Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association
Your Path to Pro Bono
Hello again! We hope that you are enjoying the summer. Take a look at what's happening at VLP & Eastern Region Legal Intake (ERLI): VLP's 40th and SPJ's 15th anniversary, a case before the SJC, new ERLI projects, as well as new staff and board members.
In this newsletter:
Come Celebrate 40 Years of Our Work Together!
In 1977, the Boston Bar Association created a small pilot project to help fill the ever-widening gaps in our civil justice system. This pro bono experiment, called the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association, quickly became a national model. In 2002, VLP entered a new era when Judge Edward M. Ginsburg retired from the bench and founded Senior Partners for Justice at VLP.
On September 13th, we will celebrate two milestones: VLP's 40th year of providing high quality, innovative pro bono legal assistance to clients who face social and economic hardships and are under-served in our civil justice system, and the 15th anniversary of Senior Partners for Justice. We will also celebrate a special birthday of SPJ's founder, Judge Edward M. Ginsburg.
As we reflect on the last 40 years, we are
the time, expertise and financial support you have given to VLP. Your generosity and commitment have allowed VLP to serve clients who would otherwise have to navigate the legal system on their own. Please join us in honoring the attorneys, law firms, judges, and court programs that partner with us to help promote access to justice.
The celebration will be held on September 13th from 5 to 7 pm at the Boston Public Library with a special appearance by WGBH's Jim Braude. We hope you will join us.
Another Stellar Volunteer: Elisia M. Lau
Attorney Elisia Lau
attended her first VLP trainings in bankruptcy and consumer law in 2016, shortly after she was admitted to the Massachusetts bar. She is a regular volunteer at the Boston Municipal Court Small Claims Clinic where she represents consumers who have been sued by debt collectors in negotiations and hearings. In addition to her small claims pro bono cases, she has already filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy for three clients who were being harassed by debt collectors, including two non-English speaking clients. Thank you Elisia!
John Adams Courthouse
Home of the Civil Appeals Clinic
Civil Appeals Clinic Takes Off!
Started as a pilot project by VLP and the law firm Mintz Levin in May 2015, the Pro Bono Civil Appeals Clinic is now a fixture at the Appeals Court Clerk's office every Wednesday from 12:30 to 4:00 p.m. The idea for the Clinic came from a committee convened by the Access to Justice Commission. It developed as a collaboration between the Appeals Court, VLP, other legal aid programs, and several Boston area law firms.
At the Clinic, self-represented litigants who qualify for assistance meet with volunteer attorneys, who may, among other things, assess whether a final judgment exists and calculate any deadlines, give general advice concerning appellate issues and procedure, advise the litigant in making the strategic decision to appeal or to continue seeking relief in the trial court, and provide and assist with self-help materials, other resources, forms and motions.
Volunteer attorneys also assess whether a litigant's case should be reviewed for further representation, considering whether the appeal is meritorious, falls within the VLP priority issue areas, has broad-based implications for low-income people and/or constitutes a legal error. If so, the volunteer may recommend that the case be sent for a second layer of merit-based screening by experienced appellate attorneys and legal services experts.
If this review panel determines that there is sufficient merit, the case is referred for representation to one of several participating law firms including Mintz Levin, Foley Hoag, Nutter McLennen & Fish, Ropes & Gray, WilmerHale, Brown Rudnick, and Sugarman Rogers Barshak & Cohen.
In the last 18 months, 109 attorneys have volunteered their time to assist 233 litigants, and 10 cases were referred for full representation on appeal. With our limited staff, VLP could not offer the appeals clinic without the dedication of Sue Finegan and Brian Dunphy and their team at Mintz Levin. Working closely with them are Jeremy Meisinger and Rebecca Cazabon at Foley Hoag, Joshua Bone at Goodwin Proctor, and Joshua Daniels.
New Faces at VLP
VLP's Board of Directors Welcomes Two New Members
Carla A. Reeves
, a litigation associate at Goulston &
focuses her practice on employment litigation and general business litigation. As an Associate at the firm, Carla assists clients with disputes involving claims of wrongful termination, retaliation, discrimination, violations of non-compete and non-solicitation agreements, and violations of wage-and-hour laws. She also has experience in assisting clients with contract disputes, internal corporate investigations, and government investigations. P
rior to joining Goulston & Storrs, Carla was a business litigation associate at a Boston-based regional law firm. While in law school, Carla served as a judicial intern for then-Chief Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. She was a summer law clerk at the United States Department of Labor, Boston Regional Solicitor's Office while a student at Boston College Law School.
a graduate of Boston College Law School, is a member at Mintz Levin.
advises health care providers, biotechnology and life sciences companies, clinical laboratories, and pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers and represents them in health-care litigation, government investigations, and product liability cases. He is a frequent author on health care fraud and abuse issues. A member of the firm's Sports Law Practice, he
advises a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the study, treatment, and prevention of concussions and other brain trauma in athletes and other at-risk groups. Attorney Dunphy is a member of the Mintz Levin team that manages VLP's Civil Appeals Clinic. His other pro bono work includes successful representation of a client from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who was granted political asylum, and obtaining a residential educational placement for a disabled student. As a result of his pro bono work, he was selected to participate in the Boston Bar Association's Public Interest Leadership Program.
New on Staff
comes to VLP from Santa Barbara, California. She received her B.A. in Political Science and Latin American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley in 2015. Julia has worked with political campaigns, activist groups across South America and most recently interned at an economic think tank in Washington D.C. She recently moved to Boston, MA with her partner and their Yorkie. Julia is a paralegal in VLP's Consumer and Bankruptcy unit.
ERLI Fighting for Victims of Domestic Violence
ERLI Staff Attorney Lola Remy manages
ERLI's 209A Pro Bono project which finds attorneys to represent clients seeking domestic violence protective orders, also called 209A orders. Outreach and education are key to recruiting volunteer attorneys for the project. On May 25, Attorney Remy served as a panelist and trainer at the Advanced 209A training presented by the Massachusetts Domestic and Sexual Violence Council (DSVC) hosted by Mintz Levin.
The ERLI 209A Pro Bono project has proven a success since its inception. The project maintains a 75% placement rate. Clients who were not placed for representation received extensive consultations and assistance preparing documents and evidence for court. The panel will continue to strive to assure that no domestic violence victim has to face an abuser in court alone. Through Attorney Remy's outreach, the Project has recruited over a dozen attorneys. With the support and mentorship of ERLI staff attorneys, volunteer attorneys have had successful outcomes for clients who otherwise would have gone unrepresented.
ERLI Spearheads Summer Unemployment Project
VLP, in collaboration with Greater Boston Legal Services, is enjoying great success with
Project. The project, managed by ERLI Attorney Natasha Lewis, finds pro bono representation for clients whose Unemployment Insurance benefits have been denied or terminated.
Attorney Lewis has placed cases with attorneys and summer associates from
Rudnick LLP, Nutter, McClenne
n & Fish LLP, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, WilmerHale and Wolfe,
Greenfield & Sacks P.C.
Securing unemployment benefits for clients makes a tremendous
in their lives
. The loss of income can be devastating
and create a cascade of other problems for clients such as loss of housing, health insurance, credit, and the ability to meet support obligations.
Thank you to the lawyers and summer associates from participating firms for representing clients in these cases.
Rising Public Interest Leader: Alissa Brill
VLP Family Law and Guardianship Staff Attorney Alissa Brill has been chosen by the Boston Bar Association to join the 2017-2018
Public Interest Leadership Program
BBA Assistant Executive Director Heather A. Leary noted that, "this year's applicant pool [for the program] was particularly exceptional..." We are proud of Alissa's selection and confident that she will continue to have an impact not just on VLP's clients, but on the Greater Boston legal community as well.
VLP Case Goes Before the SJC
In April of 2017, volunteer attorneys argued a VLP housing case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). As we wait for the SJC's decision, we take this opportunity to reflect on VLP's pro bono model and its importance in connecting indigent clients with private bar advocates defending their rights.
The case came to VLP when the Boston Court Service Center called VLP Staff Attorney Milton Wong for an emergency referral. The client, a young mother and a survivor of domestic violence, was being evicted from her subsidized home after she had summoned the courage to obtain a restraining order against her husband after years of abuse. As a method of abuse and control he prevented her from putting her name on the lease, thereby denying her full tenancy rights. When the restraining order removed the husband from the house, the landlord began an eviction against the husband for abandoning the apartment and against the two minor children. The landlord considered the client an illegal occupant, not a tenant entitled to defend the eviction.
Attorney Wong filed and argued motions to intervene in the eviction on behalf of the client and the minor children. The motions were denied. Attorney Wong turned to VLP's Pro Bono Civil Appeals Clinic to find representation for the client and her children in an appeal. He also filed a bond to allow the client and her children to stay in the home pending the appeal.
A team of attorneys from
Nutter McLennen & Fish took the case pro bono. They were eager to fight for the young mother and children's rights to stay in their home. Though the Appeals Court upheld the decision of the housing court, the attorneys' persuasive brief to the Supreme Judicial Court, resulted in a rare grant (less than 4% of all requests!) of further appellate review. We are awaiting the court's decision.
VLP's pro bono model allowed a low-income family to receive top notch legal representation in a case where the family's homelessness hangs in the balance. Thanks to the dedication and skill of the volunteer attorneys in this case, the client and her children have stayed in their home for two years since the eviction notice was first given, the children have completed two years at their school, and an important domestic violence issue has been zealously argued at the SJC.
A Fond Farewell
Eric Davey came to VLP in 2014 with the belief that he would work a very few hours each week for a very limited amount of time. In short order, VLP staff recognized a rare find - an exceptionally intelligent, extremely hard-working colleague who had unlimited capacity for recognizing an issue, developing a plan, implementing that plan and then assessing the results.
After three years with VLP, Eric is leaving to attend Northeastern University School of Law. As happy as we are for Eric's pursuit of his dream, we are concerned about how to fill the hole that his moving on will leave. A rare find, absolutely.
Good luck Eric!
Thank You Boston Bar Foundation!
VLP was one of 20 local legal services agencies to receive a 2017 grant from the
Boston Bar Foundation
(BBF). In addition to providing operational support, the grant will also support the work at ERLI. The funding will be used to strengthen VLP's core activities at ERLI as well as recruiting, training, and supporting private attorneys to deliver high quality pro bono legal assistance.
The BBF receives its funds from sources like the John & Abigail Adams Benefit and from Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA). The Foundation's mission is to promote justice by funding and promoting innovation in legal services, enhancing access to justice for the underserved, and supporting the public interest activities of the bar. "The importance of the work these organization do simply can't be overstated," said BBF President Anthony A. Froio. "Last year, BBF grantees collectively served more than 38,000 people in need of legal assistance. That's 105 people a day, every day, for a year. They are immigrants, they are veterans, they are tenants being wrongfully evicted, and they are parents who are trying to advocate for a child with special needs." VLP is grateful for the BBF's generous support.
Volunteer Honor Roll
Don't forget to RSVP up for VLP's 40th Anniversary!
Can't attend but want to make a donation to support VLP's work?