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].

#TBT | The Experience of a Bar Coach

Since 2015, the Boston Bar Exam Coaching Program has matched 141 coaches and 205 bar applicants ahead of each bar exam iteration in Massachusetts. Involvement in this program offers both exam takers and coaches a unique opportunity to form a mentor and mentee connection that may extend beyond the volunteer months.

For this week’s Throwback Thursday, let’s take it back to 2015 and read the first-hand experience of former Bar coach, Kate Cook of Sugarman Rogers, that proves hard work and determination pay off, and the importance of remaining positive while mentoring an aspiring lawyer.

If you are taking the Bar Exam in July and would like the support of a coach, or are interested in volunteering as a coach, please click here.

Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Co-Chair Kate Cook Reflects on Bar Coaching
Original Publication Date: 2015
“As BBA Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Section Co-Chair Kate Cook left the BBA’s Annual Meeting Luncheon last week, she checked her phone and saw she had a missed call. It was from the law school graduate Cook had mentored as part of the BBA’s Bar Coaching Program.

The pair first met in January, after Cook’s mentee had not passed the Bar Exam on her first attempt. In spite of young woman’s continued diligence and Cook’s best efforts as a coach, the bar exam applicant did not pass a second time over the summer. Cook felt she had let the aspiring lawyer down. But after a pep talk from Chief Justice Ordonez, who helped launch the Bar Coaching Program in 2015, Cook resolved to stay focused, positive, and determined to help her coaching partner pass.

When Cook was able to connect with her coaching partner last week, she learned their hard work had paid off!

“I believe the Bar Exam Coaching Program can and does make a difference. I am so pleased that my mentee (and now friend) will soon join the Bar. I can’t wait to see all the great things she accomplishes,” Cook said.

For more information on the Bar Coaching Program, please click here.”

Law Day in the Schools Starts Next Week!

Over the next month, volunteer attorneys and law students will visit Boston Public School classrooms to celebrate Law Day. This annual celebration highlights the foundations of law and justice in the United States and reminds the public and legal professionals how the law interacts with everyday life. This year, the Boston Bar Association is joining the American Bar Association in teaching youth about free speech. Our Law Day in the Schools volunteers will guide students through a lesson demonstrating the importance of free speech rights in creating an equitable society.

We’re very thankful to the below BBA Sponsor Organizations that have pledged volunteers and Adopted-a-Classroom this spring.

Arrowood LLP
Barclay Damon
Beck Reed Riden LLP
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Boston Planning & Development Agency
Burns & Levinson
Casner & Edwards
Committee for Public Counsel Services
Conn Kavanaugh
Fitch Law Partners LLP
Krokidas & Bluestein
Laredo & Smith, LLP
Locke Lord LLP
Mintz
Office of the Corporation Counsel of the City of Boston
Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General
Peabody & Arnold
Prince Lobel
Ropes & Gray
Schmidt & Federico, P.C.
Sherin and Lodgen
Sullivan & Worcester

There are still a few spots available for BBA Members to volunteer next month. View the open spots and sign-up here.

Payal Salsburg and Jessica Conklin (Laredo & Smith, LLP) answer student questions at Samuel Adams Elementary in East Boston last year.

Students Selected for the BBA’s Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship Program

Earlier this winter, The Boston Bar Association announced its new Diversity & Inclusion Summer Fellowship Program, giving two outstanding law students access to critical work experience through paid summer internships. These internships provide practical experience in developing legal research and writing skills, expanding professional networks, and accessing tailored programming at the BBA.

This year’s summer interns are Anna Cardoso, a first-year Boston University Law student, who will be interning at the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, and Emaan Syed, second-year Suffolk University Law student, who will be interning at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Massachusetts, under Justice Melvin S. Hoffman.

Cardoso previously interned with Bay Area Legal Aid as a JusticeCorps member, where she discovered how income equality and lack of access to healthcare, healthy housing, and support keeps domestic violence victims in a cycle of violence. She also assisted litigants with filing court forms and writing declarations in support of these forms, which helped her effectively communicate legal issues to individuals without legal experience. She noted on her application, “I am dedicated to advancing social justice and equity from all sides. Preventing health care abuse is particularly important to me because no one deserves to be exploited at their most vulnerable.”

Syed’s focus is on bankruptcy law. She worked at BNY Melon as a fund accountant, where she managed accounting and custody reporting for several billion-dollar portfolios. She also interned at both the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure and at the Massachusetts Appleseed Center, where she researched the effects of the court cell phone ban policy on indigent clients. From her application, she stated, “As a Pakistani Muslim immigrant, I understand that it is of utmost importance to look at the disparity of low-income families and individuals and address the issues the people in these communities face. As an intern at the Bankruptcy Court, I will use my experience to pursue a career in protecting and advocating for the underprivileged, an opportunity that I hold as an honor in the ability to better their lives.”   

These new internships supplement the BBA’s longstanding summer internship program, which has been providing unpaid legal internships for law students from diverse backgrounds to work in courts and government offices across the Commonwealth for nearly a decade. More than 130 promising law students have participated in the program, gaining critical work experience through this unique opportunity.

Funding for these new positions has been provided by the Boston Bar Foundation (BBF). A generous donation provided to the BBF will provide a $5,000 stipend to the intern at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. Funding for a second $5,000 stipend for the intern working in the judges’ chambers of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court will be provided by the BBF’s Charles P. Normandin Fund. Established in 2006, this fund supports the BBA’s bankruptcy law-related public service projects, including our popular M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program.

We’re proud to expand our existing diversity initiatives, and to further support the passion and commitment of law students dedicated to the public interest.

Lead Students Through Interactive Lessons on Free Speech

Our popular Law Day in the Schools Program kicks off in May in Boston Public School classrooms across the city. Over 70 classrooms will be visited by volunteer lawyers and law students where youth in kindergarten through 12th grade will learn about free speech rights. This year’s lesson will introduce those rights and will demonstrate their importance in creating an equitable society. The younger students will learn about Malala Yousafzai’s mission to promote education for all, while the older students will participate in a mock city council meeting regarding Confederate monuments. For many of the students, this program offers the only opportunity for them to meet and talk with a lawyer.

As a volunteer, you’ll sign-up for the 1-hour slot that works for your schedule and location preferences. Each class has space for two volunteers, so you’re also able to sign-up with a friend or colleague (all volunteers must be BBA Members). The BBA provides a step-by-step lesson plan to all volunteers, as well as detailed information about the class you’ll be visiting. Ahead of the first session in May, volunteers are also invited to attend an optional training session to review the lesson plans and meet with two Boston Public School teachers.

Spots are filling quickly! Sign-up today to secure your volunteer slot. View all available slots and sign-up here.

Attorneys and law students with Spanish or Mandarin language skills are especially encouraged to sign-up.


#TBT | BBA Summer Jobs Student Spotlights

Each year, the BBA connects with outgoing Summer Job Students to hear how their experience in the program shaped future goals, helped to develop personal and professional skills, and what lessons were learned during this one-of-a-kind mentorship opportunity. With warm weather and the BBA Summer Jobs Program quickly approaching, let’s dive into the archives of the Summer Jobs Student Spotlights and revisit a few of the most memorable student recounts.

After walking down memory lane with us, consider hiring a student in your office this summer. If your firm or office is interested in participating, please contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected].

Relationship Building at Mintz – Vivian Tran – 2018

While Tran isn’t sure whether she wants to go to law school or pursue a career in a law firm, she picked up many administrative skills that are transferable to any office environment. Perhaps more importantly, Tran feels that she learned how to come out of her shell in a professional setting.

“Everyone talks about how important it is to develop relationships, so I’ve tried to really overcome being shy. Compared to when I started, meeting people is much less awkward,” she said.

#tbt to 2002 when these interns were eagerly awaiting the release of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in theaters that fall

Personalities Shine Through at Nelson Mullins – Lily Doyle – 2017

Working at a law firm helped to prepare her for future office experiences.

“I got a sense of a nine-to-five job for the first time. This is also my first job where I am the only person my age,” she said.

Doyle says she could see herself becoming a litigator in the future, because she finds litigation to be the most fascinating aspect of practicing law. She also enjoyed learning more about city government during the BBA’s mock city council hearing, which the students participated in by debating a fictional city ordinance.

“Working here was different than I expected. From the outside, law firms can seem bureaucratic and not as personal, but I saw the attorneys laugh with each other a lot and everyone seems very close. I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn more about the people,” she said.

“A Foot in the Door” Peabody & Arnold Summer Jobs Student Shares Her Experience – Alicia Zhang – 2016

Alicia said she has fun working with the legal secretaries because she enjoys learning more about cases, especially trials, by reading the notes. The area of law to which she has had the most exposure to so far – insurance law – is not where she wants to focus in her own career, but Alicia said she has enjoyed getting to see the workings of the firm from a variety of perspectives.

“I like how I get to work for a lot of different departments, like human resources and accounting,” she said. “I definitely feel more comfortable than when I started with talking to people and asking what I can do to help.”

#tbt to when the BBA’s Conference Center sported floor length curtains and Michael Phelps won 6 gold medals at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics

The International Experience at DLA Piper – Hermuna Taib – 2015

Hermuna may not know yet what type of law she’d want to focus on if she continues on to law school, but she has no shortage of opportunities to learn at DLA Piper, including seminars and training programs with different firm attorneys coming up. “I know a lot more than I did my first day here, and I’m so glad I’m working here and know all of these great people,” Hermuna said with a smile. “If I decide to go to law school and already know all of this legal knowledge, it could really help me. It’s been a great opportunity for me.”

A Different Type of Law at LPL Financial – Erik Solis – 2014

Erik says he was previously interested in law and criminal justice, and wanted to learn more about how lawyers practiced in a company like LPL Financial. “The most interesting part is seeing myself grow and getting a new perspective. It’s different from a normal law firm – what I do has a financial basis, and I’m not working with specific cases. I wanted to explore this side of the law because I’d never thought about it before.”

#tbt to blue BBA banners and Wicked opening on Broadway in 2003

Straight from the Students: David Lozano Shares His Summer Experience at Graduation Ceremony – 2013

“Thanks to the Boston Bar Association and Nixon Peabody, and all the amazing, dedicated people I met there from the mail rooms to the corner offices, I’m going into my senior year with skills that some only acquire after college, experience that is usual for second-year law students, and I’m very grateful for that chance. I sincerely hope that this program can continue and keep giving kids like me and all my fellow students in the audience this kind of chance to make money, learn, and excel.”

VLP Announces January – March Lawyer for the Day in the Housing Court Honor Roll

The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association* thanks the following attorneys who accepted cases or provided consultation in January, February, and March through Lawyer for the Day at the Eastern Housing Court:

Dustin Baker
Rachel Bier
James Bor-Zale
Kathleen Conley
Kenneth Corson
Seth Davis
Meghan Fay
Matt Feuerman
Alyssa Fixsen
Tess Foley
Soren Gabrielsen
Andres Garron
Steven Garza
Mindy Green
Cecilie Gromada
Shayla Harlev
Anna Hunanyan
Kathryn Johnson
Sharon V. Jones
Kim Karon
Monica Kwok
Madeleine Laupheimer
Chelsea Lawson
Gregory Malloy
Louis Mattei
Colin McKee
Kyle Merrigan
Marc Migliazzo
Madelyn Morris
Ravenna Neville
Vanessa A. O’Connor
Amy Pearlman
Gary Prado
Julia Prochazka
Stephen Provazza
Jacob Rauer
Joel M. Reck
Evan Tallmadge
Brenna Toomey
Marty Topol
Natasha Vedananda
Susan Wang
Emily Willey

*The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association is a 2018 Boston Bar Foundation grant recipient.


If you’re interested in becoming involved with the Lawyer for the Day Program, attend an upcoming training at the Boston Bar Association. Attorneys from Volunteer Lawyers Project will guide attendees through trying a case in housing court on Wednesday, April 17th from 2:30 – 5:00 PM. Read more information about the event and register to attend here.

A Morning with Lawyer for the Day at the Housing Court

Guest Post: Elena Kuran is the current Lawyer Referral Service Intern at the Boston Bar Association. Elena is a third-year International Affairs major at Northeastern University.

On any given Thursday, the fifth floor of the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse is crowded before most people even begin their workday. Landlords, tenants, and attorneys representing both groups drift in and out of Courtroom 10, filling out paperwork, trying to quiet children, and navigating the sprawling Courthouse.

At the center of the Housing Court’s activity are the Lawyer for the Day clinic tables, organized by organizations including Volunteer Lawyers Project, Greater Boston Legal Services, Harvard Law School, and New England School of Law. Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) organizes and trains volunteer attorneys who provide pro bono services each week. The volunteers represent firms ranging from boutique to some of the largest in Boston.

The volunteer lawyers provide legal advice and strategy, help fill out forms, provide referrals to service agencies, and on occasion, represent pro se defendants. These attorneys help fill a critical gap: roughly 95% of tenants in Housing Court are without counsel. A majority of advised clients choose mediation over going straight to a bench trial and leave Courtroom 10 to meet with their landlord’s attorney a few floors below.

After observing the volunteer lawyers interact with the pro se defendants, it was clear to me that they also serve a less direct but equally important role: to send a message to those tenants facing eviction that they have someone who will vouch for them, who cares about the outcome of their case, who is sympathetic to the fact that the system has let them slip through the cracks.

At the same time, it was also easy to see that the volunteers are well versed in speaking with the attorneys representing the landlords who are handing out the eviction notices. In one instance, an attorney representing a management company expressed regret that he was helping to evict a young, single mother. The volunteer attorney suggested he take a more sympathetic approach, and give the tenant an extra month to find a new apartment.

These volunteer attorneys help to remedy injustices which are the result of a long history of structural oppression and marginalization of communities of color in particular. The affordable housing crisis in Boston is exacerbated by expanding academic institutions and an increasing population of short-term renters. Secure housing is a right, and to guarantee it for all will require major governmental intervention. In the meantime, the donated time and expert advice of volunteer attorneys ensure a better outcome for tenants who would otherwise have no one on their side.


If you’re interested in becoming involved with the Lawyer for the Day Program, attend an upcoming training at the Boston Bar Association. Attorneys from Volunteer Lawyers Project will guide attendees through trying a case in housing court on Wednesday, April 17th from 2:30 – 5:00 PM. Read more information about the event and register to attend here.

BBA Hosts Panel on New Human Trafficking Vacatur Law

Guest Post: Elena Kuran is the current Lawyer Referral Service Intern at the Boston Bar Association. Elena is a third-year International Affairs major at Northeastern University.

Last week, the BBA hosted “Post-Conviction Relief for Survivors of Human Trafficking: Overview of New Massachusetts Law.” The discussion was led by Lavinia Weizel (Mintz, Associate), Alec Zadek (Mintz, Member), Julie Dahlstrom (Boston University Law School, Clinical Associate Professor of Law), Deanna Tamborelli (Boston University Law School, Student), and Chelsea Tejada (Boston University Law School, Student).

The panel began by contextualizing the new Massachusetts law that assists survivors of human trafficking by streamlining the process of vacating convictions. Massachusetts is one of forty states that has vacatur laws for adult survivors of sex trafficking. Prior to the new law, vacating a conviction under Massachusetts Rule of Criminal Procedure 30(b) was a complex process that demanded the survivor to provide an affidavit, a requirement that was identified as taking a significant toll on the survivor’s mental wellbeing.

The new law, which was passed as part of “An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform” in 2018, mitigates the complexities and emotional tolls of Massachusetts Rule of Criminal Procedure 30(b). The streamlined process, while does not require an affidavit, requires a burden of proof. The survivor has the burden to establish a “reasonable probability” that their participation in the offense was “a result” of their having been a victim of human trafficking. Exceptions are made in cases in which the survivor was a minor during the time of the offense, or the survivor can provide official documentation of their status as a victim of human trafficking at the time of the offense.

A motion may be heard by any sitting justice of a court of competent jurisdiction. A conviction vacated under the new law is deemed to have been vacated “on the merits.” The new law helps survivors by remedying past injustice, empowering them to access opportunities, and providing them a means to reclaim their experience.

As of now, the new law remains untested. For potential cases in Massachusetts, the panel encouraged referrals to be made to the Boston University Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights and Human Trafficking Program at 617-353-0993. For convictions outside of Massachusetts, the ABA Survivor Reentry Project serves as a good resource, as it conducts intake on an ongoing basis.

Boston Bar Leads Groundbreaking Collaboration to Provide Public Outreach for Students’ Rights

The Boston Bar Association (BBA) today announced a new collaboration with Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) to provide a series of presentations designed to increase awareness about students’ rights, following a recent class action settlement agreement. This new project is the first of its kind and establishes a new collaboration model for a bar association, the private bar, and the legal services community.

The program will feature presentations given by BBA members currently enrolled in its Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) to a series of community groups, including community centers, health service organizations, and parent and student groups. The program is part of the BBA’s larger Service Innovation Project, designed to advance efforts to dismantle the cradle-to-prison pipeline in Massachusetts. The cradle-to-prison pipeline is a mechanism by which social and economic disparities contribute to a “pipeline” where children of color, children with disabilities, and children from low-income families are disproportionately funneled into the system of mass incarceration. The BBA’s project focuses on the educational system’s role in the pipeline.

“We are thrilled by this partnership with the BBA to spread the word of this new settlement agreement,” said Elizabeth McIntyre, Staff Attorney and Director of the School to Prison Pipeline Intervention Project at GBLS. “It is absolutely critical that the families most affected by this settlement are able to use it as a tool as they continue to fight for their schools.”

“This project gives our class the opportunity to create meaningful change in our communities and demonstrate the value that lawyers can bring in jumpstarting social change,” said Jared Shwartz, a current member of PILP and an associate at Hinckley Allen. “An education can open so many doors; dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline ensures that we do not unduly disadvantage a segment of our community that needs access to these types of opportunities.”

The settlement stems from a complaint, filed against Boston Public Schools by GBLS, which asserted that the school system had unlawfully suspended three minor clients of GBLS. Boston Public Schools has committed to several changes that aim to end unlawful student suspensions, decrease overall suspensions, and foster powerful, compassionate learning communities.

PILP participant Lavinia Weizel, associate at Mintz, said, “Working on a project to help dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline in Massachusetts seemed like a great fit for our PILP class this year. As a group, we were eager to participate in a project that would enable us to connect with the broader community and contribute to tackling important legal and social issues. Our work in this initiative has been a great learning experience.”

The presentations are expected to begin next month. Learn more about the BBA here and GBLS here.

The Service Innovation Project is made possible by the Burnes Innovation in Service Fund of the Boston Bar Foundation.