Last Thursday, new lawyers and law students gathered at 16 Beacon to get the inside scoop on what it’s really like to work in legal services as part of the BBA’s Summer Career Series. Attendees gained insight from attorneys of diverse backgrounds with years of legal services experience, asked questions about the profession, and learned tips on how to pursue a career in legal services. Panelists also recommended pursuing volunteer and pro bono opportunities at various organizations as a means of identifying areas of law they are interested in pursuing professionally.
The all-star lineup of panelists includes:
- Yugo Nakai and D’Andre Fernandez, both attorneys from the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association, shared stories about the types of cases they handle and offered tips on how to deal with these clients, whose circumstances offer a unique and often challenging experience.
- Katharine Milton, an attorney at Casa Myrna Vazquez, emphasized that because legal service organizations do not have extensive support staff or large budgets, working in legal services calls for patience and resourcefulness.
- Sherley Rodriquez, an attorney working at a fellowship program through Suffolk University Law School, further emphasized the importance of making positive connections with other attorneys in legal services who will remember you further down the line when more opportunities and positions open up.
After the luncheon, Beyond the Billable checked in with BC Law student Caryn Sigurdson about the panelist discussion and her interest in legal services. Here’s what she had to say:
“The Legal Services panel for the Summer Career Series was informative and helpful. I have always considered working in legal services, but didn’t really have an idea of what that meant. Now I’m convinced that it is something I want to do at some point in my career. I find it frustrating that everything in law school and at networking events focuses on firms, and everyone assumes that working at a large firm is your life’s goal, so it is nice to have an opportunity to meet with other public interest-minded people whose passions are to help those in need.”
Interested in attending a Career Series lunch? Check out the final lunch called “What’s it REALLY Like Being a Real Estate Attorney?” tomorrow at 12:30 pm. Stay tuned for more career series programs in the fall!
Last Saturday, the BBA’s New Lawyers Public Service Committee took time out of their busy weekend to spend some time at the Greater Boston Food Bank, the largest hunger-relief organization in New England and among the largest food banks in the country. The lawyers inspected, sorted, and packed food and grocery products. The group’s efforts helped put together 4, 509 meals for local families. We reached out to some of the New Lawyers to get their take on this event and other public service events they participate in – here’s what they had to say:
“Under the strong leadership of Margaret Caulfield and Sara Shannon, the BBA New Lawyers Section’s Public Service Committee has cemented its role as the preeminent vehicle for new and experienced attorneys alike to work together in serving the community in the Greater Boston area. The volunteer event at the Greater Boston Food Bank was one of many examples this BBA year where BBA members and their guests had the opportunity to interact in casual, collaborative settings while helping those in need.” – Paul Connors, Corporate Counsel, athenahealth
“Volunteering at the GBFB with the BBA is something we look forward to every year. It is always a fantastic event. However, it is just one of the many public service opportunities Margaret and I planned this past year. To name a few, we worked with the Environmental Law Section to clean up Franklin Park. We also volunteered at Cradles to Crayons, helping to put together book packets for kids around Boston. In December we teamed up with the Social Committee of the New Lawyers Section and promoted the Toys for Tots Program by gathering gifts for children for the holidays. We also volunteered with the Prison Book Program by sorting and sending books to various state prisons in the Commonwealth. We also continued our tradition in assisting with the Earth Day Cleanup by volunteering our time (rain or shine) to pick up trash on the Charles River organized by the Esplanade Association.
Not only are these public service events wonderful for networking with other attorneys, but they are also rewarding and a lot of fun.” – Sara Shannon, Assistant Attorney General, Environmental Crimes Strike Force
This past Saturday, a group of New Lawyers spent the morning volunteering at Cradles to Crayons in Brighton. For those of you who are not familiar with the organization, Cradles to Crayons provides essential items like clothes, shoes, books and school supplies, for children who are homeless or living in low-income situations with the help of volunteers. During their shift, the BBA volunteers inspected donated books and sorted them into categories based on gender and age group, which helped provide books for 85 kids, ages 12 and under.
This opportunity, along with the recent Franklin Park Clean Up and Food Project events, allows New Lawyers with busy schedules a way to positively impact their local community while meeting other Boston-area attorneys.
If you’re a new attorney interested in socializing and giving back, be sure to check out the New Lawyers Section’s Holiday Extravaganza on December 5th where you can donate items to Toys for Tots. Click here for more information.
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:
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.
More than 25 volunteers joined the New Lawyers and Environmental Public Service Committees for their annual Franklin Park Clean Up on Saturday morning. Volunteers collected trash and helped remove buckthorn, an invasive species that deprives surrounding plants and trees of nutrients and contributes to erosion.
Beyond the Billable checked in with Environmental Public Service Committee Co-Chair Staci Rubin (Alternatives for Community & Environment) to find out why attorneys should take advantage of these community service opportunities.
“One-day public service activities contribute to environmental restoration, assist organizations that depend on volunteers, allow you to spend time outdoors, and provide an opportunity to meet and build relationships with other Boston-area attorneys.”
Are you interested in getting outside and giving back? Volunteer at the Food Project with the Environmental and New Lawyers Public Service Committees on November 2nd. Click here for more information.
Last night, law students, young attorneys, and recent graduates awaiting bar results gathered at 16 Beacon to learn how to get more involved in public service activities across Greater Boston. The meeting/information session allowed participants to meet the New Lawyers Public Service Committee Co-Chairs, Sara Farnum (Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General ) and Margaret Caulfield (Partners HealthCare), learn more about the New Lawyer’s public service calendar of events for the year, and ask questions about opportunities to gain more legal experience through pro bono work.
Beyond the Billable asked the co-chairs why New Lawyers should take the time to volunteer. Here’s what Sara Farnum (Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General ) had to say:
“Public service activities are a great way to get to know other members of the BBA, who are also members of your lawyer community in Boston. It is nice to have an excuse, once a month, to network with others in a different setting and also extremely rewarding to feel more connected to the areas we all work in. The public service activities that are planned in the New Lawyers Section of the BBA are often outside, on the weekends, involve minimal time commitment, and are fun! “
While the calendar is still being finalized, here is a look at some of the organizations and events you can volunteer with this year through the New Lawyers Section:
- The Franklin Park Clean Up
- Cradles to Crayons
- Toys for Tots
- The Charles River Clean Up
- Greater Boston Food Bank
Check back for more information on the events throughout the year.
If you are interested in diving into public service this fall, Beyond the Billable has you covered. The month of September offers a number of occasions to receive specialized training and information on opportunities to get more involved in the community.
Here is a look at the upcoming events:
• Calling all new lawyers— join the New Lawyers Section for a Pro Bono Kick Off Meeting and Info Session on September 11th from 5:30-7:30 to learn how you can get more involved in public service activities through the BBA. Click here to register.
• Are you looking for a new pro bono opportunity? Attend to the CORI Training on September 16th from 3-6 pm. The training will prepare you to help clients from Roxbury, Dorchester and other low-income Boston communities to seal their records and break the cycle of poverty and unemployment. Click here to sign up.
• Learn how to be an effective volunteer judge for the Boston Debate League (BDL) at the training on September 24th from 4:30-6 pm. BDL offers busy attorneys low-commitment and meaningful volunteer opportunities. Attorneys can use their unique skills to help Boston Public High School students improve their critical thinking, public speaking, and argumentation skills. Click here to sign up for the training.
Stay tuned for more public service opportunities coming up later this fall. With Pro Bono Month fast approaching in October, the calendar will continue to fill up.
Are you looking for a fun, one-time volunteer opportunity on the weekend? Sign up for one of the BBA’s upcoming community service outings.
(1) Join the New Lawyers Section and the Environmental Law Section for the annual Charles River Clean Up this Saturday, April 20th from 9 am-12 pm. Last year, an estimated 15-20 tons of rubbish was collected from along the river and its surrounding area. Click here to register.
(2) Do you want to help alleviate hunger in Boston? Volunteer at the Greater Boston Food Bank on May 11th from 9:30 am-12 pm. Volunteers will work together as a team to inspect, sort and pack food and grocery products. Click here for more information.
(3) Clean up the Gladeside Urban Wild, one of the largest undeveloped areas in Mattapan, on Saturday, May 4th from 9 am-12 pm. Attendees will help to maintain this open space by removing invasive plant species and preparing the land for future plantings. Please email Jenny Rushlow at email@example.com for additional information.
(4) Get your hands dirty on Saturday, June 1st from 9:15 am-12:30 pm at the Food Project. Plant, harvest, and tend fresh vegetables for support hunger relief organization and local distribution. Click here to register.
For more information about these opportunities, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
Christopher 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.
Alison 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.
Tax season can be a stressful time of year for anyone, but for many families in the Commonwealth, income tax assistance can mean the difference between subsistence living and dire poverty. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) helps low-to-middle-income taxpayers in Boston complete tax returns and take the steps necessary to receive special credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit and Credit for the Elderly. Volunteers provide free tax preparation in partnership with the Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition (EITC).
Here’s what Avada Douglas a VITA volunteer has to say about the experience:
I have volunteered with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program since 2007. Without this program, many of these taxpayers would spend around $150 to get their taxes done by a “professional” who does not have their best interest at hand. And this $150 would go far towards meeting their basic needs for food and shelter.
Because of the Earned Income Tax Credit, people who have worked during the year may be eligible for this refundable credit. This is literally money in their pockets – up to $5,891 (2012 rates). The people I have worked with have been very appreciative of the service that we provide, and often come back year after year to the same site.
I like being able to break down the tax law, and explain to taxpayers why they are getting a refund, and what factors led to it. The more they know about their tax situation, the less intimidating it is.
Join the New Lawyers and Tax Sections for an accelerated training session for the VITA program on January 16th from 4-8 pm. No previous experience is required and non-attorneys are welcome to participate. Please note that volunteers will need to complete the certification test separately. Please sign up for the training here.