The Clearinghouse wrapped up a record-breaking year of legal clinics on June 23 under the watch of Legal Clinic Director Mia Friedman, who took over management of the program last September. Over the past nine months, volunteer attorneys from ten area law firms and multiple in-house legal departments met with 204 clients, more than any other year in the program’s 23-year history.
Looking back over her first year running the program, Mia says she’s excited to see how much it has grown. The Clearinghouse took steps to expand the program starting last May, after receiving a $100,000 grant from Cummings Foundation.
Set to be paid out over two years, the Cummings grant enabled the Clearinghouse to appoint Mia as the new program director (a role previously held by Executive Director Maribeth Perry), add two new shelter locations, hire an experienced mentor for clinic attorneys, and recruit additional volunteers.
All of these efforts paid off, as Mia says a mix of increased client outreach and uncertainty about the political climate led to more people seeking help with civil legal issues like immigration and housing.
There was more support for volunteers this year as well, thanks to mentor Dick Bauer, an experienced legal services attorney and Access to Justice Fellow. Dick, who previously spent more than 30 years as an attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services, attended clinics and case reviews and provided ongoing assistance and advice to volunteers.
“Our volunteer attorneys have a range of experience, from Summer Associates, to very new attorneys and many senior partners,” Mia says. “So for any volunteer who has not handled a housing case or has not met with a low-income client before, it’s been great having Dick there to mentor volunteers and provide case supervision.”
Now that she’s finished her first year, Mia is ready to look ahead to the fall. Her plans for next year include streamlining the Clearinghouse’s pro bono referral process, recruiting more expert mentors, and adding at least one new clinic, at Rosie’s Place. In partnership with Rosie’s and Ropes & Gray, the Lawyers Clearinghouse will pilot a CORI clinic in September for homeless and low-income women. Mia hopes these changes will result in more at-risk women receiving free civil legal assistance.
Mia first came to the Clearinghouse in 2014 when she was hired to run the Access to Justice Fellows Program, but she says that running the Legal Clinic is just the type of thing she envisioned herself doing when she graduated from law school.
“I took some twists and turns with my career, but I’ve always wanted to work with at-risk individuals and help them, and I truly feel that I am doing that and helping others do that,” she says.