Public Interest Leaders Making Great Strides

As the BBA begins the recruiting process for another class of emerging leaders for the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) class of 2013, we thought it would be nice to check in with three of our PILP alums. Randy Ravitz (PILP class of 2005) is now Chief of Appeals in the Criminal Division in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, Leiha Macauley (PILP class of 2003) is now Managing Partner of Day Pitney’s Boston office, and Samantha Morton (PILP class of 2004) is Executive Director of Medical Legal Partnership | Boston. See more below about how the PILP experience helped these lawyers achieve success:

Ravitz, RandallRandall Ravitz
Chief, Appeals Division
Criminal Bureau
Office of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley

During my year in PILP, I learned from a series of speakers about community organizing and leadership, Boston-area politics, and ensuring access to justice. I also made good friends, and we have continued to support each other. Additionally, all of us in the program were warmly welcomed to become more involved in the BBA after the year concluded. As a result, I have since taken on several positions of responsibility in the Association. Those positions have given me opportunities to build effective teams, and to work with accomplished professionals in analyzing recent legal developments, educating other members of the bar, and mentoring new lawyers.

Randy Ravitz is .is a recipient of his office’s Attorney General Edward W. Brooke Award for Excellence. In the fall of 2010, Randy was a National Association of Attorneys General Supreme Court Fellow in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the Attorney General’s Office, Randy practiced general litigation at the Boston law firms of Hanify & King, P.C., and Brown Rudnick Berlack Israels LLP. He has also worked for the Massachusetts State Senate and on the staff of Massachusetts political campaigns.

At the BBA, Randy has served as co-chair of the Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Section and its Litigation Public Policy Committee, and as a member of its Amicus Committee. Randy has served as a Mentor in the BBA’s Group Mentoring Program since 2010.

Macauley, LeihaLeiha Macauley
Managing Partner the Boston Office, Day Pitney LLP

As for PILP — It was absolutely valuable. I have maintained the good friendships I made, and I truly consider it my launch pad for the very happy career I’ve had this far!

PILP Class 2003 Year End Reception.

PILP Class 2003 Year End Reception. L-R Past BBA President Hugh R. Jones, Jr., Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, Leiha Macauley, Colby Brunt and Kevin Currid.

Leiha Macauley practices in the areas of trust and estate administration, estate planning and trust, estate and fiduciary litigation. Leiha is a member of the firm’s Disabilities and Special Needs Planning and Probate Litigation and Controversies practice groups and also advises clients on achieving philanthropic goals through the use of private foundations and charitable trusts. Leiha developed and co-directs the Child Health Advocacy Partnership, a venture of the East Boston Community Health Center, the Medical-Legal Partnership for Children, and Day Pitney which teams doctors with attorneys to provide legal information and advocacy to underprivileged families.

Leiha is a trustee of the Boston Bar Foundation and currently serves on the BBF’s Executive Committee. Leiha is a trustee of the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Foundation and a member of the Executive Committee of the Boston University Law Alumni Association.

Morton Samantha2Samantha Morton
Executive Director
Medical Legal Partnership | Boston

PILP made it possible to connect with like-minded peers early in my career — many of them have become colleagues, collaborators, and friends. I was able to meet and talk with prominent leaders from all sectors of the legal community — rare opportunities indeed. PILP set the stage for other types of valuable BBA involvement — I’m sure that my positive experience with the program helped pave the way for other rewarding BBA leadership roles.

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PILP Alumns Samantha Morton, Randy Ravitz, Philip Graeter, and Thuy Wagner.

Samantha Morton .has focused on sustainability strategies, preventive law orientation, pro bono capacity-building, ethics and confidentiality, and immigration advocacy in the Medical Legal Partnership context. She spearheaded the “adoption” of four Boston-area health clinics by law firm partners; this model is now being replicated by the American Bar Association through the ABA Medical-Legal Partnerships Pro Bono Support Project. Samantha has published and presented extensively on MLP practice.

Samantha currently serves as co-chair of the BBA’s Delivery of Legal Services Section and is a member of the BBA’s Health Law Section Steering Committee. In 2011, Samantha served as a mentor in the BBA’s Group Mentoring Program. Samantha has served as a Lecturer on Law at New England Law | Boston and as a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Health Law Section Council. Before joining MLP | Boston in 2003, Ms. Morton was a litigation associate at WilmerHale (formerly Hale and Dorr LLP), and served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Morton A. Brody of the United States District Court for the District of Maine.

The BBA is currently accepting applications for the PILP class of 2013. The application deadline is February 15th. More information on PILP and the application process is available here. For more information, please email Susan Helm, Member Programs Coordinator, at [email protected].

Volunteers Flock to M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program

Over 100 volunteers have signed up to teach the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program— a public service partnership between the Boston Bar Association and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts – to local high school students. The program is about to begin its most exciting year ever. Starting next week, the program is slated to reach over 1,000 students in 13 Massachusetts Public Schools. As the program expands to serve more students, the dedication of returning volunteers and new volunteers grows stronger.

What would compel intelligent adults to willingly enter a classroom of teenagers? We asked posed that question to three of our volunteers:

Assistant AG Claire Masinton teachs a module at East Boston High School.

Assistant AG Claire Masinton teachs a module at East Boston High School.

Bernie Schilling, Liberty Mutual

I’ve been a volunteer for the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program because I believe in what the program represents – educating our students to the world of finance. I feel there is a void in educating students to make good choices and I want to make a difference in sharing my bumps in the road.

Meghan Roche, Law Office of Meghan Roche

I continue to be a volunteer because I think these skills that are taught in the class are vital to a successful financial future. I truly believe that they should be part of every schools’ curriculum and that the lessons are useful to all students whether you become a doctor, a teacher or a plumber. Explaining the differences between wants and needs and exploring how to use credit wisely can be valuable lessons for kids today. I think this program is such a great opportunity for high school students to learn something that will help them to be financially responsible adults.

Kelly Goss, Office of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley

I am delighted to volunteer for the BBA’s M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program because it is an important initiative to educate teens about financial responsibility and to provide them with some basic tools and essential information needed to successfully manage their finances as adults in order to avert financial hazards such as foreclosure and insurmountable debt. Through its interactive co-teaching platform, the program is also a great opportunity to work with other volunteer members of the community to effectively engage students in the discussion.

To view available volunteer sessions, please click here and log in. For more information about volunteering or the program, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at [email protected].

This program is funded in part by the Charles P. Normandin Fund of the Boston Bar Foundation.

Use Pro Bono to Build Your Practice

The current legal job market is one of the toughest the field has ever seen. The need for pro bono legal services continues to grow. More and more new lawyers are starting their own firms and looking for ways to develop their legal skills. Is there a way to reconcile all of these demands? Come to Building Your Practice Through Pro Bono and find out how three new lawyers have done just that.

Here is just a bit of what you will learn from these attorneys:

Saccardi, ChrisChristopher Saccardi, The Law Office of Christopher T. Saccardi 

I started my landlord-tenant practice by volunteering through the BBA Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program. My first trial was a pro bono case that I accepted on the morning of trial. While I was moderately terrified to be conducting a trial with very little experience, I soon realized that my client was very grateful to have any attorney representing her, even one with limited experience. And even more surprising, the judge was also happy to deal with an attorney during the trial as opposed to a pro se litigant. Because I was clearly inexperienced, the judge was extra patient with me and as a result, not only was I able to help out a deserving client but I learned a great deal through the experience.

As I gained experience through pro bono cases, I started to build up my own caseload of paying clients, drawing upon what I learned through volunteering and taking advantage of the network of mentors and colleagues I had built up through my work.

Thomas Beauvais, Attorney at Law 

Once my license arrived in the mail, I started the process of opening my practice. In my brief time networking with other solos, I have found most have difficulty with the business side of the practice: how to get enough clients, what to charge those clients, and where to meet them. My biggest obstacle was the product itself, what area of law to practice.

I knew what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to practice in criminal law, family law or personal injury. Not that there aren’t very deserving clients in those areas, or that there aren’t some truly amazing attorneys practicing this law, I just knew it wasn’t for me. I did, however, want to litigate. Looking back at my list of eliminations, one might notice the Venn Diagram of my options was rather narrow. From my perspective at the time, there was no overlap. Nevertheless, I began looking for pro bono opportunities to keep myself busy. Thankfully, I came across Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP). Every Wednesday, VLP hosts a Fair Debt Collection Clinic at the Boston Municipal Court. Not only would they allow any attorney with a free Wednesday morning to actually represent clients in a civil litigation setting, but they train them to do it well. After my first appearance, I was hooked.

Silber, AlisonAlison Silber, Law Offices of Alison Silber

I have a large VLP caseload—three cases at a time plus I mentor two other volunteers—and, in return, the VLP staff often answer questions for me about my non-VLP cases. They also provide me templates of motions/Proposed findings/etc. for my non-VLP cases.

In addition to taking cases with VLP, their lunches are a great opportunity to network and bounce ideas off of more experienced attorneys. I attend the large lunches whenever I can, plus VLP hosts a small, monthly Family Law brownbag that I find invaluable. I have developed two mentors from that circle. Each time I come with a list of questions from my non-VLP cases, and they always get answered.

Click here for more information and to register for Building Your Practice Through Pro Bono, January 23 at 12:30 pm.

An Opportunity to Make a Real Difference

Tax season can be a stressful time of year for anyone, but for many families in the Commonwealth, income tax assistance can mean the difference between subsistence living and dire poverty. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) helps low-to-middle-income taxpayers in Boston complete tax returns and take the steps necessary to receive special credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit and Credit for the Elderly. Volunteers provide free tax preparation in partnership with the Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition (EITC).

Here’s what Avada Douglas a VITA volunteer has to say about the experience:

Douglas, AvadaI have volunteered with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program since 2007. Without this program, many of these taxpayers would spend around $150 to get their taxes done by a “professional” who does not have their best interest at hand. And this $150 would go far towards meeting their basic needs for food and shelter.

Because of the Earned Income Tax Credit, people who have worked during the year may be eligible for this refundable credit. This is literally money in their pockets – up to $5,891 (2012 rates). The people I have worked with have been very appreciative of the service that we provide, and often come back year after year to the same site.

I like being able to break down the tax law, and explain to taxpayers why they are getting a refund, and what factors led to it. The more they know about their tax situation, the less intimidating it is.

Join the New Lawyers and Tax Sections for an accelerated training session for the VITA program on January 16th from 4-8 pm. No previous experience is required and non-attorneys are welcome to participate. Please note that volunteers will need to complete the certification test separately. Please sign up for the training here.

Law Firms & Offices in the Know Sign Up to Hire Students for Summer 2013

Unemployment for youth remains high, especially among Latinos and African-Americans. Data provided by the Economic Policy Institute tells that one in seven young adults ages 16-24 are unemployed. You have the opportunity to make a difference – at the same time helping to broaden the pipeline of diverse Boston youth exposed to the legal profession.

The BBA, in partnership with the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) seeks law firms and law offices to hire students for the summer of 2013. Burns and Levinson LLP, Chu, Ring, and Hazel LLP, Mintz Levin, Pierce Atwood, and WilmerHale have already committed to hiring a Boston Public High School student for 8 weeks of employment this summer, and we invite you to join them.

Over the past 19 years, the BBA has introduced more than 385 young adults to the legal profession. A recent article on the PIC’s school-to-career programs highlights Escarolyn Garcia’s experience participating in the BBA’s Summer Jobs Program.

To hire a student, or for more information on the program, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator at [email protected].

A Sneak Peek of the Year Ahead

As 2012 comes to a close, we begin to shift our focus to the New Year with anticipation. For those of you looking to get more involved and give back to the Greater Boston Community in 2013, the BBA is offering a number of public service trainings and programs in January to give you a head start. Here are a few ways you can get involved:

•    Receive Limited Assistance Referral Certification at the training on January 9th from 3-4:30 pm. You can sign up for the certification here. This program will certify participants as LAR attorneys and teach them the basics on going into court for a single event in a case. The training will be followed by two separate breakout sessions on Family and Probate Law and Land Court. You can sign up for the Probate and Family Court session here or the Land Court session here.

•    Attend the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program training on January 14th from 4-6 pm. The program is partnership between the BBA and the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts and teaches high school students how to make smart financial decisions. This opportunity offers volunteers of all backgrounds an opportunity to get involved in the community by teaching classes on topics that include personal finance, budgeting and using credit. The time commitment is just a few hours but the impact on these students is substantial. Sign up for the training here; however, the training is not mandatory.

•    Join the New Lawyers and Tax Sections for an accelerated training session for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program on January 16th from 4-8 pm. The program is coordinated locally by the Boston Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition and annually trains volunteers to prepare income tax returns for low income taxpayers at community sites in the greater Boston area. No previous experience is required and non-attorneys are welcome to participate. Please note that volunteers will need to complete the certification test separately. Please sign up for the training here.

•    Learn how to build your practice while helping your community at the upcoming “Building Your Practice Through Pro Bono” event on January 23rd from 12:30- 1:30 pm. Please sign up here.

•    Join the Bankruptcy Public Service Committee for the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Training on January 24th from 4-7 pm. The program will cover the basics of preparing and filing a Chapter 7 consumer bankruptcy case for a pro bono debtor. The topics covered will include pre-filing considerations, preparation of the petition, schedules and statements, the 341 meeting of creditors, practice pointers and advice about handling a pro bono consumer bankruptcy case. Please sign up here.

For more information on the programs, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator at [email protected].

Public Service Year in Photos

In January 2012, the John & Abigail Adams Benefit raised over $600,000. That amount helped to fund grants to 24 Massachusetts community organizations providing legal services in areas such as immigration, domestic violence and homelessness.

Volunteer lawyers and law students help unrepresented tenants and landlords with a range of services, from information, and advice for full representation in eviction proceedings.  Since May 1999, an estimated 12,000 volunteers have assisted more than 14,700 individuals. Joanna Allison Staff Attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project and Chris Saccardi, Law Office of Christopher T. Saccardi at the Boston Housing Court.

At the BBA Lawyer for a Day in the Boston Housing Court, volunteer lawyers and law students helped unrepresented tenants and landlords with a range of services — from information and advice to full representation in eviction proceedings. Since May 1999, an estimated 12,000 volunteers have assisted more than 14,700 individuals. Joanna Allison Staff Attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project and Chris Saccardi, Law Office of Christopher T. Saccardi at the Boston Housing Court.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley spoke to East Boston High School students as part of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, a joint program of the Boston Bar Association and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley spoke to East Boston High School students as part of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, a joint program of the Boston Bar Association and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Emily Hodge, Choate, Hall & Stewart, teaches students about the importance of due process and access to justice at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School. In May 2012, 28 volunteers taught 580 students at 5 different schools about the field of law.

Emily Hodge, Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP, as part of Law Day in the Schools taught students about the importance of due process and access to justice at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School. In May 2012, 28 volunteers taught 580 students at 5 different schools about the field of law.

The Lawyer Referral Service (LRS), is the BBA’s largest public service program, with a specific commitment to reaching historically underserved populations. The LRS Program connects callers in need of legal assistance with qualified help from private attorneys, legal services agencies, government offices and community programs.

The Lawyer Referral Service (LRS), is the BBA’s largest public service program, with a specific commitment to reaching historically underserved populations. The LRS Program connects callers in need of legal assistance with qualified help from private attorneys, legal services agencies, government offices and community programs.

In its ninth year of producing young public interest leaders, the Public Interest Leadership Program selected an outstanding class of 14 up-and-coming leaders from the largest-ever applicant pool. The 2012-2013 class of the BBA's Public Interest Leadership Program. L-R: Omar F. Gonzalez-Pagan, Staci Rubin, Benton B. Bodamer, Christopher T. Saccardi, Eric A. Haskell, Julia E. Devanthéry, Jacqueline Silva Anchondo, Emily F. Hodge, Meghan D. H. Walsh Raquel Webster and Daniel M. Routh

In its ninth year of producing young public interest leaders, the Public Interest Leadership Program selected an outstanding class of 14 up-and-coming leaders from the largest-ever applicant pool. The 2012-2013 class of the BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program. L-R: Omar F. Gonzalez-Pagan, Staci Rubin, Benton B. Bodamer, Christopher T. Saccardi, Eric A. Haskell, Julia E. Devanthéry, Jacqueline Silva Anchondo, Emily F. Hodge, Meghan D. H. Walsh Raquel Webster and Daniel M. Routh.

The Mayor’s Youth Council, a partnership between the BBA, Mayor’s Office and Northeastern University, gives young people the opportunity to reach out to other Boston teens. The BBA provides the Mayor’s Youth Council lawyer-mentors. Lisa Goodheart, Past President of the BBA with Mayor Thomas M. Menino at the 2012 Mayor’s Youth Council Reception at Northeastern University.

The Mayor’s Youth Council, a partnership between the BBA, the Mayor’s Office and Northeastern University, gives young people the opportunity to reach out to other Boston teens. The BBA provides the Mayor’s Youth Council lawyer-mentors. Lisa Goodheart, Past President of the BBA with Mayor Thomas M. Menino at the 2012 Mayor’s Youth Council Reception at Northeastern University.

Larry DiCara, a partner at Nixon Peabody and former member and president of the Boston City Council conducts a mock City Council hearing with the 2012 Summer Jobs students. L-R: Tatenda Mundeke, Aubrey Griffin, Raymond Cen, Ashley Dixon, and Samantha Argon.

Larry DiCara, a partner at Nixon Peabody and former President of the Boston City Council conducted a mock City Council hearing with the 2012 Summer Jobs students. L-R: Tatenda Mundeke, Aubrey Griffin, Raymond Cen, Ashley Dixon, and Samantha Argon.

At the 4th Annual Pro Bono Fair for Attorneys and Law Students sponsored by BBA and the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service, Sarah Sherman-Stokes of the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project, a Boston Bar Foundation Grantee, explains the pro bono opportunities available in Greater Boston.

At the 4th Annual Pro Bono Fair for Attorneys and Law Students sponsored by BBA and the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service, Sarah Sherman-Stokes of the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project, a Boston Bar Foundation Grantee, explained the pro bono opportunities available in Greater Boston.

BBA President James D. Smeallie talks to 8th and 9th graders at Quincy Upper School during the Principal for A Day program on Tuesday, November 13th. The program allowed public and private sector leaders to better understand the improvements and remaining challenges in the Boston public school system.

BBA President James D. Smeallie talked with 8th and 9th graders at Quincy Upper School during the Principal for A Day program on Tuesday, November 13th. The program allowed public and private sector leaders to better understand improvements and remaining challenges in the Boston public school system.

Steve Stein, Executive Director of Boston Debate League conducts a training for BBA volunteers to be judges at debate tournaments. The BBA entered a partnership with Boston Debate League earlier this year.

Steve Stein, Executive Director of Boston Debate League trained BBA volunteers to be judges at debate tournaments. The BBA entered into a partnership with Boston Debate League earlier this year.

BBA Past President Renee Landers (Suffolk Law School) presented GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary Bonauto and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley with the Beacon Award honoring Diversity & Inclusion for their work as lawyers in advancing same sex marriage. The Boston Bar Association’s third annual Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion took place on November 13 at the Liberty Hotel in Boston.

BBA Past President Renee Landers (Suffolk Law School) presented GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary Bonauto and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley with the Beacon Award honoring Diversity & Inclusion for their work as lawyers in advancing same sex marriage. The Boston Bar Association’s third annual Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion took place on November 13 at the Liberty Hotel in Boston.

Giving Back to Those Who Have Given So Much to Us

A few weeks ago, I volunteered at the legal clinic at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home and had the privilege of meeting a former World War II veteran who served in the South Pacific.  My role was minor, as a staff attorney from Shelter Legal Services explained each of the legal documents in question.  During this process, the client would intermittently interject with stories of his life and family which will stay with me for a lifetime.  He shared his delight at being selected for the military band thinking he would not see combat, but then laughed as he told us that they, “shipped us off to the front anyway.”  As I left the building, I couldn’t help but think how times are different and how lucky I am to be a lawyer.  I felt privileged to meet these remarkable folks and help them, if only for a short time.

I’ve learned through my pro bono experiences with service members that they often have a lot bigger issues on their minds than just the legal issue in front of us and we need to be patient as attorneys. As a volunteer working with service members, I have been confronted with complex socioeconomic issues which are a different challenge from my day-to-day practice. Every time I take a case I always come away with a new appreciation for the service they provide us and am reminded to always be more patient with my clients. I think that these experiences have helped me to manage my other clients with more patience and empathy.

I found opportunities to help service members through the BBA’s Yellow Ribbon Events and through Shelter Legal Services, a non-profit funded in part by the Boston Bar Foundation.

When volunteering with Shelter Legal Services or at a Yellow Ribbon Event, you are supported by the experts for the entirety of the volunteer session.  There is no need for formal training; you just need to have an open mind and a willingness to serve those who risked their lives for us.

To find out more about the Yellow Ribbon Events or Shelter Legal Services please contact Katie D’Angelo at [email protected].

McLaughlin, BrianBrian McLaughlin is the owner and sole proprietor of the Law Offices of Brian McLaughlin, specializing in the areas of education and family law. He is a Board Member at Shelter Legal Services and is a Yellow Ribbon panel attorney for the BBA.

It Takes More Than Just Lawyers

Each week we talk about the valuable work our volunteer and pro bono lawyers are doing in the community. They advocate for clients of limited means, mentor students, teach life skills and assist unrepresented litigants. Our programs are successful because of the time and energy that our volunteers dedicate each year. However, it takes more than lawyers to create successful programs.

The BBA’s Public Service department oversees the Lawyer Referral Service and all other BBA public service programs — including the Public Interest Leadership Program. We also initiate and nurture relationships with non-profit organizations that facilitate pro bono engagement by lawyers or provide for the direct delivery of civil legal services to the indigent. In addition, the BBA’s Public Service Staff participates in and supports the work of the BBF Grants Committee, and administers BBF special funds grants that support specific BBA projects.

Over the past year, the BBA’s staff’s hard work and dedication has given us much to be proud of. Through the BBA’s unique relationship with the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) we have been able to grow the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program (Financial Literacy). This past summer Financial Literacy expanded to include students working at Sovereign and Citizens Banks. In addition, this spring, with the help of PIC, Financial Literacy will add an additional five Boston Public High Schools whose students are participating.

Staff worked tirelessly to cultivate the very productive partnership with the Boston Debate League (BDL). This partnership has led to meaningful, new volunteer opportunities for BBA members. For BDL, the partnership with the BBA has helped them recruit talented judges and mentors for their urban high school debate teams. The partnership has truly benefited both organizations.

The department is staffed by four people: a Manager, a Public Service Programs Coordinator, a LRS Intake Coordinator and a LRS intern.

shah, sonia croppedSonia Shah, the Public Service Manager is a D'Angelo, Katieformer legal services attorney with deep connections to the legal services and Greater Boston non-profit community.

Katie D’Angelo, the Public Service Programs Coordinator, recently joined the BBA and provides daily support for all of our programs.

Making a Difference One Interview at a Time

Last year I volunteered as a coach and interviewer for the Job Interview Skills Program that the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association and the Federal Bar Association conduct for CARE/RESTART, reentry programs of the Federal District Court of Massachusetts. One of my most vivid memories was working with one of the probationers on his interviewing skills. We worked on one particular question over and over, as I knew that if he gave a potential employer the answer he was giving me, he would never get a job. By the end of our session I thought we had made real progress, but wasn’t sure what would happen when he was in a real interview.

A few weeks later, as I impatiently waited in a long line at a local coffee shop for my required morning cup of coffee, I heard someone behind me repeatedly say “I didn’t give the same response and I got the job!  I didn’t give the same response and I got the job!”  My first instinct was not to react – just a random person with a new job, right? Wrong. Seconds later I felt a tap on my shoulder and to my surprise, I recognized the newly hired and very excited youth, he was the probationer I coached in my mock interview sessions, and he was talking to me. Needless to say, I was surprised to see him.  When I congratulated him on his new job he replied: “You were extremely tough but I stopped given those bad answers you helped me through!”  He went on to explain how much his life had changed and how he finally found a job after being told no over and over again.  What really stuck with me was how convinced he was that he would not have gotten the job but for our mock interview and coaching sessions.

I never realized how much impact my mock interview questions and coaching would have on him.  However, the excitement on his face and in his voice as he told me about his new job was priceless.  Knowing that I, as an individual, could make a real impact in one person’s life is why I didn’t think twice about signing up to work with CARE/RESTART again.  As a member of this year’s Public Interest Leaders (PILP) class, I’m excited to be assisting CARE/RESTART by developing a series of educational workshops addressing civil legal barriers that might otherwise hinder these probationers reentry to society. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work on this pilot project with my fellow PILPers. I may not be lucky enough to have another positive encounter with a participant like the one in the coffee shop, but I will be satisfied knowing that I am doing something to help the CARE/RESTART participants make a positive re-entry into society.

Raquel Webster is Senior Counsel at National Grid USA. Raquel is a member of the Boston Bar Association’s Public Interest Leadership Program.