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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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@example.com for more information. To learn more about the impact BDL has on urban youth, click here.
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.
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:
LAR provides an important legal service to many unrepresented litigants who appear in the Boston Housing Court. 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
LAR 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.
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.
Elizabeth Ybarra Crean
For more information about volunteering or the program, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
“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.
“TheLRS 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
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@example.com .
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 LRS@bostonbar.org or visit us on the web at http://www.bostonbarlawyer.org.
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:
Chief, Appeals Division
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.
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. 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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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@example.com.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
I 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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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@example.com.