current Lawyer Referral Service Intern at the Boston Bar Association. Elena is a third-year International Affairs major at Northeastern University.

On any given Thursday, the fifth floor of the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse is crowded before most people even begin their workday. Landlords, tenants, and attorneys representing both groups drift in and out of Courtroom 10, filling out paperwork, trying to quiet children, and navigating the sprawling Courthouse.

At the center of the Housing Court’s activity are the Lawyer for the Day clinic tables, organized by organizations including Volunteer Lawyers Project, Greater Boston Legal Services, Harvard Law School, and New England School of Law. Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) organizes and trains volunteer attorneys who provide pro bono services each week. The volunteers represent firms ranging from boutique to some of the largest in Boston.

The volunteer lawyers provide legal advice and strategy, help fill out forms, provide referrals to service agencies, and on occasion, represent pro se defendants. These attorneys help fill a critical gap: roughly 95% of tenants in Housing Court are without counsel. A majority of advised clients choose mediation over going straight to a bench trial and leave Courtroom 10 to meet with their landlord’s attorney a few floors below.

After observing the volunteer lawyers interact with the pro se defendants, it was clear to me that they also serve a less direct but equally important role: to send a message to those tenants facing eviction that they have someone who will vouch for them, who cares about the outcome of their case, who is sympathetic to the fact that the system has let them slip through the cracks.

At the same time, it was also easy to see that the volunteers are well versed in speaking with the attorneys representing the landlords who are handing out the eviction notices. In one instance, an attorney representing a management company expressed regret that he was helping to evict a young, single mother. The volunteer attorney suggested he take a more sympathetic approach, and give the tenant an extra month to find a new apartment.

These volunteer attorneys help to remedy injustices which are the result of a long history of structural oppression and marginalization of communities of color in particular. The affordable housing crisis in Boston is exacerbated by expanding academic institutions and an increasing population of short-term renters. Secure housing is a right, and to guarantee it for all will require major governmental intervention. In the meantime, the donated time and expert advice of volunteer attorneys ensure a better outcome for tenants who would otherwise have no one on their side.


If you’re interested in becoming involved with the Lawyer for the Day Program, attend an upcoming training at the Boston Bar Association. Attorneys from Volunteer Lawyers Project will guide attendees through trying a case in housing court on Wednesday, April 17th from 2:30 – 5:00 PM. Read more information about the event and register to attend here.

BBA Hosts Panel on New Human Trafficking Vacatur Law

Guest Post: Elena Kuran is the current Lawyer Referral Service Intern at the Boston Bar Association. Elena is a third-year International Affairs major at Northeastern University.

Last week, the BBA hosted “Post-Conviction Relief for Survivors of Human Trafficking: Overview of New Massachusetts Law.” The discussion was led by Lavinia Weizel (Mintz, Associate), Alec Zadek (Mintz, Member), Julie Dahlstrom (Boston University Law School, Clinical Associate Professor of Law), Deanna Tamborelli (Boston University Law School, Student), and Chelsea Tejada (Boston University Law School, Student).

The panel began by contextualizing the new Massachusetts law that assists survivors of human trafficking by streamlining the process of vacating convictions. Massachusetts is one of forty states that has vacatur laws for adult survivors of sex trafficking. Prior to the new law, vacating a conviction under Massachusetts Rule of Criminal Procedure 30(b) was a complex process that demanded the survivor to provide an affidavit, a requirement that was identified as taking a significant toll on the survivor’s mental wellbeing.

The new law, which was passed as part of “An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform” in 2018, mitigates the complexities and emotional tolls of Massachusetts Rule of Criminal Procedure 30(b). The streamlined process, while does not require an affidavit, requires a burden of proof. The survivor has the burden to establish a “reasonable probability” that their participation in the offense was “a result” of their having been a victim of human trafficking. Exceptions are made in cases in which the survivor was a minor during the time of the offense, or the survivor can provide official documentation of their status as a victim of human trafficking at the time of the offense.

A motion may be heard by any sitting justice of a court of competent jurisdiction. A conviction vacated under the new law is deemed to have been vacated “on the merits.” The new law helps survivors by remedying past injustice, empowering them to access opportunities, and providing them a means to reclaim their experience.

As of now, the new law remains untested. For potential cases in Massachusetts, the panel encouraged referrals to be made to the Boston University Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights and Human Trafficking Program at 617-353-0993. For convictions outside of Massachusetts, the ABA Survivor Reentry Project serves as a good resource, as it conducts intake on an ongoing basis.

Boston Bar Leads Groundbreaking Collaboration to Provide Public Outreach for Students’ Rights

The Boston Bar Association (BBA) today announced a new collaboration with Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) to provide a series of presentations designed to increase awareness about students’ rights, following a recent class action settlement agreement. This new project is the first of its kind and establishes a new collaboration model for a bar association, the private bar, and the legal services community.

The program will feature presentations given by BBA members currently enrolled in its Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) to a series of community groups, including community centers, health service organizations, and parent and student groups. The program is part of the BBA’s larger Service Innovation Project, designed to advance efforts to dismantle the cradle-to-prison pipeline in Massachusetts. The cradle-to-prison pipeline is a mechanism by which social and economic disparities contribute to a “pipeline” where children of color, children with disabilities, and children from low-income families are disproportionately funneled into the system of mass incarceration. The BBA’s project focuses on the educational system’s role in the pipeline.

“We are thrilled by this partnership with the BBA to spread the word of this new settlement agreement,” said Elizabeth McIntyre, Staff Attorney and Director of the School to Prison Pipeline Intervention Project at GBLS. “It is absolutely critical that the families most affected by this settlement are able to use it as a tool as they continue to fight for their schools.”

“This project gives our class the opportunity to create meaningful change in our communities and demonstrate the value that lawyers can bring in jumpstarting social change,” said Jared Shwartz, a current member of PILP and an associate at Hinckley Allen. “An education can open so many doors; dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline ensures that we do not unduly disadvantage a segment of our community that needs access to these types of opportunities.”

The settlement stems from a complaint, filed against Boston Public Schools by GBLS, which asserted that the school system had unlawfully suspended three minor clients of GBLS. Boston Public Schools has committed to several changes that aim to end unlawful student suspensions, decrease overall suspensions, and foster powerful, compassionate learning communities.

PILP participant Lavinia Weizel, associate at Mintz, said, “Working on a project to help dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline in Massachusetts seemed like a great fit for our PILP class this year. As a group, we were eager to participate in a project that would enable us to connect with the broader community and contribute to tackling important legal and social issues. Our work in this initiative has been a great learning experience.”

The presentations are expected to begin next month. Learn more about the BBA here and GBLS here.

The Service Innovation Project is made possible by the Burnes Innovation in Service Fund of the Boston Bar Foundation.

Law Student Forum Holds Mental Health Panel

Last week, the BBA’s Law Student Forum hosted a panel discussion on managing mental health in law school in partnership with the BBA’s Committee for Attorneys with Disabilities. The event, led and organized by Suffolk Law Student Ambassadors Brittney McCartney and Jeremy Siegel, tackled head-on the pervasive mental health issues plaguing law school campuses. Attendees of all ages heard from experts, Marilyn Wellington (Board of Bar Overseers), Shawn Healy (Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers), and Professor Lisle Baker (Suffolk University Law School), as they gave their advice on law student well-being, mental health, and bar admission. The panel also featured a question and answer portion, during which a student panel shared their perspectives on the issue.

The idea for the panel came from student representatives on the BBA’s Law Student Advisory Committee, who voiced concerns about the issue from their respective student bodies. More specifically, New England Law students Philjay Solar and Benjamin Cabezas felt the discussion was a necessary step towards reconciliation after having dealt with suicides within their own student body in the past few years. The two students issued the following statement regarding the event:

“Those of us in law school are given the great pleasure of learning the rule of law that governs our society. This endeavor however is not without its pitfalls. The rigorous nature of law school and the emotional toll it takes is well known. We at New England Law | Boston take mental health very seriously. We’re proud to be working with the Boston Bar Association and our fellow Boston law schools to help bring awareness and resources to our collective student populations.”

Overall, the panel served as part of a long-overdue conversation within the legal community about an issue that affects many well before they ever begin practicing. The panelists emphasized that it is imperative that the bar continue to raise awareness around the issue. The diverse range of people in attendance at the event speaks to the fact that there is a widespread desire to finally erase the stigma of mental health issues within the legal community. The BBA is proud to have been able to help our students join this important discussion.

Seeking help? There are several resources available for those who may need assistance, including Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, which provides free and confidential mental health resources and addiction recovery support for law students and legal professionals. To learn more about Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, please click here.

Thank You to our Bar Exam Coaching Program Volunteers!

Ahead of the February 2019 Uniform Bar Exam in Massachusetts, 45 attorneys provided coaching and guidance to individuals taking the bar exam. The BBA’s Bar Exam Coaching Program matches coaches with bar applicants to act as a cheerleader throughout the process. Coaches keep applicants on track with a study schedule and provide tips for managing stress and time.

This program targets working with applicants who are retaking the exam in Massachusetts, and of this winter’s participants, 38 were retaking the exam in February. Through this program, we hope to provide support and community during what can feel like an isolating experience. Thank you to all of the coaches who provided support this winter:

Ana Alvarado, Northeastern University School of Law
Brittany Besler
Elizabeth Broderick, Committee for Public Counsel Services
Laura Brown, Law Office of Laura Anastasia Brown
Elmira Cancan Zenger, WGBH
James Coffey, Polsinelli
Joshua Cohn, Holland & Knight LLP
Susan Corcoran, De Novo
Emma Days, Ropes & Gray LLP
Janelle Dempsey, Moriarty Troyer & Malloy LLC
Jessica DiBacco
Christopher Dodge, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Anthony Faillaci, Burns & Levinson LLP
Tess Foley, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Robert Friedman, Burns & Levinson LLP
Nicole Gallerano, Nixon Peabody LLP
Alexandra Gill, Gill Law
Eric Haskell, Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General
Naitasia Hensey, State Street Corporation
Stephanie Holding, Boston University School of Law
D. Paul Koch, Jr., Finard Properties LLC
Szeman Lam, Proskauer Rose LLP
Kristy Lavigne, Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General
Katie Leung
Brendan Lowd, Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.
Jessica Lu, Brown Rudnick LLP
Yakov Malkiel, White & Case LLP
Lauren Maloney, Vigorito Barker Porter & Patterson LLP
Christina Miller, Suffolk University Law School
Geraldine Muir, Boston University School of Law
Emily Notini, Goodwin Procter LLP
Nicole Phe, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP
Dana Pierce, State Street Corporation
Amy Pimentel, McDermott Will & Emery
Alex Praschma, Spartan Race, Inc.
Rebekah Provost, Justice Resource Institute: Health Law Institute
Abbigail Shirk, MetroWest Legal Services
Christina Simpson, The Law Office of Christina Simpson
Eileen Sprague, Glynn Law Offices
Katie Stock, Miyares and Harrington, LLP
Ben Towbin, LibbyHoopes, P.C.
Sheba Varughese, Greater Boston Legal Services
Christine Wahr, McDermott Will & Emery
Chaloea Williams, U.S. District Court-MA
Samuel Zuckernik, Smith Duggan Buell & Rufo LLP

If you’re interested in signing up either as a bar applicant or a coach ahead of the July exam, please visit our website here.

Casino Night: Support the Summer Jobs Program & Boston’s Youth

The Boston Bar Association’s Summer Jobs Program employs dozens of teens each year and is an integral component in connecting high school students with law firms and offices looking to make a positive impact in a student’s life. During employment, students develop invaluable skills in an educational and hands-on professional environment.

Erica Juris, a former intern at Nelson Mullins and current freshman at Pace University, spoke about her time participating in the program. “Last summer I was exposed to so many new aspects of the law that I was unaware of. Between informational interviews with attorneys in the office and having the opportunity to sit in on a hearing in a current case, and just working day-to-day in the office on ongoing cases, I got to learn so much and have experiences I wouldn’t be able to have unless I was a working attorney. This opportunity was crucial in helping me decide the path I want to follow in my future, and my decision to attend law school and become a lawyer.”

Erica shares the same reflective memories with Sarah Ramírez, a former intern at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, a position that was sponsored by the Boston Bar Foundation’s M. Ellen Carpenter Fund. “The best part of my internship was second sitting ADAs on jury and bench trials at the Dorchester Division of the Boston Municipal Court. There, I studied the cases (the charges, defendants’ and victims’ story) before the trial dates. It was a really good experience for me to witness objections and hear the judges’ rulings on them, in addition to listening to the witness’s testimonies and feeling the tension when cross examination happens.”

Now a junior at Fenway High School, Sarah understands the unique opportunity the Summer Jobs Program provided. “Overall, I got to do office work and witness court proceedings and would recommend this program because this experience opened my eyes to a whole new world about prosecution and it was really interesting to see and learn about talking to witnesses and defense lawyers.”

As we ramp up to celebrate the 10th Annual Casino Night on April 18, 2019, we must recognize that Sarah’s position, as well as seven other positions in 2018, were made possible by the M. Ellen Carpenter Fund. Proceeds from Casino Night support the M. Ellen Carpenter Fund, which provides stipends to a handful of student interns in the Summer Jobs Program, as well as supporting other youth initiatives of the BBA. The interns sponsored by the Carpenter Fund work at public interest organizations, including legal services and courts, over the summer. These students participate in the program alongside interns hired directly by law firms and other legal offices.

Legal offices that choose to participate in the Summer Jobs Program find the experience equally as rewarding as the students. Connecting, mentoring, and educating the youth of Boston creates a brighter and more meaningful future for all.

If you are interested in hiring a student in 2019 or would like more information, please contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected]. And don’t forget to purchase your tickets to the 10th Annual Casino Night to support the M. Ellen Carpenter Fund!

Pro Bono Opportunity: Assist Veterans Seeking Discharge Upgrades

Established in 2015, the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership at the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School assists veterans seeking discharge upgrades. The partnership connects veterans to private attorneys and provides ongoing support and expert resources to those attorneys throughout the case. For the past four years, the BBA has hosted an annual training to introduce interested attorneys to this opportunity and bolster the skillset and knowledge of existing pro bono volunteers. The next training will provide attendees the chance to hear perspectives from the military board of directors for the Air Force, Army, and Navy. They will discuss how the boards operate and how pro bono attorneys can best advocate for their veteran clients. The pro bono training will also include an update about recent changes in the law. You’re invited to attend on Thursday, April 25th from 2:30 – 5:00 PM at the BBA. A networking reception with the Active Duty Military and Veterans Forum will immediately follow the training. Read more and register to attend here.

Note that this training will build on those from 2015-2018. Convenient videos and materials from past trainings are available through our Learn Online library’s dedicated pro bono and public interest page. Easily watch the videos and review the materials whenever your schedule permits and wherever works for you, whether at your office or on the go!

Public Interest Leadership Program Alumni Mingle with Prospective Applicants

Earlier this week, the BBA hosted an information session and alumni reception for its Public Interest Leadership Program. The program, which now includes nearly 200 alumni, is currently seeking applicants for its 16th class. At the information session, Rich Baldwin (PILP 2016-2017, Foley Hoag) described his experience in the program as both inwardly and outwardly fulfilling. Participants in the program meet twice a month and hear from guest speakers across a variety of public interest issue areas. These presentations and conversations enrich the PILP members’ understanding of their community and introduce them to new ways to volunteer and engage with service providers in the Greater Boston area. Additionally, PILP members are each responsible for planning and executing two meetings for the class, as well as working together toward a culminating project for the year. Baldwin spoke about how this project is a significant outward facing element of the program. Each class has the opportunity to dive into a public interest issue area and educate and support their peers and the public through the project. During Baldwin’s PILP year, his class organized and held a symposium at the Boston Bar Association focusing on Constitutional Battlegrounds: Civil Rights in a Changing Landscape. After hearing from Baldwin and BBA Staff, prospective applicants were able to mingle with PILP alumni and hear their perspectives on the program.

The application for the 2019-2020 class is available to download here and is due on March 29th. Applicants must be attorneys within their first 10 years of practice, public interest minded, and able to commit to the 14-month program, beginning in June 2019. Questions about the program or application can be directed to Cassandra Shavney at [email protected]

Members of the first PILP class in 2003-2004 pose in front of the Boston Bar Association’s historic building, the Chester Harding House.

Need an Extra Hand around the Office this Summer?

We’re already looking to summer here at the BBA and are gearing up for our much loved Summer Jobs Program. The program is an integral part of Mayor Walsh’s Summer Jobs Initiative to hire over 10,000 Boston teens each summer. With the help of 24 law offices to secure jobs for nearly 40 teens last year, our program is one of the top eight largest private sector employers in the city. The program is a long-time partnership between the BBA, the City of Boston, Boston Public Schools, and the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC), and provides students who attend public high schools in the city of Boston the chance to gain professional experience and earn a paycheck.

We’re seeking legal offices that have the capacity to hire and support a youth intern for seven weeks over the summer. 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. Many of the students selected for the program have prior work experience and all are invested in learning more about the legal profession. 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 2019, please contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected] for additional information.

Thank you to the firms and law offices that have already pledged to hire a student intern this summer. We’re grateful for your support and dedication to youth employment:

Chu, Ring and Hazel LLP
Conn Kavanaugh
LPL Financial
Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office
Mintz
Nixon Peabody
Nutter
Office of the Corporation Counsel of the City of Boston*
Proskauer
Ropes & Gray*
Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C.
Sunstein Kann Murphy Timbers LLP
Verrill Dana LLP
WilmerHale*

*Hiring more than one student intern

Last year’s interns posed together after their orientation in July. The BBA works with the Boston Private Industry Council to recruit applicants who reside in and attend school across Boston’s 23 neighborhoods.

Public Interest Leadership Program Application Available Now

The Boston Bar Association is pleased to announce that it is now accepting applications for its 2019-2020 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 learning more the program, we invite you to join us on Tuesday, March 12th from 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM at the BBA. 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 29, 2019  to Francine Alexandre at [email protected]

The current PILP class consists of 23 accomplished attorneys selected due to their commitment to pro bono and community service. Each accomplished in their field, they’re joining a network of nearly 200 PILP alumni who’ve gone on to serve the BBA in other capacities and carry their passion for serving the public interest into the community.