Last week, eight BBA members joined a group of other volunteers at the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) to pitch in sorting and packaging food.
The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) is the largest hunger-relief organization in New England, and among the largest food banks in the country. Last year, they distributed more than 54 million pounds of food, enough to provide healthy meals to over 500,000 people
The GBFB also sees over 25,000 volunteers annually. Some help sort the food, like the BBA group did, while others help distribute the food to agencies and individuals and families who need it.
We are grateful to the GBFB for having us! Our volunteers had an amazing experience. If you are interested in more volunteer opportunities with the BBA, here is what we have coming up:
Annual Charles River Clean Up
Saturday, April 30, 2016 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Volunteer on the Farm: The Food Project Serve & Grow
Saturday, May 7, 2016 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Spring Woodland Restoration Event at Roslindale Urban Wild
Friday, May 13, 2016 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM
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.”
To learn how you can get involved with the Access to Justice Fellows program, please visit http://www.lawyersclearinghouse.org/access-to-justice-fellows/.
On Tuesday, Probate and Family Court Chief Justice Angela Ordoñez greeted attendees at a Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) workshop aimed at preparing attorneys to represent clients on a limited basis in a probate or family law case.
LAR is a useful tool for clients who might not otherwise have access to legal representation. Rather than paying a large sum as a retainer, they can hire an attorney for one particular motion or hearing, after which the parties can choose to go their separate ways or draft another agreement concerning the next steps.
The only problem with LAR, Chief Justice Ordoñez said, is that not enough people know they have access to it.
“Let people spread the word to their friends, their cousins, their family and all of that. If you spread the word about LAR, you’ll help the court, you’ll help the client and you’ll help yourselves. I see people every day who have no idea what LAR is,” she said.
Panelists Ilene Mitchell (Probate and Family Court Administrative Office) and Laura Unflat (The Law Office of Laura M. Unflat) spoke to attendees about their experience practicing LAR and answered questions about cases that the attorneys in the audience were already working on.
If you’re interested in learning more about LAR, including how to get certified to practice, our next training on April 28 will focus on LAR in the Boston Municipal and District Courts. Click here to learn more.
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.”
Volunteers are crucial to many of VLP’s programs, including the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program pictured above.
Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association thanks the following attorneys who accepted cases or provided consultation December, January, and February:
Meredith R. Douglas
Maude Laroche-St. Fleur
Evelyn Venables Moreno
Ryan Takeo Sakoda
Elizabeth Julia Smith
BBA member Christopher Saccardi and First Justice of the Boston Housing Court Hon. Jeffrey Winik go way back. They go back to Saccardi’s days in law school, volunteering at the Lawyer for a Day program in Boston Housing Court.
Through that program, Saccardi took on his first Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) cases. He helped clients through a specific piece of their case, such as an individual motion or filing.
“LAR is a wonderful training ground for new lawyers who want courtroom experience,” Saccardi told attendees at a recent training on representing litigants in Housing Court.
Not only is LAR beneficial to new attorneys looking for experience, it can be a vital service to litigants who can’t afford legal representation. The vast majority of people who come before Judge Winik are unrepresented, he said. This is a huge disadvantage to the litigant, who may not have the knowledge to represent their own interest effectively. It also ties up the court system, as an attorney helps to move a case more efficiently forward.
During the training, the two panelists explained how to become certified online to practice LAR. They also gave tips on common obstacles in LAR cases, including how to facilitate communication with non-native English speakers, to drafting clear, specific fee agreements.
“The bedrock of LAR is informed consent,” Judge Winik said. “You, the lawyer, must understand what you have agreed to do, and most importantly, the client must understand what you’ve agreed to do – or not to do.”
Of the importance of LAR in his court, Judge Winik said, “It is always better to have a litigant represented than not.”
Don’t miss the rest of the LAR Practical Skills series. Sign up for one of the upcoming sessions on how to use LAR in particular courts:
LAR Practical Skills: Probate & Family Court
March 22nd 12-1:30 pm
LAR Practical Skills: Boston Municipal Court & District Court
April 28th 12-1:30 pm
LAR Practical Skills: Land Court
May 24th 12-1:30 pm
David Lieberman of Day Pitney LLP, Nikki Marie Oliveira of Bass, Doherty & Finks, PC and Marisa Roman of Sinsheimer & Associates
Last Thursday, the Boston Bar Foundation’s Junior Fellows Society held its first happy hour reception of 2016. Mingling over drinks and hors d’oeuvres, this group of conscientious young attorneys came together to network and celebrate the BBF’s work in Greater Boston.
The Junior Fellows Society, which is composed of attorneys in practice 10 years or less, is an important part of the Boston Bar Foundation’s Society of Fellows, a community of more than 400 leading attorneys who are committed to investing in our city’s future. Junior Fellows come together throughout the year for happy hour receptions for young attorneys, in addition to receptions with the entire Society of Fellows.
The featured guest of the evening was Junior Fellows Society member David Lieberman, an Associate at Day Pitney LLP who focuses on complex fraud claims. David is an alumnus of the Boston Bar Association’s Public Interest Leadership Program, has volunteered for the BBA’s Law Day in the Schools, and has worked with the BBA’s Reentry Education Program.
David shared with the group his many reasons for joining the Society: helping to fund the public service activities of the bar, befriending other like-mind attorneys at events like this reception, and remaining engaged with the BBA and BBF community – in addition to the professional networking opportunities the Society provides. Several attendees noted that the Junior Fellows Society offers a much-needed outlet for young lawyers to discuss common worries they face in their first years in the legal field and to gain professional contacts that will serve them for years to come.
Members of the Junior Fellows Society pledge to contribute $250 a year for four years to support the Boston Bar Foundation’s endowment. The contributions of Junior Fellows allow the Boston Bar Foundation to expand access to justice for the underserved of Greater Boston, fund all of the public service projects of the BBA such as the ones David participated in, and provide invaluable educational opportunities for Boston’s urban youth. Learn more about the Junior Fellows Society.
Junior Fellows have unique opportunities to attend exclusive networking and social events with Fellows and Junior Fellows throughout the year. Because the Boston Bar Foundation is a 501(c)(3), all Junior Fellows contributions are tax-deductible. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a Junior Fellow, please contact Tara Trask at [email protected] or (617) 778-1984.
Sean Hagen of Long Knight, P.C. and Hannah Joseph of Beck Reed Riden
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.
A group of attorneys volunteered at Cradles to Crayons on Saturday.
The New Lawyers Public Service Committee’s annual Cradles to Crayons volunteer event is always popular, but this year it filled up in record time. Fifteen attorneys spent last Saturday processing and packaging donations that will be distributed to disadvantaged children across the state through Cradles to Crayons. In case you’re not familiar with the organization, Cradles to Crayons provide homeless or low-income children with the essential items they need to thrive at home, at school, and at play.
So what’s next for the New Lawyers Public Service Committee? Attorneys are heading to the Pine Street Inn on Saturday, February 20th to help prepare meals for the homeless at the Pine Street Inn and to learn about the problem of homelessness in Boston. This even also filled up quickly (which goes to show how dedicated our members are to volunteering in the community). However, keep an eye on the calendar for more weekend volunteer opportunities later this spring!
Are you looking for a volunteer opportunity? Serve as a judge for the Undergraduate Mock Trial Regional Tournament at Boston College on February 13th and 14th. Twenty-four teams from top schools in the area will be competing for a chance at the National Championship Tournament.
If you are unfamiliar with mock trial, it is a competition where college students prepare a legal case and compete against each other as both defense and plaintiff. The role of a judge is simply to score the teams, rule on objections and provide feedback for the teams.
You are welcome to sign up for as many rounds as you’d like. Take a look below for the time slots.
- Round 1: Saturday, February 13: 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM
- Round 2: Saturday, February 13: 1:30 PM – 5:00 PM
- Round 3: Sunday, February 14: 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM
- Round 4: Sunday, February 14: 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
There will be a training and instruction session immediately preceding each round, and breakfast, lunch and coffee will all be provided.
If you are interested in judging, please take a few seconds and go to this link to register for as many rounds as you would like.