Posts Categorized: Pro Bono

Celebrating Pro Bono Month: A Recap

As October comes to a close, another Pro Bono Month is in the books, and we have a lot to celebrate.

In total, the BBA trained over 200 attorneys to take pro bono cases and engage with the BBA’s public service projects. This included trainings on representing low-income debtors pro bono and preparing attorney volunteers to teach high school students the importance of making informed decisions through the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program.

Take a look below for highlights from this month and check out our photo album here:

October 2ndThe BBA teamed up with lawyers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) New England Chapter, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI), and the Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) Coalition to provide information about the new Public Charge regulation. Though the regulation has thus far been blocked from going into effect, advocates were trained on how to talk about the topic with clients.

Public Charge Attorney Training

October 10thThrough our longstanding partnership with the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP), a Boston Bar Foundation grantee, dozens of attorneys were trained on all aspects of representing a low-income consumer debtor in a chapter 7 bankruptcy case pro bono through VLP’s bankruptcy panel.

Pro Bono Training: Chapter 7 Consumer Bankruptcy Basics

October 15th – BBA staff joined hundreds of law students and attorneys at Suffolk University Law School for the Annual Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House, sponsored by the BBA and Suffolk. This provided an opportunity for attendees to learn about pro bono opportunities with local nonprofits and legal services organizations.

Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House at Suffolk Law

October 18thRepresentatives from the Mass Health Connector and Health Law Advocates hosted a training to help lawyers understand the most common legal concerns that individuals face when they consider applying for healthcare through the Health Connector, including immigration concerns.

October 22ndBBA members joined volunteer attorneys from Massachusetts Legal Answers Online (MLAO) and VLP  to answer legal questions for low-income Massachusetts residents through the MLAO website, as part of our recurring “Pizza and Pro Bono Blitz” programming. During the session, 11 individuals received online pro bono advice for their legal concerns. 

October 23rdAttendees received information about how to volunteer with the BBA’s M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program to help high school students across Massachusetts build the foundational skills to make informed and effective decisions regarding their finances. Keynote speaker State Senator James Eldridge described why efforts to increase financial literacy are so important to the Boston community and the entire Commonwealth.

Financial Literacy Info Session with Senator James Eldridge

October 24thThe BBA hosted a speed networking event with representatives from VLP, MLAO De Novo, the Court Service Centers, and the Women’s Bar Foundation to learn about family law pro bono opportunities.

October 28th Attendees learned the skills needed to volunteer at the BBA’s monthly CORI Sealing Clinic and help low-income clients who have questions about their Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) records. CORI records can pose significant barriers to housing, employment, and educational opportunities, and as such advising on sealing and expungement is a critical way for lawyers to help.

Pro Bono Training for Attorneys to Help Clients Seal Their CORI Records

Thank you to our members who donated their time and talents in support of Pro Bono month—and to those who embody the spirit of Pro Bono all year round by providing the unique services to our community that only attorneys can. Even though October is over, there are still more opportunities to engage: On Thursday, November 7th, the BBA will be hosting a Fall Networking Breakfast for Law Students and New Lawyers Exploring Public Interest Careers and Pro Bono Opportunities. Find out more and register today.

Missed any of these programs, but still want to find a way to get involved?  Reach out to Community Programs Assistant Doug Newton with questions at [email protected].

Boston Bar pro bono and public service projects are made possible by funding from the Boston Bar Foundation. To support our pro bono and public service initiatives click here or contact Erica Southerland at [email protected].

Pro Bono Month Spotlight: Sullivan Supports the Transformative Power of Education in Dorchester Through Longstanding Pro Bono Partnerships

Of the many pro bono relationships maintained by Boston-based law firm Sullivan & Worcester LLP (“Sullivan”), those with College Bound Dorchester, Inc. and the Neighborhood House Charter School are the longest-standing.

In 1965, former corporate partner Charlie Cabot helped establish College Bound Dorchester (then known as Federated Dorchester Neighborhood Houses, Inc.) by merging three settlement houses (Denison House, Little House and Dorchester House) with the goal of better serving the Dorchester community and its minority, immigrant and low-income populations.  Over the years, College Bound has included many additional programs including Kit Clark Senior Services, a summer camp, an alternative middle school and a food pantry.  In the mid-1990s, College Bound became the incubator of one of the first charter schools in Massachusetts, the Neighborhood House Charter School.

College Bound’s current focus is on transforming neighborhoods through education, particularly those affected by generational cycles of poverty, street level violence and a widening economic inequality gap.  Its ‘Boston Uncornered’ solution engages gang-involved or formerly incarcerated youth and turns them into positive leaders in their neighborhoods by training them as trusted peer mentors.  They in turn support program participants who receive educational supports and a weekly stipend that affords them the space to pursue educational opportunities to help them turn away from the streets for good.  Michelle Caldeira, Senior Vice President of Strategy & External Affairs at College Bound Dorchester, cited the program’s continued success.  They have served over 500 young people in the city each year with a 70% college matriculation rate and a reduced recidivism rate of 91%.

“We are grateful for the significant dollar value of their pro-bono work, we are indebted to Sullivan & Worcester for all the additional ways in which they support College Bound and Uncornered – serving as officers on our board of directors, providing guidance on personnel matters, shepherding the sale or acquisition of capital assets, amplifying our work and even filing copyright applications. I also want to note David Guadagnoli’s work on managing the partnership always being available to answer a quick question or dig deep on thorny issues, doing it all with amazing efficiency and a sense of humor,” said Caldeira.

In the Pope’s Hill neighborhood of Dorchester stands the K-7th grade campus of NHCS, whose mission is to provide students with the skills and support they need to graduate from high school and pursue post-secondary education on the path to achieve life success.  The School now serves over 700 students, the majority of whom are drawn from one of Boston’s most diverse neighborhoods.  Until recently a K-8th grade school, NHCS is in the process of expanding through to the 12th grade.

“Working with these organizations offers many, if not all, of our attorneys the opportunity to do pro bono work within their respective areas of expertise, which is rare among pro bono clients,” said David Guadagnoli, a Tax Partner at Sullivan.

For over half a century and at least 21,000 pro bono hours later, Sullivan remains a fierce champion for and partner of both entities.  Guadagnoli, who currently serves on the Board of College Bound Dorchester and leads Sullivan’s relationship for both entities, explains how this unique partnership has provided opportunities for lawyers throughout the firm, regardless of practice area, to contribute pro bono services and make a unique impact in the community.

With the same types of challenges faced by for-profit clients, Sullivan has remained steadfastly committed to both organizations, in large part because each offers virtually every Sullivan attorney the opportunity to contribute in their own specialty area – corporate lawyers have rewritten bylaws, managed filings, overseen restructurings and provided guidance in critical areas of governance; real estate attorneys have bought and sold properties and negotiated leases; financing lawyers have helped each organization finance and refinance short and long term debt; tax attorneys have helped each organization maintain their tax-exempt status and avoid tax traps; employment attorneys have supported the management teams with HR support and advice; litigators have defended each organization as needed; intellectual property attorneys have helped with trademark and copyright issues; and benefits attorneys have assisted in ensuring that each organization offers a robust menu of benefit offerings.  In addition to pro bono legal work, several Sullivan attorneys have served as directors, trustees and clerks of each of these organization through the years.

Molly Stearns, Director of Strategic Projects at NHCS, says that “Sullivan has become our ‘downtown home,’” supplying meeting space for the school leadership in addition to thousands of hours of pro bono work and service.

“We are so grateful that Neighborhood House Charter School has benefited from an extraordinary 25-year pro bono partnership with Sullivan.  Their advice on matters ranging from governance, to real estate transactions, to personnel matters, to employee benefits has been invaluable.  Sullivan attorneys have served as ad hoc members of various Board committees and presented to our middle schoolers about the legal profession on Career Day.  In ways large and small, Sullivan has helped Neighborhood House sustain a 25-year track record of success.  It’s an honor to have gotten to know so many wonderful lawyers at Sullivan along the way.”

As these two organizations remain committed to supporting those in need of opportunities, they have each found a steadfast partner and friend in Sullivan.

Giving Back: Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities at the BBA

With the new program year kicking off, it’s a good time to consider what volunteer opportunities you might like to get involved in during the coming year!   The BBA offers our members a number of ways to give back to the community while developing skills in different areas of law. Below are some of the opportunities that we are currently recruiting volunteers for. Reach out to Public Service & Grants Manager Hannah Poor at [email protected] or 617-778-1938 with questions or to get involved!

HOUSING COURT LAWYER FOR THE DAY
Volunteer attorneys are needed to advise and represent low-income, unrepresented tenants and landlords in Housing Court on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. You will provide access to justice to pro se litigants through advice, mediation, and case litigation, mostly in eviction cases. Learn more here.

CORI SEALING CLINIC
The CORI Sealing Clinic Pilot Project, which the BBA launched earlier this year in partnership with Greater Boston Legal Services and the Boston Municipal Court, connects low-income clients who have questions about their criminal records with volunteer attorneys who can help. The clinic is held the first Wednesday of every month at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse and clients can receive assistance with obtaining, reviewing, and, if advised, sealing or expunging their records. The clinic aims to help clients remove the barrier to housing, employment, and educational opportunities that having a criminal record can pose. Learn more here.

M. ELLEN CARPENTER FINANCIAL LITERACY PROGRAM
This statewide program helps high school students across Massachusetts learn about making informed and effective decisions regarding their finances through educational and experiential opportunities. You can volunteer to present any of the three classroom modules, which cover Personal Finances & Budgeting, Using Credit & Credit Cards, and Financing a Large Purchase. The program culminates with a mock trial presentation in the United States Bankruptcy Court. Learn more here.

BAR EXAM COACHING
The BBA’s Bar Exam Coaching program matches volunteer attorney coaches with applicants preparing to sit for the bar exam in Massachusetts, particularly those who are retaking the exam. Coaches guide applicants through the non-substantive elements of exam prep such as mental preparation, study tips, and time & stress management. We are currently seeking attorneys interested in serving as coaches for bar applicants sitting for the bar exam in February 2020.  Learn more here.

SCHOOL DISCIPLINE KNOW-YOUR-RIGHTS
As part of the BBA’s Service Innovation Project on Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline, the most recent Public Interest Leadership Program class partnered with Greater Boston Legal Services to provide community outreach presentations on school discipline rights, particularly with regards to new rights established under a 2018 settlement agreement that GBLS reached with Boston Public Schools. With the new school year kicking off, we are seeking volunteers to do more know-your-rights presentations to student, parent/caregiver, and community groups throughout Boston! Learn more here.

The BBA’s Public Service programs are made possible with the support of the Boston Bar Foundation. 

Celebrate Pro Bono Month at the BBA!

Clients receive day-of assistance on eviction day through the Housing Court Lawyer for the Day Program

October is Pro Bono Month, recognizing the valuable pro bono contributions made by lawyers throughout the year, and aiming to increase pro bono participation across the state in order to narrow the justice gap.

The BBA Council voted on Tuesday to recognize October 2019 as Pro Bono Month and to “commend Boston attorneys for their ongoing pro bono contributions, and remind all members that by engaging in pro bono work and providing financial support they can make a significant difference in the lives of Boston’s poor who would not otherwise have access to the legal system.”

At the annual Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House, attorneys and law students meet representatives from local legal services organizations to learn about pro bono opportunities

Last year, the BBA trained over 200 attorneys to take pro bono cases in civil appeals, veterans’ issues, housing, citizenship applications, education law, and more.  Meanwhile, more than 500 of our members dedicated their time to community service and pro bono work through our public service programs –whether by helping clients at our monthly CORI Sealing Clinic or by teaching elementary, middle, and high school students about the importance of First Amendment rights and free speech in our democracy.  We are grateful to our members for giving generously of their time and talents – and embodying the spirit of Pro Bono Month all year round by delivering unique services to our community that only lawyers can provide!

In April, BBA members learned about how to represent veterans pro bono in discharge upgrade cases.

This year, we have a robust set of activities planned for Pro Bono Month.  We hope you will think about where you might be able to lend support in the year ahead, and plug into one (or more!) of the many volunteer opportunities we will be highlighting in October.  Together, we can advance access to justice for all people in Massachusetts.

PUBLIC CHARGE ATTORNEY TRAINING
Wednesday, October 2, 12:00-2:00pm, at the BBA
Register here.

This free, in-depth training will provide Massachusetts immigration attorneys with information about the new Public Charge regulation, which takes effect on October 15.  This training will help lawyers assess how the new regulation will affect their clients and determine case strategy.

PRO BONO TRAINING : CHAPTER 7 CONSUMER BANKRUPTCY BASICS
Thursday, October 10, 3:00-6:30pm, at the BBA
Register here.

This program will cover all aspects of representing a low-income consumer debtor in a chapter 7 bankruptcy case, and will qualify participants to take on chapter 7 cases pro bono through the Volunteer Lawyers Project.

PRO BONO RECRUITMENT FAIR & OPEN HOUSE AT SUFFOLK LAW
Tuesday, October 15, 4:30-6:00pm, at Suffolk University Law School
Register here.

The Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House, sponsored by the Boston Bar Association and Suffolk University Law School, is open to law students and attorneys of all levels. Join us to learn about pro bono opportunities with local legal services organizations.

PIZZA AND PRO BONO: MASS LEGAL ANSWERS ONLINE BLITZ
Tuesday, October 22, 5:30-7:30pm, at the BBA
Register here.

Join us for a pro bono pizza party while we work with volunteer attorneys from Massachusetts Legal Answers Online and the Volunteer Lawyers Project to answer legal questions for low-income Massachusetts residents through the Mass Legal Answers Online website.

FINANCIAL LITERACY PROGRAM VOLUNTEER INFO SESSION
Wednesday, October 23, 3:00-5:00pm, at the BBA
Register here.

Learn about how you can volunteer with the BBA’s M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program and help high school students across Massachusetts build the foundational skills to make informed and effective decisions regarding their finances.

PRO BONO TRAINING FOR ATTORNEYS TO HELP CLIENTS SEAL THEIR CORI RECORDS
Monday, October 28, 3:00-5:30pm, at the BBA
Register here.

Learn the skills needed to volunteer at the BBA’s monthly CORI Sealing Clinic and help low-income clients who have questions about their Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) records. CORI Records can pose significant barriers to housing, employment, and educational opportunities, so advising on sealing and expungement is an important way for lawyers to help.

Boston Bar pro bono and public service projects are made possible by funding from the Boston Bar Foundation.

Doing Justice

Guest Post submitted by: Steven Coren, Partner (Kerstein, Coren & Litchtenstein LLP). Attorney E. Steven Coren has more than 40 years of experience representing individuals and families in civil cases.

It’s not often attorneys can do justice while at the same time prevailing on a legal issue, particularly in a breach of privacy/emotional distress case. Recently, Attorney Steven Coren was able to accomplish both when a client was referred to Kerstein Coren & Lichtenstein LLP through the Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral service. The client was a nurse at a major hospital who was hospitalized briefly in 2001 for psychiatric issues relating to her ailing marriage. She told a heart-rending tale that occurred in 2012 when she brought a post-divorce contempt action against her ex-husband over a parenting dispute involving their minor children.

During the contempt action, the sister-in-law of the plaintiff’s ex-husband accessed the plaintiff’s confidential 2001 psychiatric hospitalization records without the plaintiff’s knowledge or authorization and provided the records to the ex-husband. The sister-in-law accessed the records through her employment at a medical clinic.

The ex-husband orally communicated the contents of the plaintiff’s 2001 discharge diagnoses to a guardian ad litem (GAL), a psychotherapist appointed to investigate the parenting issue in the contempt proceeding. The ex-husband did not have the plaintiff’s consent or knowledge to obtain and communicate the information. The GAL wrote down the discharge diagnoses and included it in her report to the Court without the plaintiff’s knowledge or consent. As a Category F appointment, the GAL was required to obtain the plaintiff’s written consent to access this information and to notify the plaintiff of her intent to use it. The GAL did neither.

The plaintiff learned about the access to her confidential psychiatric records at a subsequent contempt hearing in open court. As a result of the invasion of her privacy, she was subjected to continuing embarrassment, horror, shame, anxiety, despair and dread. She also experienced physical symptoms including hair loss, lack of sleep and loss of appetite.

“I normally would not take a garden-variety HIPAA or infliction of emotional distress case because jury verdicts for emotional harm tend to be extremely low,” said Coren “However, I thought this case had great optics for building outrage among the jurors as the invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress were intentional on the part of the ex-husband and the sister-in-law, and the GAL’s conduct was unprofessional as well as illegal.” Coren admits he took the case with his heart as well as with his head. “I felt I could right a wrong as well as prosecute a legal claim for my client who could not afford to pay an attorney.” Coren agreed to take the case on a contingency agreement with no expectation that he would be compensated as there was no insurance available. “I feel that every so often it is my obligation as a legal professional to seek justice and help someone who cannot otherwise afford to pursue a claim.”

The defendants ignored all invitations to settle and a three-day jury trial was held in Boston Municipal Court in April 2019. The voir dire process was heavily utilized by Coren and was instrumental in selecting a jury that he felt was fair and impartial. The voir dire disclosed bias on the part of several prospective jurors due to the plaintiff’s psychiatric hospitalization, the reluctance of some to believe emotional distress had any monetary value and the insistence of some in applying a much higher standard than a preponderance of the evidence, and these jurors were struck for cause. Interestingly, Coren approved the inclusion of two ex-convicts on the jury during voir dire because he sensed empathy toward his client’s situation. During the damages phase of the trial, he emphasized to these jurors that fear, dread and anxiety are not controllable emotions and are very real to the person suffering from them.

At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found the sister-in-law and ex-husband acted intentionally in inflicting emotional distress and invading the plaintiff’s privacy. The jury found them and the GAL liable for damages, which totaled $92,800 – an extraordinary amount for emotional damages

The verdict by six citizens was an incredible validation to the plaintiff who endured years of litigation pursuing the case. Coren’s reward was seeing the tears of relief and the vindication on his client’s face. She is grateful to the Boston Bar Association for referring her to an attorney who stuck with her and made sure she got the justice she deserved.

BBA CORI Sealing Project Overview


Paul Kominers, Samuel Dinning, Ray Doucette, Grant Glovin, and Ezra Dunker-Polier of
Anderson & Kreiger; Brandon Schneider, Ryan Rosenblatt, Matt Bailey, Rachel Centz, and Jillian Friedman of Sullivan Law; and Gina Makarem of Boston College Law School volunteered at the CORI Sealing Clinic on July 3rd.

Criminal records are often an obstacle to qualified individuals obtaining housing or employment. And since having a job and a permanent place to live are correlated with successful re-entry, individuals with a publicly-accessible CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) record have greater rates of recidivism.

The Boston Bar Association highlighted the importance of reforms to the length of time that people must wait before their CORI can be sealed, along with other key criminal justice reforms, in our 2017 report No Time to Wait: Recommendations for a Fair and Efficient Criminal Justice System. The report advocated for a reduction in the amount of time individuals must wait to seal their CORI records. In 2018 the Massachusetts Legislature, with the support of Governor Charlie Baker, did indeed reduce the waiting time to seal criminal records; the previous wait time of five years to seal misdemeanors was reduced to three years, and the wait time of ten years to seal felonies was reduced to seven years.

This past February, the BBA launched a CORI Sealing Pilot Project in partnership with Greater Boston Legal Services. The project relies on volunteer attorneys, who assist low-income clients in obtaining, reviewing, and, if eligible, sealing and expunging their CORI records. So far, the CORI Sealing Clinic has helped more than 50 individuals seeking to seal their criminal records. This is a critical service, as sealing can remove or mitigate the barrier that CORI records pose to obtaining housing and employment.  Thank you to our partners, Pepper Hamilton LLP and Sullivan & Worcester LLP for collaborating with us on this project and engaging their attorneys as volunteers.

The Boston Bar Association’s CORI Sealing Clinic takes place the first Wednesday of each month from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Boston Municipal Court – Central Division (24 New Chardon Street, 2nd Floor). The clinic would not be possible without the help of our volunteer attorneys. These attorneys can have a life-changing impact when they assist in sealing records. Volunteering also allows attorneys to connect with fellow practitioners and gain clinic experience in a new area of law. 

Volunteers will be trained in advance on CORI laws and procedures and are able to sign up for the clinic dates that work best for their schedules. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Hannah Poor at [email protected].

Law Students & New Lawyers Explore Public Interest Careers and Pro Bono Opportunities at the Summer Kickoff Breakfast

Attendees mingle at the Summer Kickoff Breakfast

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!

Lawyer for the Day in the Eastern Housing Program Celebrates 20 Years of Helping Pro Se Litigants

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.

CORI Sealing Clinic

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.

To learn more about the program, click here. If you are interested in volunteering with the clinic, please email Hannah Poor at [email protected]

Attorneys Assisting Veterans Pro Bono Hear from Military Review Boards

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].