Legal Services organizations need attorneys. Attorneys looking for pro bono work need the time and resources to complete it. One way to bridge that gap is to recruit retired lawyers into partnering with legal services organizations on important projects related to improving access to justice.
That’s how the Access to Justice Fellows Program was born.
A program run by the Lawyers Clearinghouse in collaboration with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Access to Justice Commission, the Access to Justice Fellows Program pairs attorneys who have retired or are approaching retirement with organizations who need their services.
Here’s a snapshot of their five years of pro bono work, which Program Director Mia Friedman presented at a panel on the program hosted by the BBA’s Delivery of Legal Services section this week:
7 fellows participated during the program’s first year
19 fellows are now active in the Access to Justice Fellows program
55 fellows have participated in the program over five years
They have completed at least 40,000 hours of legal work
Program Director Mia Friedman said most of the attorneys who participate choose to stay with their project for longer than the mandatory commitment of one year. The work done by attorneys in the program varies greatly, from immigration and tax-related matters to probate and family cases. They work for 10-20 hours per week with the organization to which they volunteer their services.
“One of the important aspects of the program is the monthly lunches” where attorneys in the program get together, Friedman said. “It has developed into this wonderful exchange of ideas and a real sense of community between the fellows.”
Last week, we wrapped up a three-part series of pro bono trainings geared toward helping to build the first ever low-income taxpayer pro bono panel of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS).
Over the course of the series, attorneys learned about the IRS collections timeline, a client’s right to due process, and the best tactics for removing levies and liens. They also learned about working out payment agreements and other alternatives to full collection of back taxes, and how to best resolve a dispute stemming from an audit.
Expert attorneys as well as IRS representatives made up the panels for these trainings. Over the course of three programs, over 35 attorneys and tax professionals signed on to work with the low-income taxpayer pro bono panel.
We reached out to Keith Fogg, the Director of the Federal Tax Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, and Luz Arevalo, a senior attorney at GBLS, to ask about the major takeaways of the program.
“Legal representation for all taxpayers most obviously helps the taxpayer represented, but it also serves as a check that improves our system of taxation. Working families will avoid much frustration and heartache if they respond promptly and correctly to a tax audit notice. Having an advocate involved early in the process will often translate into quick resolutions of the case.
I believe a paramount principle in taxation is Fairness. This principle is preserved by insuring access to legal representation.”
“An important takeaway from the most recent training is that the failure to respond to notices from the IRS or the MA Department of Revenue leads to dire consequences including not only a debt but also the loss of a driver’s license or a passport. The government has created a process of auditing that is very automated and efficient for them. Low income taxpayers, who will frequently shrink from responding out of fear of the unknown, need resources to assist them in responding and working with the system. The National Taxpayer Advocate for the IRS has developed statistics showing much higher rates of success by represented taxpayers in the audit process. The program sought to encourage and enable representatives provide much needed pro bono assistance.
As a new clinic and as a clinic partnering with GBLS, it is important for Harvard to co-host this program in order to help build a cadre of representatives willing and prepared to assist our clients when we reach capacity to assist them with the resources available in our clinic.”
New Lawyers spent Saturday morning serving food at the Pine Street Inn.
The BBA’s weekend volunteer opportunities have been filling up quickly! Last week a group of attorneys headed to the Pine Street Inn to help prepare meals for the homeless at the Pine Street Inn and learn about the problem of homelessness in Boston.
Are you looking for a similar volunteer opportunity? Don’t miss the Greater Boston Food Bank on March 23rd from 5:30-8:00 pm. Click here to learn more.
Last week’s Environmental Law brown bag focused on how and why to get involved in your local conservation commission.
Last week, the Environmental Law Public Service Committee hosted an interactive brown bag program called “Getting to Know Conservation Commissions: Their Role as a Local Environmental Agency and How to Get Involved in Your Local Commission.”
So what can attorneys do to support their local conservation commission? They can help draft orders and other regulatory documents for the commission, help the commission understand regulations, and keep the commission consistent with the Open Meetings Law and Public Records Law.
Here are eight reasons why Eugene Benson, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, thinks you should get involved in your local commission:
Help your city or town protect wetlands and open space
Add your expertise and knowledge to a local regulatory body implementing state law
Gain experience in administering an environmental statute and regulations
Gain visibility in your community
Meet and work with the wonderful people on your local commission
The BBA teamed up with Greater Boston Legal Services and the Legal Service Center of Harvard Law School for the second in a series of three pro bono trainings to assist low-income taxpayers.
Last week the BBA hosted two popular pro bono trainings to recruit volunteers to address unmet legal needs in our community. The trainings included the annual Landlord Tenant Law & Practice Pro Bono Training for the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program and the second training in the series pro bono trainings for the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.
So far this year, the BBA has held six pro bono trainings and trained over 200 attorneys to take pro bono cases through local legal service organizations. We are so grateful to our members who attended the trainings and who volunteer in the community.
Attorneys who attended the Landlord Tenant Law Pro Bono Training last week can now volunteer for the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program pictured above.
If you’re interested in getting involved, don’t miss the pro bono trainings coming up this winter:
Congressman Seth Moulton spoke about the VA Healthcare System and the need to support veterans at the BBA’s Veterans Day Reception last week.
The Claflin Center at 16 Beacon Street was buzzing with energy last Thursday. Attorneys mixed and mingled and talked to one another about their shared experiences serving in the military. The event, which was chaired by former Navy Lieutenant John J. Regan (Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP) and retired Marine Corps Colonel William F. Sinnott (Donoghue Barrett & Singal, P.C), also featured a lively speech and Q & A with Congressman Seth Moulton, a former Marine Corps Captain who served four tours in Iraq. In particular, the Congressman discussed his own experience with the VA Healthcare System and his plans to help improve the system for veterans. He encouraged everyone in the room to focus on helping servicemembers transition from active duty.
This event aimed to build a community for servicemembers in the legal field to share common experiences and challenges. If you missed this event but want to get involved, don’t miss the follow up Veterans Meet & Greet Luncheon on January 29th at noon. Click here to learn more.
Take a look below for more images:
BBA President Lisa Arrowood, founding partner at Arrowood Peters, and Congressman Seth Moulton during a Veterans Day Reception held at the BBA on November 12.
Six-year Army veteran Fritz Barthelemy, an intern at WilmerHale through the BBA’s Veteran Internship Pilot Program, Congressman Seth Moulton, and Dwayne Smith, an aspiring lawyer studying at Suffolk University and former intern at Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP (now Locke Lord LLP) who served in the Marine Corps, at a Veterans Day Reception.
Mark N. Berman
Jose F. Demedeiros
James T. Downes
Tyler R. Keyser
Joseph Molina Flynn
Evelyn Venables Moreno
Kate E. Nicholson
Margaret S. Travers
Law students and new attorneys learned about pro bono volunteer and internship opportunities at organizations like Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC) at Monday’s Pro Bono Fair.
On Monday, over two hundred law students and new lawyers gathered at Suffolk Law School to learn about volunteer opportunities at the annual Pro Bono Fair. Each year the BBA and Suffolk Law School team up to connect law students and new attorneys interested in giving back with local legal services organizations, nonprofits, and government agencies seeking assistance. If you missed the event but still want to get involved, click here to view the guide to learn how you can help.
Take a look below for more photos from the event:
Project Citizenship shared internship and volunteer opportunities with attendees.
Lynn Girton, the Pro Bono Director at Veterans Legal Services, spoke with law students and lawyers about opportunities to assist veterans.
Milton Wong, a staff attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project, offered attendees additional information about the various pro bono opportunities at his organization.
The BBA & BBF are excited to announce the release of the 2015 Public Service Report. The report highlights the work of our 12,000+ members giving back and helping our community through programs like Law Day in the Schools and the Reentry Education Program. Take a few minutes to read through the report and learn more.
If you’re feeling inspired to get involved, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at email@example.com.
Massachusetts is one of only a few states in the country where inmates can be sentenced for up to ten years in solitary confinement for one disciplinary infraction. Leslie Walker, Executive Director of Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, is one of many activists looking to educate the community about the risks of this practice.
On October 26th, she will host a Brown Bag Lunch from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. where attendees will have the chance to watch a presentation, hear a former prisoner’s story and ask questions of Leslie and her staff. The primary goal of the Brown Bag is education about solitary confinement regulations in the Commonwealth, and about proposals to reform those regulations.
“Now is the time, because much of the rest of the country is realizing that long-term solitary confinement does much more harm than good and has a negative impact on public safety,” she said. “President Obama has spoken out against solitary confinement, and Associate Justice Kennedy of the Supreme Court has said it drives men mad.”
Leslie and her organization are in favor of a plan that would keep inmates in solitary confinement only as long as they are considered dangerous. In other states, studies have found that prisons become less violent when prisoners in solitary are allowed to gradually reenter the general population.
Leslie said she would encourage anyone with an interest in prisoners’ rights, especially law school students, to attend the Brown Bag event later this month.
“I would have people leave the Brown Bag educated as to the state of solitary confinement in Massachusetts and aware of the solutions that are out there,” she said.