Blog Archives

BBA Boosts Legal Assistance for Our Troops and Veterans

Veterans Initiative Photo

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 sgoss@bostonbar.org.

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BBA Continues Veterans Work by Educating Attorneys on Representing Clients with Post-Traumatic Stress 

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The panelists discussed their personal experiences as a veteran or dealing with PTS.

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.

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.

Getting Prepared: Lawyers Trained to Aid Military Personnel in Bankruptcy Cases

Last Thursday, the BBA hosted the second training if a 4-part CLE series on Representing Military Personnel and Veterans.

Last Thursday, the BBA hosted the second training of a 4-part CLE series on Representing Military Personnel and Veterans.

As most of our readers know, the BBA recently announced its Lawyer Referral Service will house the Military Legal Help Line, which connects veterans, military personnel, and their families with lawyers and other legal resources appropriate to their needs by offering reduced fee and pro bono legal assistance.

As part of the process to build up referral resources for the Help Line, the BBA recently launched a 4 part CLE series on Representing Military Personnel and Veterans. Last month you heard from us about Part One of the Series, the training on Family Law and Domestic Relations. Part Two, tackling Bankruptcy & Consumer Finance issues, also offered guidance on representing a unique population, and shed light on some of the psychological aspects that lawyers need to think about when dealing with service members.

In the words of the program chair, Donald Lassman: “the training session provided those in attendance with excellent resource materials and expert guidance on legal issues that are unique to military service men and women in bankruptcy cases and consumer finance cases, including debt collection law suits, residential evictions, foreclosures and auto loan repossessions. Service members face unique challenges when placed on active duty that can cause financial stress and make it very difficult, if not impossible, to timely respond to creditor inquiries.”

The experienced panel included Donald R. Lassman (Law Office of Donald R. Lassman), Gail McAuliffe (Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services), Mark Rossi (Esher Rossi LLC), and Thomas Beauvais.

Stay tuned for more information about our Military Initiative. If you are interested in learning more about taking referrals through the Military Legal Help Line housed at the Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service, please contact Solana Goss, at sgoss@bostonbar.org.

Join us for the next training in the series – Representing Military Personnel & Veterans: Estate Planning, Employment Law & Landlord Tenant Law on November 7th.

Training Lawyers to Serve Veterans and Military Personnel

WASHINGTON, D.C. -  The Coast Guard Honor Guard stands in formation before the beginning of the Coast Guard's Veteran's Day wreathlaying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetary.  USCG photo by PA1 Adam Eggers

With the recent move of the Military Legal Help Line to the BBA Lawyer Referral Service (LRS), the BBA will be offering a four-part CLE series to prepare attorneys to address the unique legal needs of veterans and military personnel. The trainings will cover the key areas of need—family law and domestic relations, bankruptcy and consumer finance, estate planning, employment law, landlord/tenant law, and veterans benefits.

Registration for any or all of these seminars is free for volunteers who serve on one of the military panels for the BBA Lawyer Referral Service.

Beyond the Billable reached out to Dan Nagin, the Director of Community Lawyering Clinics at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School, to learn more about what to expect at the trainings.

Here’s what he had to say:

“The BBA’s trainings will provide a comprehensive introduction to some of the most common legal issues service members and veterans encounter.  The trainings are designed not only to cover the substantive topics most relevant to the military community, but also to give attorneys a practical tool kit for lawyering on behalf of service members and veterans in these key areas of law.  The presenters are experts in their field who will focus on advocacy tips, common pitfalls, and practice resources.  Attendees will leave armed with the basic knowledge and skills to represent service members and veterans effectively and to respond to their unique legal needs.  Overall, our goal is simple, but important:  to connect more trained lawyers to the service members and veterans who need access to justice.”

Click on the links below for more information and to RSVP:

September 26th: Family Law and Domestic Relations

October 17th:  Bankruptcy and Consumer Finance

November 7th: Estate Planning, Employment Law, and Landlord/Tenant Law

November 21st: Veterans Benefits

Stay tuned for a closer look at each of the trainings in the upcoming months.

BBA’s Yellow Ribbon Volunteers Aid Coast Guard Personnel & Their Families

BBA volunteer attorneys offered Coast Guard personnel and their families legal assistance at a Yellow Ribbon event in Quincy last Saturday.

BBA volunteer attorneys offered Coast Guard personnel and their families legal assistance at a Yellow Ribbon event in Quincy last Saturday.

As you know, the BBA is dedicated to addressing the legal needs of our military personnel, veterans, and their families through programs such as Yellow Ribbon Events and the Military Hotline. In light of that, Beyond the Billable thought this BBA Week article would be of particular interest to our readers. The article highlights two of the volunteer BBA attorneys who provided legal assistance to the 250 Coast Guard personnel at the pre-deployment Yellow Ribbon event in Quincy.

For more information on how to get involved in the BBA’s Veteran’s Initiative, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at kdangelo@bostonbar.org.

Giving Back to Those Who Have Given So Much to Us

A few weeks ago, I volunteered at the legal clinic at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home and had the privilege of meeting a former World War II veteran who served in the South Pacific.  My role was minor, as a staff attorney from Shelter Legal Services explained each of the legal documents in question.  During this process, the client would intermittently interject with stories of his life and family which will stay with me for a lifetime.  He shared his delight at being selected for the military band thinking he would not see combat, but then laughed as he told us that they, “shipped us off to the front anyway.”  As I left the building, I couldn’t help but think how times are different and how lucky I am to be a lawyer.  I felt privileged to meet these remarkable folks and help them, if only for a short time.

I’ve learned through my pro bono experiences with service members that they often have a lot bigger issues on their minds than just the legal issue in front of us and we need to be patient as attorneys. As a volunteer working with service members, I have been confronted with complex socioeconomic issues which are a different challenge from my day-to-day practice. Every time I take a case I always come away with a new appreciation for the service they provide us and am reminded to always be more patient with my clients. I think that these experiences have helped me to manage my other clients with more patience and empathy.

I found opportunities to help service members through the BBA’s Yellow Ribbon Events and through Shelter Legal Services, a non-profit funded in part by the Boston Bar Foundation.

When volunteering with Shelter Legal Services or at a Yellow Ribbon Event, you are supported by the experts for the entirety of the volunteer session.  There is no need for formal training; you just need to have an open mind and a willingness to serve those who risked their lives for us.

To find out more about the Yellow Ribbon Events or Shelter Legal Services please contact Katie D’Angelo at kdangelo@bostonbar.org.

McLaughlin, BrianBrian McLaughlin is the owner and sole proprietor of the Law Offices of Brian McLaughlin, specializing in the areas of education and family law. He is a Board Member at Shelter Legal Services and is a Yellow Ribbon panel attorney for the BBA.

Lynn Girton- A Champion of Justice for Those Who Might Otherwise Be Forgotten

Before a crowd of more than 1,200 people at the Boston Bar Association’s Annual Luncheon, Lynn Girton, Chief Counsel of the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association, will be awarded the John G. Brooks Legal Services Award. Lynn has been devoted her career to helping those unable to afford private counsel in civil cases.

Beyond her direct service work, Lynn has been a fixture at the BBA. Lynn was co-chair of the Delivery of Legal Services Section (DLS), is an active member of the Public Service Oversight Committee, and has been a speaker at countless training sessions. But those contributions pale in comparison to the work Lynn has done as co-chair of the DLS Active Duty Military, Family Members, and Veterans Committee.

Lynn’s commitment to Military Members and Veterans is unmatched. She was initially appointed to the BBA Committee on Legal Services for Military Personnel, Veterans and their Families in 2009. This committee worked to determine how the BBA could help soldiers who are being overwhelmed with legal issues in light of their ongoing military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The DLS Active Duty Military, Family Members, and Veterans Committee was the result of this work.

Lynn has chaired the DLS Active Duty Military, Family Members, and Veterans Committee since its inception in 2010. She has been the driving force behind aligning resources in the community to provide these soldiers and their families with the best legal resources available. But Lynn is more than just the co-chair of this committee. She is the person we call when we have a veteran in need of an attorney and don’t know where to turn. She is the resource we use when we can’t find the answer to a veteran’s questions. She is the glue and the inspiration that has us all coming back month after month to ensure that we are providing the services that these men and women deserve.

Lynn Girton leaves her mark on everything that she does. The soldiers and veterans in Greater Boston are better off today not only because of the work Lynn does, but because of the work she inspires others to do.

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 sshah@bostonbar.org.

Sonia Shah

Public Service Manager, Boston Bar Association

Sonia Shah,
BBA Public Service Manager

Memorial Day 2012: Looking Back at a Year of Legal Assistance

On Memorial Day, people throughout the Commonwealth and the country paused to remember and honor the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.  Here at Beyond the Billable, we felt compelled to look back at the initiatives created to assist the service men and women of Massachusetts by the lawyer-volunteers in our community.    

Seeking pro bono legal services for the families of troops from Massachusetts being deployed in increasing numbers for lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army National Guard  approached the Boston Bar Association (BBA) in 2009. Under the leadership of then BBA President, Jack Regan,  the BBA developed an ad hoc committee to analyze the need for these services and to determine how the BBA might help.  The committee was chaired by Bill Sinnott, Corporation Counsel for the City of Boston and a retired Marine colonel, and included people with extensive military, pro bono, and/or legal services experience. After many months of reaching out to community organizations and conducting research, the committee recommended the creation of the Veterans’ Initiative and the Delivery of Legal Services Active Duty Military, Family Members & Veterans Committee.

Since then, the BBA has supported the following programs – all of which seek to address the unique legal needs of military personnel, veterans and their families. 

The Yellow Ribbon Project

Lawyer volunteers from a variety of practice areas serve as educators at Yellow Ribbon events — pre and post deployment informational sessions open to members of all five branches of the military. At the Yellow Ribbon events, BBA volunteers provide legal advice to military personnel, veterans and their families throughout the state in areas of law that include: bankruptcy, consumer debt & credit, family, financial education, labor and employment and trusts and estates.  Lawyer volunteers have also developed teaching materials and power points presented and distributed at these events.

Financial Education Veterans Initiative

Veterans and families of veterans are experiencing financial hardship brought about by deployment and the reduction in income that deployment may result.  In addition, many veterans are experiencing financial hardship for reasons relating to the current downturn in the economy.  The Yellow Ribbon Project has expanded to include a financial education outreach program.  Through the Bankruptcy Section of the BBA, lawyer volunteers provide speakers to veterans’ organizations in Massachusetts on the topic of personal finance, including managing credit and mortgage modification programs.   These programs are designed to increase the financial knowledge of servicemen and women and their families.   Members of the Section are also working with the Bankruptcy Court to reach a broader audience.

Military Legal Helpline

In December 2010, the Delivery of Legal Services Active Duty Military, Family Members & Veterans Committee created the Military Legal Helpline to connect military personnel, veterans and their families to pro bono and low fee attorneys.  This program represents a partnership of the BBA, Legal Advocacy & Resource Center (LARC), Shelter Legal Services and Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association (VLP).  The Helpline is housed and operated by LARC.  Callers are referred to VLP, Shelter Legal Services and the BBA Lawyer Referral Service based on income guidelines.  

To support the Helpline, the John A. Perkins Fund of the Boston Bar Foundation provided funding for the creation of an informational brochure that is widely distributed by our partner organizations.

BBA Lawyer Referral Service Military Panels

The BBA Lawyer Referral Service is committed to serving military members, veterans, and their families. Since February 2010, BBA lawyers have assisted more than 4,500 troops and their families from MA National Guard, Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Reserve. The Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service has attorneys who certify that they meet certain experience requirements and have completed specialized training to help military members, veterans, and their families with legal issues in a variety of practice areas, including Bankruptcy Law, Employment Law, Family Law, and Trusts & Estates.

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 LRS@bostonbar.org or visit us on the web at http://www.bostonbarlawyer.org.

If you are interested in learning more about these projects, please contact Stephanie Lee, Public Service Programs Coordinator at slee@bostonbar.org.