Massachusetts Bar Foundation

Issue July 2012

Every day, Massachusetts Bar Foundation grantee organizations advocate for Massachusetts' most vulnerable citizens and families. Lawyers Journal will regularly feature MBF grantees and fellows whose combined effort and generosity make that critical advocacy possible.


Robert A. Bertsche, Esq.

Partner, Prince Lobel Tye LLP, Boston MBF Fellow since 2009

Q: Why did you decide to become a fellow of the MBF?

A: I suppose the "proximate cause" was that I was invited to join by an MBF fellow, a lawyer for whom I have immense respect. Sometimes it takes the prod of a valued colleague to remind us of why we decided to become lawyers in the first place, and to get us off our duff to act on that reminder.

That gets to the second, more fundamental, reason. I've been a lawyer for 20-some years now, and I've been fortunate to build a successful practice as a media lawyer doing a combination of First Amendment, intellectual property, and employment work. Pro bono work has always been a big piece of my practice, and I work with a terrific group of talented lawyers at my firm. But I've reached a point in my career where I wanted to do a better job connecting with the greater legal community. I needed to step out of my own little box. And I wanted to try to play a role on a systemic level, to help in some small way toward improving the delivery of legal services and the administration of justice, particularly to those most in need. Heaven knows, the need today is greater than ever.

Q: You recently served on a grant advisory committee. What was your impression of that experience?

A: This was my second year on a grant advisory committee, and it's been incredibly rewarding both times, on a number of levels. I've learned so much about the array of incredibly talented individuals and worthy organizations out there. As part of the grant review process, MBF fellows personally meet with leaders of every single organization seeking funds. I've met some very impressive people who are working long hours, doing important work at relatively modest wages, to help make Massachusetts better for the most needy among us, and to help ease the burden on our court system. That's been a real privilege.

Q: Do you regard the MBF in the same way as you did initially?

A: When I first joined, I don't think I fully appreciated what a meaningful experience it would be to sit at the table discussing these issues with other lawyers and retired judges from throughout the state. If you haven't sat on one of these committees, you can't fully appreciate the amount of care, thoughtfulness, and debate that goes into the review of every single grant application. I've met MBF Fellows from a variety of settings, whom I wouldn't otherwise have come into contact with, and I've learned a lot from them.



Did you ever wonder how IOLTA monies are used to support legal aid? The Massachusetts Bar Foundation (MBF), the philanthropic partner of the MBA, is proud to present a story of a client helped by one of the recipients of funding from the MBF IOLTA Grants Program.

The Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center (JGCC), a domestic violence agency in Newburyport, has been a long-time recipient of grant funding from the MBF. Since 1997, the MBF has awarded over $430,000 in grants to this organization that provides critical legal assistance to victims of domestic violence. This is just one of the many stories JGCC has shared where IOLTA funding has made a true difference:

A staff attorney at Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center assisted and supported a respected community member when, after many years of marriage, her husband's behavior became erratic and he developed an addiction to drugs. In addition to being physically violent, the husband began taking out large cash advances from their joint credit cards, accumulating significant debt and steering the family, with two children in college, toward foreclosure. The husband refused a divorce and was uncooperative.

The JGCC attorney was able to secure permission from the court to sell the marital home, providing temporary financial relief, and obtain a restraining order against the husband. After the husband violated the restraining order a number of times, and after many attempts and much persistence, the attorney helped the client secure a divorce.

Thanks to Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, the woman has also attended a Bankruptcy/Foreclosure Seminar at the center, and is starting to rebuild her life.