Posts Tagged: Pro Bono

Pizza and Pro Bono: A Bite-Size Pro Bono Opportunity for Busy Lawyers

Join us at the BBA for a pro bono pizza party while we work with volunteer attorneys from Mass Legal Answers Online (MLAO) and the Volunteer Lawyers Project to answer legal questions for low-income Massachusetts residents through Mass Legal Answers Online. You can make an immediate difference to someone struggling to resolve their legal problem.

This event, Mass Legal Answers Online Blitz, will take place on Wednesday, July 19th from 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM at the Boston Bar Association, 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108.

What is MLAO?  MLAO is a secure and confidential website where low-income Massachusetts residents can ask a lawyer for help with a legal issue. Qualified users post questions about civil legal problems. When a volunteer lawyer logs in to the site, there is a list of questions that the volunteer can pick from to answer. It’s like a virtual walk-in legal clinic!  MLAO is a limited scope service — all help is provided through the website, and there is no expectation of long-term representation. There is no fee for the use of the system or for the advice and information provided by the attorney.

To learn more about MLAO, watch this short video, or visit Mass Pro Bono, or these FAQs.

What’s a Q and A Blitz?  It is an in-person session where attorneys and law students gather to research and brainstorm answers to questions that have been posted to MLAO.  Experienced attorneys and MLAO staff will be on hand to guide you in answering questions.  It’s a great way to get started using MLAO, an opportunity to provide pro bono service from your desk!  The most common question topics are family law, housing, and consumer law, but help with all civil issue areas is needed.

Both attorneys and law students are invited to participate in this Blitz – those who are not yet licensed will work with an attorney volunteer who is registered with Mass Legal Answers Online.

Please bring a laptop if you have one!  Attorneys who have not yet registered with MLAO directly are encouraged to do so in advance of this event; register at this link. It only takes a minute.

To RSVP for the event, please visit the event’s webpage and log in to register: https://www.bostonbar.org/membership/events/event-details?ID=24120 

Pro Bono Spotlight: Ropes & Gray

A name means a lot.

Generally, a name is the first piece of information we give another person when we meet them. An untold number of records and documents are attached to our names, in addition to less tangible things like our identity and our sense of self.

So when a transgender person wishes to legally change their name, and the corresponding gender marker on all of their legal documents, getting it done means a lot. That’s why attorneys at Ropes & Gray have partnered with GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) to start a clinic to help transgender clients navigate the process of transitioning on paper.

Over 300 transgender individuals and parents of transgender children have been served by the clinic since its founding in November. Attorneys help these clients fill out the appropriate paperwork to change names and gender markers on documents like a driver’s license, passport, Social Security card, birth certificate, mortgage title, insurance records, voter registration and more.

This change is significant for many reasons, both symbolic and practical. Emily Oldshue, an associate in Ropes & Gray’s capital markets group, has been involved with the clinic since its inception, and was recently named one of the National LGBT Bar Association’s Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40. She said many clients, or parents on behalf of their children, are looking for a name and gender marker change on paper to facilitate other processes. An application to summer camp, a school, or a job could be held up pending the applicant’s documentation updates.

“The way I think of it is, ‘What it would be like to go out and have to present an ID that’s totally out of step with who you are, fundamentally?” Oldshue said. “Being out of step with one’s identity affects your life in various ways. Every day, you open up your mailbox, and it’s like getting mail for a totally different person. That creates a lot of dissonance for people.”

Oldshue said Ropes & Gray attorneys have worked with many minors and their parents, and many students who are transitioning during college. But the overall group who has come to the clinic is extremely socioeconomically diverse.

“My clients have ranged from 60-year-old veterans, to children, to artists, to programmers, and to people born in many different states and different countries. It has been eye-opening to see how people from such disparate backgrounds still face many of the same problems in their experience as transgender people, and it has been rewarding to be of service to them,” Gabriel Gillmeyer, a corporate associate at Ropes, said.

Oldshue said the firm was “inundated” with referrals from GLAD when the program started up in the fall, but now the attorneys who work at the clinic have developed a good workflow and are looking at ways to expand the initiative beyond New England.

“The great thing about it from a staffing perspective is that it’s just walking people through a process, which is very quick, especially compared to a lot of the other things that attorneys are doing. It’s something you can help a lot of people within four to six hours on average,” she said.

But even in that sort of time, the difference an attorney can make lasts a lifetime. Kristi Jobson, a  business & securities litigation associate, shared the following story:

“A minor client born in Oklahoma and adopted at birth by a New England couple sought to change her birth certificate. Oklahoma does not have a set process for amending the gender marker on an individual’s birth certificate. Initially, the client’s mother and I were each told that Oklahoma would not change a birth certificate gender marker for a minor (and typically declined applications from adults seeking amended birth certificates). After many, many calls to the Division of Vital Records, the client’s mom finally got a sympathetic administrator on the phone. We secured a court order recognizing a change in gender, and directing the Oklahoma Division of Vital Records from the child’s state of residence. We presented that court order and the child’s change of name order to the Division and received an amended birth certificate. The Division informed us that the client is the first minor to receive an amended Oklahoma birth certificate of this type.”

Oldshue said attorneys across various offices at the firm have set up a network for sharing resources pertaining to best practices in handling these types of cases. She said she and other volunteers who have been with the program from the beginning are grateful for the institutional support they have received from every corner of Ropes & Gray.

“I spend a lot of time on (the Transgender ID Project), but there’s no way I can respond to the 200 emails a day that we get. The organic leadership from the associates and the response and support we’ve gotten from the firm as a whole has been really incredible to see. It’s a neat moment to be at Ropes,” Oldshue said.

Work on Veterans Discharge Upgrade Cases? Attend our Advanced Training on Building a Persuasive Case

Many of the men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces are cut off from veterans’ services and benefits because they were given a less-than-honorable discharge. They may have served in combat or have suffered physical or mental wounds, but are nevertheless unable to access much-needed treatment and support from federal and state veterans agencies because of their discharge status. In many cases, the origin of their need for support—for example, service-related post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury—also contributed to the conduct that led to their less-than-honorable discharges.

This program builds on the June 2015 introductory training and May 2016 advanced training on representing veterans in discharge upgrade petitions. The focus will be on how to build a strong evidentiary record to support a discharge upgrade application.

Attorneys who did not attend the June 2015 or May 2016 trainings are welcome to attend this advanced training. They are encouraged to watch the introductory training beforehand, which is available online. Please email Cassandra Shavney at [email protected] for access to those trainings.

After this seminar, attendees will know about new laws and policies affecting discharge upgrade practice and will better understand how to creatively and effectively gather and develop evidence in order to build a persuasive case to the military discharge review boards.

Attorneys who participate in the training will be eligible to join the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership (VJPBP), established in 2015 by the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. Through the VJPBP, the Veterans Legal Clinic screens and refers veterans seeking discharge upgrades to private attorneys and then provides ongoing support and expert resources to those attorneys throughout the case. The generosity and efforts of VJPBP attorneys help to address the enormous gap in the provision of legal services to veterans and will provide much-needed advocacy to those who served the nation in uniform.

Law students are welcome but are not eligible to take pro bono referrals from the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership.

To register for this training, please log in and RSVP here.

After the training, the BBA will be hosting a Military & Veterans Networking Reception with guest speaker Secretary Francisco Ureña of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services. All are welcome to attend and should RSVP here.

VLP Holds Training for New Debt Collection Clinic

In small claims court, there is a tremendous unmet need for counsel to help vulnerable clients argue their cases against collection agencies. With the launch of the Lawyer for the Day Fair Debt Collection Clinic in Small Claims Court, the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association (VLP) and its volunteer partners are hoping to change all that.

Hsindy Chen, a staff attorney at VLP, gave us some details on an upcoming training that will ready attorneys for participation in the clinic.

Pro Bono Training: Representing Debtors in Small Claims Court
Tuesday, February 28, 2017 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Boston Bar Association – 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA

“This training is for the lawyer for the day clinic in small claims court which aims to level the playing field between debt collectors and pro se debtors.  The debt collection industry has notoriously targeted the most vulnerable consumers, often without providing adequate proof that they own the debt.  Approximately 75% of all small claims cases in Massachusetts are brought by debt collectors seeking to enforce debts against consumers. Nearly all of these consumers appear for trial without counsel. However these cases often have significant defenses, of which these consumers are unaware or unable to effectively argue.  Attorneys will learn the substantive law for debt collection, as well as practical skills for client interview, negotiations, and making arguments before a clerk magistrate.  After the training, attorneys will be ready to take their own pro bono cases at the lawyer for the day clinic in small claims court.  The lawyer for the day clinic is a great opportunity to volunteer on a limited basis as the cases are typically resolved that same day through trial or settlement.  Attorneys will get hands-on experience in court and develop litigation skills in a fast-paced but manageable environment.”

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.

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!

Attorneys Learn Basics of Landlord/Tenant Law and Discover Volunteer Opportunities

This week, over 20 attorneys and law students attended the Boston Bar Association’s Pro Bono Training on Landlord/Tenant Law Basics. Attendees heard from Hon.  Jeffrey M. Winik of the Boston Housing Court, Joanna Allison, Executive Director of Volunteer Lawyers Project, Dick Bauer, Of Counsel, National Consumer Law Center, and Felicia Higginbottom, Law Office of Vesper Gibbs Barnes & Associates. The training covered the basics of summary process and after the training, attendees were invited to volunteer with Volunteer Lawyers Project and Lawyers Clearinghouse.

Volunteer Lawyers Project hosts Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court on Wednesdays from 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM and Thursdays from 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM. Attorneys and 3:03 certified law students are able to advise and represent low-income tenants and landlords in the Boston Housing Court. For more information on how to become involved, please contact Milton Wong at [email protected].

Lawyers Clearinghouse runs a Legal Clinic for the Homeless at various area homeless shelters and welcomes attorneys wishing to do pro bono work. Please contact their Program Director, Mia Friedman, [email protected], for more information.

Give Thanks, Give Back

Let the BBA connect you with opportunities to serve the community alongside fellow Members – become trained as a Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court, volunteer at the Greater Boston Food Bank or with Cradles to Crayons. You can also help give hope and guidance to a law school grad preparing to take the Bar Exam.

Give back while you prepare to give thanks!

Volunteer with The Greater Boston Food Bank
Saturday, November 12, 2016 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM
Greater Boston Food Bank – 70 South Bay Avenue, Boston, MA

Come join members of the New Lawyers Section as we partner with other volunteers to help “End Hunger Here.” This event will be an excellent opportunity to enjoy the company of fellow lawyers in a non-professional setting.

Pro Bono Training: Landlord Tenant Law Basics
Monday, November 14, 2016 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Boston Bar Association – 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA

This training will cover the basics of summary process law in landlord / tenant cases and how to represent both landlords and tenants in a summary process eviction matter.You’ll be prepared to volunteer for Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court.

Bar Exam Coaching – Call for Volunteers!
Bar Coaching Reception – Monday, November 14, 2016 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Boston Bar Association – 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA

We are seeking attorneys to serve as coaches to bar exam applicants sitting for the Massachusetts Bar Exam this February. This is a short term commitment with a big impact. Coaches are not expected to answer substantive law questions, but will be trained to offer guidance on mental preparation, confidence, study tips, time & stress management, and dealing with anxiety. To sign-up to volunteer, fill out this information form. If you would like to share information about this program with a law school graduate preparing to take the February exam, please direct them to this sign-up form.

If able, please join us at the Bar Exam Coaching Kick-Off Reception. You’ll meet with applicants, coaches, judges, and bar leaders and talk with recent exam-takers about strategies that worked for them.

Volunteer at Cradles to Crayons
Saturday, December 17, 2016 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM
Cradles to Crayons – 155 North Beacon Street, Brighton, MA

Join members of the BBA in processing and packaging donations that will be distributed to children across the state through Cradles to Crayons. Cradles to Crayons provide homeless or low-income children with the essential items they need to thrive at home, at school, and at play.

Peek into the Pro Bono Fair

On Tuesday, law students and attorneys mingled with legal services organizations at Suffolk University Law School to learn about pro bono opportunities across the Commonwealth. Over 30 organizations passed out flyers and collected information on potential volunteers. If you were unable to make it to the event, we’ve included a few photos from the evening below and we hope you join us next year!

Representatives from Mass Legal Answers Online and the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association speak with attendees.

Representatives from Mass Legal Answers Online and the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association speak with attendees.

 

Ting Chiu tables for Greater Boston Legal Services

Ting Chiu tables for Greater Boston Legal Services.

 

A Suffolk law student hears more information on Political Asylum Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project

A Suffolk law student hears more information on the Political Asylum Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project.

 

Abbe Hershberg, BBA Family Law Public Service Committee Co-Chair, Carolyn Mitchell and Cassandra Shavney of the BBA, and Michael McDermott, New Lawyers Section Public Service Committee Co-Chair, table on behalf of the Boston Bar Association

(Left to Right) Abbe Hershberg, BBA Family Law Section Public Service Committee Co-Chair, Carolyn Mitchell and Cassandra Shavney of the BBA, and Michael McDermott, BBA New Lawyers Section Public Service Committee Co-Chair, table on behalf of the Boston Bar Association.

 

Law Students and Attorneys meet with numerous organizations and hear about their work and pro bono opportunities.

Law Students and attorneys meet with numerous organizations and hear about their work and pro bono opportunities.

 

An attendee learns about the work of Project Citizenship

An attendee learns about the work of Project Citizenship.

 

Barbara Oro and Rochelle Hahn prepare to explain the new Mass Legal Answers Online Project.

Barbara Oro and Rochelle Hahn gladly explain the new Mass Legal Answers Online Project.

 

If you’d like information on the organizations present at the fair, please email Cassandra Shavney at [email protected]

Understanding Pro Bono Immigration Work

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Pro bono work can be challenging, especially when dealing with immigration cases. Often encompassing multiple areas of law such as family and criminal law, pro bono immigration cases can require a lot of time and effort. On Tuesday, October 18th, the BBA hosted a discussion in order to provide attendees with a better understanding of these types of cases. The speakers, Alexandra Peredo-Carroll from Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), An Le from the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement, and Seth Purcell from the Political Asylum Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project discussed their expertise with pro bono immigration work, from discussing the types of cases they see to the ethical and professional responsibilities.

Purcell described the mission of the PAIR project, which is focused on connecting attorneys to and providing legal services for asylum seekers and immigrants in detention, many facing deportation.  PAIR also provides trainings and mentorships for volunteers, which all the panelists agreed is an extremely important part of being able to provide assistance to people with extremely complicated immigration cases.

Peredo-Carroll discussed how KIND solely assists unaccompanied minors who are going through deportation proceedings.  With the nature of this work being so sensitive, KIND also provides extensive trainings to their volunteers to make sure that those in need get the best representation they can.

While the mayor’s office does not provide legal services to constituents, city employees do work with groups like KIND and PAIR to connect  a wide range of people with immigration problems to the help they need, Le explained.  He spoke about the difficulty of refraining from giving legal advice while fulfilling the office’s legal and ethical responsibility to help people with legal issues.

Both Purcell and Peredo-Carroll  said it is important for attorneys to devote  as much time and effort to pro bono cases as  paid cases. While Massachusetts does not currently require attorneys to complete pro bono hours, Professional Conduct Rule 6.1 urges attorneys  devote at least 25 hours a year to pro bono work or donate between $250 or 1% of the attorney’s taxable income to legal services providers.

For more information on how to get involved with pro bono immigration work, please contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected].