Innovative Re-Entry Means Investing in the Individual

Last week the BBA hosted “Cutting Edge Approaches to Re-Entry Innovation” which highlighted three different court re-entry programs with the same goal – reducing recidivism rates. The panelists included US District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin, representing the CARE program, Judge Robert N. Tochka representing the CHOICE program, and former Commissioner of Probation Ron Corbett representing the HOPE program.

Each of the programs are a collaboration of probation officers, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges who work together to provide participants the life skills they need in order to take control of their lives. The courts agree — the key to success for the participants is having someone who consistently believes and invests in them as people. They might be subject tough love or hard sanctions, but many participants who successfully complete the programs often credit the person who was toughest on them with saving their life.

The BBA Public Interest Leaders (PILP) has experienced the courts commitment to participants first hand through the CARE and RESTART programs of the US District Court. After a series of discussions with Judge Sorokin, Judge Hillman and the other stakeholders, the 2012-2013 PILP class is currently in the process of developing and delivering a series of workshops for federal probationers called Community Reentry Readiness.

Eric Haskell discusses Step 1 of getting back a revoked license, "Identifying the Issue"

Eric Haskell discusses Step 1 of getting back a revoked license, “Identifying the Issue”

On March 6th, Eric Haskell of Foley Hoag, LLP delivered the first of these workshops on how to handle common drivers license issues. The workshop was a hit with the probationers and the court:

sorokin,-l_130x151I was very excited to see the BBA Public Interest Leaders (PILP) begin their modules for our CARE/RESTART participants. The PILP class did an excellent job in their first presentation and written materials. After the module, many of the CARE/RESTART participants indicated they found the session helpful. I’m really pleased to see this program start with such enthusiasm and success. On behalf of the Court, I thank the PILP Fellows and the Boston Bar Association. – Judge Leo T. Sorokin

Next week, the Emily Hodge of Choate, Hall & Stewart, LLP, will deliver the second workshop on how participants can manage issues with their CORI.

For more information about the workshops or PILP, please contact Susan Helm, [email protected]g.

A Glimpse into the Classroom: Financial Literacy Classroom Sessions Wrap Up

The M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program is in the homestretch and volunteers have just completed the classroom sessions. So far this year, the program has reached more than 1,000 students in the Greater Boston area. In the coming weeks, schools will gear up for trips to the Boston and Worcester Bankruptcy Courts for the “Consequences Module”— a mock hearing, presided over by a judge, where students will get a firsthand glimpse of the repercussions of poor financial decision making. Beyond the Billable stopped into a few schools to see the volunteers in action.

Here is a glimpse into the classroom sessions at East Boston High School and Boston Latin School:

Volunteers Susan Curtin (U.S. SEC) and Jose Gonzalez (City of Boston, Office of the Corporation Counsel) teach students about using credit and credit cards.

Volunteers Susan Curtin (U.S. SEC) and Jose Gonzalez (City of Boston, Office of the Corporation Counsel) teach students about using credit and credit cards.

Students in Heidi DeRosa's 12th grade class at East Boston answer questions during a lesson on credit cards.

Students in Heidi DeRosa’s 12th grade class at East Boston answer questions during a lesson on credit cards.

Ed Kearn’s 11th and 12th grade Economics Class at Boston Latin learn about the true costs of buying a car.

Ed Kearn’s 11th and 12th grade Economics Class at Boston Latin learn about the actual and hidden costs of buying a car.

Rick Levine (Nelson Kinder + Mosseau PC) teaches the students the basics of  financing a car.

Rick Levine (Nelson Kinder + Mosseau PC) teaches the students the basics of financing a car.

Please look for photos from the Consequences Module in the coming weeks. For more information on the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at [email protected].

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

Ode to Judge Winik

Judge Jeffrey Winik, first judge of the Boston Housing Court, is a true champion of justice. On May 13th BBA President J.D. Smeallie will present Judge Winik with the Citation of Judicial Excellence at Law Day Dinner. We at Beyond the Billable know Judge Winik for his dedication to the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court program.

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We touched base with people who work with Judge Winik every week to see what they had to say about him:

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

My first court appearances as a new lawyer were in front of Judge Winik on pro bono matters, I was incredibly nervous, and I remember him being very patient as I stumbled through my arguments. While I certainly do not always prevail, I always get the sense that he appreciates that I am there trying to help someone who would otherwise be unrepresented. Judge Winik’s appreciation of the role volunteer attorneys’ play is clear in his willingness to speak regularly at BBA panels on housing law and to help new attorneys gain the confidence necessary to effectively represent low-income litigants at the Housing Court.

Cohn, AndrewAndrew Cohn, WilmerHale

When asked to reflect on Judge Winik’s contributions to the Lawyer for a Day program, a few things stood out to me:

◊  Judge Winik has continued to help the Lawyer for a Day program increase available resources for pro se litigants, with the aim of achieving greater balance and fairness in judicial process even in a time of diminished resources.

◊  He has played a lead role in fostering the use of Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) in the Housing Court, in keeping with the SJC’s guidance.

◊  His example reminds all Lawyer for a Day program volunteers that JUSTICE is about PROCESS not about OUTCOMES. 

◊  While being a staunch advocate for the program, Judge Winik has made clear that no ex parte communications of any kind relating to pending cases can be discussed in his presence; showing us all once again his commitment to fairness.

When thinking of Judge Winik’s contributions to the program, Virgil’s quote “None but himself can be his parallel.” comes to mind. The Lawyer for a Day program, the Boston Bar Association and the citizens of the Commonwealth owe Judge Winik a large debt of gratitude.

Foster, RobertHon. Robert B. Foster, Land Court Department of the Trial Court

Judge Winik’s support for the Lawyer for the Day program has been unwavering, and its success is due in no small part to his efforts. When we served together on the Real Estate Pro Bono committee, he was always the calming voice, with the usually sensible suggestion that would lead us out of whatever argument we might be having with each other. After I was appointed to the Land Court, I had the great pleasure of getting to know Judge Winik as a colleague. He is still the calm voice of reason, with the same thoughtful outlook on issues, but with just maybe a bit more leeway to crack jokes! He’s been a great help to me in my first year on the bench. I’m so glad the BBA is honoring him for all his work to support access to justice.

Allison, Joanna

Joanna Allison, Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association.

I call Judge Winik’s courtroom the humiliation free zone. Knowing volunteers will not be “made to seem a fool” not only gives them comfort but also empowers litigants who will be appearing pro se. I suggest that new lawyers sit in on Judge Winik’s session to see what goes on there on Thursday eviction days. If Judge Winik notices that he has an audience, he will find them later or call them up to the bench and ask if they have any questions about what they have seen. This is no less than a thrill for the new attorneys, to be noticed and treated respectfully by a member of the judiciary.

I have taken to comparing Judge Winik to Bruce Springsteen for his rock star status among the Lawyer for the Day volunteers. When asked about the comparison, most volunteers have said they would prefer to have Judge Winik come to the Lawyer for the Day table with his advice, gratitude and humility. After all, they opine, Bruce can only sing. Judge Winik is truly THE BOSS.

March is a Big Month for Boston Debate League

As you’ve no doubt noticed, Beyond the Billable is always posting about our public service partnerships across Greater Boston. One of our newest partnerships is the Boston Debate League (BDL)—which works to develop academic debate skill among Boston Public High School students. As we learned when we sat down with two BDL representatives recently, March is a particularly busy month for the program, for both potential and past volunteers.

Making a Point 2

A Boston Community Leadership Academy student and a New Mission High School student debate during a Boston Debate League round.

Here’s what’s happening this month:

(1) Are you looking to volunteer? Serve as a judge at the Fish & Richards City Debate Championships on March 15th or 16th at English High School and Trinity Middle School. Volunteers judge for about 4 hours and a short training is provided. Please contact Sarah Amaral, BDL Volunteer Coordinator, at [email protected] to sign up.

(2) Want to sit in on a debate session before volunteering? On March 19th you will have a chance to see the top debaters in action at the City Council Debate 2013 hosted by Councillor Charles Yancey. , where students will debate current Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority policies for an esteemed panel of judges. The event will take place from 5:30-7:30 pm at Boston City Hall.

(3) Have you volunteered as a judge or mentor? Don’t miss the chance to join the Boston Debate League in honoring the hard work of the debaters on March 22nd at the Annual Spring Awards Ceremony from 6-7:30pm. The event is hosted by the Boston University School of Education, the Boston University Black Law Student Association, and the Boston Debate League and will take place at the Boston University Law School Alumni Auditorium.

Did anything above catch your eye? Contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at [email protected] for more information. To learn more about the impact BDL has on urban youth, click here.

Pro Bono Limited Assistance Representation Makes Waves in Boston Housing Court

It’s Thursday morning in the Boston Housing Court, which can only mean one thing – the halls are crowded with landlords and tenants involved in eviction cases. One table in particular, staffed by volunteers from the BBA’s Lawyer for a Day in the Housing Court, seems particularly jam-packed. It’s no wonder. In 2012 BBA volunteers and their partners assisted more than 1,000 litigants.

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You may be asking yourselves how our volunteer lawyers have the time to reach so many people each and every Thursday. The answer — through Pro Bono Limited Assistance Representation (LAR). The Boston Housing Court authorized the use of LAR in November 2010, which allows attorneys to appear in court on a limited basis without assuming full representation of the client and all the legal issues that may be related to the legal matter. The benefit is threefold: lawyers who may not have the time to take entire pro bono cases can still assist those in need, LAR provides an opportunity for attorneys to gain valuable courtroom experience and most importantly, and more people with unresolved legal issues that require representation are getting the help they need.

We think the impact of LAR is clear, but don’t just take it from us:



Winik, JeffreyLAR provides an important legal service to many unrepresented litigants who appear in the Boston Housing Cou
rt. LAR attorneys represent these litigants on a specific limited matter (that sometimes enables the litigant to resolve the case that day). Attorneys entering LAR appearances gain valuable practical courtroom experience arguing a discrete matter before a judge without having to enter a full appearance. LAR attorneys have been able to acquire new fee paying clients (or new clients with claims that allow for statutory attorney fees) base upon their limited appearances.– Hon. Jeffrey Winik, Boston Housing Court Department of the Trial Court

Allison, JoannaLAR gets attorneys in the courtroom with clients–so much more effective and powerful than just giving the client advice. Because the attorney is obligated only for that one event of the case, s/he can commit to courtroom advocacy without taking on a case for full representation case that does not fit in their schedule or their practice.–Joanna Allison, Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association.

If you want to learn more about the BBA Lawyer for a Day in the Boston Housing Court please clear here. If you are interested in becoming LAR certified, please click here.

BBA Volunteers Make Big Impact at Local Debate Tournaments

Last year, as we began our partnership with the Boston Debate League (BDL), enlisting lawyers to be judges for debate tournaments, there was a buzz of excitement throughout the BBA. In a few short months the partnership is already a resounding success.

Every month from October through March, BDL holds debate tournaments for Boston Public High School debate teams. So far this year, almost 40 BBA volunteers have been judges at tournaments. After a successful January tournament, BDL reached out to the BBA to thank us for our collaboration:

This month we had a struggle for volunteers but it all worked out. The BBA members allowed our tournament to have a good core of knowledgeable judges for our more experienced divisions (varsity/championship) and made themselves available for our divisions who didn’t have as many volunteers sign up to judge for the weekend. Thank you so much for your support.

In addition to the judges, there are also four BBA members who are mentors for BDL. These mentors spend one to two hours a week supporting a debate team in a particular high school.

The BBA’s partnership with BDL fulfills three of the BBA’s many public service goals: 1)  using lawyering skills to make a significant impact on the Boston community, 2) providing BBA members with a meaningful volunteer opportunity, and 3) expanding the diversity pipeline into the legal profession.

2010 City Championship Brighton

Boston Debate League 2010 City Championship

We would like to thank our volunteers:

Mentors
Catherine Drislane (Boston Latin Academy)
Greg Peterson (Charlestown)
Jessica Block ( EMK High School)
Stephanie Hoelplinger ( Irving Middle School)

Judges
Allison Hynes
Angelo Guisado
Ashley Hayes
Camal Robinson
Caroline Hanania
Christina Miller
Courtney Zhou
Deborah Goddard
Edmond Ford
Elizabeth Ybarra Crean
Erica Carroll
Fran Sheehan
Heather Sit
Jacqueline Delbasty
Jacquelyn Redmond
Jesse Grove
Jonathan Driscoll
Kathleen Micciche
Kerlin Jean-Louis
Kyu Cho
Lei Reilley
Mark Zglobicki
Michael Boudett
Michael Dsida
Michael Sugar
Natalie Galley
Nina Mathur
Rachna Mathur
Reidan Fredstrom
Robert Ullmann
Ryan Mulloy
Shannon Dale
Stephen Marsters
Tarae Howell
Vickie Henry
William Fitzpatrick

For more information about volunteering or the program, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at [email protected].

Trainings Spark Interest in Legal Careers

Throughout the month of January, BBA attorneys volunteered their time to conduct training sessions on a variety of legal topics for new interns working at the BBA.  These interns are undergraduates in the Northeastern University Co-op program.  The training sessions helped the interns sharpen their legal acumen, and gave them the tools to do their jobs effectively.  This is what they had to say about the training sessions:

Matathia, GaciruJPG“The trainings gave me the opportunity to sit down and understand the legal system through the eyes of different attorneys.  I started my internship at the BBA with a definite interest in law, but I wasn’t sure how I would weave that interest into my career path.  Despite practicing in different areas of law, all of the attorneys had one thing in common–their desire to ensure that each client was provided with the tools to understand their rights and seek appropriate legal services.  As an International Affairs major with an interest in human rights, the underlying compassion of the attorneys expressed during the trainings appealed to me.  The pursuit of justice in both law and human rights helped me realize that there are many avenues I can pursue with my interest in law.

The trainings have also been a critical aspect of the progress I’ve made since beginning of my internship at the BBA and have made it significantly easier for me to streamline the intake process for the Lawyer Referral Service.  The trainings provided a huge foundation of knowledge about the different areas of law; consequently, this information makes it easier for me to provide suitable referrals for each client.”

Gaciru Matathia is working in the BBA Lawyer Referral Service for 6 months.  Gaciru studies International Affairs, and is pursuing a minor in Social Entrepreneurship.    

Powers, AlixThe LRS trainings with BBA members were extremely helpful to me as an intern, especially because of my plans to attend law school in the future. The attorneys who were selected for the training were all very knowledgeable in their respective fields, and the passion they exhibited for their work was even more impressive. I was able to learn about specific laws in particular practice areas, something that a lot of prospective law school students don’t have the opportunity to do. With the help of the attorneys’ advice and instruction, I feel confident in my decision to go to law school and to pursue the career I’ve always wanted.”

Alixandra Powers is working in the BBA Membership Department for the next 6 months. Alixandra is a History major, and is a cadet in the school’s ROTC program.  She hopes to attend law school after graduation, and is interested in becoming a Judge Advocate General (JAG) in the Military.

The trainings were organized by the Boston Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, the largest public service program of the Boston Bar Association, dedicated to helping members of the public in need of assistance connect with attorneys.  We 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

Kyle Crossley (Audax Group) – Torts

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

Joseph Gregory (Joseph Gregory Esq.) – Immigration Law
Andrea Lance (Lance Law, LLC) – Criminal Law

Mary Lee (Mary K.Y. Lee P.C.) – Real Estate & Landlord/Tenant Law

William McLeod (United States Bankruptcy Court) – Bankruptcy

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

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

Nancy Shilepsky (Shilepsky Hartley Robb Casey Michon LLP) – 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 http://www.bostonbarlawyer.org.

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.