On Monday, June 24th, the Delivery of Legal Services Section and Law Student Forum hosted a Summer Kickoff Breakfast for Law Students and New Lawyers Exploring Public Interest Careers and Pro Bono Opportunities. Over 80 people attended the networking breakfast, which offered an opportunity for new lawyers and law students to talk with attorneys from non-profit organizations that provide legal services, as well as attorneys who work in government agencies and those who coordinate pro bono efforts at law firms. Whether the law students and new lawyers were considering careers in the public interest, or seeking pro bono opportunities, it was a great chance to connect with attorneys experienced in those areas. Thanks to all who attended!
Posts Categorized: Pro Bono
Hon. MaryLou Muirhead, Hon. Jeffrey Winik, and Hon. Wilbur P. Edwards, Jr., (Ret.) of the Housing Court with Court staff at the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Lawyer for the Day in Eastern Housing Court Program. Click here for the full photo album.
Yesterday, volunteers, court employees, and program leadership gathered at 16 Beacon to celebrate the continued success of the Lawyer for the Day Program in the Eastern Housing Court. Since 1999, dedicated volunteers have helped more than 18,000 tenants and landlords navigate through the Eastern Housing Court – making all the difference for individuals and families who would otherwise have to go to court alone. This is a significant milestone for the BBA and all of the dedicated volunteers who make this program possible, and we had a lot to celebrate : just this year alone, over 160 volunteer attorneys have been able to provide representation to over 400 tenants and landlords.
Remarks were given by Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants and Eastern Housing Court Justices MaryLou Muirhead and Jeffrey Winik. The Justices recognized the importance of the Lawyer for the Day program in the operations of the court, and expressed gratitude that volunteers improve unrepresented litigants’ chance to prevail every day.
Volunteer Lawyers Project Staff Attorney Geraldine Gruvis-Pizarro and Executive Director Joanna Allison also presented. They honored longtime volunteers and firm partners who are essential to the program’s longevity, remarking “it takes a village to assist our clients.” WilmerHale, Ropes & Gray, and retired WilmerHale partner Andy Cohn were recognized for their dedication to the program since its start.
If you are interested in getting involved – help is still needed. There were close to 30,000 eviction cases in Massachusetts last year, and 92% of tenants and 30% of landlords are unrepresented statewide. Interested volunteers can find out more here.
The program is a collaboration between the Eastern Housing Court, Boston Bar Association, Volunteer Lawyers Project, Greater Boston Legal Services and Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, and Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, and is supported by the Herbert Wiley Vaughan Fund of the Boston Bar Foundation. The Vaughan Fund is used to support the volunteers that are the lifeblood of this program by providing supplies, equipment and training.
The BBA’s CORI Sealing Clinic, which launched in January 2019, will have its fifth clinic date next Wednesday, June 5, at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse. This project, which engages volunteer attorneys in helping low-income clients seal their criminal records through the courts, has assisted close to 40 people over the past four months. We are excited to have volunteers from BBA Sponsor Firm Pepper Hamilton staff the clinic next week!
Such assistance is critical, as prior criminal records can create barriers to obtaining housing, employment, and educational opportunities. Massachusetts law permits people with a criminal record to have their records “sealed” from public view after a waiting period by meeting certain legal requirements. The CORI Sealing Clinic helps those who may not be able to undertake this process without the assistance of an attorney, but cannot afford to pay for counsel.
The Boston Bar Association is proud to have hosted a training on representing veterans pro bono in military discharge upgrade cases this April. The training, sponsored by the Active Duty Military & Veterans Forum, offered volunteers and those working with veterans seeking discharge upgrades with the opportunity to meet and hear from the leaders of the military review boards. Joseph Masterson (Army Review Boards Agency), Elizabeth Hill (Board for Correction of Naval Records), Sean Schrock (Board for Correction of Naval Records), and Nicole Jackson (Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records), reviewed how their boards operate and how pro bono attorneys can best advocate for their veteran clients.
This presentation was the fifth annual pro bono training put on by the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, as part of its Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership. Dana Montalto (Veterans Legal Clinic) provided the training’s attendees with an overview of discharge upgrades and the Partnership, which connects local veterans seeking discharge upgrades with pro bono attorneys who want to give back to those who served in uniform. The Legal Services Center provides ongoing case support throughout the representation. Over the past five years, the Partnership has allowed more than 60 local veterans unjustly discharged from the military obtain pro bono assistance.
This pro bono assistance is critical because 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, experienced military sexual trauma, 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.
If you’d like access to the training’s materials, please email Francine Alexandre at [email protected]. If you would like to get involved with the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership, please email Dana Montalto at [email protected].
Established in 2015, the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership at the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School assists veterans seeking discharge upgrades. The partnership connects veterans to private attorneys and provides ongoing support and expert resources to those attorneys throughout the case. For the past four years, the BBA has hosted an annual training to introduce interested attorneys to this opportunity and bolster the skillset and knowledge of existing pro bono volunteers. The next training will provide attendees the chance to hear perspectives from the military board of directors for the Air Force, Army, and Navy. They will discuss how the boards operate and how pro bono attorneys can best advocate for their veteran clients. The pro bono training will also include an update about recent changes in the law. You’re invited to attend on Thursday, April 25th from 2:30 – 5:00 PM at the BBA. A networking reception with the Active Duty Military and Veterans Forum will immediately follow the training. Read more and register to attend here.
Note that this training will build on those from 2015-2018. Convenient videos and materials from past trainings are available through our Learn Online library’s dedicated pro bono and public interest page. Easily watch the videos and review the materials whenever your schedule permits and wherever works for you, whether at your office or on the go!
Earlier this week, the BBA hosted an information session and alumni reception for its Public Interest Leadership Program. The program, which now includes nearly 200 alumni, is currently seeking applicants for its 16th class. At the information session, Rich Baldwin (PILP 2016-2017, Foley Hoag) described his experience in the program as both inwardly and outwardly fulfilling. Participants in the program meet twice a month and hear from guest speakers across a variety of public interest issue areas. These presentations and conversations enrich the PILP members’ understanding of their community and introduce them to new ways to volunteer and engage with service providers in the Greater Boston area. Additionally, PILP members are each responsible for planning and executing two meetings for the class, as well as working together toward a culminating project for the year. Baldwin spoke about how this project is a significant outward facing element of the program. Each class has the opportunity to dive into a public interest issue area and educate and support their peers and the public through the project. During Baldwin’s PILP year, his class organized and held a symposium at the Boston Bar Association focusing on Constitutional Battlegrounds: Civil Rights in a Changing Landscape. After hearing from Baldwin and BBA Staff, prospective applicants were able to mingle with PILP alumni and hear their perspectives on the program.
The application for the 2019-2020 class is available to download here and is due on March 29th. Applicants must be attorneys within their first 10 years of practice, public interest minded, and able to commit to the 14-month program, beginning in June 2019. Questions about the program or application can be directed to Cassandra Shavney at [email protected]
On May 22, members of the private bar gathered to learn about representing veterans pro bono in military discharge upgrade applications. Dana Montalto, Betsy Gwin, and Evan Seamone of the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School presented a comprehensive training for those who are interested in serving the veterans community. Their presentations offered a step-by-step approach to developing a persuasive petition, provided guidance about addressing common legal and practical challenges in discharge upgrade representation, and concluded with information about recent legal updates.
This presentation was the fourth annual pro bono training put on by the Veterans Legal Clinic, as part of its Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership. Through that Partnership, the Clinic connects local veterans seeking discharge upgrades with pro bono attorneys who want to give back to those who served in uniform and provides ongoing case support throughout the representation. Over the past three years, the Partnership has allowed dozens of veterans unjustly discharged from the military obtain pro bono assistance.
This pro bono assistance is critical because 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.
If you’d like access to a video recording of the training and its materials, please email Cassandra Shavney at [email protected].
Guest Post: Jack Caplan is the current Lawyer Referral Service Co-op Intern at the BBA. Jack is a sophomore year at Northeastern University studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. After spending the morning shadowing the Lawyer for the Day table at Boston Housing Court, he shared his experience with Beyond the Billable.
Just after 9 am last Thursday morning in the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston, over 200 attorneys and members of the public crammed into one hot courtroom. It was standing room only as people tried to find any space they could to claim as their own. The physical bar which typically separates court observers from lawyers (the same bar from which the exam and Association get their names) was soon ignored, thus blurring the line between who’s an attorney and who isn’t.
The Clerk began calling out each case number and the respective plaintiffs and defendants answered with whether they wanted to try mediation or go straight to a bench trial. Looking around the room you could see a microcosm of Boston itself: an MBTA driver searching for a seat before giving up and standing, much like her passengers at rush hour; a mother and father trying to quiet their young children with toys; and who EMT missed the first call of her case because of a last minute emergency at the end of a long night shift. The atmosphere was understandably tense considering people’s homes were on the line, but the Clerk and Court Officer kept the mood light through jokes and banter.
A vast majority of those present elected to go to mediation and were directed to a lower floor of the sprawling Courthouse. This sent them straight past the tables of the Volunteer Lawyers Project where landlords and tenants alike could stop by to ask questions, get help filing motions, and even get representation for mediation as part of a Limited Assistance Representation structure. Attorneys were running around and talking to clients and the scene upstairs at the peak of the morning could only be described as chaotic. But speaking with the volunteer attorneys it quickly became clear that they didn’t mind at all – in fact they loved it – their passion was palpable. They had the chance to help out the roughly 95% of tenants who go into housing court without counsel. Results for litigants with some level of representation are so vastly and almost unbelievably better than for those who go in totally alone.
Indeed, going to Housing Court while Lawyer for the Day is running can be one of the best antidotes to the otherwise negative feelings brought on by statistics like the one above. It’s statistics like that, statistics which cast a tragic light on the state of justice in Massachusetts and America, which compel many of these attorneys to volunteer their time. The impact that the dozen or so attorneys were able to make last week is truly a sight to behold. Tenants who were convinced that they would lose their homes suddenly had hope provided by the attorneys. The impact of donated time and expertise was noticed, appreciated, and sometimes immediate.
The Volunteer Lawyer’s Project administers frequent trainings for attorneys interested in helping out. The Lawyer for the Day program itself occurs each Wednesday from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM (public housing cases) and Thursday from 9:00 AM – 3:30 PM (private housing cases) in front of Courtroom 15 at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse, 24 New Chardon Street, Boston, MA. If you have questions about volunteering or would like to learn more, please contact Cassandra Shavney the Boston Bar’s Public Service Programs Coordinator, or Milton Wong of the Volunteer Lawyers Project.
The need is constant, the difference is instant: consider volunteering today.
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.
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]