Bidding Farewell to the 2012 Summer Jobs Program

As the warm and bright summer days are slowly turning into longer autumn months, the BBA’s Summer Jobs Program has come to an end.  The Summer Jobs Program is a diversity and inclusion pipeline program with the goal of introducing Boston Public School students to the law and the legal profession.  During the 8 week employment program the students also participated in an enrichment component.   Students chosen for the Program are motivated and high-achieving students with their eyes set on college and hopefully, after participating in this Program, the legal profession.   Last Thursday, Holland & Knight generously opened their doors to our 55 Summer Jobs students, their family members and firm sponsors for our annual Graduation Ceremony.   It was a packed house – as speakers including keynote, Steven Wright, Executive Partner of Holland & Knight, BBA President, Lisa Goodheart and BBA President Elect, J.D. Smeallie help bid farewell to an impressive class of students.

 
In his keynote remarks, Mr. Wright urged the students to think about the “5 Rs – respect, resilience, resourcefulness, responsibility and the ability to take risks” as guiding principles for both their academic and professional careers.  His thoughtful advice encouraged the students to “develop a stakeholder’s group – the group of people that will help guide you through your career.” The keynote address was particularly significant for our students as they stand at the threshold of their young careers.

 

 
 In addition, two students, Stephane Alexandre, a student at Boston Latin Academy and an intern at Prince Lobel Tye and Raymond Cen, a student at Boston Latin School and an intern at Nixon Peabody shared their experiences in the Program.  Stephane said that during her internship she worked “alongside clerks, paralegals, and lawyers” and her duties included “informing the clients of the status of their cases and files.”  She also noted that she “had the opportunity to learn about affidavits and depositions, as well as the importance of time management, which is required to succeed in life.”

 
 Raymond spoke of establishing a strong working relationship with many employees at Nixon, including former Boston City Council President and Boston Latin School alum, Larry DiCara. He noted that “now, every time Larry sees me, he exclaims a Latin saying – ‘ad astra per aspera’ – to the stars through difficulties.”  Raymond said that “working at Nixon Peabody has given me a new perspective on the legal world. I consider my internship at Nixon Peabody one of the great experiences of my life and will truly miss working with the amazing people I have met.”

 
The Boston Bar Association would like to thank the following firms for their support of the Summer Jobs Program.  Without you, this Program and the opportunities it affords our students would not be possible.

Anderson & Kreiger LLP
Bingham McCutchen LLP
Boston Bar Association*
Burns & Levinson LLP*
Choate Hall & Stewart LLP
Chu, Ring & Hazel LLP
Collora LLP
Committee for Public Counsel Services*†
Cooley LLP
DLA Piper LLP- Boston Office
Donnelly, Conroy & Gelhaar, LLP
Donovan Hatem, LLP
Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP*
Ferriter Scobbo & Rodophele PC
Foley Hoag LLP
Goodwin Procter LLP
Hemenway & Barnes LLP
Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP
Holland & Knight, LLP
Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services†
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute†
Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo PC
Morrison Mahoney LLP
Nixon Peabody LLP
Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP
Office of the Corporation Counsel City of Boston*
Peabody & Arnold LLP
Pierce Atwood, LLP
Prince Lobel Tye LLP
Proskauer Rose LLP
Ropes & Gray LLP*
Shaevel and Krems
Sherin and Lodgen LLP
Shilepsky Hartley Robb Casey Michon LLP
Sovereign Bank
Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office*†
Suffolk University Law
Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, PC
Sunstein Kann Murphy & Timbers LLP
Todd & Weld LLP
United States Bankruptcy Court†
Verrill Dana LLP
Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association *†
Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, PC

*Hiring more than one student
† Position funded the by Boston Bar Foundation

We would also like to thank the volunteers that led the weekly enrichment seminars over the course of this summer. You have helped to broaden the experiences of our students.

Warren Agin, Swiggart & Agin, LLC
Hon. Peter Agnes, Massachusetts Appeals Court
Hon. Frank Bailey, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Barbara Berenson, Supreme Judicial Court
Janet Bostwick, Janet E. Bostwick, PC
Jeanne Darcey, Sullivan & Worcester LLP
Lawrence DiCara, Nixon Peabody LLP
Hon. Joan Feeney, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
John Fitzgerald, Office of the U.S. Trustee
William Harrington, Office of the U.S. Trustee
Kathleen Henry, Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation
Donald Lassman, Law Office of Donald R. Lassman
John Loughnane, Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC
Ben Loveland, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
David Mawhinney, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Stacie McHale, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
John Morrier, Casner & Edwards, LLP
Vanessa Peck, Goulston & Storrs – A Professional Corporation
Kathleen Rahbany, Craig and Macauley Professional Corporation
Diane Rallis, Holland & Knight, LLP
Emmanuelle Renelique, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Lynne Riley, Riley Law Group
Jeffrey Sternklar , Duane Morris LLP
Jillian Vorce, The Jillian Group

Giving Back on a Board

It’s that time of year again. Although Boston is still reaching temperatures in the 80’s by the afternoon, there is no denying the slight coolness in the air these past few mornings. September has always been an exciting month for me, there are new classes to be taken, new friends to be made, and new extracurricular activities to be tried. It is a time to step out of your comfort zone and reinvent the person you can be this year.
 
This year I’ve had the pleasure of helping to organize the BBA’s annual, Charitable Boards Service event scheduled for September 14th. The event is an opportunity to discover how serving on a charitable board is a way to contribute to a worthy cause, gain experience, and use your skills to serve your community in an area of your personal interest. Specifically, attendees will learn how to find board membership opportunities, identify topics that board members should be aware of – such as fiduciary duties, fiscal oversight, and governance issues, and hear fellow attorneys discuss their own experiences serving on boards.

As a member of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy board, my own service has been an opportunity to expand my professional network and contribute to a personal interest of mine. I have been able to take on leadership roles and develop skills that I could never gain simply from practicing law.

Based on my personal experience I encourage all attorneys to serve on a charitable board. Board service can be valuable for any attorney, from the new attorney who is seeking substantive experience and the unemployed attorney who is hoping to expand existing networks to the soon-to-be retired attorney looking for the next challenge and the attorney taking a break from the practice of law who still wishes to sharpen those legal skills. Even the busy, well-established attorney can find a few hours here and there to contribute knowledge and expertise to a favorite cause.
 
So while I hope you enjoy these last few days of summer, I encourage you all to attend the Charitable Board Service event and consider offering your time and expertise to a worthy organization.

Jennifer R. Garcia
Metropolitan Area Planning Council

BBA Lawyer Referral Service Reaches Out to Growing South Asian Community

This past Sunday, the BBA Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) staff joined thousands of others at the India Association of Greater Boston‘s (IAGB) annual India Day. The event, held at the DCR Memorial Hatch Shell, celebrated the 65th anniversary of India’s independence, and marked 50 years of service by the IAGB to the Indian-American community of the Boston area. 

LRS staff spoke with hundreds of people, making them aware of the largest Public Service program of the Boston Bar Association. The South Asian population in Greater Boston is constantly growing and the event gave BBA staff an excellent opportunity to talk with people about how to obtain a lawyer from the BBA Lawyer Referral Service. 

When approached by the India Day attendees, the BBA staff was primarily asked questions pertaining to immigration and business law. The day following the event, one of the festival attendees called seeking an attorney to help him with permanent residence services.  Other attendees took marketing materials, and were interested in contacting the LRS about other legal issues. 

In addition to speaking with individuals, the LRS staff was also able to enjoy the festivities including, cultural performances and vendors selling South Asian foods and goods. 

India Day is just one of the many annual outreach events the LRS participates in.  If you would like more information on future events, please contact Solana Goss, the LRS Intake Coordinator, at [email protected].

To reach the BBA Lawyer Referral Service please call (617)742-0625 or (800)552-7046 Monday through Thursday, 8:30 am to 5:30 pm and Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. You can also email us at [email protected] or visit us on the web at www.bostonbarlawyer.org.

Mentors with Diverse Backgrounds

In preparation for the next program year, the BBA’s Diversity & Inclusion Section Group Mentoring Program is proud to announce the Mentors for the upcoming program year. Each Mentoring group has two Mentors who work together to provide their 6-10 mentees with a welcoming environment to learn, ask questions and seek advice.

Mentors are chosen not only for their racial and ethnic diversity, but also for their legal diversity. This year our Mentors are partners in law firms, in-house counsel, government attorneys, small business owners, solo practioners, legal services attorneys and bar leaders. Following different paths they were able to reach their current positions in both their profession and legal communities. Having access to these Mentors of this caliber is what makes the BBA Group Mentoring Program a continued success.

Take it from June Duchesne, current Mentoring Committee co-chair and former mentor: “Mentors can be critical to the success of new lawyers.  The mentors I had early in my career were invaluable in helping me navigate the ins and outs of our profession.  I am excited that our new class of incoming mentors, all respected and experienced attorneys with a lot of talent and knowledge to share, will be able to do the same for so many young lawyers in Boston.”

June Duchesne, Co-Chair

EMC Corporation

 

 

 

Richard Moore, Co-Chair

Planet Fitness

 

 

 

Lindy Aldrich

The Victim Rights Law Center, Inc.

 

 

 

Adam Foss

Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office

 

 

 

Christopher Kauders

Pre-Trial Solutions, Inc.

 

 

Jessica Massey

Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General

 

 

 

Richard Quinby

Craig and Macauley Professional Corporation

 

 

 

Mala Rafik

Rosenfeld Rafik & Sullivan, P.C

 

 

 

Randall Ravitz

Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General

 

 

 

Anita Sharma

PAIR Project

 

 

 

Laura Unflat

The Law Office of Laura M. Unflat

 

 

 

Thuy Wagner

Boston Medical Center-Office of the General Counsel

 

 

 

Charles Walker

Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure

 

 

 

For more information on the BBA’s Group Mentoring Program contact Susan Helm at [email protected].

BBA Volunteer Lawyers Train New Interns

Attorney Claudia Gregoire speaks to LRS staff and interns about immigration law.

The BBA Lawyer Referral Service is the largest public service program of the Boston Bar Association, dedicated to helping members of the public in need of assistance connect with attorneys.  Each year the LRS connects about 10,000 callers from a diverse client base to qualified attorneys who speak many languages and can serve clients with a variety of legal issues.  The BBA LRS is the only ABA-approved lawyer referral service in the greater Boston area.

In order to ensure that the BBA LRS is providing the public with the highest level of service, twice a year BBA attorneys volunteer their time to conduct training sessions for the LRS staff on a wide range of legal topics. These topics range from Criminal Law and Bankruptcy to legal aid resources available in greater Boston. The trainings help to make sure accurate referrals are being made so that the callers are reaching the help that they need.

Beyond the Billable wanted to find what the LRS staff learned by attending these training sessions.

Solana Goss

LRS Intake Coordinator


“Working on the telephones all day, I encounter legal situations from a diverse group of callers, so it is important that I find appropriate resources specific to their needs.  Learning which questions to ask, what documents callers may be referring to, and the basics of the law helps me to ensure the callers will be well-served by the BBA LRS.  More importantly however, the trainings reminded me to analyze the caller’s situation from their perspective.  They are calling us in a stressful and vulnerable time period, and are often using our service because they have never needed or spoke to an attorney before.  My role also requires me to be sympathetic and patient, especially when callers might be difficult to understand or communicate with, as these are the clients that often need our help the most. Participating in the trainings conducted by the volunteer attorneys reinforced the importance of what we do at the BBA LRS by increasing access to justice. I am able to do my job more effectively and refer callers to the most appropriate resources.”

Alison Kubas

Northeastern University Co-op Student 2012, Northeastern University Class of 2013

“It was clear that a main concern of each of the attorneys was that there be access to legal services for anyone who may be in need. This was reiterated with comments regarding the great service that was being provided to the public and how important it is that we at the Boston Bar Association continue giving quality assistance. In addition, the attorneys emphasized the importance of always remaining patient and kind to the callers because you never know what type of situation they are in. After this great advice and information, I can go into each call confidently and finish it feeling accomplished.”

The Boston Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service would like to thank the following attorneys who volunteered their time to conduct training sessions for the BBA’s new interns:

Roger Bertling (Law Offices of Roger Bertling) – Bankruptcy

Dan Biagiotti (Legal Advocacy & Resource Center) – LARC & Legal Services Overview

Vilas Dhar (Dhar Law, LLP) – Business Law & Consumer Law

Robin Gorenberg (Law Office of Robin Gorenberg) – Trusts & Estate Planning

Claudia Gregoire (George J. West & Associates) – Immigration Law
 
William Korman (Korman & Associates, LLC) – Criminal Law

William McLeod (United States Bankruptcy Court) – Bankruptcy

Chik Mone (Pierce, Davis & Perritano, LLP) – Torts

Staci Rubin (Alternatives for Community & Environment) – Environmental Law

Dino Santangelo (Law Office of Dino R. Santangelo) – Public Benefits & Health Law

Ryan Sullivan (Sullivan Legal) – Real Estate & Landlord/Tenant Law

Francis Teague (Frank J. Teague & Associates ) – Employment Law

Laura Unflat (The Law Office of Laura M. Unflat) – Family Law

If you are interested in joining the BBA Lawyer Referral Service, or becoming involved in training sessions in the future, please contact Solana Goss, the LRS Intake Coordinator, at [email protected].

To reach the BBA Lawyer Referral Service please call (617)742 0625 or (800)552-7046 Monday through Thursday, 8:30 am to 5:30 pm; Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. You can also email us at [email protected] or visit us on the web at www.bostonbarlawyer.org.

The Top 10 Reasons to be a Mentor to a Boston Public High School Debate Team

10. Boston high school debaters are amazing, dedicated kids.  They get up at 5 AM every school day, often taking multiple buses and trains to be in class by 7:15 AM.  Then they repeat that journey home to care for little brothers and sisters.  Sometimes their families have lived in Boston for generations.  Sometimes they are refugees from places like Somalia or Syria or Guatemala and act as interpreters for their parents.  They are intelligent.  Often highly intelligent.  Your time will be well spent.

9.  Many of these kids don’t start with the reading or analytical skills that their intelligence would suggest.  Many of them have a hard time pronouncing certain written words.  Debate and debate team practice is really a stealth way of tapping kids’ competitive drive so they want to internalize critical skills:  reading, understanding a text well enough to put it into their own words and metaphors, speaking fluently, having confidence that their evidence-backed views deserve to be heard, using math practically to estimate, breaking a problem down into its components, looking into the eyes of those they are speaking to.  You know how to do this cold.  Pass it on.

8.  Do you really think the teachers who are coaches can do this all by themselves?  They start work at 6 AM.  They work 11 hour days.  Over 100 college-educated adults are needed to judge each debate round of 400 kids at a single tournament.  Coaches are pressed into emergency service as judges, taking them away from their teams.  Some tournament weekends they have competing family needs.  These teacher-coaches need backup!

7. Every teacher I’ve met says that the Boston Debate League is the single best program in the Boston Public School system, hands down.  The “single best program in the Boston Public School system, hands down,” needs you.  Let it go to your head!

6.  Teaching a pack of high school boys, at their request, how to tie their own ties:  Be. The. Man.     

5.  When was the last time you walked into a room of clients and they shouted:  “Where have you been???  We missed you!!!” ?

4. You will never get lost driving around Eastie or Brighton or Dorchester again.

3.  Your parents came to your games in high school, right?  Their parents often can’t because they are working to make ends meet and can’t afford the time or the money to travel by mass transit to tournaments.  If you aren’t there, it is quite possible no one will be.  Who will explain judges’ comments?  Who will celebrate their triumphs?  Who will just be there as they experience defeat and figure out how to come back?  (A teenager who has just lost a debate round and asks for your advice really, really wants to hear it.)

2.  Where do you think the next generation of DAs, public defenders, judges, transactional lawyers, entrepreneurs, governors and presidents are going to come from?  Are you bothered by the increasing income and opportunity gap in America?  Well, here’s your chance to do something about it.  Urban education is the civil rights issue of our time. 

1.  Participation in the Boston Debate League is transformational.  The shy kids talk.  The class talkers listen.  Reading and thinking skills grow. Work and preparation habits put down roots.  It becomes cool to be smart and persuasive. College doors open.  Go ahead — get in touch with your inner miracle worker!

Greg Peterson is a real estate and environmental partner at Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers, P.C. in Boston.  He is listed in Best Lawyers in America and ranked in Chambers, U.S.A..  During the October, 2011 – March, 2012 Boston Debate League season he served as volunteer mentor to the Charlestown High School debate team.  He is looking forward to the 2012-13 BDL season.

A Yellow Ribbon Reflection

A few weeks ago I volunteered at a Post Deployment Yellow Ribbon Event organized by the Massachusetts National Guard. These are events organized by the military to support servicemen and servicewomen preparing for or returning from deployment. The BBA Active Duty Military, Family Members & Veterans Committee attends Yellow Ribbon events to provide brief legal advice and legal resources. As the Public Service Manager at the Boston Bar Association, I had heard a lot about this project, but had yet to experience it.

It was a rainy day in May and I was running a few minutes late. As I pulled up to the Burlington Marriott I was amazed by the sheer number of military personnel in full fatigue. As I searched for the other volunteers, I zigzagged my way through a crowd consisting mostly of men who towered over me. I have no previous experience with the military, I have no friends or family who have ever served, and to say I was intimidated is an understatement.

While one volunteer manned our table, I was sent with a Retired Colonel and the other volunteer to a small board room to talk one on one with returning soldiers about their legal issues. I fielded the family law questions since that is the area of law I used to practice.

For over two hours I spoke to men who needed help and advice on their family law issues. One soldier I spoke with had his 6 year old son with him. He wanted to discuss filing for divorce; his wife had left him and the children while he was deployed. The soldier reassured his son and encouraged him to sit at the table and draw while he talked with me. As soon as the father walked away, the son ran after him and climbed into his lap.  It was obvious how much this little boy was hurting. His father left on deployment and is back but then his mother left and he had to move out of his home. I was able to provide the father with some basic information and hopefully provide him with some guidance.

In those few moments with this father and son, the sacrifices these men and women are making and the toll it is taking on their families became so clear. I heard story after story that day that broke my heart.

Volunteering at the Yellow Ribbon Event was fully outside of my comfort zone. It was a new population I had never worked with coming back from an experience I had no connection to. Although I wasn’t able to solve these men’s problems, the help I was able to provide was more than they had before walking through that door. This was an experience I will never forget, and I will definitely volunteer for another Yellow Ribbon Event.

If you are interested in learning more about Yellow Ribbon Events or any of our other programs, please contact me at [email protected].

Sonia Shah

Public Service Manager, Boston Bar Association

Sonia Shah,
BBA Public Service Manager

BBA’s Group Mentoring Program Opens Application Process

Now moving into its 4th year, the BBA Mentoring Program has geared up to accommodate an increase in mentees eager to benefit from the program. BBA’s Diversity & Inclusion Section established the Group Mentoring Program in 2009 to promote career advancement and career satisfaction for  pools of diverse new lawyers.

Beyond the Billable reached out to Mentor Mala Rafik and Mentee Cristina Serrano to get the insider’s take on the value of participating in the program. Here’s what they said:

“I feel privileged to have been a Mentor this past year. I never would have been where I am today without the generosity of lawyers in Massachusetts who took the time to meet with me early in my career to answer my endless questions about the practice of law, to introduce me to other like-minded attorneys and to just listen to my fears about succeeding in this business. The opportunity to connect with new lawyers, to share our experiences and to learn from each other was invaluable. It reminded me why what we do as lawyers is so special and rejuvenated me in a way few things have over the course of my career. It was truly a gift.” – Mala Rafik, Managing Partner, Rosenfeld & Rafik, P.C, BBA Mentor

“The BBA Group Mentoring Program has been a fantastic experience and a wonderful resource.  Initially I signed up because I wanted to find mentors who could help me navigate the workplace as a new attorney. While I wasn’t quite sure what questions or concerns I had, or what I could contribute to the Program, the small group of strangers quickly became a productive sounding board and think tank. Our group discussions ranged from work-life balance and networking, to salary negotiations and career changes, to workplace drama and resume building.  The mentors and fellow mentees alike ended up providing a reliable support network to discuss, inquire, complain, laugh, and share.  This year’s Program may have wrapped up, but I plan on maintaining these relationships through the summer and beyond.” – Cristina Serrano, Associate, Wayne, Richard &Hurwitz LLP, BBA Mentee

Mentoring groups meet monthly for discussions about career paths, work life balance and professional challenges, and participants also gather for program-wide seminars and networking events.  The 4th program year will begin in September. Mentee applications will become available in July; interested participants are encouraged to contact Susan Helm at [email protected] for more information.

MUPC Resource Desk Eases Court Transition

In April 2012, the much anticipated Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code (MUPC) went into effect. The new law dramatically changed the landscape of trust and estate work in the Commonwealth. The BBA Trust & Estates Section, along with the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Probate and Family Court have worked tirelessly to create a smooth transition for practitioners, the courts and pro se litigants.

Working in partnership – a multifaceted approach was designed with the input of Chief Justice Paula M. Carey and her staff. The centerpiece of the program is the MUPC Resource Desk. Eight desks, being staffed once or twice a week have been set up across the state in various Probate & Family Courts Registries. Since April, 49 attorneys have volunteered at the Resource Desks. They have assisted 154 individuals including other attorneys, court staff and members of the community by answering questions about the MUPC.  The Section also chose to use the BBA Trusts & Estates Section blog to highlight particular aspects of the new law and respond to questions lawyers may pose.

 Beyond the Billable reached out to two volunteers to find out what it means to volunteer at a Resource Desk.

Peter Shapland, Co-Chair of the BBA Trusts & Estates Section Public Service Committee, Day Pitney LLP

I volunteer at the MUPC Resource Desk for at least two important reasons.  First, it provides me an opportunity to offer some of my time and knowledge as a public service, to both the Probate Courts and persons of limited means using the Courts.  Second, it gives me the opportunity to represent the BBA, confirming its own focus on public service. 

The MUPC represents the most significant single statutory change in the history of the Massachusetts Probate Courts, and that change has come at a time of limited resources for the Courts.  The Resource Desk offers some assistance to the Court staff, and to the public, in adapting to the new rules brought by the MUPC. 

Allison Cleveland, Day Pitney LLP

Volunteering allows me to do service (which all lawyers should do!), but in this particular area, it benefits me in a more tangible way as well.  Each time I’ve volunteered, I’ve encountered questions that prompted me to learn more about the new law, keep my own skills sharp, and determine how the courts will be handling numerous issues under the MUPC. It’s a win-win situation!

The courts are struggling with staff cuts, reduced hours and minimal budgets.  The new law, although an improvement, adds to their burden.  To the extent that lawyers who have been trained on the MUPC can help, everyone will benefit. 

If you are interested in learning more about the MUPC Resource Desk or would like to volunteer, please contact Stephanie Lee, Public Service Programs Coordinator at [email protected].

A Conversation with Justice Ralph Gants

Justice Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court sits for a conversation with the 2012 PILP class.

Guest Blogger: Staci Rubin, PILP Class 2012-2013

The Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) class of 2012-2013 is underway.  As one of fourteen PILPers, I have already deepened my understanding of how the Boston Bar Association (BBA) functions and heard directly from public interest leaders about what qualities strong leaders possess.

The explicit goal of the restructured program is for PILP participants to meet leaders in the public service landscape, contribute significantly to the pro bono / public interest work in Boston, and create a pathway to leadership within the BBA.  Since our PILP class kicked off on May 10, we have met with leaders from the Volunteer Lawyers Project, Greater Boston Legal Services, Delivery of Legal Services Section, and Bankruptcy Pro Bono Committee.

On Tuesday, June 26 Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court graciously met with the PILP class to discuss his work with the Massachusetts Access to Justice CommissionPurely as a hypothetical, Justice Gants asked us to imagine something he later explained was too outlandish for real world consideration: a world with a concierge judiciary akin to concierge medicine. Concierge litigants would pay a higher court filing fee in exchange for a judge that could devote more time to the case and likely render a decision on the matter in a shorter time frame as compared with the current court system.  Those higher filing fees, according to the hypothetical, would be funneled directly to the presently underfunded judiciary.  While the PILPers were not in universal agreement as to whether the detriments outweighed the merits of this hypothetical concierge judiciary, there was universal agreement about the need for additional financial resources to protect the integrity of the justice system.

At present, there are vast numbers of low income individuals and groups in need of legal advice and representation who cannot gain access to counsel.  During this time of increasing requests for legal services and representation and decreasing budgets for legal service organizations, public defenders, and prosecutors, there are vast opportunities for attorneys to offer pro bono assistance.  Justice Gants suggested that the types of conflicts where there is the greatest need for pro bono assistance include litigants in child custody, support, and alimony cases, eviction and related housing proceedings, bankruptcy filings, immigration proceedings and domestic violence survivors seeking restraining orders.  While Justice Gants admits that actual and perceived conflicts of interest will continue to hinder attorney pro bono representation for many employed attorneys, he noted that rigorous case screening, access to fillable and multilingual court forms, limited assistance representation, and guidance documents dictating law may help to overcome some of the conflict barriers.

The PILPers have seemingly started a tradition by asking every visitor to PILP gatherings to provide their input on unmet legal needs.  Our list of ideas about where public interest work could most benefit the needs of the Commonwealth’s low income and otherwise underserved residents is growing.  We will continue collecting ideas from public interest leaders and begin developing one or more public interest projects in late summer.  I am grateful for the PILP opportunity, motivated by the like-minded public interest spirit of my colleagues, and look forward to collectively improving access to justice and narrowing the gap of unmet legal needs in Boston.