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:
- 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:
“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.
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.
On Monday evening we kicked off a week of Boston Housing Court events at 16 Beacon with “Trying a Case in Housing Court.” The BBA partnered with the Volunteer Lawyers Project to teach attorneys the ins and outs of trying a Housing Court case from opening to closing – with a special presentation on evidence rules as they pertain to eviction cases. In exchange for the free training, attorneys are expected to volunteer with the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program – which brings us to our next event.
As our readers may remember from this post, we will be celebrating the 15th Anniversary of the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program this Thursday at 5 pm. Be sure to join us and salute the amazing accomplishments of this program (more than 15,000 pro se litigants helped!) and thank our hard working volunteers. Be there!
Monday’s training was a great success, with more than 35 attorneys in attendance. To learn more about the experience, Beyond the Billable sat down with event panelist and seasoned veteran of the housing court Chris Saccardi (The Law Office of Christopher T. Saccardi) to hear more about the training. Here’s what he had to say:
What do you hope attendees learned from the training?
“I hope that attorneys who are considering taking their first pro bono housing case feel a little bit more confident appearing in front of the Housing Court judges and potentially taking their case to trial. Our goal was to give attendees some tips on how to conduct a trial in the Housing Court and to give them the opportunity to hear from Judge Winik, who has been a big supporter of the Volunteer Lawyers Project’s pro bono programs. “
Why should attorneys get involved in pro bono efforts in the Housing Court? How can pro bono experience help attorneys build a practice?
“First, regardless of one’s practice area, taking cases at the Housing Court is an excellent way to gain valuable litigation experience. Because the vast majority of litigants are unrepresented, there are ample opportunities to appear for various motion hearings and, if participants wish, to conduct trials. Second, if an attorney is interested in taking housing cases as part of their private practice, I can’t think of a better way to gain the procedural and substantive knowledge necessary to successfully pursue such cases. Third, while these are pro bono cases and attorneys should not necessarily expect to be paid, there is the potential for an award of attorney’s fees if one wins under a statute that includes a fee shifting provision. Finally, the most important reason to volunteer is because there is a large, unmet need for representation, particularly among the low- and middle-income population that VLP typically serves. These individuals often face an attorney on the other side and the involvement of a volunteer attorney can often make a huge difference in the outcome of the case, sometimes resulting, for example, in a preserved tenancy where an unrepresented tenant might otherwise have ended up homeless.”
We know that our readers are familiar with the Boston Bar Association’s Vaughan Fund, which supports the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program. However, as we look forward to celebrating the 15th year of the program on April 10th, Beyond the Billable wanted to give our readers a firsthand look at the man who inspired the fund.
In 1999, Herbert “Wiley” Vaughan helped launch the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program. Wiley enjoyed a lengthy 47-year career as a highly respected real estate lawyer at WilmerHale LLP before retiring from the firm in 1995. After his retirement, Wiley continued to work with organizations and causes he believed in, including the Boston Bar Association and representation for pro se litigants. When the Pro Bono Committee of the BBA’s Real Estate Section was attempting to create a program to assist individuals and families facing the loss of their homes as well as landlords in need of a better understanding of their rights, Wiley jumped at the chance to lead their efforts. Through his tireless work, he was able to secure not only a tenant’s advisory table at Housing Court, but also a landlord’s table for landlords who qualified under income standards.
But don’t take it from us. Hear from those who know Wiley best:
“Wiley was a giant not only for his real estate expertise but for his commitment to access to justice. The Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer for a Day in the Housing Court Program would not exist but for Wiley Vaughan.” – Hon. Robert B. Foster, Associate Justice, Massachusetts Land Court
“Wiley Vaughan was — to use a phrase he spoke of when referring to others — “a person of quality” who had a clarity of purpose, an integrity, and an openness to ideas that endeared him to his friends and his colleagues, and enriched every institution with which he was involved.” – Andy Cohn, WilmerHale LLP
Thanks to his dedication and support, Wiley was once nicknamed the “Father” of the Lawyer for the Day Program. Since the Program’s inception 15 years ago, more than 12,000 volunteers from law firms, solo practices and in-house corporate legal departments have provided legal assistance and advice to more than 15,500 unrepresented tenants and landlords. Join us in celebrating Wiley, the program, and others, at 5:00 p.m. on April 10th at 16 Beacon Street.
The Boston Bar Foundation’s Vaughan Fund was established in recognition of the 10-year anniversary of the BBA Lawyer for the Day Program and Wiley Vaughan’s stellar leadership. The Fund helps support the pro bono and public service projects of the Real Estate Section. This year, the BBF has raised over $5,000 for the Fund, allowing for the purchase of essential materials needed to run the program. Click here to learn more.
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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 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 email@example.com.
Attorneys braved the weather on Wednesday to attend the BBA’s Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) training. The free certification training taught attendees the basics of going into court for a single event in a case.
So why was this training so important? LAR provides an opportunity for attorneys to gain valuable courtroom experience by providing litigants with representation for unresolved legal issues. At the same time, it helps ease the burden on courts facing unprecedented numbers of pro se litigants. Following the certification training, attorneys learned about practicing LAR in the Boston Housing Court and the Boston Municipal Court in breakout sessions led by the Honorable Jeffrey Winik (Boston Housing Court), Honorable Raymond Dougan, Jr. (Boston Municipal Court), Attorney Lawrence Wind (the Law Office of Lawrence A. Wind), and Attorney Thomas Beauvais.
Beyond the Billable reached out to Joanna Allison (VLP), who led the certification training with Ned Notis-McConarty (Hemenway & Barnes LLP), to hear more about the training. Here’s what she had to say:
What did attorneys learn from the training?
“They learned the procedure for appearing before the court on a limited assistance representation and where to find answers to their questions and concerns about LAR. From the very knowledgeable presenters, they learned the specific practices and requirements of both the Housing Court and the Boston Municipal Court. I am grateful to Judge Raymond Dougan of the Boston Municipal Court and Judge Jeffrey Winik of the Boston Housing Court for giving their time and expertise. “
Why should attorneys become LAR certified?
“Attendees came away with a new tool in their practice that will help them make a living, while increasing the number of people who can afford access to justice. I also hope they came away with a commitment to use their new certification in their pro bono work .” This doesn’t actually answer the question. Is it actually necessary?
Did you miss this training? Don’t worry—the BBA is holding another LAR certification training on March 13th. The breakout sessions will focus on LAR in the Probate & Family Court and Land Court. Feel free to just attend the breakout sessions if you are already certified.
Save the date! On May 15, 2014 come hear nationally recognized LAR expert Stephanie Kimbro discuss about how you can incorporate LAR into your practice and how to communicate the availability of LAR to potential clients.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Last night, the BBA’s Public Interest Leaders hosted a candid feedback session at the US District Court to learn how the pilot Community Reentry Readiness series has been received by the CARE and RESTART program participants. The pilot program utilized the expertise of the BBA and its Public Interest Leaders to benefit an underserved population and the courts. Beginning in March, these PILPers hosted a series of 7 seminars covering topics intended to arm the probationers with skills to improve their chances of long term success:
- Driver’s Licenses/Professional Licenses
- Credit Reports and Credit Scores
- Family Law
- Benefits Available to Low-Income Individuals in Massachusetts
PILPers Julia Devanthéry, Chris Saccardi, Eric Haskell and Emily Hodge sat down with the participants over a pizza dinner to give them the opportunity to speak openly their ability to apply the information gained from these sessions to their daily lives and asked for tips on how the program can be improved. Attendees were provided with a written questionnaire for anonymous written comments as well.
Beyond the Billable congratulates PILP 9 for a job well done and encourages readers to stay tuned for more updates on this initiative. Contact Susan Helm at email@example.com with questions on PILP.