Posts Tagged: Family Law

PILP Gets Primer on Domestic Violence Law

Last week, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) heard from Mithra Merryman (Greater Boston Legal Services) and Margo Lindauer (Northeastern University School of Law) on how the legal system works to help victims of domestic violence (DV) . After reviewing the legal definitions of violence and abuse, the presenters moved to cover more specific components faced when assisting a victim of domestic violence.

Victims may request a restraining order against their abuser, which can be applied either where the victim is living or where the majority of abuse occurred. Merryman and Lindauer shared the benefits and drawbacks of both jurisdictions and discussed instances when a restraining order may not benefit the victim. Additionally, PILP heard how domestic violence cases are impacted when the victim is an immigrant. The speakers described that many DV victims are less likely to come forward if they fear deportation and that abusers will use the threat of deportation against their victims. While the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 allows married Green Card holders to file immigrant visa petitions, unmarried immigrants are not covered by the act. The co-presenters also stressed throughout the meeting that the prevalence of domestic violence is the same across all demographics: race, age, socioeconomic status, sexual & gender orientation, etc.

If you’re interested in pro bono projects related to domestic violence, the presenters suggest looking into the below organizations*:

*All organizations listed are 2016 Grantees of the Boston Bar Foundation

PILP Meets with Juvenile Probation Officer Michael Gilraine

Rounding out the Public Interest Leadership Program’s month discussing juvenile justice, the class heard from Michael Gilraine, a juvenile probation officer at Suffolk Juvenile Court. Gilraine opened by describing the basic difference between child delinquency cases, when a juvenile is charged with a crime, and Child Requiring Assistance (CRA) cases, ones in which a child’s guardian or school files with the court on behalf of a child requiring assistance. A child may be referred to the court for a number of reasons (stubbornness, truancy, etc.) which are outlined in the Suffolk Juvenile Court’s Handbook. The Handbook also describes the various courses of action a juvenile may take after their initial meeting with a probation officer. The severity of a child’s situation generally determines the child’s plan.

Gilraine’s work is rewarding, he says. Friday is his favorite day of the week, when he visits area schools to check in with students and their teachers. He said it’s great to see when students are in school and are proud of the work they’re accomplishing.

If you’d like to work on family law issues, the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association* hosts both a Family Law Clinic and Guardianship Clinics. You can find more information on their website.

*The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association is a 2016 grantee of the Boston Bar Foundation.

A Year in Photos – Public Service in 2016

From teaching over 1,500 students their Miranda Rights to instituting a Bar Exam Coaching Program, 2016 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 services initiatives in 2016.

Over 1,000 guests attended the 2016 John and Abigail Adams Benefit at the Museum of Fine Arts. Each year, our premier fundraiser provides support for the legal services organizations in our community. We're grateful for the over $600,000 raised in 2016.

Over 1,000 guests attended the 2016 John and Abigail Adams Benefit at the Museum of Fine Arts. Each year, our premier fundraiser provides support for the legal services organizations in our community. We’re grateful for the over $600,000 raised in 2016.

Molly Baldwin, Executive Director of Roca, accepts the 2016 Public Service Award on behalf of the organization. Roca was recognized for their work reducing recidivism and improving employment rates for young men in Massachusetts.

Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, addresses the crowd at Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Each year, hundreds of private attorneys and civil legal aid advocates converge on the Massachusetts State House to demonstrate their support for state funding of civil legal aid.

Anuj Kheterpal, Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, leads a session of the Reentry Education Program at the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. Presenting on topics ranging from family law, affordable housing, and CORI sealing, the Reentry Education Program provides useful information and resources to probationers in our community.

The BBA’s Military and Veterans Committee works throughout the year to both address the legal needs of our veterans community and also provide a space for attorneys who have served or are serving in the military the chance to connect. Luncheons held throughout the year provide an informal, conversational means for veteran attorneys to connect.

One of the most anticipated events of the year is always the BBA’s Casino Night for Summer Jobs. Inside the BBA, the rooms are transformed into a functioning casino spaces for guests to enjoy throughout the building. All proceeds from the event support our Summer Jobs program. Specifically, donations allow high school students the opportunity to work at legal services organizations, courts, and government agencies that may not otherwise have the resources to hire a student.

For over ten years, the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy program has taught high school students financial responsibility. Above, students from Peabody Veterans Memorial High School visit Judge Joan N. Feeney’s courtroom to learn the consequences of filing for bankruptcy.

Members of the Boston Bar Foundation’s Society of Fellows gaze at an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts last spring. The Society of Fellows is a group of over 400 attorneys who’ve pledged their support for the BBA’s public service initiatives.

An active group within the BBA, the New Lawyers Public Service Committee plans nearly monthly volunteer events for attorneys to give back to their community through direct service. Here, BBA volunteers are working with the Charles River Watershed Association to clean-up the banks of the Charles River.

As part of the annual Law Day activities each spring, the BBA hosts its Law Day in the Schools program through which attorney volunteers introduce students in kindergarten to 12th grade to the legal profession and legal issues. In 2016, Law Day in the Schools focused on Miranda Rights, which seemed especially to resonate with students during a year marked by discussion of the balance of power between law enforcement and citizens.

At the 2016 Law Day Dinner, former BBA President Jack Regan, WilmerHale, was presented the Thurgood Marshall Award for his commitment to public service. Regan has tirelessly worked to support pro bono services for military personnel, veterans, and their families.

The John G. Brooks Legal Services Award was presented at Law Day Dinner to Daniel Nagin, founder of the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. Nagin also helped start the Low Income Tax Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.

Pairings: A Gourmet Evening for Public Service supports all of the public service programs of the BBA. Guests of the event are treated to delicious dishes from area restaurants while learning about the programs their contribution supports.

Throughout the year, the BBA hosts numerous pro bono trainings on a range of practice areas. We partner with many legal services organizations to connect our members to their pro bono opportunities. Above, attorneys lead a training on how to volunteer for the Family Law Court Clinic at the Court Service Center.

Massachusetts State Senator Jamie Eldridge addresses the audience at the BBA’s Juvenile Restorative Justice Program. The symposium focused on restorative justice initiatives in the Commonwealth as particularly related to the state’s youth. This event was the culmination of the 12th Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) class’ 14-month program. PILP promotes civic engagement and public service by advancing the leadership roles of new lawyers. Throughout the program, the class examines various issues facing our community and concludes with a symposium of entirely their design.

Summer is a beloved time at the BBA because it means that law firms, courts, government agencies, and legal services organizations across the city will host high school student interns as part of our Summer Jobs Program. Students gain valuable insight into the legal profession and office work experience as they intern during their summer break. Students are also provided Enrichment Seminars, which enhance their experience and provide exposure to various legal careers, the workings of the Supreme Judicial Court, and more.

Janet Bostwick, Janet E. Bostwick, PC, was acknowledged this past year for her devotion to the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program. Bostwick was appointed head of the Financial Literacy Committee by her dear and late friend, M. Ellen Carpenter in 2004 and has since grown the program to teach over 500 students a year. Bostwick stepped down from the Committee after 12 years and we’re thankful for her service.

Law students and attorneys met with various legal services organizations and government agencies as they browsed the Pro Bono Fair & Open House in October. The event draws scores of people each year and provides organizations the chance to attract new volunteers.

BBA President Carol Starkey, Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford, LLP, meets with Katy Buckland, principal of UP Academy Boston. The BBA President participates in Principal for a Day each year to gain insight into the day-to-day activities of the students many of our public service programs impact.


Thank you for a wonderful year, we can’t wait to kickoff 2017 with you!

Volunteers Reflect on Reentry Education Sessions

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At the BBA, one of our public service initiatives focuses on helping probationers to understand the complex world of legal and financial obligations they’ll be met with when their sentence is up. Two longtime volunteers with the BBA’s Reentry Education program, David W.S. Lieberman and Brian McLaughlin, caught up with Beyond the Billable to talk about their most recent educational sessions.

Liberman, a former PILP member and Associate at Day Pitney LLP, led a session on financial literacy and responsibility for participants of the CHOICE program in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court.

CHOICE is an intensive probation supervision program in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court. CHOICE offers young adult probationers the opportunity to pursue either educational or vocational goals as an alternative to incarceration.

Lieberman spoke on a range of topics, from including how to open a bank account, track your spending, and understand credit reports and ratings.

“It’s really important to help people understand the building blocks to achieving financial stability particularly how credit ratings are used to make decisions about things like housing and employment.  These concepts are very rarely taught in school and it is vital that people understand them especially as they are trying to get their lives back on track,” Lieberman said. “I am always energized by the level of engagement during these sessions and I am grateful for the opportunity to present to the CHOICE participants.”

The session was part of the BBA’s Reentry Education Program, which aims to help probationers successfully undergo a new beginning.

Our volunteer attorneys also work with probationers in the Federal District Court’s CARE/RESTART program, and McLaughlin, a former PILP member of Brian McLaughlin, Esq. LLC, recently led a presentation on family law. He spoke to a group about navigating complex issues like child support, paternity and custody issues.

“I honestly look forward to this event every year. I always learn something from the audience that I would’ve never thought of. Each year that I do the presentation, I come away with a renewed perspective of family law,” McLaughlin said. “This year’s presentation was among the most interactive and I cannot wait to see what next year’s group brings.”

VLP and Mintz Levin Launch Pro Bono Pilot Program in Appellate Court

Appellate attorneys and legal services attorneys discuss appellate procedure and strategies, and highlight special considerations for housing and family law appeals.

Appellate and legal services attorneys discuss appellate procedure and strategies, and highlight special considerations for housing and family law appeals.

Every day, self-represented litigants make their way through the justice system bringing appeals before the court; and until now, they were doing so entirely on their own.

In response to this unmet need, the Pro Bono Appellate Committee recently established a pro bono civil appellate program designed to assist low-income litigants recommended by the Volunteer Lawyer Project by offering brief legal consultations or legal representation in court.

The program, managed by the VLP and supported by Mintz Levin, will operate out of the established Court Service Center at the Brooke Courthouse, which houses the Central Division of the Boston Municipal Court, the Boston Housing Court, the Suffolk County Juvenile Court, and Suffolk Probate & Family Court.

The BBA recently held an initial training for the clinic, featuring remarks from justices of the Appeals Court and panels consisting of representatives from across legal services, private practice, and the courts.

How was this need determined? In 2013, the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission established the Pro Bono Appellate Committee to study self-represented appellants in the court system and whether a pro bono program should be established to assist them.

The data doesn’t lie: It showed that a significant number of appeals-related cases were brought up in the SJC for the County of Suffolk every week – from formal appeals to informal requests for advice. As of January 2014, over 225 civil appeals that involved at least one self-represented litigant were pending. Most of these cases are based in family law or landlord-tenant law issues, as well as some prisoners’ rights, mortgage forfeitures, and contract or tort cases.

With this evidence in mind, and knowing that many self-represented litigants struggle with the complexities of the court system, the Pro Bono Appellate Committee began working with the VLP to create this pilot program. The program has three main aspects: a weekly Lawyer for the Day appellate clinic; referral to a Pro Bono Appellate Screening Panel that reviews potentially meritorious cases; and assignment of pro bono attorneys for cases selected by that Panel. This arrangement allows attorneys and court staff to give some guidance to cases that don’t necessarily need full representation, while also allowing for greater involvement if a case warrants it.

The program also represents the cooperation of the courts, legal services, and private practice. While the VLP is overseeing the program in the court, volunteers from Mintz Levin will assist with coordinating clinic volunteers and tracking cases. Over time, the program is expected to expand to include other legal services organizations in the Boston area and enlist the assistance of area law firms.

As with programs like Lawyer for the Day in Housing Court and the Court Service Center, the pilot pro bono civil appeals clinic could fundamentally change the way the court interacts with self-represented litigants and vice versa, and allow justice to be served properly.

If you are interested in volunteering, we at the BBA will keep you updated about the progress of the program and future training opportunities.

BBA and MBA Join Forces to Hold Free Conciliation Training

Conciliation training participants tested out their new skills during role plays.

Conciliation training participants tested out their new skills during role plays.

Last Friday, family law practitioners filled the BBA’s Claflin Center for the second annual BBA/MBA Conciliation Training. The training was open to attorneys with at least five years of domestic relations experience and offered them the opportunity to become certified as a conciliator. Attorneys learned how to mediate and successfully intervene early on in family law cases in order to obtain a quick and fair resolution.

Beyond the Billable reached out to Timothy Linnehan, an ADR Coordinator for the Trial Court and a trainer for the session, to hear why this training was so important. Here’s what he had to say:

“The training benefits the SERV program in Suffolk Probate Court by providing a training program for volunteers to assist the Court in serving unrepresented parties in resolving their case.  The program also benefits the use and expansion of conciliation services to help parties resolve cases.  This training program complies with the SJC 8-hour training requirement to be a conciliator for court-connected programs.   Currently, nine local bar associations have conciliation programs in the Probate and Family Court Department.”

In exchange for a free training, attendees will volunteer as a conciliator at the Probate and Family Court.

Pay It Forward in the Probate and Family Court

At Beyond the Billable, we know that lawyers are passionate about giving back to their legal community through pro bono and public service activities. However, finding volunteer opportunities and selecting the right one is no easy task. That’s why last week, the BBA welcomed speakers Patrick J. McDermott (Norfolk Probate and Family Court), Robin D. Murphy (Verrill Dana LLP), Karen Stuntz (McEvoy & Stuntz LLP), and Martin F. Kane (McGrath & Kane) to highlight opportunities for attorneys to gain legal experience while giving back to the Probate and Family Court.

The event, "What Can I Do to Help? Volunteer Opportunities in the Probate and Family Court," highlighted ways for volunteers to get more involved inthe Probate and Family Court.

The event, “What Can I Do to Help? Volunteer Opportunities in the Probate and Family Court,” highlighted ways for volunteers to get more involved in the Probate and Family Court.

If you missed the program, no problem, that’s why Beyond the Billable is here. Available opportunities include the Lawyer of the Day Program, Conciliation Program, DOVE—Domestic Violence Ended, Attorneys Representing Children (ARC), the Guardianship Clinic, and Limited Assistance Representation. If you want to learn more, or volunteer for these programs, click here.

BBA Hosts Roundtable on Family Law Pro Bono Work and Opportunities

Honorable Maureen Monks (Middlesex Probate and Family Court), Manisha Bhatt (Greater Boston Legal Services) and Susan Finegan (Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.) discussed how their commitment to pro bono and public service work has shaped their careers.

Susan Finegan (Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.), Honorable Maureen Monks (Middlesex Probate and Family Court), and Manisha Bhatt (Greater Boston Legal Services) discussed how their commitment to pro bono and public service work has shaped their careers.

Last night, the BBA’s Family Law section held a roundtable discussion at the 16 Beacon Street discussing ways pro bono work can shape your legal career. Three pro bono connoisseurs, Honorable Maureen Monks (Middlesex Probate and Family Court), Manisha Bhatt (Greater Boston Legal Services) and Susan Finegan (Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.) served as panelists and shared their personal experiences with the audience and discussed ways for others to get involved.