Five attorneys and one law firm will be honored at the
Massachusetts Bar Association's Access to Justice luncheon on
Friday, March 12, as part of the MBA Annual Conference 2010.
The Access to Justice awards are bestowed upon those attorneys
and law firms dedicated to helping others and enhancing the legal
profession. This year's honorees include:
Patti A. Prunhuber
Legal Assistance Corp. of Central Massachusetts,
Legal Services Award
"I have the best job," says Patti A. Prunhuber, who remains
passionate about her work in legal services after almost 25 years
in the field. Prunhuber, the litigation director at Legal
Assistance Corp. of Central Massachusetts in Worcester, has
dedicated her career to advocating for low-income families and
individuals, specializing in cases involving the rights of
immigrants and low-wage workers with respect to unemployment
compensation, health care, affordable housing and public
Prunhuber, who believes that when you go home, you have to feel
you "did good in the world," became involved with civil legal
services in law school and finds satisfaction in her work because
of her supportive office environment, the intellectually
challenging nature of her cases and the overall importance of legal
"The most difficult part [of my job] is that the demand for
legal assistance so outstrips the capacity [to provide it]," she
said. "We have so many people that we have to turn down but who
have pressing legal problems and are qualified for our
In 1985, at the beginning of her legal career, Prunhuber was a
member of the employment, government benefits and housing units at
Western Massachusetts Legal Services, and she recently initiated
its employment law group. Also, Prunhuber chairs the Legal Services
Employment Task Force.
Prunhuber cherishes the partnership that legal services
advocates have with their clients, and says, "[You leave the]
biggest mark where the client finds his/her voice." She explains
that her clients often find their voices through the legal
Thomas E. Kosman
South Coastal Counties Legal Services Inc., Hyannis
Legal Services Award
For the last 28 years, Thomas E. Kosman has used his position as
an elder law attorney on the Cape and the islands as an opportunity
to "really get to know the low-income and elderly community, their
needs and how to connect with them."
At South Coastal Counties Legal Services Inc., Kosman assists
more than 300 elderly members yearly as the practice group leader
for Elder Law Advocates, the lead attorney under the Medicare
Advocacy Project, and as a participant in the statewide Elder Law
"I was raised by a single mother after my father died, and while
our situation wasn't one of dire poverty, we were certainly poor.
My parents, too, had been raised in poverty; my father in an
orphanage, my mother as one of 13 children of a tenant farmer, who
in the depths of the Depression, defaulted on a chattel mortgage
and watched all of his family's possessions auctioned off," said
Kosman. "With this as my heritage, I have an all too natural
empathy for the little guy, and a real desire to do what I can to
level the playing field."
For attorneys thinking about doing work in legal services,
Kosman notes that this type of law is not "exactly a growth
industry. Flippancy aside, the economic tradeoffs that a career in
legal services requires are well worth it - you get to work with
some of the finest people you'll ever meet, you'd be entering a
profession that has developed and commanded real respect from the
bench and bar."
Fish & Richardson PC, Boston
Pro Bono Award for Law Firms
On the fourth Tuesday of every month, attorneys from Fish &
Richardson PC in Boston staff the Lynn session of the Housing
Court, representing low-income landlords and tenants in housing
"With our focus on intellectual property, the idea that we would
be integral partners in a program like this was really unthinkable
10 years ago," said Heidi E. Harvey, of counsel at Fish &
Richardson. "By partnering with established organizations, like
Neighborhood Legal Services, the VLA [Volunteer Lawyers of the Arts
of Massachusetts], PAIR [Political Asylum/Immigration
Representation project], and others, we made sure we always had
access to real legal expertise. Our associates, who are incredibly
bright and can learn any area of law, prove that competence and
energy are the two critical skills to providing effective pro bono
Steadfast to its pro bono commitment to the Northeast Housing
Court Law for a Day Program, Fish & Richardson has donated more
than 2,300 attorney hours to the program.
"I would say the most challenging part of these cases is that
the economic downturn last year made it difficult sometimes to find
a good solution where both landlord and tenant were earnestly
trying to meet their obligations but could not due to financial
strains," said associate Danni Tang.
In 1992, when Fish only had three offices and 38 attorneys,
Harvey started working on a pro bono immigration case. "I still
represent that client," said Harvey, who explained that as the firm
grew in offices and attorneys, its interest in and support of pro
bono work also grew. "One of the most satisfying things to me is to
look at the firm today, 18 years later, and see that firm-wide
commitment to, and participation in, pro bono work," she said.
Michael P. Angelini
Bowditch & Dewey LLP, Worcester
Pro Bono Publico Award
Michael P. Angelini, who began his legal career in 1968 at
Bowditch, Gowetz & Lane, is now the chairman of Bowditch &
Dewey LLP in Worcester, where he practices business and finance,
litigation and employment law.
"The best part of my job is problem-solving," said Angelini. "I
think of the law as an instrument for the solution of problems and
I think of myself as a problem-solver. It's easy to get hung up in
the world of victories and losses, but the bottom line is to find a
way to help people and to get to the right result with as little
friction as possible. It doesn't always happen, but it is always
worth the effort - and when it works, it's a joy to behold.
Angelini believes that for lawyers interested in pro bono work,
you have to "jump in." He is the president of the Greater Worcester
Community Foundation Inc. and United Way of Central Massachusetts,
the former chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, and the
first chairman and founding director of the Massachusetts Mental
Health Legal Advisors Committee.
In 1982, Angelini was instrumental in reorganizing groups
responsible for the delivery of legal services to the poor in
Worcester County and managed the combination of existing agencies
into what is now the Legal Assistance Corp. of Central
Massachusetts. When LACCM faced drastic cuts in program revenues in
2009, Angelini took the time to create and implement a private bar
campaign template for LACCM to use in future fundraising.
"This is hardly a duty," said Angelini. "It is much more of an
opportunity and a blessing; and the pleasure of making a difference
should not be overlooked."
Beth L. Eisenberg
The director of special litigation at the Committee for Public
Counsel Services in Somerville, Beth L. Eisenberg has dedicated her
career to helping those in need.
"I started law school thinking I would go into some kind of
labor practice. My father and mother were hardworking people who
instilled a reverence for labor and unions in me," said Eisenberg,
who shifted her legal aspirations as result of interning for
attorneys Max Stern and Patty Garin.
"Max and Patty completely opened my eyes to a world of almost
unimaginable devotion to the client, and virtuosic practice of the
law. What I loved was that they gave their all to people who
otherwise had nothing, and who expected to be invisible in society.
Max and Patty made each client re-perceptible. It was thrilling,"
She began her legal career in the tax department at Gaston &
Snow, before practicing for a few years at CPCS and then
Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services. She also worked with the
Center for Public Representation before returning to CPCS in
"Every case presents its own challenge, its own promise and its
own difficulties that must be thought through," said Eisenberg.
"Sometimes the challenge is to be a cold-eyed rationalist for
clients in pain, and sometimes the challenge is to remain
meticulous when you're dog-tired."
Eisenberg urges attorneys with an interest in criminal legal
services to "not get discouraged when your heart is bigger than
your substantive knowledge or technique. Just put your shoulder to
the wheel and practice, practice, practice."
Michael C. Connolly
Norfolk County District Attorney
After leaving private practice in 2006, Michael C. Connolly
became chief of the district courts in the Norfolk County District
Attorney's office, working as the prosecutor representative to the
Norfolk Mental Health/Criminal Justice Partnership, and also
helping to secure the grants to fund the program.
"My professional career has been based on public service," said
Connolly. "I have always had the desire to work in a field that I
can help people. As an attorney, there is no better place to work;
no better place to make a difference, than in a district attorney's
With the grant money for the Norfolk Mental Health/Criminal
Justice Partnership, Connolly established a pilot program in
partnership with the Quincy mayor's office and the Quincy Police
Department to assure the immediate treatment of mentally ill
"The easiest part of a prosecutor's job is what happens in the
courtroom. The prosecution of crime is where the job starts, not
ends, said Connolly. "ADAs need to have the perspective that it is
not just about trying cases; it's about doing what is morally
Instrumental in establishing an avenue for access to justice for
mentally ill citizens in Quincy and Norfolk County, Connolly has
found that "in these difficult economic times, maintaining a focus
on the task at hand - prosecuting criminal cases, while at the same
time developing programming that will help in deterring or
preventing crime - is extremely difficult."
"It's difficult to point to the best part of my job. I think it
is the understanding that what you do makes a difference. People do
not choose to become part of the criminal justice system - they are
thrust into it," said Connolly. "If a victim can walk away with the
understanding that they have been represented fairly and to the
ADA's best ability, I take great satisfaction in that."