Pro Bono Award for Law
Brown Rudnick LLP
Brown Rudnick LLP has a deep commitment to pro bono work. After
forming the Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation Corp., in 2000, the
firm decided to combine all of its charitable efforts under one
umbrella. As such, the firm created the Brown Rudnick Center for
the Public Interest, which combines the firm's pro bono, charitable
grants and volunteer efforts. Since the center's creation in 2001,
the firm has provided over 89,500 hours of pro bono legal
representation, valued at more than $36 million.
Many of those hours of probono work have been in Massachusetts
where Brown Rudnick has been, and continues to be, active in many
projects. The firm has partnered with the Volunteer Lawyers Project
to provide pro bono legal representation to low-income clients. In
addition, Brown Rudnick has recently worked with the Lawyers
Clearinghouse on Affordable Housing and Homelessness to create and
implement a Legal Assessment Program for nonprofit organizations.
The firm also participates bi-annually in the clearinghouse's Legal
Clinic for the Homeless, having donated 855 hours over the last two
Brown Rudnick Center for the Public Interest Executive Director Al
Wallis described his most memorable pro bono experience with a
homeless client. "It was not a particularly challenging legal
issue… the thing that was so powerful was that she saw the world
flip from good to bad in a couple of days." The client was a
previously employed middle-class woman who had lost her job due to
illness and whose life had changed drastically as a result. She
realized "that there was THIS side of America … this side of
The experience was a "profound reminder of why it's so important
to do this work," Wallis said.
As part of its commitment to pro bono work, Brown Rudnick requires
that each bankruptcy associate take on at least two pro bono cases
a year through the Volunteer Lawyers Project. The cases help
low-income debtors file Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy. Firm
bankruptcy attorney Ben Chapman described that "often, petitions
people filed for themselves would be denied," underscoring the need
for legal representation when filing for bankruptcy.
According to Chapman, he and his colleagues help their pro bono
clients through the entire filing process, which includes preparing
and filing the petitions as well as attending the mandatory 341
meeting with trustees and creditors. "You really do get a sense
that you are helping someone - people experiencing extreme
financial distress," Chapman said. "It's really nice to help them
with a fresh start."
Also through their partnership with the Volunteer Lawyers Project,
Brown Rudnick represents individuals in unemployment benefit
disputes. Firm associate Jennifer MacDowell participates in the
program. "Being out of work can be one of the most personally
demoralizing things that can happen to a person. The [unemployment]
benefits help them stay on their feet during the trying and lengthy
process of finding a new job." MacDowell notes that cases where
employees are forced to quit due to work conditions are
particularly challenging. She recently represented a woman who had
to quit her job because of the daily discrimination in her
male-dominated work environment. Through the pro bono work of
MacDowell and colleagues, the woman was able to keep her
unemployment benefits. "Being able to help this woman - and all of
these clients - through such a difficult period in her life is why
this work is so important to us," MacDowell said.
In response to receiving the Pro Bono Award for Law Firms, Wallis
said, "the fact that the state's largest bar association would take
the time to applaud, focus on, and support this type of pro-bono
legal work is the real award."
"Receiving the applause of the Massachusetts Bar Association for
the pro bono work and direction that Brown Rudnick is taking with
public interest is a marvelous affirmation."
Legal Services Award
Ruth A. Bourquin, Massachusetts Law Reform
If it takes a village to raise a child, it often takes an army to
protect one; especially one as vulnerable as a homeless child. Ruth
A. Bourquin, a staff attorney at the Massachusetts Law Reform
Institute, has been a general of this army - a diverse network
dedicated to ensuring that homeless children are not exposed to
harmful and unsafe conditions.
Bourquin specializes in public benefits, including family shelter.
She has engaged in legislative and administrative advocacy, as well
as class action litigation, expanding access to income supports for
needy families and to emergency assistance for homeless
She recently served as the lead advocate statewide, working with
pro bono counsel and medical providers, as well as the legal and
social services communities, to preserve safety net programs that
protect homeless parents and their children. When the state decided
to reorganize its emergency shelter system, proposing significant
regulatory restrictions to access to shelter for homeless families
with children, Bourquin assembled a diverse coalition to identify
deficiencies in the state's proposed policies and to suggest
remedies to protect homeless families.
Recognizing that the proposed changes would jeopardize existing
safety net protections, Bourquin spearheaded efforts to meet with
members of Gov. Deval L. Patrick administration and the
Legislature, testifying at legislative and administrative hearings
to provide detailed comments exposing the harm of the proposed
changes while articulating effective solutions.
Bourquin said some of the protections that she advocated for are
found in the new regulations, but too many homeless children in
Massachusetts are now being denied shelter and forced to sleep in
unsafe and inappropriate places.
"I was extremely honored to be told about this award, particularly
because it is based on my work on behalf of homeless families with
children who are now facing great difficulty accessing emergency
shelter in the commonwealth," Bourquin said. " I would like to
accept this award on behalf of the very brave families I work with
each day who manage to protect their children and be good parents,
notwithstanding the crisis of homelessness they face."
Legal Services Award
James Breslauer, Neighborhood Legal Services
Neighborhood Legal Services Advocacy Coordinator James
Breslauer has dedicated his entire career to helping the
underrepresented. Before joining Neighborhood Legal Services (NLS)
in 1996, Breslauer worked as a legal aid attorney in Pennsylvania
and at Merrimack Valley Legal Services in Massachusetts.
"In college in the '60s, I got very bothered by the inequities I
was seeing, as far as how poor people were being treated and black
people were being treated … I couldn't stand the injustice. So I
decided to go to law school and do something about it," Breslauer
It was at Dickinson School of Law in Pennsylvania where Breslauer
truly began his career in legal aid. "I almost got kicked out of
law school because I was working 40 hours a week in the legal aid
Over the years, Breslauer has worked in many different areas of
legal aid, including public benefits law, unemployment, anti-hunger
issues, housing, health law, trial work and appellate
Breslauer remembers one particular unemployment case in which the
client lost his job because the employer had switched his shift.
Although the client did not have childcare and needed to stay home
to care for his children during the new shift hours, he was denied
unemployment benefits. After losing in the Massachusetts Appeals
Court, Breslauer was ready to give up, but appealed the decision to
the Supreme Judicial Court at the request of his client.
"Low and behold - we won," Breslauer said. The SJC ruled that
staying home to take care of children was good cause. "Good
personal reasons can be good cause for leaving work," he said The
client was so thrilled with the result that he framed a picture of
himself holding the SJC decision and gave it to Breslauer in
As a result of decreased funding that forced NLS to downsize,
Breslauer now focuses more on housing law. He explained that many
of his days are spent trying to get a court order for shelter for
families that have nowhere to go.
"Unfortunately, lately we've been really hit with an awful lot of
families who are homeless and being denied shelter by DHCD
[Department of Housing and Community Development]," he said.
In addition, Breslauer spends at least one morning a week at the
Northeast Housing Court in Lawrence, where he helps less
experienced attorneys and law students represent low-income tenants
in mediation. He has also served as a hearing officer for the Board
of Bar Overseers for many years, as well as a judge for the MBA
Mock Trial Program.
In receiving the MBA Legal Services Access to Justice Award,
Breslauer said he is "totally blown away" and incredibly
"I feel most of the time that our clients are invisible - to many
government agencies and politicians, they are just statistics. This
award is really a recognition by a very prestigious organization,
the MBA, that our clients count and are entitled to all of the same
legal rights as those with money."
Pro Bono Publico
Timothy G. Lynch, Swartz & Lynch LLP
One of Timothy G. Lynch's most illustrative anecdotes about
what impermanence does to shape a child is the one about "The
He said a teen in foster care who has a morning spat with a foster
parent can come home after school to find a social worker sitting
on his or her bed with a box for personal belongings to collect in
order to leave the home.
"It's just common sense that children brought up without any
permanency are not going to do very well," Lynch said. "Their odds
are greatly diminished, but if you have a volunteer to give a kid
direction, that kid will succeed." He said foster children can
sometimes be made keenly aware - by their foster parents - that the
foster parents are being paid to take them in, and that that
message is mostly less than kind.
Lynch's main pro bono focus has been his work with Boston CASA
Inc., a nonprofit child advocacy association concentrating on the
best interests of children who are the subject of abuse and neglect
cases. He has volunteered for CASA since 1991, first as a
court-appointed legal advocate, then as a board member and
currently as the organization's president.
Boston CASA recruits, trains and supervises volunteer advocates to
represent the best interests of children in the courtroom and to
ensure that their medical, educational and other needs are met, and
makes recommendations for permanent and temporary living
When budgetary cutbacks at the Probation Department forced CASA to
find new quarters, the preparation that Lynch had made, including
obtaining financial backing, allowed the program to become a
free-standing, non-profit organization with its own executive
director and its own offices.
He was shocked when notified he was receiving this award, but
expressed hope that it brings more publicity to the cause of CASA,
whose young clients are dubbed "the forgotten children."
"It's critical to do whatever we can for these kids, because what
happens to them will come back to all of us," he said.
The Hon. Gloria Tan, Massachusetts Juvenile
Court Associate Justice
The Hon. Gloria Tan remembers being told, as a newly-minted public
defender at the Trial Unit of the Commitee for Public Counsel
Services, that in the role of public defender, you are "the one
person in the courtroom standing in the way of a high-speed train
going toward your client, and you are the only one who can stand on
Most people wouldn't care for that job description, but Tan, who
worked at Harvard's Criminal Justice Institute as a clinical
instructor and supervisor for law students representing indigent
adults and youth in, before her judgeship, criminal and delinquency
proceedings, said she feels lucky to have served. "A client is more
than just a docket number on case. It's your job to tell the court
who your client is and what crime they're charged with," she
Many Criminal Justice Institute clients were in court because of
issues such as substance abuse or mental illness or learning
disabilities. Post-dispositional advocacy goes beyond the
"I have taken clients to drug treatment programs," Tan said.
"After the case is over, we try to achieve the best outcome, but we
[also] try to address underlying issues to reduce recidivism, help
them find jobs, get them into counseling, and keep them from
Tan serves on the board of directors of the Asian American Lawyers
Association of Massachusetts and has chaired the MBA Criminal
Justice Section Council, where she remains as a member. She is also
a member of the MBA House of Delegates, its Executive Management
Board, and the Governor's Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, serving
on the Re-entry Subcommittee.
Gloria has encouraged Asian American lawyers and other lawyers of
color to join and become active in the MBA and in their
communities. She volunteers as a citizenship tutor at the Boston
Chinatown Neighborhood Center.
"I feel very honored and humbled by this," she said of winning the
Adam J. Foss, Suffolk County District Attorney's Office
Assistant District Attorney Adam J. Foss started law school
to become an entertainment lawyer, but after a clerkship in Roxbury
District Court and participating in the Suffolk Defenders Clinic at
Suffolk University Law School, Foss realized he wanted to work in
the criminal justice system.
"I thought I wanted to be a defense attorney," said Foss, who
began his career as a prosecutor in Suffolk County after graduating
from law school in 2008. Foss explained that ADAs are capable of
giving someone a second chance, something unique to the
"We're endowed with a tremendous amount of power, and if you use
that power for good, you really can make a lot of change," he
Foss currently works in the Juvenile Division of the Suffolk
County District Attorney's Office. Foss has committed himself to
giving back to the community through efforts such as the Roxbury
CHOICE Program, an initiative to turn probation from a punitive
sentence into a beneficial relationship with the court. On a
case-by-case basis, offenders are given the alternative of applying
to educational programs such as the Re-Engagement Center, Year Up,
Youth Opportunities Unlimited Boston, and Strive.
One of Foss's most memorable CHOICE cases pertained to a South-End
gang member. When the defendant violated his terms of probation,
Foss chose to ask the presiding judge for a second chance with him.
As an alternative to incarceration, the defendant was accepted into
the Year Up program, where he graduated with the skills necessary
to maintain a job. He now works in technical support services and
is no longer involved in gang life.
Foss is founder of the Reading Program, in which members of the
Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, as well as other
government agencies, volunteer to read in early elementary
classrooms in Roxbury. Foss said the idea was inspired when he
overheard a statistic that "first-grade inner-city kids have only
been read to for a total of 24 hours in their lives," whereas their
suburban counterparts have been read to for an estimated 1,800
hours by first grade. The program is an effort to help bridge the
Foss finds his work extremely rewarding and has no plans of
slowing down. He is currently working to create a diversion program
for the Suffolk County Juvenile Court. "A lot of times your job
starts at five," said Foss, adding that District Attorney Dan
Conley told him that when he was first hired back in 2008 - it has
stuck with him ever since.
"Everything I've done is with the support and encouragement of a
lot of people in my office," said Foss, expressing his gratitude to
Conley and the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office.