Posts Tagged: Bankruptcy Section

A Year in Photos – Public Service in 2017

From teaching a record 1,700 students through Law Day in the Schools to releasing a compelling report on criminal justice reform, 2017 was a successful year at the BBA. For highlights and our favorite photos from the year, read on to see how you and your colleagues contributed to our public service initiatives over the past year.

The 2017 Public Service Award presented at the Boston Bar Foundation’s annual John & Abigail Adams Benefit Ball honored Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall in January. Chief Justice Marshall addresses the crowd at the Museum of Fine Arts, reminding every one of the importance of being good and just in their work.

MIT Bhangra, an award-winning dance group, entertained the crowd at the Adams Benefit. 2017’s Ball raised over $650,000 in support for local legal services organizations providing civil legal services to those in need. In June, the Foundation granted $960,000 to 20 such organizations.

Each January, hundreds of attorneys travel to the State House to Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. The Equal Justice Coalition coordinates this annual event to call on our legislators to adequately fund the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation through the state budget. Carol Starkey, 2016-2017 BBA President, highlights the importance of civil legal aid as noted in the BBA’s Investing in Justice report, which details that 2 out of 3 income eligible clients are turned away from legal services due to a lack of resources.

In response to President Trump’s Executive Order Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States, then BBA President Carol Starkey reaffirmed the BBA’s aim to “support the rule of law, as well as the core values of access to justice and diversity and inclusion, which help keep the fundamental promise that all of us will enjoy due process and equal protection under the law.” Over the course of the year, the BBA worked with many legal services organizations to connect attorneys to volunteer opportunities. Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project presented a number of Know Your Rights trainings for attorneys wishing to present to community groups about their immigration rights. Here, attorneys William Graves (Graves & Doyle) and Seth Purcell (PAIR Project) welcome over 60 attorneys to the first training at the BBA.

Paulette Brown (left, Locke Lord) accepts the Beacon Award for Diversity and Inclusion for her work as president of the American Bar Association convening the Diversity and Inclusion 360 Commission. One result of the Commission’s work was the passage at the ABA of Resolution 113, an initiative designed to increase diversity in the legal profession. In November of 2016, the BBA announced its strong support for the Resolution and is working with other partners in Boston on its implementation.

Raquel Webster (right, National Grid) introduces presenter Brian McLaughlin (McLaughlin Law) to a group of probationers at the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The BBA’s Reentry Education Program, which was developed by the Public Interest Leadership Program, engages with dozens of probationers annually on useful topics related to community reentry, including family law, reinstating a driver’s license, public benefits, and more.

Secretary Francisco A. Ureña (Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services) addresses the crowd at a Memorial Day reception hosted by the BBA’s Active Duty Military & Veterans Forum. The reception was held after the annual pro bono training for attorneys representing veterans in discharge upgrade cases. Since 2015, the BBA has worked with the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School to hose these trainings to support their Veterans Legal Clinic.

One night a year, the BBA is transformed from a meeting space to a casino floor. Seventeen organizations sponsored this year’s Casino Night for Summer Jobs, the proceeds of which support the Summer Jobs Program and support internships for high school students at legal services organizations, government agencies, and courts. Attendees at Casino Night celebrate beating the house and eagerly await the mystifying reveal of a magic trick.

Law Day in the Schools, one of the BBA’s most popular volunteer opportunities, introduces Boston Public School students to the legal profession and particular areas of the law. This year, volunteers including Jill Brenner Meixel (left) and Allison Belanger (right) of Krokidas & Bluestein introduced students to due process and the importance of having fair rules and laws for all. There were a record 15 schools and over 1700 students in the program this year.

Throughout the year, the New Lawyers Section’s Public Service Committee coordinates volunteer events with organizations throughout the city. In addition to serving food at the Pine Street Inn, attorneys also helped sort donations at Cradles to Crayons, keep the esplanade clear at the Charles River Clean-up, and other important volunteer initiatives in the area.

High school students convene with Chief Justice Melvin S. Hoffman (U.S. Bankruptcy Court) after listing to a mock hearing in bankruptcy court. This session, which teaches students about the consequences of filing for bankruptcy is part of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, which began in 2005. Since it began, over 5800 students statewide have been introduced to the importance of budgeting, understanding credit, and financing a large purchase.

Over 1,000 attorneys came together for this year’s Law Day Dinner in Back Bay. Congressman Seth Moulton provided keynote remarks and highlighted the importance of lawyers and upholding the rule of law now more than ever.

This year’s Thurgood Marshall Award, honoring an attorney in private practice in Greater Boston for their extraordinary efforts in enhancing the human dignity of others by providing legal services to Massachusetts’ low income population, went to Elaine Blais (Goodwin). Blais volunteers with both the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) representing both children and adults in various immigration cases.

Anne Mackin (Greater Boston Legal Services) accepts the John G. Brooks Legal Services Award, an award presented to professional legal services attorneys for their outstanding work on behalf of indigent people in the Boston area. Mackin has worked in legal services for nearly 30 years, and joined GBLS’s Immigration Unit in 2013. Since then, she has helped people from all over the world who have witnessed or experienced unspeakable tragedies and faced severe persecutions. Her efforts have ensured that many who are fleeing extreme discrimination and danger are able to seek justice and safe harbor.

Members of the Society of Fellows experience a tour of the Museum of Fine Arts’ summer exhibit, Matisse in the Studio. Each Fellows pledge supports the work of the Boston Bar Foundation’s many public service initiatives. The growing number of Fellows, now over 400, learn about the work their gifts support, including programs supporting Boston’s youth and grants to legal services organizations, at events throughout the year.

Boston Public High School students stand with Natashia Tidwell (center left, Collora) and Mark Smith (center right, BBA President, Laredo & Smith) on the morning of the first day of work with the Summer Jobs Program. The program, a partnership with the City of Boston and the Boston Private Industry Council, employs students in internships at legal offices across the city. In 2017, 52 students gained valuable office experience and were given insight into the legal profession.

Attorneys network surrounding the chocolate fountain, a staple at this year’s Boston Bar Foundation Summer Fundraiser. Guests at the event are treated to delicious dishes from area restaurants while learning about the public service programs their contribution supports.

The Public Interest Leadership Program’s class of 2016-2017 hosted their symposium, Constitutional Battlegrounds: Civil Rights in a Changing Landscape, earlier this year. The event’s speakers addressed a number of issues recently in the national spotlight, both in the media and the courts. Nearly 100 attorneys and interested members of the community packed the BBA to hear insights from the panels of experts.

This fall, the 14th Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) started their term. Twenty attorneys were selected for the program based on their experience and dedication to public service and civic engagement. The program now includes nearly 200 alumni who’ve gone on to serve the BBA in other capacities and carry their passion for serving the public interest into the community.

Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black, addressed the audience at the BBA’s Annual Meeting. Kerman, a former prisoner, discussed her work bringing prison issues to the forefront of national conversation. She also acknowledged the BBA’s report No Time to Wait: Recommendations for a Fair and Effective Criminal Justice System, which was released this fall. The report commends the reforms proposed earlier this year by Massachusetts leaders based on research by the Council of State Governments (CSG), but strongly urges lawmakers to enact broader reforms designed to further reduce recidivism, and make the criminal justice system fairer and more cost-efficient.

Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) staff attend the Massachusetts Conference for Women to introduce the public to the services it offers. Thousands of requests come through each year and referrals are made out to experienced attorneys practicing nearly 350 areas of law. The LRS also houses a dedicated Military Legal Help Line, which connects veterans, military personnel, and their families with lawyers and other legal resources appropriate to their needs.

The three award recipients at November’s Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion stand with members of the Beacon Award Selection Committee. Brent Henry received the Voice of Change Award for his work recruiting and retaining diverse legal talent while at Partners Healthcare. The Empowerment Award went to Iván Espinoza-Madrigal for his work on civil rights issues, including racial justice, immigrant rights, and LGBT/HIV equality, as the Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. Susan Alexander accepted the Corporate Champion Award on behalf of Biogen. Biogen’s legal department has developed a system of diversity metrics which the legal team uses when choosing outside counsel.
Above, left to right: Brent Henry (Mintz Levin), Iván Espinoza-Madrigal (Lawyers’ Committee), Susan Alexander (Biogen), Sarah Kim (Treasurer and Receiver General of Massachusetts), Kate Cook (Sugarman Rogers), Stephen Hall (Holland & Knight), and Damon Hart (Liberty Mutual).

Hosted at Suffolk University Law School, the annual Pro Bono Recruitment Fair and Open House connects law students and attorneys to volunteer opportunities across the state. Over 25 organizations recruited at the fair this year.

BBA President Mark Smith (right) met with Principal Danladi Bobbitt of the John D. Philbrick Elementary School in Roslindale. As a participant in the Principal Partners event, hosted by Boston Public Schools, Boston Plan for Excellence, and Bank of America, the BBA President has the opportunity to visit a school and engage in meaningful conversations about the role of education in our society.

Interested in Teaching Kids about Financial Literacy?

Since 2005, the BBA’s M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program has been providing high school students in Massachusetts with the tools to make informed financial decisions. Through classroom presentations and a visit to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, over 5,800 students have been reached by our volunteers. Topics include Finance & Budgeting, Using Credit & Credit Cards, Financing a Large Purchase, and the final session, Consequences of Poor Financial Management.

If you’re interested in volunteering, the session dates and times for 2018 will be released prior to the new year and will be available for sign-up online. As a volunteer, you will present at least one classroom session lasting about an hour and will receive training and resources prior to visiting the school. Participating high schools are located in the Greater Boston, Worcester, and Springfield areas.  This volunteer opportunity is available to lawyers and law students.

To be included on the program notification email list and to be alerted when sign-up has begun, please contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected].

Attend an Upcoming Public Service Program at the BBA!

Start your new year by attending one of the BBA’s upcoming public service programs. From pro bono trainings to informational brown bags, there’s sure to be a program that interests you. Take a look below!

No Buyers, No Business. Combatting Human Trafficking by Targeting the Demand
Monday, January 23, 2017, 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM
At this program, you’ll learn the role of demand reduction in combatting commercial sexual exploitation, the scope of the issue of commercial exploitation in Boston, local efforts deployed by CEASE Boston to combat demand, and the role prosecutorial innovation can play in support of efforts to increase the consequential penalties for the purchase of illegal commercial sex by buyers.

Pro Bono Training: How to Prepare a Bankruptcy
Tuesday, January 31, 2017, 3:30 PM to 7:00 PM

This training will inform attendees how to take on pro bono bankruptcy cases and represent pro bono debtors.

Pro Bono Training: Representing Debtors in Small Claims Court
Thursday, February 9, 2017, 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM

The panelists will discuss the launch of the Lawyer for the Day Fair Debt Collection Clinic in Small Claims Court at the Boston Municipal Court Central Division and how attorneys can volunteer at the clinic.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Honors Pro Bono Work

On Thursday, October 6th, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts held its Fourth Annual Pro Bono Awards Ceremony. The Bankruptcy Judges presented the Pro Bono Publico Awards, which are given for exceptional devotion to pro bono work in each of the state’s regions. The Boston Bar Association congratulates all of the awardees and distinguishes Janet Bostwick for receiving the District of Massachusetts Award.

While presenting the award to Bostwick, Judge Joan Feeney noted that the District of Massachusetts Award is not given every year, but Bostwick’s dedication to pro bono and the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program are deserving of the award. Bostwick was also recently honored at the Boston Bar Association for her work on the Financial Literacy program after she stepped down as Co-Chair of the Financial Literacy Committee after 12 years of service. You can read more on that honor here.

Following the Pro Bono Publico Awards, the 2016 Pro Bono Honor Roll certificates were presented to attorneys meeting the Honor Roll criteria outlined by the Court’s Pro Bono Legal Services Advisory Committee. The Boston Bar Association congratulates those awardees and thanks them for their service to the community.

Pro Bono Publico Awards:

Western Division Award – Henry E. Geberth, Jr.

Central Division Award – Judith Vassilovski

South Coast/Cape & Islands Division Award – David B. Madoff

Eastern Division Award – Neil D. Warrenbrand

District of Massachusetts Award – Janet E. Bostwick

Honor Roll:

Warren Agin

Kermine S. Akoglu

William R. Baldiga

Joseph H. Baldiga

Elaine M. Benkoski

Janet E. Bostwick

Christopher M. Candon

Nadine Champagne

David R. Chenelle

Michelle L. Cote

N. Lee Darst

John W. Davis

Michael P. Dube

Kellie W. Fisher

Jesse N. Garfinkle

Henry E. Geberth, Jr.

Jonathan R. Goldsmith

Maegan L. Hurley

Jeffrey L. Jonas

Elizabeth D. Katz

Gazion Kotoni

Donald Lassman

Sarah J. Long

John G. Loughnane

Carolyn Lynch

Heather J. Lynham

David Madoff

Jonathan D. Marshall

Wendy M. Mead

Richard E. Mikels

Kate E. Nicholson

Andrea M. O’Connor

Gina Barbieri O’Neil

William J. O’Neil

David W. Ostrander

Nina M. Parker

Carmenelisa Pérez‐Kudzma

Steven D. Pohl

David G. Prentiss

Richard S. Ravosa

Alex M. Rodolakis

Deborah G. Roher

Adam J. Ruttenberg

Mary Sharon

Denise M. Shear

Mary Jeanne Stone

Andrew P. Strehle

Leslie Su

Christina M. Turgeon

Adrienne K. Walker

Kevin J. Walsh

Neil D. Warrenbrand

Thomas N. Wilson

Keri L. Wintle

BBA Spotlights Four Pro Bono Superstars

During Pro Bono Month, the BBA trained over 200 attorneys to take pro bono cases, including training over 50 attorneys to volunteer for the Lawyer for the Day program and the Boston Housing Program.

During Pro Bono Month, the BBA trained over 200 attorneys to take pro bono cases, including training over 50 attorneys to volunteer for the Lawyer for the Day program and the Boston Housing program.

Though Pro Bono Month has officially ended, Beyond the Billable encourages its readers to take advantage of the BBA’s public service and pro bono initiatives year-round. If you needed any extra motivation, take a look at the four pro bono spotlights below, each of which highlights the commitment and participation of dedicated lawyers dedicated to pro bono work.

Thomas Beauvais: Lawyer for a Day Has A Lifetime Impact
Meg McKenzie Feist: Helping to Ease Burdens Through Bankruptcy
Donald Lassman: Financial Education for Service Members as a Means of Prevention
Katy Ward: Ensuring Access to Justice in Boston’s Housing Court

For a full recap of Pro Bono Month, click here. Please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at [email protected] for more information on how to get involved throughout the year.

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.

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].

The Rewards of Pro Bono Cases

Over the past ten years I have represented about a dozen debtors pro bono in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases referred to me through the Volunteer Lawyers Project.  The cases have ranged from the simplest of no asset cases to more complicated matters involving the threat of liens on a debtor’s residence or failed business.  With the help of the Boston Bar Association Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Pro Bono Volunteer Lawyer Training, you could take on these cases too.

A VLP referral is an excellent way for a lawyer just starting out to gain the experience of handling a bankruptcy case from start to finish.  The trustees know from statements filed by the attorney that the representation is pro bono (and I usually state specifically that it is a VLP referral), and they try to be accommodating.   The first three § 341 meetings I did (where a debtor is examined by the Chapter 7 trustee) were all pro bono cases.  It was eye opening to watch the trustees question debtors as they go through the fifty cases they can be assigned in one five hour day (yes, that is an average of six minutes per § 341 meeting).

Once I had a debtor who got sick soon after the bankruptcy filing.  The trustee agreed to conduct the § 341 meeting by telephone, from the debtor’s hospital bed.  I went to the hospital with a notary who could administer the oath to the debtor, and we proceeded.  I am sure the nurses and others around us were puzzled as to what was going on.

Most of all, though, I have found pro bono debtors to be the most grateful and appreciative of clients I have had.  I have often received thank you notes or small gifts, something that doesn’t seem to happen much with my paying clients.  I still remember the thank you note from one of my first clients, which in addition to expressing how pleased he was told me that he had made arrangements for a special novena to be said in church on my behalf.

This program is supported by the Boston Bar Foundation’s Charles P. Normandin Fund, which is dedicated to supporting the public service activities of the Boston Bar Association Bankruptcy Section.

Adam Ruttenberg is a Partner at Looney & Grossman, LLP. Adam is a Co-chair of the Boston Bar Association Bankruptcy Public Service Committee.