Attorneys, law students and paralegals looking for ways to
volunteer their time can consult the updated Pro Bono Opportunities
Guide, a comprehensive, statewide listing of more than 130 agencies
in need of pro bono assistance. The guide has been updated and is
available online at www.massbar.org/publications/pbog.
"People change, programs change,
funding changes, so we need to get that information out there,
particularly in this economic climate," said Elizabeth A. O'Neil,
director of Public and Community Services at the Massachusetts Bar
"It's the quickest and easiest way
for members to find programs that best match their desire to help
people," she said. "For attorneys who are not currently doing pro
bono work, it's a great way for them to find out what's available
in their area, practice-wise and geographically."
The guide lists information about
what each organization does, what kind of legal help they need and
where they are located, and members can search by keyword, category
and/or county for volunteer opportunities ranging from actual
client representation to the training of staff.
The MBA and the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, the MBA's
philanthropic partner, support Massachusetts attorneys in their
efforts to provide pro bono services to those of limited means.
Serving Our Veterans in the Law
One of the MBA's most prominent
initiatives is helping veterans struggling with securing their
benefits or having other legal problems. Started in the fall of
2007, the program now offers three ways for attorneys to help
veterans with legal problems.
The first option is the Veterans
Dial-A-Lawyer Program, which is held in October and April.
Volunteers answer phone calls at the MBA's Boston office from 5:30
to 7:30 p.m., giving the callers basic legal advice on how to
proceed. The next program will be Oct. 15.
"They answer basic legal questions
that the veteran is experiencing, from foreclosure to bankruptcy,
to unemployment to housing to veterans benefits, so we're always
looking for attorneys with a diverse legal background,"
The second option is the Visiting
Lawyers Program, which is modeled on lawyer-for-a-day programs,
when volunteer attorneys meet face-to-face with veterans for up to
20 minutes to provide legal information.
"It's like Dial-A-Lawyer, but in
person," O'Neil said. "It's not legal representation, but
rather, offering legal advice for their particular issue."
The next Visiting Lawyers Program
will be held Oct. 1 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Northeast Outreach
Center at 65 Cedar St. in Haverhill. Veterans must register for an
appointment in advance. This is the newest portion of the Serving
Our Veterans in the Law program. The first Visiting Lawyers Program
for veterans was held June 2 in Northbridge.
The MBA has partnered with the
Massachusetts Department of Veteran Services on both the
Veterans Dial-A-Lawyer and Visiting Lawyer Programs.
The final option, which involves the
most serious commitment, is the Veterans Pro Bono Initiative, in
which volunteer attorneys represent veterans appealing a benefits
decision of the Veterans Administration. The
MBA has trained upwards of 80 attorney volunteers to
handle individual cases.
Since the inception of this program,
the MBA has collaborated with Shelter Legal Ser-vices, a
Newton-based nonprofit organization that offers free legal advice
and representation to homeless and low-income individuals in the
Boston area. Shelter Legal Services runs the veterans intake
hotline, which is open on Mondays from 3 to 5 p.m. so veterans call
to apply for free representation by volunteers.
"This is free legal representation
for veterans as he or she goes through the process," O'Neil
This program is offered as a public service of the MBA
with the financial support of the MBF. Volunteer support is needed
to keep all three facets of the program running strong, O'Neil
said. Attorneys who are interested in volunteering for any
portion of the program can call (617) 338-0695 or e-mail
"Our members have been extremely
supportive of all three (veterans) programs. Many of our members
are veterans themselves. Whether they are or not, they feel the
need to give back" by volunteering, she said. "It's an exciting
program because there's such a need out there."