Six months since its official launch, the Massachusetts Bar
Association's Pro Bono Prescription program has attracted dozens of
volunteers and begun the next phase of its mission: assigning cases
to participating attorneys.
The program, a collaboration between the MBA and the
Massachusetts Medical-Legal Partnership network, helps low-income
residents across the state get help for their legal needs, many of
which are impacting their health. A doctor in the emergency room
can treat a child's respiratory troubles, for example, but a lawyer
is instrumental in ensuring that the landlord removes the mold that
triggered the illness.
One of the volunteer attorneys, Jon Adler (pictured, left), was
assigned a case involving a single mother of three who was forced
to leave the family's Dorchester apartment on multiple occasions
due to bed bugs. Adler is working with the building's management
and suggesting the use of more aggressive pest control to cure an
"I am trying to make sure she lives in an environment that is
safe for both her and her family," said Adler, who hopes to settle
the case soon. He sent a demand letter to the landlord and property
manager asking that they not only treat his client's unit, but the
entire complex in order to remove the infestation. Adler is also
seeking rent abatement to cover his client's moves, and for
hospital bills incurred after the client's son was bitten by a bed
"I am hoping to find that the infestation is fully resolved,"
said Adler, who operates his own personal injury practice, the Law
Office of Jon Adler, in South Boston.
MLP Boston Executive Director Samantha Morton is delighted that
the MBA is partnering with medical-legal partnerships. Currently,
there are more than two dozen volunteers signed up for the program,
which expects to accept volunteers on an ongoing basis.
"I knew the project would be in good hands with the MBA," Morton
said. "By embracing this initiative, the MBA is pushing the
envelope yet again in showing that a lawyer can advance many
interests society has."
Morton said it is important for attorneys to understand that
their legal work goes beyond promoting justice. "Legal advocacy is
promoting health and well-being." she said.
Medical-legal partnerships, often housed with a local or regional
legal services organization, work with hospitals, clinics or other
institutions to provide free legal services to needy patients.
Members of health care teams refer patients with legal crises
and/or health emergencies that have a legal component directly tied
to the MLPs.
The MBA Pro Bono Prescription aims to supplement, through
volunteers, the work of MLP staff attorneys. The program will allow
MLPs to help a larger number of vulnerable patients across
Massachusetts at a time when legal aid organizations are seeing the
number of struggling residents growing in every community.
Attorneys interested in joining the program should contact the MLP
in their region. Contact information for the MLPs participating in
the program, as well as details on any upcoming programming or open
houses, is available at www.massbar.org/ProBonoRX. Interested
lawyers will be matched with cases based on the MLPs' needs and the
individual's expertise and availability.
"There is an outpouring of volunteers," said MBA Vice President
Jeffrey N. Catalano, who said that attorneys had signed up at each
of the program's three open houses in Worcester, Boston and
Springfield. They have also expressed interest by contacting the
MLPs through the MBA website or by speaking with MBA
The idea for the program came when Catalano, a partner at Todd
& Weld LLP in Boston who specializes in medical malpractice,
was asked by Morton to speak at a medical-legal conference in
Worcester last year.
"I was inspired by how successful they are and the energy behind
the people involved," said Catalano, who thought it would be a
great idea to get the MBA involved.
Another volunteer attorney, Judith Rothbard Tate, joined the
program in September after becoming intrigued by the idea of a
"I thought it was an exciting way to meet both health care needs
and legal needs simultaneously," said Tate, who focuses on real
estate law in her home office in Berlin, but also has a background
in criminal, family and personal injury law.
She is currently working on establishing her client as the
guardian for an adult in Worcester with an intellectual disability
by filing the appropriate petitions with the court. The case had
already been referred to and passed on by a number of attorneys
because of the expertise required.
Among the documents required to file the guardianship are a
clinical team report that must be completed by the incapacitated
person's primary care physician, a psychologist and a social
worker. "One of the benefits of the medical-legal partnership is
the link between the attorney and treating physicians," Tate
She was so compelled to focus on pro bono work that she began
working at a community legal aid office in Worcester last fall. She
said lending legal expertise and advice is important, especially
when it comes to medical-legal problems.
The next phase of the Pro Bono Prescription program will include
additional open houses and recruitment efforts, as well as training
programs for existing volunteers.