Lawyers Journal

September ushers in a new season of giving back

While many organizations might have enjoyed a brief summer respite, the MBA’s Public and Community Services Department was hard at work preparing for a new season of public and community-service programming.

The MBA is extremely proud of the programming that has been developed for members throughout the commonwealth. The MBA is equally proud of the hundreds of members whose tireless efforts and countless hours of volunteer time have made the association a leader in providing pro bono publico legal services and law-related education programming to the commonwealth.

The MBA encourages members to volunteer their time and expertise on various projects and programs. In recognition and in support of the MBA’s efforts, President Joseph P.J. Vrabel is beginning his presidency by underscoring the importance of outreach and law-related education through the launch of the program entitled “Conversations on Law & Liberty in Times of Crisis.”

“Conversations” is designed to encourage public discussion of the complex legal and civic issues facing our nation in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. At the heart of this project is the simple idea of convening public conversations organized around topics related to civil liberties and constitutional rights. The program will be launched in early September and will continue throughout the year.

“Conversations” marks the beginning of MBA community-service and law-related educational programs that will be held throughout the 2002-2003 season. The MBA invites you to volunteer to participate in any of these important programs:

Mock Trial (Nov. 2002 – March 2003): While actual trials do not begin until the end of January, some Mock Trial schools begin to prepare for the competition as early as November. Open to all public and private high schools in Massachusetts, the Mock Trial Program is a rich curriculum that promotes the development of fundamental knowledge, sound judgment and critical-thinking skills. Students are placed in a simulated courtroom situation where they assume the roles of lawyers and witnesses in a hypothetical case.

Job Shadow Day (Feb. 3, 2003): For one day in February, the MBA sponsors young people from various communities in the commonwealth to “shadow” attorneys in order to gain an appreciation for legal work in general and the area shadowed in particular. The goal of Job Shadow is to provide a favorable experience to the students, to foster an appreciation for the importance of living in a society of laws, to create a positive impression of lawyers and to introduce students to a variety of careers available at a law firm.

Christmas in April (third week in April 2003): Also known as “Rebuilding Together,” is a program primarily organized by the MBA’s New Lawyer’s Section. Christmas in April is a national community-based program dedicated to helping low-income, elderly and physically challenged people live in warmth, safety and independence through volunteer repair and rehabilitation of their homes, community centers, and neighborhoods.

Last April, more than 1,200 Massachusetts volunteers worked side-by-side with neighbors and beneficiaries, building neighborhood pride and spirit. By the end of the day, volunteers had made repairs on more than 18 homes and four community centers in Boston as well as projects in five other communities across the state.

Elder Law Education Program: (May 2003): During May, in celebration of Law Day, MBA members throughout the state volunteer their time to speak at local senior centers and/or councils on aging on various elder-law topics. Topics range from basic elder legal issues to more substantive areas.

Dial-a-Lawyer: On the first Wednesday of each month, attorneys volunteer at the MBA’s Boston headquarters to provide free basic legal information by phone to callers between the hours of 5:30-7:30 p.m. Questions cover a wide range of legal topics.

The MBA’s Springfield office holds two Dial-a-Lawyer programs each year, specifically targeting the general public in western Massachusetts. To volunteer for the upcoming Oct. 30 program in Springfield, please call (413) 731-5134 or e-mail [e-mail westernmassoffice].

Speakers Bureau: The MBA Speakers Bureau is a great opportunity for members to share their expertise with local, civic, business, educational and social organizations. Presentations are free to the public.

Legal resources

The MBA also offers members and the general public access to valuable legal information and resources. In order to ensure that the information offered is current and accurate, the MBA welcomes volunteer editors to review the content of the offerings listed below:

MassLawHelp.com: This new Web site, developed specifically for the general public, includes information on legal resources, court systems and ways to find legal assistance.

Tel-Law: Tel-Law is a collection of recorded messages designed to answer the public’s basic questions about the law. Tel-Law is fully automated and can be used 24 hours a day. Tel-Law can be reached by calling (617) 338-0669.

Client Service Pamphlets: The MBA publishes pamphlets explaining basic legal issues surrounding common situations that clients may face, such as buying a house or drafting a will. Typically displayed in the office reception area, these pamphlets are a great enhancement to communication and client service. The pamphlets are available for purchase in bulk for a nominal fee.

Professional development

The Community and Public Service Department also offers MBA members valuable professional development programs. Benefits include expanding your client base, resolving fee disputes with clients or other attorneys, or receiving assistance with difficult legal issues or support on unfamiliar areas of law. Among the programs are:

Lawyer Referral Service: The Lawyer Referral Service is one of the largest legal referral services in the nation. LRS is a unique member benefit that has helped countless lawyers build their client bases and expand their practices. Each day, the MBA’s LRS representatives carefully screen almost 300 calls from the public. Referrals to our members are based on the legal need, geographic convenience and financial situation of the caller.

Legal Fee Arbitration Board: Through arbitration, the Legal Fee Arbitration Board resolves both lawyer/client and lawyer/lawyer fee disputes. The arbitrators are volunteer attorneys and non-attorneys trained in accordance with standards set forth by the MBA. Binding decisions are rendered as awards and the proceedings are conducted pursuant to M.G.L. c. 251.

Mentor Program: Practitioners who are confronted with unfamiliar legal issues are encouraged to contact the Mentor Program for assistance, free of charge. Mentors are MBA members who volunteer to help other lawyers by offering advice in new or unfamiliar areas of law.

The MBA also offers new attorneys the opportunity to meet with more experienced attorneys several times during the year through Mentor Roundtables. Mentor Roundtables bring mentors and mentees with similar areas of practice together in a group environment, providing a great forum for learning and networking.

Pro Bono Opportunities Guide: The Pro Bono Opportunities Guide is a comprehensive listing of statewide agencies that are in need of pro bono assistance from attorneys, law students or paralegals. Copies of the guide can be obtained from the Community Services Department. The guide also is available online at www.MassBar.org/probono.

How to volunteer

Members who wish to volunteer to participate in any MBA community-oriented program or who need additional information about any of the programs listed above should contact the Public and Community Services Department at (617) 338-0695 or e-mail us at [e-mail communityservice].

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association