Category Archives: Public Service
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 January and February:
Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program
Nicholas Bentley, Mintz Levin
Christine Dieter, Goodwin Procter LLP
Dahlia Fetouh, Goodwin Procter
Martsyl Joseph, Committee for Public Counsel Services
Jennifer Kent, Goodwin Procter
Corrine Lusic, Goodwin Procter
Kenneth Parker, Parker Keough LLP
Sarah Solomon, Goodwin Procter
Leann Walsh, Goodwin Procter
Katy Ward, Mintz, Levin
James Xu, Goodwin Procter
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Program
Richard Baldwin, Foley Hoag
Mark Berman, Nixon Peabody
Peter Bilowz, Goulston Storrs
Jeremy Coffey, Brown Rudnick
Kenneth Parker, Parker Keough LLP
Steven Pohl, Brown Rudnick
Kiersten Taylor, Brown Rudnick
Did you know that approximately 90 percent of tenants and 50 percent of landlords in the Boston Housing Court don’t have legal representation? Since 1999, the BBA’s Lawyer for the Day in the Housing Court Program has acted as a lifeline for pro se landlords and tenants, with volunteers providing more than 15,000 pro se litigants with legal assistance.
This year, the Program has been able provide representation to over 450 tenants and 100 landlords. Last Wednesday, the Program also launched a monthly initiative with Burns & Levinson LLP that will assist Section 8 clients facing eviction. As our members know, a lawyer can make all the difference for families who are facing the loss of their homes and landlords who need to better understand their rights.
Beyond the Billable checked in with Joanna Allison (Volunteer Lawyers Project) to learn more about the Program. Here’s what she had to say:
“The Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program gives a voice to so many in need. This Program is a model not only for legal professionals and law firms, but for the nation as a whole. I am proud to be a part of a program that prioritizes increased access to justice and look forward to watching the program grow and expand its reach.”
The Boston Bar Foundation Vaughan Fund covers essential materials needed to run the program, such as updated signage and nametags to allow for volunteer attorneys to be easily identified. This year the BBF has already raised over $5,000 for the Vaughan Fund. Are you interested in supporting this Program? Learn more about making a contribution or how you can volunteer.
Join us in celebrating the 15th Anniversary of the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program, on April 10th at 5:00 p.m. It will be an evening of food and drinks while we acknowledge the hard work of volunteers, Housing Court staff and the many others who make the program possible. R.S.V.P. online here.
It’s been a little over six months since the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service adopted the Military Legal Help Line . If you remember, this past fall we announced the expansion of our Veterans’ Initiative, by transferring the Help Line, launching our CLE series on Representing Military Members, Veterans & Their Families, and leveraging the efforts by our Active Duty, Family Members and Veterans Committee.
Here’s a glimpse of our impact so far:
- Since September 1st, we have received calls from more than 250 military personnel, veterans and family members.
- We successfully connected 65% more callers to lawyers and legal services than last year. Since developing a panel of qualified attorneys trained to assist with the unique legal issues facing this population, we have been able to help more clients.
- All of the attorneys on these Military & Veterans panels accept reduced-fee cases and are generally willing to provide brief advice at no cost to the veteran or military member.
- For more complex cases that members of our Military & Veterans panels are unable to help, we have been successful in finding other BBA members with specific expertise to provide assistance.
These successes come at the same time the state is expanding its outreach to veterans by launching the second Veterans Treatment Court, this one in Suffolk County. The court began holding sessions at the end of January and is staffed with specially trained judges, clinicians, probation officers and attorneys. The Veterans Treatment Court will hear certain criminal cases where a link has been established between trauma caused by military service and the defendant’s crime.
Can you help assist active duty military members with discharge cases? If you can or are an attorney who wants to help support the BBA’s Military Legal Help Line, contact Solana Goss at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteers are wrapping up the classroom-based portion of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program in the Greater Boston area. On Friday, volunteer Attorneys Steve Cohen and Eric Teasdale from Choate Hall & Stewart LLP visited Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers to teach students about the hidden costs of buying a car. Take a look below for a glimpse at the third module in the Program:
So what’s next? Students will head to the Worcester or Boston Bankruptcy Court at the end of the month for the final module in the Program called Consequences.
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.
- 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 email@example.com.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
This past Sunday, the BBA Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) staff joined 8,000 guests at North Quincy High School to celebrate the Quincy Lunar Festival as part of its ongoing community outreach. This marked the 26th year for the event hosted by the Quincy Asian Resources, Inc, and the 4th year the BBA LRS attended.
Joining LRS staff was bilingual LRS panel member Attorney Mary Lee (Mary K.Y. Lee, P.C), who answered questions and explained to attendees how to they could obtain legal representation from the BBA Lawyer Referral Service.
In addition to speaking with individuals, the LRS staff enjoyed the festivities, including cultural performances and vendors selling Asian foods and goods to celebrate the year of the Horse.
To access the BBA Lawyer Referral Service please call (617)742-0625 or (800)552-7046 Monday through Thursday, 8:30 am to 5:30 pm and Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. You can also email us at LRS@bostonbar.org or visit us on our newly re-designed website at www.bostonbarlawyer.org.
Last week, volunteers headed out to 15 schools in the Greater Boston area to teach students about how to make sound financial decisions as part of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program. The BBA interviewed two volunteers, Amy Lipman-White (Law Office of Lipman & White) and Sarah Barr (Suffolk Law School) who taught Personal Finance and Budgeting to a group of very engaged students at John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science last week. Amy, a long-time volunteer who has been donating her time since the start of the program, and Sarah, a first-time volunteer, led the students through the basics of budgeting and the basics of taxes with the aid of a jolly rancher reward system. Here’s what they had to say about the experience:
Why did you volunteer for the program?
Amy: I believe this program can make a difference in a student’s life. I feel that if I can reach just one student and that student benefits in the future from even just one idea, then I’ve made a difference.
Sarah: I am concentrating in Business Law and Financial Services at Suffolk Law School, so this seemed like a great opportunity to give back to the community in a way that corresponds to my career goals and personal values. I think that financial education should begin at a much earlier age than the college years, because this is the time when kids are first beginning to make financial decisions which can really impact their future, such as taking out student loans, applying for credit, paying bills, etc.
Why should other attorneys get involved?
Sarah: Other attorneys (and law students!) should get involved because this is a fantastic opportunity to give back to the Boston community, and provide high school students with some very practical skills in order to help them make educated financial decisions. This program empowers students by giving them the information they need in order to independently make good financial decisions.
What was the highlight of the session?
Sarah: This group of students was very engaged in the conversation, which gave us the opportunity to ask a lot of questions and get the students involved during the entire class. The students seemed to truly care about the issues we were talking about, and were proactive in connecting the information we provided with things that were going on in their everyday lives.
What information did the students seem to find most interesting and useful?
Amy: They were really interested in the W-4 and W-2’s and taxes. However, this was a unique group of students. Most of them worked one or two jobs with significant hours and had already filled out the W-4 forms and had no idea why or what it was and they were just getting their W-2’s for the first time so they were interested in that topic because they didn’t know they might have to file taxes or that they could file a tax return and get money back or possibly have to pay. The other topic they always find interesting is making out the budget, it is fun for the students. They can use their imagination of what they want now and in the future, think about the reality of what things cost and then dream about what they will do to make it happen.
Are you interested in volunteering? Click here to view the available volunteer sessions.
This fall, volunteers delivered the program to students at three high schools in Western Massachusetts in collaboration with the Hampden County Bar Association and the Hampshire County Bar Association. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, a collaboration between the BBA and the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts.
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 email@example.com if you have any questions about the BBF grant process.
BBA Continues Veterans Work by Educating Attorneys on Representing Clients with Post-Traumatic Stress
On Wednesday afternoon, attorneys headed to the BBA’s Claflin Center for a program called “Representing Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress: What Everyday Attorneys Need to Know.” Just as the title suggests, the program educated attorneys about the challenges and misconceptions that arise when serving clients with PTS.
The panel for this program included attorneys who regularly counsel veterans, health care professionals, as well as individuals that have served in significant combat operations. The speakers included Kevin Casey (VA New England Healthcare), Tim McLaughlin (Holland & Knight), Jack Regan (WilmerHale), Ann Stewart (the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program), Travis Weiner, and moderator Bill Sinnott (the Corporation Counsel, City of Boston). These panelists shared gripping personal stories and experiences and provided perspective into many of stressful factors veterans face post-deployment.
Beyond the Billable checked in with Tim after attending this program to see what he hopes attendees learned. Here’s what he had to say:
“First, I hope the panel members were able to provide some general insight into the realities of military service, which is very different from its portrayal in the media. Second, I hope we were able to provide some specific insights into what I would characterize as the normal and lifelong effects of military service and combat, which can manifest itself in many forms, including post-traumatic stress. However, and this is important both from a veteran’s point of view and for those attorneys who may represent veterans in the future; speaking from first-hand experience, post-traumatic stress is not a disorder. It is simply what comes next. It would be a disorder if I was unaffected. And finally, I hope we were able to share some of the many, many resources that are available to our veterans in and around Boston.”
This program is a part of the Boston Bar Association’s ongoing efforts to provide crucial legal assistance to military personnel, veterans, and their families. Along with this program, the BBA’s Military Legal Help Line through the Lawyer Referral Service, and participation in Yellow Ribbon events, are just some of the ways the BBA commits to providing veteran’s and their families the access to legal assistance that they need and deserve.
If you are an attorney and would like to find out about what you can do to help veterans and their families, check out our Veteran’s Initiative webpage here.
The M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program kicks off on Monday with sessions at New Mission High School and Boston Community Leadership Academy. Even though the program is about to get started, the BBA is still looking for volunteers to help meet the demand. That’s why Beyond the Billable checked in with one of our Financial Literacy Co-Chairs, Janet Bostwick (Janet E. Bostwick, PC); to hear the four best reasons you should volunteer for the program. Here’s what she had to say:
(1) Because you don’t know the fun you are missing. I have received numerous calls from volunteers after teaching their first class, who tell me they can’t wait to sign up again. Volunteers enjoy going to the classroom and interacting with the students, while teaching them about budgeting, credit cards or buying a car.
(2) Because as little as five hours of your time will make a big difference in the lives of the students. From start to finish (training, preparing, travel, and class), the time commitment is typically five hours or less. Helping the students learn the basics about personal finance and credit will provide them with skills they will use for the rest of their lives.
(3) Because you wish someone had told you about credit and personal finance when you were their age. Maybe it was your first paycheck (when you saw how little you took home). Maybe it was that first car you bought (when the salesman talked you into a pricier model.) Or, maybe it was juggling that first credit card and the minimum payments. We all had to sort through personal finance and credit issues at some point in our life, but often on our own. You can help provide these students with the information now, and prepare them for those crossroads.
(4) Because you will be an ambassador for your profession. This spring we are in 15 schools in Boston, Greater Boston, and Worcester. Some of our students had little prior contact (or positive contact) with attorneys and the legal profession. Your presence and involvement will help them have a better understanding about our profession. (And, maybe you will be the spark for one of them to consider becoming a lawyer in the future.)
Are you convinced? Click here to sign up for an open volunteer session.