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!
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This time last year, we spoke with Emily Oldshue at Ropes & Gray about the firm’s Transgender ID clinic, a partnership with GLAD that offers pro bono legal assistance to transgender individuals navigating the process of legally changing their name and gender marker on official documents.
Last June, Ropes attorneys had assisted 300 transgender individuals, and parents of transgender children, with updating records such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses, passports, mortgage titles, voter registration and more.
Today, Oldshue was proud to report that the clinic has matched more than 600 pro bono clients with over 200 attorney volunteers. Attorneys in all of the firm’s U.S. offices, and four out of five of its offices outside of the United States, have participated in the project.
“The response and participation that we have seen from the Ropes & Gray community in the past year have continued to be overwhelmingly positive. The involvement of so many attorneys, from all of our U.S. offices, as well as globally, has allowed us to match another 300 individuals with attorney teams ready to help them navigate the process,” Oldshue said.
Oldshue, an associate in Ropes & Gray’s capital markets group, has been involved with the clinic since its inception. Last year she was named one of the National LGBT Bar Association’s Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40.
The clinic currently covers all of New England, and Oldshue and her colleagues are hoping to expand to new cities in the coming years, domestically and abroad.
You can read the original Beyond the Billable piece on the Ropes & Gray Transgender ID Clinic here.
Burns & Levinson
Chu, Ring & Hazel
Holland & Knight
Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office
Nutter McClennen & Fish
Ropes & Gray
Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen
Sunstein Kann Murphy & Timbers
We encourage you to contact us to find out how hiring a student can make a difference, for them and for your office! For more information on the program, please click here. If your office is interested in hiring a student over the summer, please contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected] for additional information.
The Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance (MOVA), and Attorney General Maura Healey’s office hosted their annual Victim Rights Conference last Tuesday, April 24th in what was an inspiring morning celebrating the strength and resilience of the human spirit and Boston community. The BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service was proud to be there showing survivors of crime and other local legal services alike how we serve as a resource to connect Boston-area residents with attorneys every day.
Later in the day we were pleased to be a part of Suffolk University School of Law’s 2018 Graduate Career Launch Fair! The Career Fair gave the Class of 2018 an opportunity to gain valuable information about professional development resources, volunteer organizations, and networking opportunities available to them.
At the end of January, we were very excited to announce the launch of the Boston Bar Service Innovation Project, which represents a new approach to public service for the Boston Bar. The pilot will focus on addressing issues around the school-prison-pipeline, and while the project is in its early stages, we have already begun initial outreach efforts to our partners and other community organizations who are currently working on this problem.
The Service Innovation Project was made possible by the Burnes Service in Innovation Fund, established earlier this year by former Massachusetts Superior Court Justice Nonnie Burnes and her husband, Charles River Ventures founder Richard Burnes.
Nonnie is a former secretary of the Boston Bar Foundation and former member of the Board of Trustees. She is also an Executive Fellow of the BBF, and has been consistently dedicated to the organization’s mission to increase access to justice. From her time on the bench, she has been a staunch promoter of excellence in the legal profession, chairing the working group whose 2011 recommendations led to the creation and implementation of the Practicing with Professionalism Course for newly admitted attorneys.
From 2009 to 2012, Nonnie served as a Senior University Fellow at Northeastern University, where she currently sits on the Board of Trustees and chairs the Audit Committee. She also chaired the Board of Directors of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and served as the interim President and CEO in 2014 and 2015. She sits on the board of the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, an international legal advocacy group for women’s health and reproductive rights.
Rick currently chairs the Board of Trustees of WGBH, which is responsible for governing both the radio and television stations and the WGBH Educational Foundation. He also sits on the Board of Trustees for Boston Plan for Excellence, which operates two Boston District Schools and trains teachers to drive exceptional student outcomes. He was one of the founders of Boston Business Leaders for Education, which works with individual Boston public schools and urges the legislature to support education reform in the Boston public schools. He was chair of the board of the Museum of Science and continues on the board. He is also Vice Chair of the Sea Education Association training oceanographers.
Nonnie and Rick have worked to create opportunities for young people in Boston, in particular in the areas of public interest and civic engagement. They are longtime supporters of Discovering Justice, an education nonprofit that teaches elementary and middle school students about the importance of civic responsibility, the justice system and the law’s role in a democratic society. In 1999, they played a major role in launching the Public Interest Law Scholars program at Northeastern University School of Law, creating a new resource for exceptional students pursuing social justice and public service.
In recognition of all their work for the public good, the Boston Bar Foundation presented Nonnie and Rick with the 2018 Public Service Award at its annual John & Abigail Adams Benefit. In his acceptance speech, Rick vocalized his intent to continue to work toward a public school system that enables all students to access the same opportunities.
We are grateful to Rick and Nonnie for their generosity and commitment to Boston’s youth, and for enabling this exciting new initiative. If you are interested learning more about the pilot phase of the Service Innovation Project, please contact Heather Leary at [email protected].
In 2016, associates across each of Barclay Damon’s 11 offices reached an admirable goal – every one of them participated in the firm’s robust pro bono program, which treats every pro bono hour as a billable hour, the same as if these associates were doing business with the firm’s top clients.
In 2017, Barclay Damon Pro Bono Partner Heather Sunser set her sights on the next public service milestone: If all of the firm’s associates could participate in pro bono work, why not the partners? The challenge was on for Barclay Damon’s nearly 300 attorneys.
Several weeks ago, the firm announced they had done just that. Every single one of Barclay Damon’s full-time attorneys participated in the firm’s pro bono program in 2017.
“Every year I was charting progress and watching how much our hours increased,” Sunser said. “From looking at the time people put in, I have an idea of what kinds of projects people enjoy participating in, but I started to see patterns and I realized it was important to try to offer something for everyone.”
Sunser, who works out of Barclay Damon’s Syracuse office, said full participation became feasible with pro bono opportunities that could be done remotely, to accommodate attorneys who are constantly out of town. Answering legal questions online or on the phone was a piece of the puzzle, and attorneys participated in the American Bar Association’s Free Legal Answers program, including Boston attorneys taking questions through Massachusetts Legal Answers Online.
Another key to raising participation was finding specific projects for attorneys who are highly specialized in their fields. For example, Sunser said, participating in a small business incubator on a pro bono basis has helped several partners with an intellectual property practice find a way to use their skill set in public service.
Tony Scibelli, a partner in the Boston office and memberof the Boston Bar Association’s Amicus Committee, said his office participates in a wide variety of public service projects through the BBA. Joseph Stanganelli, another partner in the office, was successful in helping a veteran suffering from PTSD to upgrade his discharge status and access benefits. Stanganelli took the client on through the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service.
Outside of the BBA, Scibelli has found his pro bono niche handling mediation cases in small claims court in Salem, Peabody and Gloucester. Scibelli’s background is in business and commercial litigation, not mediation, but working with the North Shore Community Mediation Center, he completed the required training and began to help litigants settle outside a courtroom.
“It has been a fascinating experience and a great, meaningful experience,” Scibelli said. “Many of these litigantsare low-income folks who are on various forms of public assistance. A few thousand, or even a few hundred, dollars means quite a lot to them, and in many cases it is money they really can’t afford to pay.”
So, where does Barclay Damon go when they’ve already reached 100 percent?
Sunser said she is hoping to see the overall number of pro bono hours go up, hopefully by engaging attorneys who had relatively small totals in the past. She said the firm is also always looking to partner with local organizations – whether they are bar associations, legal services organizations, or nonprofits – to try to meet needs in the community.
“When we find an opportunity to start a partnership in a place where there is currently no legal help available, we can really see the difference our effort makes,” Sunser said. “It was so exciting to see the successes and things we’ve been able to help people with over the course of this year.”
To learn more about Barclay Damon’s pro bono program, please click here.
For the month of January, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) discussed the topic of the opioid epidemic. The PILP class first heard from Brendan Abel, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Counsel for the Massachusetts Medical Society.
Abel informed the PILP class of some staggering statistics coming from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, showing the vast increase in opioid related deaths among Massachusetts residents since 2000 (from 379 in 2000 to 2,190 in 2016). The opioid death rate is far greater for individuals experiencing homelessness or who have a history of incarceration and, at this point, it is believed that almost 5% of the population of Massachusetts is suffering from opioid use disorder. The supply of heroin that is bought and sold today is often laced with synthetic fentanyl and carfentanyl, which are much more powerful, and inadvertent consumption of heroin laced with fentanyl is believed to be a factor to the high number of overdoses.
Abel discussed some of the implications that the opioid epidemic has had and may have in the future, especially in the legal context. He foresees a number of guardianships that may be needed for adults who have experienced an overdose that resulted in permanent brain damage due to lack of oxygen to the brain for a period of time. Many believe the pharmaceutical industry is the root cause of the opioid epidemic, and some lawsuits have already begun for false advertising against pharmaceutical companies that produce painkillers.
Some interventions and efforts have been made to curb the use of opioids and to reduce the number of overdoses, but a lot of research on the efficacy of such efforts has not yet been completed. There has been a slight reduction in the number of opioid related deaths, largely attributed with the spread of use of Narcan (naloxone HCI) by first responders. The Prescription Monitoring Program in Massachusetts has seen a marked reduction in the number of opioid prescriptions. In March 2016, Governor Baker signed an opioid law, including restricting first time opioid prescription to a limit of 7 days. Under M.G.L. c. 128, s. 35, a person may be involuntarily committed as a result of his or her alcohol or substance use.
Abel also discussed some state legislative efforts on the horizon, including a pending opioid bill to establish a commission to evaluate prescribing practices and a pending criminal justice reform bill that would provide an evaluation of drug dependency and provision of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for criminal defendants.
In addition, he addressed some of the difficulties facing the accessibility of services for opioid dependent individuals. There are few MAT facilities with limited capacity in Massachusetts, with large gaps in Western Massachusetts; doctors have to be specialized and take an additional course beyond their medical school/residency training order to prescribe medication such as methadone. Additionally, many health insurance providers do not fully cover alternate pain interventions such as acupuncture.
To view more details of state efforts to address the opioid epidemic, please visit https://www.mass.gov/massachusetts-responds-to-the-opioid-epidemic.
Meeting recap provided by PILP Member Alissa Brill (Volunteer Lawyers Project).
BBA President Mark Smith, founding partner of Laredo & Smith, shared the below reflection on his recent visit to the John D. Philbrick School in Roslindale as part of the Principal Partners Program:
The John D. Philbrick School in Roslindale is one of the smallest in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) system, but its staff and student body provided a big welcome when I visited the Monday after Thanksgiving as part of the Boston Plan for Excellence Principal Partners program.
I knew that the BBA president has the good fortune to shadow a BPS principal every year, and as a former teacher myself, I was excited to learn more about elementary education at the Philbrick and what makes the school tick. The answer, it turns out, is the same as when I taught: a dedicated and openhearted staff working extremely hard to ensure the best possible learning experience for each student all year long.
Principal Danladi Bobbitt, who stepped into the role just this year, leads this staff gracefully. During a tour of each classroom, Bobbitt shared as much as he could about each teacher’s background, demonstrating an appreciation of each instructor’s unique talents and expertise. I was especially impressed by the way these teachers commanded the attention of their students, who were sharply focused and on-task during the entirety of my visit. For students in kindergarten through fifth grade, that is no small feat.
I was impressed to learn that students in each grade level take specialty classes in science, music, physical education and art, giving them opportunities to engage in a variety of hands-on activities throughout the day and become well-rounded learners. A music class made up of kindergarteners rehearsed “Jingle Bells” in preparation for the Philbrick’s holiday pageant for us, which was one of the highlights of the day.
Once the tour concluded, alongside Discovering Justice Executive Director Jon Spack, Bobbitt told us more about the ins and outs of running a school. He said one of the best parts of helming the Philbrick is the high level engagement from the school community, including parents. A constant challenge, he said, is finding meaningful ways to talk to students about bullying. Their approach at the Philbrick focuses on encouraging students to express themselves in productive ways, rather than lashing out at classmates.
The Principal Partners event, a collaboration between Bank of America, BPS and Boston Plan for Excellence, is intended to foster a meaningful conversation about the critical role education plays in the quality of our society and the future of our economy. I am grateful to have had this experience, deepening my understanding of the great people in our schools and the incredible work they do.
For the month of November 2017, the PILP class turned its focus to the topic of transgender rights. Kicking off that discussion, the PILP class met on November 8 with David Topping, the Field Director for Freedom for All Massachusetts, the campaign to preserve Massachusetts’s transgender-inclusive public accommodation laws, which is currently the subject of a repeal effort scheduled to be voted on during the November 2018 elections.
Topping described the recent history of the transgender rights movement, focusing particularly on recent electoral and legislative campaigns across the country concerning the extension of nondiscrimination protections to transgender people in places of public accommodation, which include a wide range of businesses and facilities such as stores, restaurants, public parks, and public restrooms and locker rooms. In October 2016, the Massachusetts Legislature and Governor Baker acted to amend the Commonwealth’s public accommodation laws (see G. L. c. 272, §§ 92A and 99) to extend nondiscrimination protections to transgender and gender-nonconforming people. Shortly after that amendment went into effect, those opposed to the amendment gathered enough signatures to place a repeal measure on the Massachusetts ballot for November 2018. That effort represents the first statewide ballot question concerning transgender nondiscrimination.
Topping described Freedom for All Massachusetts’s efforts to counter false and damaging messages from opponents of transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination laws. Topping explained the group’s strategy, which focuses on educating voters about the experiences of harassment and discrimination faced by transgender individuals. In making the case for extending protection to transgender individuals in public restrooms, the group points the broad base of support for the policy among law enforcement, women’s rights organizations, and groups that advocate for survivors of sexual violence. The PILP class also learned about opportunities to volunteer with Freedom for All Massachusetts, including door-to-door voter-education canvassing.
For more information about Freedom for All Massachusetts, please visit http://www.freedommassachusetts.org. To learn about the BBA’s support for transgender rights in 2016, click here, and to hear about how the new public accommodations law is working in practice, listen to our Issue Spot podcast on the subject, featuring Jill Zellmer of Tufts University, Mason Dunn of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, and Catherine Reuben of Hirsch Roberts Weinstein.
Meeting recap provided by PILP Members Joshua M. Daniels (Solo Practice) and Mark Zglobicki (Massachusetts Inspector General’s Office).
Just before Veterans Day, the Society of Fellows and their guests gathered at 16 Beacon Street to kick off the program year at the annual Fall Open House.
Boston Bar Foundation President-Elect and Fellow Diana Lloyd began the evening by sharing the Foundation’s goals for the coming year, including continuing to expand opportunities for Boston’s youth with the Summer Jobs program, making strides in diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, and engaging volunteers to help serve our community in ways the only lawyers can.
The group also heard from former BBA President Jack Regan of WilmerHale and Bill Sinnott of Donoghue, Barrett & Singal, P.C. to speak to the group about their experience on the Active Duty and Military Veterans Committee of the BBA.
Both Jack and Bill were instrumental in starting the committee, which helped to establish the Military & Veterans Legal Helpline within the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service. The helpline connects veterans, military personnel, and their families with reduced fee lawyers and other legal resources. Jack and Bill detailed the process that went into the committee’s formation in 2009 and how it has continued to service a group of people who otherwise do not have easy access to legal services.
In 2017, the BBF will grant $960,000 to 20 legal services organizations in the greater Boston area including Veterans Legal Services. The various grantee organizations administer legal aid to the most vulnerable and underprivileged members of the population, such as the homeless, domestic violence survivors, at-risk children, and veterans.
Pledges made by the Society of Fellows are dedicated 100% to the permanent endowment, which provides a lasting and stable base of support for all of the BBF’s work. Today, more than 400 leaders of the Boston legal community are members of this group. For more information about the Society of Fellows, or if you know someone who may be interested in joining, please contact Carolyn Mitchell at [email protected] or (617) 778-1932.