Category Archives: Pro Bono

Working to Address Employment Issues in Nonprofits

Nonprofit employers gathered at 16 Beacon to learn about the new Employment Law Pro Bono Project, a partnership between Lawyers Clearinghouse and the BBA's Labor & Employment section.

Nonprofit employers gathered at 16 Beacon to learn about the new Employment Law Pro Bono Project, a partnership between Lawyers Clearinghouse and the BBA’s Labor & Employment section.

 Nonprofit employers gathered at 16 Beacon to learn about the new Employment Law Pro Bono Project, a partnership between Lawyers Clearinghouse and the BBA’s Labor & Employment section.

The BBA’s Labor & Employment Section has teamed up with BBF Grantee Lawyers Clearinghouse to help nonprofits address employment issues. The “Employment Law Pro Bono Project” will help provide cash strapped nonprofits with legal assistance on essential employment law issues, including:

  • Compliance
  •  Wage and Hour Law
  •  Wage Payment
  •  Personnel Policy Development
  •  ADA Awareness

This new partnership seeks to address both the increasing need for such services by nonprofits and the lack of pro bono opportunities for employment lawyers by matching the two together.

We caught up with Labor & Employment Section Co-Chair Mark Burak (Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak, & Stewart, P.C.), to get a little more background on the origins of the program. Here’s what he had to say:

Burak, Mark“The primary drivers for the initiative was: (a) the glaring need non-profits have for legal assistance in compliance with employment laws and (b) the lack of opportunity for many management-side lawyers to engage in pro bono work (as they are often limited by firm policies that do not allow representation of employee side clients, pro bono or otherwise).  The BBA L&E committee saw a real opportunity to assist smaller non-profits while providing a great outlet for pro bono work for both management and employee side lawyers.”

We’re excited to report this new development and will be updating you with more information and specifics as the program gets underway. In the meantime, kudos to the BBA’s Labor & Employment Section and Lawyers Clearinghouse for spearheading this important initiative.

Celebrating Boston’s Strength at Law Day Dinner– Honoring Marathon Assistance Project Volunteers

Panelists Deborah Allen, Boston Public Health Commission, Emily Armstrong, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center,  and William Francis Sinnott, Former Corporation Counsel for the City of Boston, discussed about how marathon preparation enabled the City to respond quickly to the unexpected events of April 15th and reaching out to the community has helped get people the medical and legal help they need

Panelists Deborah Allen, Boston Public Health Commission, Emily Armstrong, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Bill Sinnott, Former Corporation Counsel for the City of Boston, discussed how the marathon preparation enabled the City to respond quickly to the unexpected events of April 15th.

As many of our members know, the BBA is hard at work preparing for the largest bench bar event in Massachusetts, Law Day Dinner 2014, which will take place on May 12th at the Boston Convention Center. While a keynote speech from Mayor Marty Walsh will headline the event, Beyond the Billable is particularly excited for the BBA to recognize the lawyers that stepped up to provide pro bono legal assistance following the tragic events of last year’s Boston Marathon.The BBA Marathon Assistance Project volunteers will receive a special award at Monday’s event, honoring them for their willingness to donate their time to help the city, its businesses, and its people rebuild after the bombing.

If you’re an avid reader of Beyond the Billable, you’ve probably seen the stats, but here they are once more just for good measure: over 200 individual lawyers, along with 26 law firms, and 3 law schools mobilized to provide critical legal assistance. Lawyers were uniquely qualified to lend their expertise in a time of crisis, and our volunteers agreed to do so at a moment’s notice.

It’s important to note, however, that the process is not over. As the One Fund prepares for the second distribution of applications, the BBA and our outstanding volunteers stand ready to offer assistance with One Fund claims, and additional legal issues that continue to arise. Just last week at 16 Beacon, we heard from a panel that included a representative of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the Former Corporation Counsel for the City of Boston, a member of the Boston Public Health Commission who discussed how preparation for the marathon itself enabled the City of Boston and other service providers to respond so quickly to the events of April 15. Events like this remind us that the work is not yet finished, just as the one year anniversary of the marathon reminded us that even as we remain Boston Strong, the healing process for the city and the victims is still far from over.

If you would like to provide pro bono legal assistance through the Marathon Monday Project, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at kdangelo@bostonbar.org. Find out more about the BBA Law Day Dinner, the largest annual bench bar event in Massachusetts here.

MassProBono is Live!

 Al Wallis (Brown Rudnick LLP), Barbara Siegel (Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association), and Michele Garvin (Ropes & Gray LLP), talked about their roles in redefining pro bono work and improving access to legal services at the Delivery of Legal Services’ Hot Topics in Pro Bono program on Monday.

Al Wallis (Brown Rudnick LLP), Barbara Siegel (Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association), and Michele Garvin (Ropes & Gray LLP) talked about their roles in redefining pro bono work and improving access to legal services at the Delivery of Legal Services’ Hot Topics in Pro Bono program on Monday.

Are you an attorney curious about how you can get involved with pro bono work or are you a legal service organization looking for volunteers? Check out the new MassProBono website, deemed the “Match.com” of pro bono services. The new website creates an all-encompassing legal resource and allows volunteer attorneys to search using many different criteria to find a project, case, or organization.

Attorneys had an opportunity to catch a sneak peek of the new website during the Delivery of Legal Services’ Hot Topics in Pro Bono program on Monday. Barbara Siegel (Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association) gave participants a virtual tour of the brand new MassProBono website and demonstrated how this new resource can provide matching services between organizations, projects and volunteers. Legal service organizations can post specialty projects, cases, and other opportunities, while interested volunteers can find cases and projects that meet their interests.

Fore more information on MassProBono, read the press release here.

BBA Preps Attorneys to Handle Arts and Culture Cases

Ken Parker (Parker Keough LLP) and Megan Low (Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts) walked attorneys what they need to know in order to help arts and cultural organizations.

Ken Parker (Parker Keough LLP) and Megan Low (Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts) walked attorneys through what they need to know in order to help arts and cultural organizations.

The BBA New Lawyers and Intellectual Property Sections teamed up with Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts to train attorneys on ways that they can help art and cultural organizations. The event was a primer on topics such as common art law issues, understanding the legal needs of artists and how to build a client base.

After the training, Beyond the Billable checked in with Ken Parker (Parker Keough LLP), who organized the training, to learn more. Here’s what he had to say:

What do you hope attendees learned at the training?

“Megan Low did a fantastic job of describing the wide range of legal services needed by the arts community and some of the particular challenges of representing artists. I hope that attendees learned about these needs and challenges, as well as about how their legal expertise matches up with the needs of the arts community.”

Why should attorneys get involved in efforts to provide pro bono assistance to arts and cultural organizations?

“Providing pro bono legal assistance to artists and cultural organizations is a great way to get experience solving interesting legal problems while giving back to the community. It can be fun and inspiring to work with creative professionals and it is an opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives.”

A Healthy Dose of Green Pro Bono Opportunities

Attorneys learned about recent changes in Boston zoning code which impact urban agriculture at a recent brown bag.

Attorneys learned about recent changes in Boston zoning codes, which impact urban agriculture at a recent brown bag.

On Thursday, the Environmental Law Public Service Committee and the Health Law Social Action Committee sponsored a panel discussion on “Cultivating Local, Healthy Food: Urban Agriculture Initiatives & Pro Bono Opportunities.” Despite the recent cold snap, it’s not too early to plan on making your spring more sustainable. Here are four volunteer opportunities to check out.

  1.  The Conservation Law Foundation’s (CLF) Pro Bono Legal Services Food Hub: CLF is launching a pro bono legal services network for farmers, food entrepreneurs, and food-related organizations. The focus will be in cases involving transactional issues, land acquisition/transfers, contracts, taxes, and corporate formation, among others. For more information, contact Jenny Rushlow, Director of CLF’s Farm & Food Initiative at jrushlow@clf.org.
  2. Green Bro Bono: Through Green Pro Bono, lawyers can help environmental non-profits, and social enterprises access legal services. For more information, visit their website.
  3.  The Food Project Serve & Grow Program:Join your BBA colleagues on April 8th for a morning outdoors working on the farm and supporting The Food Project, a non-profit devoted to promoting sustainable food systems. For more details, please visit the event page on the BBA’s website.
  4.  MA Environmental Justice Assistance Network (MEJAN): Find an opportunity to provide corporate and real estate support to community groups working on urban agriculture. For more details, contact Staci Rubin, Esq, Alternatives for Community & Environment, Inc. at staci@ace-ej.org.

Calling All Legal Services Organizations–The BBF Is Now Accepting 2014 Grants Applications

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The Victim’s Rights Center was a 2013 BBF Grantee. The BBA also supports grantees in other capacities including holding pro bono trainings and recruiting volunteers for their efforts. In the photo above, staff from the Victim’s Right Center discuss volunteer opportunities with interested law students at the Suffolk Pro Bono Fair in October.

On February 4th, the Boston Bar Foundation (BBF) released its application for the 2014 grants cycle. As you probably know, the BBF grants support programs and organizations that advance access to legal services, improve fair administration of justice, and help expand public understanding of the law. Combined with money raised from events such as the John & Abigail Adams Benefit, the BBF grants its portion of Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) funds to legal service organizations. However, in response to the decline in IOLTA funding, the BBF has stepped up and increased its commitment to funding legal services by granting a greater portion of its own fundraising. Within the past ten years, the BBF’s contributions to the total funds granted to legal services organizations has increased by more than 35 percent.

So how does the grant making process work? Beyond the Billable is bringing you a firsthand look at how the grant decisions are made. Take a look below:

The members of the BBF Grants Committee spend countless hours reviewing each application, discussing the current needs within legal services and the Greater Boston area, and examining emerging issues affecting low-income individuals in our community. While reviewing applications, the BBF Grants Committee looks for organizations that:

  • Provide civil legal services to low-income people and/or underserved populations, especially organizations and programs that address an unmet legal need.
  • Develop or strengthen pro bono programs through which the private bar delivers substantial voluntary legal services to low-income and underserved populations.
  • Demonstrably enhance the administration of justice in Massachusetts (i.e. improve the courts’ effectiveness, address systemic problems in the court system or provide information to low-income, underserved or special needs populations regarding their legal rights and/or accessibility to the courts).

Last year, the BBF granted $900,000 to 28 community legal service providers. Among the grantees are organizations working to assist low-income families and individuals who face problems relating to immigration, domestic violence, and homelessness, as well as increasingly prevalent issues such as human trafficking and environmental justice. To learn more about last year’s grantees, please check out our website.

Please contact the BBA/BBF Public Service Manager Sonia Shah at sshah@bostonbar.org if you have any questions about the BBF grant process.

VLP Announces Honor Roll for November and December

Volunteer attorneys provide critical help at the Boston Housing Court through the Lawyer for the Day Program.

Volunteer attorneys provide critical help at the Boston Housing Court through the Lawyer for the Day Program.

Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association thanks the following attorneys who accepted cases or provided consultation through the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program or Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Program in November and December:

Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program

Stefanie Abhar, Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C.
Sam Ames
Stephanie Angel, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Caryn Appelbaum
Nicholas Bentley, Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C.
Rose Billeci, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Cynthia Caramana
Eric Cronin, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Francis Curren IV
Alexia De Vincentis, Ropes & Gray LLP
Francesse Denis
Marissa Eisenberg, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Julia Harmatz McAneny
Barbara Horan
Rebecca Izzo, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Sharon Jones
Brian Kydd
Esther Laine
Holly Laliberte
Mary Lee
Yvonne Lee, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Chloe Major
Stephanie Marzouk, Glickman Turley LLP
James McGinnis, Ropes & Gray LLP
Michael Morales
Justin Murphy
Ken Parker
Wendy Recine
Widmine Remy
Reid Robinson
Gretchen Roin, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Jason Savageau
Brandon Scruggs, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Allison Stoddart, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Keerthi Sugumaran, Goulston & Storrs, PC
Irina Vaglica
Mark Vaughn, Ropes & Gray LLP
Michael Vito, Ropes & Gray LLP
Damon Wallace
Lawrence Wind
Michael Zalosh, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Program

Neil Berman
Roger Bertling, Harvard Legal Services Center
Angelina Bruce-Flounory
Tia Chatterjee, Brown Rudnick
Christopher Floyd, Brown Rudnick
Steven Hoort, Ropes & Gray
Marques Lipton
Jonathan Marshall, Brown Rudnick
Melissa O’Berg
Steven Pohl, Brown Rudnick
Ethan Rittershaus
Dennis Rooney
Douglas Rosner
Judith Vassilovski
Neil Warrenbrand

Kicking Off the New Year by Taking Pro Bono Unemployment Cases

Brian Flynn (GBLS) taught attorneys the basics of unemployment law to prepare them for pro bono cases.

Brian Flynn (GBLS) taught attorneys the basics of unemployment law to prepare them to take pro bono cases through VLP.

Last Thursday, attorneys started out the New Year by attending a pro bono unemployment training at the BBA. Now that the attorneys have learned the basics of unemployment law they can volunteer to take pro bono cases through the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association (VLP). Beyond the Billable checked in with Brian Flynn (Greater Boston Legal Services), who ran the training with Lynn Girton (VLP), to hear more about the training and volunteer opportunities. Here’s what he had to say:

What do you hope that attorneys learned from the training?

“Unemployment benefits for our clients can make the difference between being able to support themselves and their families during this critical time when jobs are scarce. We have had countless clients who have been able to prevent eviction, foreclosure and homelessness because they secured representation. For many clients an unemployment hearing is the first time that they have ever been in an adverse relationship with a state agency and they are often scared and uncertain how to proceed. Having a representative on their side can make all the difference between winning and losing.”

Why should attorneys get involved in pro bono unemployment benefit efforts?

“In all my years of doing this work, I have never heard anyone report back that it was not a positive experience. Some lawyers report back that it is one of the more memorable experiences of their career because of how appreciative the client was for their help. Additionally unemployment insurance representation is the perfect pro bono opportunity because it is a limited time commitment, but during the courts of representation, you draw upon many legal skills: client counseling, factual and legal investigation, cross-examination. Finally, VLP offers a tremendous support system for volunteer attorneys who take these cases and Greater Boston Legal Services is also committed to offering any additional back up support.”

Here’s what Lynn Girton added:

“These are absolutely great cases to work on: they are time limited and you get to explore all the aspects of preparing a hearing. As Brian indicated, these are life-sustaining benefits for clients, and if they win these benefits, their lives will remain stable and not fall apart. Clients are enormously grateful for the lawyer’s assistance. Additionally, we are often able to identify other employment issues for the clients that can be pursued either by the lawyer for the unemployment matter or referred back to VLP or GBLS. ”

If you are interested in future pro bono trainings, please contact Katie D’Angelo at kdangelo@bostonbar.org.

The New Year Means New Reasons to Give Back

The M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program is one way to give back in 2014.

The M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program is one way to give back in 2014.

Is your New Year’s resolution to get more involved in the community this year? Beyond the Billable is here to help. Take a look at this list of upcoming public service trainings and events during the month of January to get you started:

Representing Clients Pursuing Unemployment Benefits
Thursday, January 9, 2014 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM

The BBA is partnering with the Volunteer Lawyers Project and Greater Boston Legal Services to train attorneys of all experience levels to provide pro bono representation to clients who are pursuing unemployment benefits.

Public Interest Leadership Program Information Session
Monday, January 13, 2014 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Are you an up-and-coming leader in the legal community or in the BBA? Interested in connecting with other civically engaged lawyer leaders? Come learn more about the BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program and how to apply.

M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program Training Session
Tuesday, January 14, 2014 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM

If you are looking for an opportunity to work with students, don’t miss the upcoming M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Training. After completing this training, volunteers go into high schools and educate students about the importance of making smart financial decisions. Each class is designed to last approximately one hour and you can sign up for a time and location that works best for you.

Limited Assistance Representation Training and Breakout Sessions
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Come to the annual LAR certification training to learn the basics of going into court for a single event in a case. After the main training, you can choose to attend a breakout session on LAR in the Boston Municipal Court or the Housing Court. Are you already certified? Just sign up for one of the breakout sessions.

A Year in Photos

The BBA has had a quite a year of public service. For a look back at our members’ commitment to the community, take a look at the photos below:

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In January 2013, the John & Abigail Adams Benefit raised over $560,000. That amount helped to fund grants to 24 Massachusetts community organizations providing legal services in areas such as immigration, domestic violence and homelessness.

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The BBA held two free Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) trainings during the winter to certify nearly 100 lawyers to accept cases for limited representation. LAR provides an opportunity for attorneys to gain valuable courtroom experience, and most importantly, more people with unresolved legal issues that require representation receive the help they need. Attorneys received certification in the Probate and Family Court, Land Court, Housing Court, and Boston Municipal Court.

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In 2013, the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program more than doubled in size, reaching nearly 1,300 students across Massachusetts with the help of 158 volunteers.

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Lisa Menelly (Raytheon Company) traveled to Mozart Elementary School in Roslindale to teach Ms. Pearl-Haynes’s 4th grade class about the 2013 Law Day in the Schools theme “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.” From May 1st-3rd, 41 volunteer attorneys traveled to seven Boston public schools to teach 782 students about the topic.

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Members of the BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) leveraged the resources of the bar to launch the Community Reentry Readiness Program through the Federal Court to provide information to federal probationers on key civil-legal issues that they will face when re-entering society.

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After the tragic events on Marathon Monday, the BBA offered pro bono legal assistance to small business and victims affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. The BBA recruited over 200 attorneys, firms, and law schools who were eager to help. The BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service received 70 calls and through collaboration with the Mayor’s Office and Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance, the BBA volunteer attorneys assisted 63 small business owners and victims with legal matters in the wake of the Boston Marathon events.  In addition, the BBF demonstrated its commitment to Boston by donating $25,000 to the One Fund to further assist victims.

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On June 6th, members of the BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) hosted a groundbreaking symposium addressing the emerging legal and community-based issues associated with human trafficking. The event drew in over 125 attendees and national press coverage.

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This year, 32 diverse law students participated in the Diversity & Inclusion Section’s Judicial Internship Program which places students in local courts including the Boston Municipal Court, Probate & Family Courts and US Bankruptcy Court.

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In its 20th year, the BBA Summer Jobs Program placed a record-breaking 58 Boston public high school students in paid positions at Boston law firms, legal departments, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. This year, the BBF increased its commitment to the program by funding paid positions for 13 students at non-profit community organizations, government offices and courts.

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Pro Bono Month, which happens every October, was jam-packed with trainings and volunteer opportunities to encourage attorneys to give back to our community. The BBA held five pro bono trainings that prepared 206 attorneys and law students to engage in pro bono work and connected 250 new attorneys and law students with 28 Boston-area legal service agencies through a Pro Bono Fair.

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On September 1, 2013, the BBA Lawyer Referral Service became the new home of the Military Legal Help Line, which was established to connect veterans, military personnel, and their families with lawyers and other legal resources appropriate to their needs. The service refers callers to qualified attorneys offering reduced fee and pro bono legal assistance or the appropriate government or non-profit agency. In an effort to prepare attorneys to help with these reduced fee and pro bono cases, the BBA held a four-part CLE series this fall on topics including, family law, labor and employment, Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 bankruptcy, trusts and estates, and education benefits.

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On November 20th, BBA President Paul T. Dacier joined over 150 of Boston’s leaders in visiting Boston Public Schools (BPS) to gain a firsthand look at the successes and challenges of the city’s school system as part of the BPS Principal for a Day Program. Paul shadowed William Thomas, the headmaster of Charlestown High School, for the morning. Charlestown High School is one of the largest high schools in Boston with 954, 39% of its student body is Limited English Proficient, and 46% of students qualify for free or reduced-priced school meals.

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The BBA President Paul Dacier and BBA Executive Director Rich Page joined Mayor Thomas Menino along with the current representatives and alumni of the Mayor’s Youth Council (MYC) at the 20th Anniversary Celebration on November 29th. As you may know, the BBA is a longstanding partner of the MYC, combining efforts with the City of Boston and Northeastern University.