by Kelsey Sadoff
Coming together to "celebrate the very best in legal services,"
the Massachusetts Bar Association honored five lawyers and one law
firm at the Annual Access to Justice Awards Luncheon on March 12,
as part of the MBA's Annual Conference 2010 at the Westin Copley
Place in Boston.
Legal Services Award
Two attorneys were presented the Legal Services Award, which is
given to a public or nonprofit agency attorney who has contributed
to the provision of low-income legal services beyond his or her
required job responsibilities: Thomas E. Kosman of South Coastal
Legal Services Inc. in Hyannis and Patti A. Prunhuber of Legal
Assistance Corp. of Central Massachusetts in Worcester.
Kosman, an elder law attorney on the Cape and the Islands since
1982, was honored for serving senior citizens with "knowledge,
vigor and above all, dedication." As the practice group leader for
Elder Law Advocates and the lead attorney under the Medicare
Advocacy Project, Kosman was described as an attorney who "doesn't
wait in his office [for the phone calls], but maintains a vigorous
Kosman, who was "humbled and greatly honored," accepted the
award on behalf of himself and his colleagues.
Prunhuber, described by James Breslauer as an attorney who will
do "something innovative and effective" when given a chance, has
dedicated her career to advocating for low-income families and
individuals. Taught by her mother to "challenge authority at every
step," Prunhuber reminded attendees that everyone "has a stake [in
the] reality of providing representation" to those who need it
"I have been fortunate to be a part of the legal services
community for 25 years," said Prunhuber, who thanked her colleagues
and clients for "teaching me and continuing to teach me."
Pro Bono Award for Law Firms
Fish & Richardson PC was honored with the Pro Bono Award for
Law Firms, which is presented to a firm whose meaningful pro bono
activities are particularly noteworthy given the firm's size.
Traditionally dedicated to intellectual property, litigation and
technology law, Fish & Richardson has helped Neighborhood Legal
Services with its goal of providing attorneys for the Northeast
Housing Court Lawyer for a Day Program since 2005.
"Pro bono service is uniquely rewarding in a way that is
different from our daily jobs," said Thomas A. Brown, who accepted
the award on behalf of Fish & Richardson. Brown noted the
volunteer attorneys often find that when volunteering with the
Northeast Housing Court Lawyer for a Day Program, they "feel we
have made a difference in the world" and "remember why we went to
"We owe the greatest gratitude to our clients, for giving us
this wonderful opportunity to serve them," said Brown. Since the
Northeast Housing Court Lawyer for a Day Program's inception, Fish
& Richardson has dedicated more than 2,300 hours to the
program. In 2009 alone, Fish & Richardson attorneys dedicated
650 hours to the Lynn Housing Court.
Pro Bono Publico Award
Michael P. Angelini, chairman of Bowditch & Dewey LLP in
Worcester, was presented the Pro Bono Publico Award, which is given
to an individual who has been instrumental in developing,
implementing and supporting pro bono programs for the MBA, a local
bar association, law firm or agency.
"At a time with unprecedented legal need - and when others said
it couldn't be done - Mike agreed to take on the first private bar
fundraising campaign," said Paige Firment, president of LACCM's
board of directors. She noted that Angelini spent hours urging
lawyers and law firms to participate in the program.
The former president of both the Greater Worcester Community
Foundation Inc. and United Way of Central Massachusetts, and the
current chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, Angelini
expressed his "pride for being a member of a profession that makes
a real difference in the world."
"Thankfully, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, there are
thousands of attorneys [who] practice access to justice everyday,"
Beth L. Eisenberg, whose work "in affording access to justice …
has made a tremendous difference," was the recipient of the
Defender Award, which is given to a public or nonprofit agency
attorney who provides or contributes to the provision of criminal
legal services to low-income clients.
The director of special litigation for the Committee for Public
Counsel Services in Somerville, Eisenberg has dedicated her career
to helping those in need.
"Compassion is our source of nonviolent social change," said
Eisenberg, who thanked her clients - "all of whom have been my
teachers" - when accepting her award.
Michael C. Connolly, chief of the district courts at the Norfolk
County District Attorney's Office, received the Prosecutor Award,
which is bestowed upon a state or federal prosecutor who has
distinguished him or herself in public service.
Crediting Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating with his
vision for creating a work environment where "prosecution is only
part of the job we perform in the office," Connolly has been
instrumental in establishing an avenue for access to justice for
mentally ill citizens in Quincy and Norfolk County.
Going "beyond his daily initiatives," Connolly, the prosecutor
representative to the Norfolk Mental Health/Criminal Justice
Partnership, works to secure grants to fund the program.
Richard McMahon, who presented Connolly with the Prosecutor
Award described him as an "outstanding attorney" who is "willing to
make tough decisions." Of his participation in the Norfolk Mental
Health/Criminal Justice Partnership, Connolly believes that
"partnerships and collaborative efforts can produce big and great