Blog Archives

BBA Spotlights Four Pro Bono Superstars

During Pro Bono Month, the BBA trained over 200 attorneys to take pro bono cases, including training over 50 attorneys to volunteer for the Lawyer for the Day program and the Boston Housing Program.

During Pro Bono Month, the BBA trained over 200 attorneys to take pro bono cases, including training over 50 attorneys to volunteer for the Lawyer for the Day program and the Boston Housing program.

Though Pro Bono Month has officially ended, Beyond the Billable encourages its readers to take advantage of the BBA’s public service and pro bono initiatives year-round. If you needed any extra motivation, take a look at the four pro bono spotlights below, each of which highlights the commitment and participation of dedicated lawyers dedicated to pro bono work.

Thomas Beauvais: Lawyer for a Day Has A Lifetime Impact
Meg McKenzie Feist: Helping to Ease Burdens Through Bankruptcy
Donald Lassman: Financial Education for Service Members as a Means of Prevention
Katy Ward: Ensuring Access to Justice in Boston’s Housing Court

For a full recap of Pro Bono Month, click here. Please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at kdangelo@bostonbar.org for more information on how to get involved throughout the year.

Pro Bono Fair Draws Crowd Interested in Gaining Experience and Giving Back

Potential volunteers discussed their interests with a staff member from Prisoners’ Legal Services, a BBF grantee.

Potential volunteers discussed their interests with a staff member from Prisoners’ Legal Services, a BBF grantee, at the Pro Bono Fair on Monday evening.

An estimated 250 law students and new lawyers flocked to the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service at Suffolk Law School on Monday night to learn about pro bono opportunities throughout the city and network with public interest attorneys. The annual Pro Bono Fair, co-hosted by the BBA and Suffolk University Law Center, featured more than 25 Boston-area legal agencies.

Beyond the Billable caught up with a couple of students to hear why they decided to attend the fair. Here’s what they had to say:

“I just started doing pro bono work and I am trying to do more. It offers a lot of ways to get connected. Before you realized what you want to do, you have to figure out what you don’t want to do. Pro bono work and learning about the opportunities here can help you expand your knowledge about different areas of law and what is available.”—Eric Albright, second year law student at Suffolk University Law School

“I was really seeking pro bono opportunities and I thought coming here would give me a more global view of what I could find. In France it’s not as common to do pro bono work. So it’s part of my LL.M. experience. I think doing something productive with my skills is critical.” – Juliette Guillemot, LL.M. student, Boston University Law School

Look below for a glimpse of the event:

Students listened to ways to get involved in pro bono work through the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project (PAIR), a BBF grantee.

Students listened to ways to get involved in pro bono work through the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project (PAIR), a BBF grantee.

Staff from the Community Disputes Settlement Center gave interested volunteer more information on how to get involved in pro bono work with their organization.

Staff from the Community Disputes Settlement Center gave interested volunteer more information on how to get involved in pro bono work with their organization.

Interested volunteers picked up handouts at the table of the Victim Rights Law Center, a BBF grantee.

Interested volunteers picked up handouts at the table of the Victim Rights Law Center, a BBF grantee.

If you missed the event but are interested in getting involved in pro bono work, click here to view the comprehensive program booklet. For more information on how volunteers help the participating organizations, check out the Voices of the Bar piece from BBA Week last week.

Takeaways from the Table – A Discussion on Financial Literacy in MA

Through the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, volunteer attorneys teach students how to make smart financial decisions during three-classroom based sessions and a trip to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Through the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, volunteer attorneys teach students how to make smart financial decisions during three-classroom based sessions and a trip to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Last Thursday, the BBA joined educators, financial advisors, government employees, and other nonprofit staff to discuss the status of financial literacy among high schoolers throughout the state at the Massachusetts Jump$tart! Coalition Financial Literacy Roundtable Discussion. The program taught us some important information about the state of Financial Literacy in Massachusetts and some interesting things about our own program.

Here’s what we took away:

1) Massachusetts has no mandate. Unlike other states, Massachusetts does not mandate that students learn any financial literacy before graduating from high school. The lack of a requirement, coupled with limited school resources and jam-packed curriculums, acts as a key impediment to integrating financial literacy into high school curriculum.

2) The BBA’s program meets a need. The M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program helps fill the gap in financial education while working around these constraints. As you may remember, 1,300 high school students throughout the state learned how to make sound financial decisions with the help of over 150 volunteer attorneys last year.

3) Our program makes it easy. Because each module is only an hour long, the program does not interfere with lesson plans or MCAS preparations. Our volunteers relieve the burden on the teacher to learn and create new financial literacy lesson plans, plus they offer a truly unique legal perspective on the consequences of poor financial decision making.

4) We can do more. Other roundtable participants highlighted the importance of integrating interactive technology into financial literacy curriculum and closely monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of financial literacy programs. Over the next year we will be evaluating our program and looking for opportunities to strengthen it.

BBA Releases 2013 Public Service Report

Expanding Our Reach

Beyond the Billable is excited to announce the release of the 2013 BBA Public Service Report. The report, which is titled Expanding Our Reach, focuses on the growth of many of the BBA’s public service programs over the past year. From the Marathon Monday Project to the Summer Jobs Program, it provides a comprehensive look at the impact of our programs and the partners and volunteers who help make them possible.

Click here to see how we expanded our reach.

BBA’s Marathon Monday Project Update

The BBA is offering legal assistance to individuals and small businesses affected by the Boston Marathon bombings.

The BBA is offering pro bono legal assistance to individuals and small businesses affected by the Boston Marathon bombings.

As you may have heard, the BBA has taken an active role in moving Boston forward after the tragic events at the Boston Marathon by offering legal assistance to small businesses on Boylston and Newbury street affected by the bombing. Our members responded in force, with over 200 individuals offering assistance when we asked them to help. Nearly a month later, here’s an update:

  • Thanks to the commitment of our members, the BBA has offered legal assistance to 26 small business owners and individuals who were affected by the Boston Marathon attacks.
  • Through a collaboration with the Mayor’s Office and the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance, the BBA is continuing to get the word out about the available legal services and adapting to the needs of the victims and small businesses in order to effectively refer callers.

Do you know a small business owner or a victim in need of assistance? The Boston Bar Association is connecting those affected by the Boston Marathon bombing to lawyers that can provide pro bono legal assistance for issues such as insurance, labor and employment, relocation, health, and other issues. To access these services, please call the Lawyer Referral Service intake line at 617-742-0625, or Toll Free: (800) 552-7046, or submit an online request here.

Stay tuned for more information as the situation continues to develop.

For more information on the Marathon Monday Project, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at kdangelo@bostonbar.org.

Innovative Re-Entry Means Investing in the Individual

Last week the BBA hosted “Cutting Edge Approaches to Re-Entry Innovation” which highlighted three different court re-entry programs with the same goal – reducing recidivism rates. The panelists included US District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin, representing the CARE program, Judge Robert N. Tochka representing the CHOICE program, and former Commissioner of Probation Ron Corbett representing the HOPE program.

Each of the programs are a collaboration of probation officers, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges who work together to provide participants the life skills they need in order to take control of their lives. The courts agree — the key to success for the participants is having someone who consistently believes and invests in them as people. They might be subject tough love or hard sanctions, but many participants who successfully complete the programs often credit the person who was toughest on them with saving their life.

The BBA Public Interest Leaders (PILP) has experienced the courts commitment to participants first hand through the CARE and RESTART programs of the US District Court. After a series of discussions with Judge Sorokin, Judge Hillman and the other stakeholders, the 2012-2013 PILP class is currently in the process of developing and delivering a series of workshops for federal probationers called Community Reentry Readiness.

Eric Haskell discusses Step 1 of getting back a revoked license, "Identifying the Issue"

Eric Haskell discusses Step 1 of getting back a revoked license, “Identifying the Issue”

On March 6th, Eric Haskell of Foley Hoag, LLP delivered the first of these workshops on how to handle common drivers license issues. The workshop was a hit with the probationers and the court:

sorokin,-l_130x151I was very excited to see the BBA Public Interest Leaders (PILP) begin their modules for our CARE/RESTART participants. The PILP class did an excellent job in their first presentation and written materials. After the module, many of the CARE/RESTART participants indicated they found the session helpful. I’m really pleased to see this program start with such enthusiasm and success. On behalf of the Court, I thank the PILP Fellows and the Boston Bar Association. – Judge Leo T. Sorokin

Next week, the Emily Hodge of Choate, Hall & Stewart, LLP, will deliver the second workshop on how participants can manage issues with their CORI.

For more information about the workshops or PILP, please contact Susan Helm, shelm@bostonbar.org.

A Glimpse into the Classroom: Financial Literacy Classroom Sessions Wrap Up

The M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program is in the homestretch and volunteers have just completed the classroom sessions. So far this year, the program has reached more than 1,000 students in the Greater Boston area. In the coming weeks, schools will gear up for trips to the Boston and Worcester Bankruptcy Courts for the “Consequences Module”— a mock hearing, presided over by a judge, where students will get a firsthand glimpse of the repercussions of poor financial decision making. Beyond the Billable stopped into a few schools to see the volunteers in action.

Here is a glimpse into the classroom sessions at East Boston High School and Boston Latin School:

Volunteers Susan Curtin (U.S. SEC) and Jose Gonzalez (City of Boston, Office of the Corporation Counsel) teach students about using credit and credit cards.

Volunteers Susan Curtin (U.S. SEC) and Jose Gonzalez (City of Boston, Office of the Corporation Counsel) teach students about using credit and credit cards.

Students in Heidi DeRosa's 12th grade class at East Boston answer questions during a lesson on credit cards.

Students in Heidi DeRosa’s 12th grade class at East Boston answer questions during a lesson on credit cards.

Ed Kearn’s 11th and 12th grade Economics Class at Boston Latin learn about the true costs of buying a car.

Ed Kearn’s 11th and 12th grade Economics Class at Boston Latin learn about the actual and hidden costs of buying a car.

Rick Levine (Nelson Kinder + Mosseau PC) teaches the students the basics of  financing a car.

Rick Levine (Nelson Kinder + Mosseau PC) teaches the students the basics of financing a car.

Please look for photos from the Consequences Module in the coming weeks. For more information on the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at kdangelo@bostonbar.org.

This program is funded in part by the Boston Bar Foundation Charles P. Normandin Fund.

March is a Big Month for Boston Debate League

As you’ve no doubt noticed, Beyond the Billable is always posting about our public service partnerships across Greater Boston. One of our newest partnerships is the Boston Debate League (BDL)—which works to develop academic debate skill among Boston Public High School students. As we learned when we sat down with two BDL representatives recently, March is a particularly busy month for the program, for both potential and past volunteers.

Making a Point 2

A Boston Community Leadership Academy student and a New Mission High School student debate during a Boston Debate League round.

Here’s what’s happening this month:

(1) Are you looking to volunteer? Serve as a judge at the Fish & Richards City Debate Championships on March 15th or 16th at English High School and Trinity Middle School. Volunteers judge for about 4 hours and a short training is provided. Please contact Sarah Amaral, BDL Volunteer Coordinator, at sarah@bostondebate.org to sign up.

(2) Want to sit in on a debate session before volunteering? On March 19th you will have a chance to see the top debaters in action at the City Council Debate 2013 hosted by Councillor Charles Yancey. , where students will debate current Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority policies for an esteemed panel of judges. The event will take place from 5:30-7:30 pm at Boston City Hall.

(3) Have you volunteered as a judge or mentor? Don’t miss the chance to join the Boston Debate League in honoring the hard work of the debaters on March 22nd at the Annual Spring Awards Ceremony from 6-7:30pm. The event is hosted by the Boston University School of Education, the Boston University Black Law Student Association, and the Boston Debate League and will take place at the Boston University Law School Alumni Auditorium.

Did anything above catch your eye? Contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at kdangelo@bostonbar.org for more information. To learn more about the impact BDL has on urban youth, click here.

BBA Volunteers Make Big Impact at Local Debate Tournaments

Last year, as we began our partnership with the Boston Debate League (BDL), enlisting lawyers to be judges for debate tournaments, there was a buzz of excitement throughout the BBA. In a few short months the partnership is already a resounding success.

Every month from October through March, BDL holds debate tournaments for Boston Public High School debate teams. So far this year, almost 40 BBA volunteers have been judges at tournaments. After a successful January tournament, BDL reached out to the BBA to thank us for our collaboration:

This month we had a struggle for volunteers but it all worked out. The BBA members allowed our tournament to have a good core of knowledgeable judges for our more experienced divisions (varsity/championship) and made themselves available for our divisions who didn’t have as many volunteers sign up to judge for the weekend. Thank you so much for your support.

In addition to the judges, there are also four BBA members who are mentors for BDL. These mentors spend one to two hours a week supporting a debate team in a particular high school.

The BBA’s partnership with BDL fulfills three of the BBA’s many public service goals: 1)  using lawyering skills to make a significant impact on the Boston community, 2) providing BBA members with a meaningful volunteer opportunity, and 3) expanding the diversity pipeline into the legal profession.

2010 City Championship Brighton

Boston Debate League 2010 City Championship

We would like to thank our volunteers:

Mentors
Catherine Drislane (Boston Latin Academy)
Greg Peterson (Charlestown)
Jessica Block ( EMK High School)
Stephanie Hoelplinger ( Irving Middle School)

Judges
Allison Hynes
Angelo Guisado
Ashley Hayes
Camal Robinson
Caroline Hanania
Christina Miller
Courtney Zhou
Deborah Goddard
Edmond Ford
Elizabeth Ybarra Crean
Erica Carroll
Fran Sheehan
Heather Sit
Jacqueline Delbasty
Jacquelyn Redmond
Jesse Grove
Jonathan Driscoll
Kathleen Micciche
Kerlin Jean-Louis
Kyu Cho
Lei Reilley
Mark Zglobicki
Michael Boudett
Michael Dsida
Michael Sugar
Natalie Galley
Nina Mathur
Rachna Mathur
Reidan Fredstrom
Robert Ullmann
Ryan Mulloy
Shannon Dale
Stephen Marsters
Tarae Howell
Vickie Henry
William Fitzpatrick

For more information about volunteering or the program, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at kdangelo@bostonbar.org.

Use Pro Bono to Build Your Practice

The current legal job market is one of the toughest the field has ever seen. The need for pro bono legal services continues to grow. More and more new lawyers are starting their own firms and looking for ways to develop their legal skills. Is there a way to reconcile all of these demands? Come to Building Your Practice Through Pro Bono and find out how three new lawyers have done just that.

Here is just a bit of what you will learn from these attorneys:

Saccardi, ChrisChristopher Saccardi, The Law Office of Christopher T. Saccardi 

I started my landlord-tenant practice by volunteering through the BBA Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program. My first trial was a pro bono case that I accepted on the morning of trial. While I was moderately terrified to be conducting a trial with very little experience, I soon realized that my client was very grateful to have any attorney representing her, even one with limited experience. And even more surprising, the judge was also happy to deal with an attorney during the trial as opposed to a pro se litigant. Because I was clearly inexperienced, the judge was extra patient with me and as a result, not only was I able to help out a deserving client but I learned a great deal through the experience.

As I gained experience through pro bono cases, I started to build up my own caseload of paying clients, drawing upon what I learned through volunteering and taking advantage of the network of mentors and colleagues I had built up through my work.

Thomas Beauvais, Attorney at Law 

Once my license arrived in the mail, I started the process of opening my practice. In my brief time networking with other solos, I have found most have difficulty with the business side of the practice: how to get enough clients, what to charge those clients, and where to meet them. My biggest obstacle was the product itself, what area of law to practice.

I knew what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to practice in criminal law, family law or personal injury. Not that there aren’t very deserving clients in those areas, or that there aren’t some truly amazing attorneys practicing this law, I just knew it wasn’t for me. I did, however, want to litigate. Looking back at my list of eliminations, one might notice the Venn Diagram of my options was rather narrow. From my perspective at the time, there was no overlap. Nevertheless, I began looking for pro bono opportunities to keep myself busy. Thankfully, I came across Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP). Every Wednesday, VLP hosts a Fair Debt Collection Clinic at the Boston Municipal Court. Not only would they allow any attorney with a free Wednesday morning to actually represent clients in a civil litigation setting, but they train them to do it well. After my first appearance, I was hooked.

Silber, AlisonAlison Silber, Law Offices of Alison Silber

I have a large VLP caseload—three cases at a time plus I mentor two other volunteers—and, in return, the VLP staff often answer questions for me about my non-VLP cases. They also provide me templates of motions/Proposed findings/etc. for my non-VLP cases.

In addition to taking cases with VLP, their lunches are a great opportunity to network and bounce ideas off of more experienced attorneys. I attend the large lunches whenever I can, plus VLP hosts a small, monthly Family Law brownbag that I find invaluable. I have developed two mentors from that circle. Each time I come with a list of questions from my non-VLP cases, and they always get answered.

Click here for more information and to register for Building Your Practice Through Pro Bono, January 23 at 12:30 pm.