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.
Posts Tagged: Pro Bono
Dozens of law students and area attorneys were plugged into pro bono this week at the Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House. This annual event, sponsored by the Boston Bar Association and Suffolk University Law School, brings together legal services organizations, non-profits, and government agencies with potential volunteers looking for legal opportunities during Pro Bono Month. Check out our pictures from the event below.
If you’d like to be connected with organizations represented at the Fair or are looking for pro bono opportunities, please contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected]
The BBA’s Council has officially recognized October as Pro Bono Month, joining the American Bar Association and Governor Charlie Baker in promoting service and access to justice. We hope you can explore one of these opportunities to connect with a new organization in the month ahead and serve the community in the year beyond.
Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House
Monday, October 23, 2017, 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
Suffolk Law School, 120 Tremont Street, Boston, MA
This event is offered to attorneys of all levels, as well as law students. Attendees are encouraged to drop in and meet representatives from local legal services organizations and to learn more about the pro bono opportunities in our community.
Pro Bono Training: Identifying and Pursuing an Innocent Spouse Claim in Tax Cases
Tuesday, October 24, 2017, 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM
Boston Bar Association, 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA
This program will help practitioners identify cases in which the innocent spouse defense can be claimed to relieve the client from joint tax liability. This defense is available to taxpayers under the Tax Code and Massachusetts law. Attorneys handling restraining orders and/or divorce cases, as well as advocates of survivors of domestic violence, are most likely to encounter these issues and will benefit from knowing how to identify them.
Pro Bono Training: Representing Limited English Proficient Clients and Working with Interpreters
Thursday, November 2, 2017, 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM
Foley Hoag, 155 Seaport Blvd, Boston, MA
Sharpen your pro bono skills and attend this training addressing the effects of trauma and its impact on communication with your client, cultivating cultural competency, working with interpreters during court proceedings, and more.
Pro Bono Training: Why Immigration Advocates Should Care About PATH
Monday, November 6, 2017, 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM
Boston Bar Association, 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA
This training will create alert advocates who will know how to spot tax issues and related tax benefits for their immigrant clients, and may be able to prevent clients from missing deadlines for those benefits.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Thank you for a wonderful year, we can’t wait to kickoff 2017 with you!
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.