Posts Tagged: Volunteers

Mass Lawyers Weekly Article on MUPC Highlights Need for Continued Help from Trusts and Estates Bar

An August 27th article in Lawyers Weekly, “Bar, court still adjusting to probate code overhaul,” (subscription required) highlights the challenges that the probate courts, the trusts and estates bar and the community have faced as the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code (MUPC) has been implemented during the last five months.  The article emphasizes the court’s efforts to adapt to the new law while being constrained by a hiring freeze.  Despite being understaffed, the court has gone to great lengths to provide information about the new law to the public and the bar, including making a procedural guide, forms, checklists, training materials and practice tips available on its website.

In turn, the trusts and estates bar, led by the Boston Bar Association and the Massachusetts Bar Association, has made significant contributions of time and expertise to help ease the transition to the MUPC.  Well before the MUPC took effect, the BBA, MBA and the court collaborated on ways to assist practitioners, pro se litigants and court staff in understanding the new law.  In addition to sponsoring numerous CLE programs on the new law, they spearheaded an effort to establish MUPC resource desks staffed by bar association volunteers.  These resource desks have been set up in the probate registries in seven counties across the state and are typically in session for two to four hours each week.

The resource desks have allowed trusts and estates practitioners to supplement the court’s efforts by providing input and guidance on MUPC related questions posed by lawyer and non-lawyer visitors to the probate registries.  Resource desk volunteers have also helped open a dialogue between the court staff and the bar, discussing issues and questions that have arisen for both groups during the first months that the MUPC has been in effect.  To date, 49 volunteer lawyers have assisted 166 people, including at least 44 attorneys, 71 pro se litigants, and 28 court staff.

The MUPC resource desks will be in place at least through the end of October and are in need of volunteers.  If you are interested in volunteering a few hours of your time to help the court and the bar through what continues to be a challenging time, please contact Peter Shapland ([email protected]) or Cameron Casey ([email protected]) for more information about the program.

Cameron Casey is an Associate at Ropes & Gray LLP. Cameron is a member of the Boston Bar Association’s Trusts and Estates Section Steering Committee and currently serves as co-chair of the Section’s Public Service Committee.

Bidding Farewell to the 2012 Summer Jobs Program

As the warm and bright summer days are slowly turning into longer autumn months, the BBA’s Summer Jobs Program has come to an end.  The Summer Jobs Program is a diversity and inclusion pipeline program with the goal of introducing Boston Public School students to the law and the legal profession.  During the 8 week employment program the students also participated in an enrichment component.   Students chosen for the Program are motivated and high-achieving students with their eyes set on college and hopefully, after participating in this Program, the legal profession.   Last Thursday, Holland & Knight generously opened their doors to our 55 Summer Jobs students, their family members and firm sponsors for our annual Graduation Ceremony.   It was a packed house – as speakers including keynote, Steven Wright, Executive Partner of Holland & Knight, BBA President, Lisa Goodheart and BBA President Elect, J.D. Smeallie help bid farewell to an impressive class of students.

 
In his keynote remarks, Mr. Wright urged the students to think about the “5 Rs – respect, resilience, resourcefulness, responsibility and the ability to take risks” as guiding principles for both their academic and professional careers.  His thoughtful advice encouraged the students to “develop a stakeholder’s group – the group of people that will help guide you through your career.” The keynote address was particularly significant for our students as they stand at the threshold of their young careers.

 

 
 In addition, two students, Stephane Alexandre, a student at Boston Latin Academy and an intern at Prince Lobel Tye and Raymond Cen, a student at Boston Latin School and an intern at Nixon Peabody shared their experiences in the Program.  Stephane said that during her internship she worked “alongside clerks, paralegals, and lawyers” and her duties included “informing the clients of the status of their cases and files.”  She also noted that she “had the opportunity to learn about affidavits and depositions, as well as the importance of time management, which is required to succeed in life.”

 
 Raymond spoke of establishing a strong working relationship with many employees at Nixon, including former Boston City Council President and Boston Latin School alum, Larry DiCara. He noted that “now, every time Larry sees me, he exclaims a Latin saying – ‘ad astra per aspera’ – to the stars through difficulties.”  Raymond said that “working at Nixon Peabody has given me a new perspective on the legal world. I consider my internship at Nixon Peabody one of the great experiences of my life and will truly miss working with the amazing people I have met.”

 
The Boston Bar Association would like to thank the following firms for their support of the Summer Jobs Program.  Without you, this Program and the opportunities it affords our students would not be possible.

Anderson & Kreiger LLP
Bingham McCutchen LLP
Boston Bar Association*
Burns & Levinson LLP*
Choate Hall & Stewart LLP
Chu, Ring & Hazel LLP
Collora LLP
Committee for Public Counsel Services*†
Cooley LLP
DLA Piper LLP- Boston Office
Donnelly, Conroy & Gelhaar, LLP
Donovan Hatem, LLP
Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP*
Ferriter Scobbo & Rodophele PC
Foley Hoag LLP
Goodwin Procter LLP
Hemenway & Barnes LLP
Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP
Holland & Knight, LLP
Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services†
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute†
Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo PC
Morrison Mahoney LLP
Nixon Peabody LLP
Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP
Office of the Corporation Counsel City of Boston*
Peabody & Arnold LLP
Pierce Atwood, LLP
Prince Lobel Tye LLP
Proskauer Rose LLP
Ropes & Gray LLP*
Shaevel and Krems
Sherin and Lodgen LLP
Shilepsky Hartley Robb Casey Michon LLP
Sovereign Bank
Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office*†
Suffolk University Law
Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, PC
Sunstein Kann Murphy & Timbers LLP
Todd & Weld LLP
United States Bankruptcy Court†
Verrill Dana LLP
Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association *†
Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, PC

*Hiring more than one student
† Position funded the by Boston Bar Foundation

We would also like to thank the volunteers that led the weekly enrichment seminars over the course of this summer. You have helped to broaden the experiences of our students.

Warren Agin, Swiggart & Agin, LLC
Hon. Peter Agnes, Massachusetts Appeals Court
Hon. Frank Bailey, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Barbara Berenson, Supreme Judicial Court
Janet Bostwick, Janet E. Bostwick, PC
Jeanne Darcey, Sullivan & Worcester LLP
Lawrence DiCara, Nixon Peabody LLP
Hon. Joan Feeney, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
John Fitzgerald, Office of the U.S. Trustee
William Harrington, Office of the U.S. Trustee
Kathleen Henry, Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation
Donald Lassman, Law Office of Donald R. Lassman
John Loughnane, Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC
Ben Loveland, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
David Mawhinney, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Stacie McHale, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
John Morrier, Casner & Edwards, LLP
Vanessa Peck, Goulston & Storrs – A Professional Corporation
Kathleen Rahbany, Craig and Macauley Professional Corporation
Diane Rallis, Holland & Knight, LLP
Emmanuelle Renelique, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Lynne Riley, Riley Law Group
Jeffrey Sternklar , Duane Morris LLP
Jillian Vorce, The Jillian Group

Giving Back on a Board

It’s that time of year again. Although Boston is still reaching temperatures in the 80’s by the afternoon, there is no denying the slight coolness in the air these past few mornings. September has always been an exciting month for me, there are new classes to be taken, new friends to be made, and new extracurricular activities to be tried. It is a time to step out of your comfort zone and reinvent the person you can be this year.
 
This year I’ve had the pleasure of helping to organize the BBA’s annual, Charitable Boards Service event scheduled for September 14th. The event is an opportunity to discover how serving on a charitable board is a way to contribute to a worthy cause, gain experience, and use your skills to serve your community in an area of your personal interest. Specifically, attendees will learn how to find board membership opportunities, identify topics that board members should be aware of – such as fiduciary duties, fiscal oversight, and governance issues, and hear fellow attorneys discuss their own experiences serving on boards.

As a member of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy board, my own service has been an opportunity to expand my professional network and contribute to a personal interest of mine. I have been able to take on leadership roles and develop skills that I could never gain simply from practicing law.

Based on my personal experience I encourage all attorneys to serve on a charitable board. Board service can be valuable for any attorney, from the new attorney who is seeking substantive experience and the unemployed attorney who is hoping to expand existing networks to the soon-to-be retired attorney looking for the next challenge and the attorney taking a break from the practice of law who still wishes to sharpen those legal skills. Even the busy, well-established attorney can find a few hours here and there to contribute knowledge and expertise to a favorite cause.
 
So while I hope you enjoy these last few days of summer, I encourage you all to attend the Charitable Board Service event and consider offering your time and expertise to a worthy organization.

Jennifer R. Garcia
Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Mentors with Diverse Backgrounds

In preparation for the next program year, the BBA’s Diversity & Inclusion Section Group Mentoring Program is proud to announce the Mentors for the upcoming program year. Each Mentoring group has two Mentors who work together to provide their 6-10 mentees with a welcoming environment to learn, ask questions and seek advice.

Mentors are chosen not only for their racial and ethnic diversity, but also for their legal diversity. This year our Mentors are partners in law firms, in-house counsel, government attorneys, small business owners, solo practioners, legal services attorneys and bar leaders. Following different paths they were able to reach their current positions in both their profession and legal communities. Having access to these Mentors of this caliber is what makes the BBA Group Mentoring Program a continued success.

Take it from June Duchesne, current Mentoring Committee co-chair and former mentor: “Mentors can be critical to the success of new lawyers.  The mentors I had early in my career were invaluable in helping me navigate the ins and outs of our profession.  I am excited that our new class of incoming mentors, all respected and experienced attorneys with a lot of talent and knowledge to share, will be able to do the same for so many young lawyers in Boston.”

June Duchesne, Co-Chair

EMC Corporation

 

 

 

Richard Moore, Co-Chair

Planet Fitness

 

 

 

Lindy Aldrich

The Victim Rights Law Center, Inc.

 

 

 

Adam Foss

Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office

 

 

 

Christopher Kauders

Pre-Trial Solutions, Inc.

 

 

Jessica Massey

Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General

 

 

 

Richard Quinby

Craig and Macauley Professional Corporation

 

 

 

Mala Rafik

Rosenfeld Rafik & Sullivan, P.C

 

 

 

Randall Ravitz

Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General

 

 

 

Anita Sharma

PAIR Project

 

 

 

Laura Unflat

The Law Office of Laura M. Unflat

 

 

 

Thuy Wagner

Boston Medical Center-Office of the General Counsel

 

 

 

Charles Walker

Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure

 

 

 

For more information on the BBA’s Group Mentoring Program contact Susan Helm at [email protected].

BBA Volunteer Lawyers Train New Interns

Attorney Claudia Gregoire speaks to LRS staff and interns about immigration law.

The BBA Lawyer Referral Service is the largest public service program of the Boston Bar Association, dedicated to helping members of the public in need of assistance connect with attorneys.  Each year the LRS connects about 10,000 callers from a diverse client base to qualified attorneys who speak many languages and can serve clients with a variety of legal issues.  The BBA LRS is the only ABA-approved lawyer referral service in the greater Boston area.

In order to ensure that the BBA LRS is providing the public with the highest level of service, twice a year BBA attorneys volunteer their time to conduct training sessions for the LRS staff on a wide range of legal topics. These topics range from Criminal Law and Bankruptcy to legal aid resources available in greater Boston. The trainings help to make sure accurate referrals are being made so that the callers are reaching the help that they need.

Beyond the Billable wanted to find what the LRS staff learned by attending these training sessions.

Solana Goss

LRS Intake Coordinator


“Working on the telephones all day, I encounter legal situations from a diverse group of callers, so it is important that I find appropriate resources specific to their needs.  Learning which questions to ask, what documents callers may be referring to, and the basics of the law helps me to ensure the callers will be well-served by the BBA LRS.  More importantly however, the trainings reminded me to analyze the caller’s situation from their perspective.  They are calling us in a stressful and vulnerable time period, and are often using our service because they have never needed or spoke to an attorney before.  My role also requires me to be sympathetic and patient, especially when callers might be difficult to understand or communicate with, as these are the clients that often need our help the most. Participating in the trainings conducted by the volunteer attorneys reinforced the importance of what we do at the BBA LRS by increasing access to justice. I am able to do my job more effectively and refer callers to the most appropriate resources.”

Alison Kubas

Northeastern University Co-op Student 2012, Northeastern University Class of 2013

“It was clear that a main concern of each of the attorneys was that there be access to legal services for anyone who may be in need. This was reiterated with comments regarding the great service that was being provided to the public and how important it is that we at the Boston Bar Association continue giving quality assistance. In addition, the attorneys emphasized the importance of always remaining patient and kind to the callers because you never know what type of situation they are in. After this great advice and information, I can go into each call confidently and finish it feeling accomplished.”

The Boston Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service would like to thank the following attorneys who volunteered their time to conduct training sessions for the BBA’s new interns:

Roger Bertling (Law Offices of Roger Bertling) – Bankruptcy

Dan Biagiotti (Legal Advocacy & Resource Center) – LARC & Legal Services Overview

Vilas Dhar (Dhar Law, LLP) – Business Law & Consumer Law

Robin Gorenberg (Law Office of Robin Gorenberg) – Trusts & Estate Planning

Claudia Gregoire (George J. West & Associates) – Immigration Law
 
William Korman (Korman & Associates, LLC) – Criminal Law

William McLeod (United States Bankruptcy Court) – Bankruptcy

Chik Mone (Pierce, Davis & Perritano, LLP) – Torts

Staci Rubin (Alternatives for Community & Environment) – Environmental Law

Dino Santangelo (Law Office of Dino R. Santangelo) – Public Benefits & Health Law

Ryan Sullivan (Sullivan Legal) – Real Estate & Landlord/Tenant Law

Francis Teague (Frank J. Teague & Associates ) – Employment Law

Laura Unflat (The Law Office of Laura M. Unflat) – Family Law

If you are interested in joining the BBA Lawyer Referral Service, or becoming involved in training sessions in the future, please contact Solana Goss, the LRS Intake Coordinator, at [email protected].

To reach the BBA Lawyer Referral Service please call (617)742 0625 or (800)552-7046 Monday through Thursday, 8:30 am to 5:30 pm; Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. You can also email us at [email protected] or visit us on the web at www.bostonbarlawyer.org.

A Yellow Ribbon Reflection

A few weeks ago I volunteered at a Post Deployment Yellow Ribbon Event organized by the Massachusetts National Guard. These are events organized by the military to support servicemen and servicewomen preparing for or returning from deployment. The BBA Active Duty Military, Family Members & Veterans Committee attends Yellow Ribbon events to provide brief legal advice and legal resources. As the Public Service Manager at the Boston Bar Association, I had heard a lot about this project, but had yet to experience it.

It was a rainy day in May and I was running a few minutes late. As I pulled up to the Burlington Marriott I was amazed by the sheer number of military personnel in full fatigue. As I searched for the other volunteers, I zigzagged my way through a crowd consisting mostly of men who towered over me. I have no previous experience with the military, I have no friends or family who have ever served, and to say I was intimidated is an understatement.

While one volunteer manned our table, I was sent with a Retired Colonel and the other volunteer to a small board room to talk one on one with returning soldiers about their legal issues. I fielded the family law questions since that is the area of law I used to practice.

For over two hours I spoke to men who needed help and advice on their family law issues. One soldier I spoke with had his 6 year old son with him. He wanted to discuss filing for divorce; his wife had left him and the children while he was deployed. The soldier reassured his son and encouraged him to sit at the table and draw while he talked with me. As soon as the father walked away, the son ran after him and climbed into his lap.  It was obvious how much this little boy was hurting. His father left on deployment and is back but then his mother left and he had to move out of his home. I was able to provide the father with some basic information and hopefully provide him with some guidance.

In those few moments with this father and son, the sacrifices these men and women are making and the toll it is taking on their families became so clear. I heard story after story that day that broke my heart.

Volunteering at the Yellow Ribbon Event was fully outside of my comfort zone. It was a new population I had never worked with coming back from an experience I had no connection to. Although I wasn’t able to solve these men’s problems, the help I was able to provide was more than they had before walking through that door. This was an experience I will never forget, and I will definitely volunteer for another Yellow Ribbon Event.

If you are interested in learning more about Yellow Ribbon Events or any of our other programs, please contact me at [email protected].

Sonia Shah

Public Service Manager, Boston Bar Association

Sonia Shah,
BBA Public Service Manager

MUPC Resource Desk Eases Court Transition

In April 2012, the much anticipated Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code (MUPC) went into effect. The new law dramatically changed the landscape of trust and estate work in the Commonwealth. The BBA Trust & Estates Section, along with the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Probate and Family Court have worked tirelessly to create a smooth transition for practitioners, the courts and pro se litigants.

Working in partnership – a multifaceted approach was designed with the input of Chief Justice Paula M. Carey and her staff. The centerpiece of the program is the MUPC Resource Desk. Eight desks, being staffed once or twice a week have been set up across the state in various Probate & Family Courts Registries. Since April, 49 attorneys have volunteered at the Resource Desks. They have assisted 154 individuals including other attorneys, court staff and members of the community by answering questions about the MUPC.  The Section also chose to use the BBA Trusts & Estates Section blog to highlight particular aspects of the new law and respond to questions lawyers may pose.

 Beyond the Billable reached out to two volunteers to find out what it means to volunteer at a Resource Desk.

Peter Shapland, Co-Chair of the BBA Trusts & Estates Section Public Service Committee, Day Pitney LLP

I volunteer at the MUPC Resource Desk for at least two important reasons.  First, it provides me an opportunity to offer some of my time and knowledge as a public service, to both the Probate Courts and persons of limited means using the Courts.  Second, it gives me the opportunity to represent the BBA, confirming its own focus on public service. 

The MUPC represents the most significant single statutory change in the history of the Massachusetts Probate Courts, and that change has come at a time of limited resources for the Courts.  The Resource Desk offers some assistance to the Court staff, and to the public, in adapting to the new rules brought by the MUPC. 

Allison Cleveland, Day Pitney LLP

Volunteering allows me to do service (which all lawyers should do!), but in this particular area, it benefits me in a more tangible way as well.  Each time I’ve volunteered, I’ve encountered questions that prompted me to learn more about the new law, keep my own skills sharp, and determine how the courts will be handling numerous issues under the MUPC. It’s a win-win situation!

The courts are struggling with staff cuts, reduced hours and minimal budgets.  The new law, although an improvement, adds to their burden.  To the extent that lawyers who have been trained on the MUPC can help, everyone will benefit. 

If you are interested in learning more about the MUPC Resource Desk or would like to volunteer, please contact Stephanie Lee, Public Service Programs Coordinator at [email protected].

BBA Connects with Boston’s Young Leaders

Lisa Goodheart, President of the BBA with Mayor Thomas M. Menino at the 2012 Mayor’s Youth Council Reception at Northeastern University.

Beyond the Billable recently attended a reception at Mayor Menino’s 2012 reception for the Mayor’s Youth Council (MYC). Over the years the BBA has provided mentors for this initiative, and we chatted with two of them to find out how they feel about donating their time to the MYC.  Here’s what we learned.

The BBA first became involved in what would become the Mayor’s Youth Council in 1990 through its predecessor, the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Corps.  The Corps represented a public-private partnership among the City of Boston, the BBA and Northeastern University.  The aim of the program was multifold – to show Boston youth how the city and its’ many institutions worked, to develop leadership, encourage community service and promote personal growth in today’s young people.  The foundations of the MYC reside firmly in roots of the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Corps.

Since 1994, the BBA has been proud to provide the MYC with lawyer-mentors. In addition to attending bi-monthly meetings at Boston City Hall, the mentors guide students through their program goals and help develop their skills in a variety of different capacities – including executing and leading meetings.  Here at Beyond the Billable, we wanted to find out from our mentors what it means to give their time to the MYC.

Edmund J. Gorman, Law Office of Edmund J. Gorman

Tonight, I begin my 8th year as a BBA mentor for the MYC.  I     participate because I support the BBA’s focus on helping Boston’s kids.  Also, I like to think that my service honors the men and women who mentored me at a time when a professional career was anything but a certainty.

Our role as BBA mentors has numerous facets.  Each year, the MYC representatives identify an issue or two that are important to their lives as teenagers. e.g., school nutrition, public safety and violence prevention, civility on the “T,” substance abuse, summer jobs, and after-school programs. With the help of the Mayor’s staff, the kids then design a program to learn more about the issues and to share what they’ve learned by “outreach” to their peers at schools, neighborhood libraries, and recreation centers. The mentors assist the MYC’s planning by steering the discussions to focus on the specific issue and goal.  Sometimes, we ask questions to generate more thinking and discussion while at other times we try to answer questions, especially when the roles of law and government are pertinent.

Occasionally, we share an anecdote to illustrate a point.  For example, a few kids scoffed at the notion of teens taking a minimum wage or no-pay summer job.  I explained that I began working at 16 years old for $1.60 per hour.  That employer is now a major client and I believe I was selected as its counsel in part because I had swept the floors. I also related how I volunteered many after-school hours working on a recycling program for my hometown, which in turn was the seed for a lifelong interest and career in environmental law.  They now understand that our journeys begin with small steps.

Neil Austin, Foley Hoag LLP

I participate in Mayor’s Youth Council as a means to engage publicly with Boston-area high school students (a portion of the city’s population with which I would otherwise have little interaction) and to be a resource to those students as they embark upon their college years and begin to think about what they want to do with their lives.

The Mayor’s Youth Council has a lot in common with the BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program.  It is a year-long program made up of members selected after a competitive application process.  The key goals of Mayor’s Youth Council are to foster leadership among its members and to serve as a vehicle for outreach to the larger community of high school students in Boston.  In addition to attending regular meetings, MYC members are involved in planning and carrying out a limited number of projects through the year (for example, this year, the Council conducted a resume workshop).

Being a mentor is a rewarding and low-stress activity that involves attending the bi-monthly Council meetings at City Hall and facilitating debate and discussion among Council members regarding issues affecting youth in the City of Boston.  Outside of regularly-scheduled meetings, mentors are often involved in facilitating the Council’s special projects.  This year, I attended the resume-writing workshop with another BBA volunteer and provided tips and feedback to high school students preparing resumes for summer jobs and college admissions. 

The MYC consists of 36 students selected to represent their neighborhoods as volunteers on this citywide board.  Many of these young leaders are selected to participate in the BBA Summer Jobs Program. Each class of the Council establishes an annual program agenda and works to meet these goals throughout the year.  The 2011-2012 MYC class focused on issues of education, health, youth development, neighborhood safety, environment and communications.  They held meetings with community leaders including the Executive Director of the Boston Youth Fund to discuss Boston’s teen job strategy and a representative from the Boston Police Department to address concerns regarding healthy and positive youth and police partnerships.

Public Interest Leader Supports Law Day Program

PILP member Emily Hodge speaking to a third grade class at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School

Walking into the Josiah Quincy Elementary School in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood, a visitor is struck by the sheer amount of colors in the building.  The hallways are awash in a bright and cheerful orange.  Student drawings and elaborate crafts hang from the walls.  Green plants line the window sill as a reminder of yesterday’s science lesson.  There is no shortage of evidence that the Quincy School is an active and lively institution. 

Emily and the students discuss the concept of “justice.”

This week, the students and educators of the Quincy School and other Boston Public Schools opened their doors to BBA lawyer-volunteers for the Law Day in the Schools program.  The program is a Boston Bar Foundation-funded public service initiative that began in 1986 – to introduce legal concepts and ideals to students.  Guided by the theme, “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom,” students participated in a mock trial designed to focus on due process and ensuring access to the justice system.  With the assistance of volunteers, the students assumed the roles of the victim, the accused, law enforcement, prosecutor and defense counsel.

Students listen attentively as Emily speaks about the justice system in America

Beyond the Billable caught up with Emily F. Hodge, an associate with Choate Hall & Stewart and member of the BBA’s new Public Interest Leadership Program (class of 2012-2013) to find out what it was like.  Emily shared her thoughts on the students, how the exercise engaged the class and why she donated her time to the program. 

I arrived at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School for a Law Day class with Ms. Yang’s third grade class, and was escorted to the classroom by two bright and bubbly girls who had a lot of questions about being a lawyer.  One said she wanted to be a lawyer when she grew up – and also a fashion designer and a dentist.  When I arrived in the classroom there was a lot of activity and energy.  We began our Law Day discussion talking about what a lawyer or attorney is, and what they do.  Almost all of the students knew what a lawyer was, some knew a few lawyers personally, and a couple of the students were sure they wanted to become lawyers when they grow up.  We talked about what “justice” means, and the students offered up the following adjectives: fair, equal, liberty.  Every student was engaged and enthusiastic.  I encouraged the students to think about why we have a justice system, and about the role that lawyers might play in that system.  The students offered up great ideas and were clearly thinking hard about the justice system and the role of lawyers. 

We turned to the fact pattern, and reviewed it together as a group.  The students were buzzing with comments about whether Tomika really could have taken Maria’s book bag.  Most students seemed to think Tomika was innocent, but others noted, “what about the fact that her locker was locked with the bag inside?”  We split into groups, and everyone had a lot to say about their roles – some were excited, and others found it hard to think about the case from a point of view they didn’t agree with.  Each of the groups had energetic discussions about what their arguments would be, and every one of the group representatives made compelling arguments.  It was incredible to watch the students argue their positions – one, who played Tomika, adamantly asserted that Maria had accused her simply because her brother was in jail and the girls were no longer friends, which was “just not fair.”  Another stepped up without any notes and delivered the position of the police officer in a clear and confident voice, asserting that the bag was found in Tomika’s locked locker, so it made sense to accuse her.  Some students thought very creatively about the case and really worked to make the best arguments they could for their positions.   The defendant and her counsel each decided that the true explanation for the theft of Maria’s backpack was that Katie, the accuser, had framed Tomika – that Katie had watched Tomika enter the combination to her locker and gone back later to put Maria’s bag inside!

 Participating in Law Day was a great way to step outside the daily practice of law and take part in educating young students about the role that the law, justice and lawyers might play in their own lives.  Each of the students seemed to think hard about what it might mean to participate in a case like this one, and how important it was to have a process and a system in place to ensure that every voice was heard.  Listening to the students’ thoughts about justice and our legal system was fascinating, and it was rewarding and inspiring to see how energized the students were about vigorously defending each of their positions.

A Snapshot of the Boston Public Schools:

 

 The Numbers:

The BPS consists of 125 schools

57,000 students are enrolled in the BPS

78% of BPS students are eligible to receive free and reduced-priced meals in school

53% of students are eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

43% of students speak a language other than English as their first language

BPS students come from more than 110 countries and speak 77 different languages

Unwavering Dedication

Housing Court

Joanna Allison Staff Attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project and Chris Saccardi, Law Office of Christopher T. Saccardi. (Photo Credit Eric Fullerton)

When you arrive at the Boston Bar Association Housing Court Lawyer for the Day (“Housing Court”) on Thursday, one thing you can be sure of is that Attorney Chris Saccardi will be there. Since 2009, Chris has donated his time every Thursday to assist unrepresented landlords and tenants on Eviction Day. As he gained more experience and knowledge, he began to take pro bono cases for full representation and eventually focused his private practice in the area of landlord/tenant law. Chris’ consistent presence has led to him being the go-to private attorney for recruiting and supervising other attorneys in the project.

We reached out to Chris to find out — why he donates his time to this Program, what some of his most meaningful memories are as a volunteer and asked him to share any tips for new volunteers.

Why does he give his time?

A significant majority of the people we assist are low-income or disabled, frequently don’t speak English as their first language, and are often unable to afford counsel. They typically face a landlord represented by an experienced attorney and the stakes could not be higher – the potential loss of their home or their rent subsidy. I think that it is very important to try to level this playing field and I have found that a little bit of legal advice can make a big difference. I also enjoy meeting and working with a wide variety of attorneys from various types of practices. I have made a lot of lasting friendships that have been important to me both personally and professionally. Finally, I have learned a tremendous amount both by taking on challenging cases and by asking questions of more experienced attorneys. This knowledge has been immensely helpful to me in my own practice.

Chris’ most memorable experiences as a volunteer:

I have found my pro bono work at the Housing court extremely gratifying. I helped a woman with an extremely sick child stay in her apartment by explaining to the landlord that the reason for her missed rent payments was her preoccupation with the health of her daughter. By arranging for a payment plan and actively monitoring her progress, I was able to get her back on track and concentrate on supporting her daughter.

In another instance, I spoke with an elderly tenant early in the day and was able to intercept the opposing counsel before she requested a hearing in front of a judge, which would have likely not gone well for the tenant. Instead, we were able to work out a simple repayment agreement that satisfied both parties. The tenant was so happy that she actually grabbed me and gave me a hug after the agreement had been signed.

In another case, I spoke with a tenant who I quickly came to understand had exhausted her legal options and was likely to be evicted. I sat down with her and listened to her story and gave her some advice about options for requesting a bit more time from the judge before her inevitable move-out date. When we were finished speaking, I expected her to be depressed by the disheartening news I had just given her. Instead she gave me a big smile and thanked me for my time, saying that this had been the first time someone had actually sat down and took the time to listen to her. I continue to be amazed at how much of a difference a little advice or a few kind words can make to many of the litigants I speak to at the Housing Court.

 Chris’ advice to a new volunteer:

I would encourage them to participate! If they do, I suggest that they try to take as active a role as possible. While it may take a few sessions for new volunteers to start to feel knowledgeable, I suggest that they start talking to clients as soon as they can. There are always more experienced attorneys available to assist should a new attorney run into an issue with which they are not familiar. I suggest shadowing a more experienced attorney and attending a mediation, which is a great way to learn about the substantive housing issues in a typical case and to see first-hand how the procedures of the Housing Court play out.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, the Volunteer Lawyers Project in partnership with the Real Estate section of the Boston Bar Association will be having a training on “Trying a case in Boston Housing Court.” The esteemed panel includes the Honorable Jeffrey Winik, First Justice of the Boston Housing Court, Stefanie Balandis, Greater Boston Legal Services, Joanna Allison, Volunteer Lawyers Project and, of course, Chris Saccardi, the Law Office of Christopher T. Saccardi.

*There is no fee for this program, but we ask that attendees put their new skills to work by taking on a pro bono case through the Volunteer Lawyers Project.

To register for this training, please click here.

The Lawyer for the Day in Boston Housing Court is supported by the Herbert W. Vaughan Fund of the Boston Bar Foundation.