Pro Bono Victories

November 2017

“I think [pro bono] is something that we’re supposed to be doing. Part of the reason a lot of us became lawyers is to be advocates for justice, and the best way to do that is to use your skills to advocate for an individual in need.” – Peter Bilowz, Counsel, Goulston & Storrs PC

Peter Bilowz, Counsel at Goulston & Storrs, first met Ramón* at a Legal Clinic for the Homeless at St. Francis House.

Ramón was seeking help acquiring Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). He had applied previously, but his application was denied and his request for reconsideration was also unsuccessful. He was living in a rehabilitation home and was unable to work due to psychological disabilities.

Pete represented Ramón before an administrative law judge, where he presented the judge with a comprehensive medical history, as well as letters of support from Ramón’s doctors and his caseworker at St. Francis House. Ramón’s caseworker also appeared at the hearing and provided testimony outlining Ramón’s efforts to obtain employment, including enlisting in St. Francis House’s job training program. Despite his best efforts, Ramón faced difficulty in the program due to his condition.

Following the hearing, the judge agreed to approve Ramón’s request for SSDI. Ramón was awarded a significant back payment, as well as monthly payments going forward. He is very excited to finally have a regular income so he can more easily support himself.

*Client’s name has been changed to protect privacy.

October 2017

“I think we all have an obligation to give back with our skills, our time, and our resources. This is a skill I have and I definitely want to use it for good. Pro bono is very close to my heart and important to me, and I think it makes me a better lawyer.” – Danitra Spencer, Employment Counsel, Boston Scientific

Attorney Danitra Spencer, Employment Counsel at Boston Scientific, was first connected with her nonprofit client, a foundation dedicated to funding cancer research, through the Clearinghouse’s Legal Referral Program.

The foundation was seeking assistance creating a formal employee handbook and, as a member of Boston Scientific’s Employment Law Group, Danitra felt the project was a great fit for her.

Over the next couple months, Danitra worked closely with a key member of the executive team to learn more about the foundation’s unique needs. They discussed the relevant employment laws and decided how to best apply them in order to protect both the foundation and its employees, while also remaining in line with the foundation’s mission and culture.

The final result was a comprehensive document outlining organizational policies related to promotions, payroll, harassment, accommodation for disabilities, and more. The foundation was pleased to have an official handbook in place, enabling them to more effectively and transparently support their employees.

September 2017

“With this training and consultation program, the attorneys were in and out within the morning, and the nonprofits had an actual deliverable to take home with them. It didn’t require any ongoing work, so it was a quick and manageable way to give back and get hands-on experience working with the clients themselves. The entire experience was very rewarding.” – Kimberly Harding, Senior Associate, Nixon Peabody

On May 5, Lawyers Clearinghouse teamed up with Nixon Peabody’s Boston office to host a pro bono consultation for local nonprofits seeking assistance creating or updating their social media policies. The program was staffed pro bono with attorneys from Boston Scientific, Choate Hall & Stewart, General Electric, Hirsch Roberts Weinstein, and Nixon Peabody. Kim Harding, a senior associate in Nixon’s Rochester, New York office, flew in that morning to lead a training session for the attorneys in attendance.

Following the training, each nonprofit was paired with a team of the attorneys, who consulted with them about their unique needs. The attorneys then helped the nonprofit clients craft social media policies that were not only compliant with certain employment laws, but also tailored to each individual organization, outlining how their employees should conduct themselves online in order to safeguard themselves and their employer.

As a member of Nixon Peabody’s Labor & Employment group, Kim works regularly with for-profit employers facing a variety of labor and employment issues. She says although nonprofits are tax-exempt, they are not immune from employment issues or employment liability. And because nonprofits often have limited resources, such as small HR departments (if any) and small budgets, they may not be equipped to handle matters as easily as for-profit businesses.

Kim appreciated the opportunity to leverage her expertise to serve an audience she doesn’t always have an opportunity to assist. Meanwhile, the program was rated highly by both pro bono attorneys and the nonprofit clients, who felt the legal guidance strengthened their organizations and left them better equipped to deal with any future social media issues.

The Clearinghouse’s next consultation program, regarding commercial leases for nonprofits, will be held at DLA Piper’s Boston office on October 26. Learn more here.

August 2017

“The ten months that I spent working with and getting to know my two clients, David* and Sean*, were truly my pleasure; I am just so happy that they were able to get favorable results (and that they still keep in touch with me!). Their cases have been among the most rewarding parts of my first year as an associate at Ropes and I am grateful to know both of them.” – Jordan Marciello, Associate, Ropes & Gray

Ropes & Gray Associate Jordan Marciello first met David* and Sean* at a Legal Clinic for the Homeless at St. Francis House.

David was homeless and living at a shelter run by the YMCA. He was seeking help sealing his criminal record, which contained a lot of old cases and was making it difficult for him to apply for jobs or acquire permanent housing. Jordan represented David in front of two different judges, one in Boston Municipal Court and one in the Quincy District Court, who both agreed he was entitled to have entries on his record sealed.

David is now applying for better jobs and hopes to move out of the shelter once he finds stable employment.

Sean was also homeless and was living at St. Francis House. He had been forced to quit his manual labor job due to a health issue that was affecting his motor skills. He was receiving monthly state benefits, but was only left with $90 each month after paying child support.

Jordan helped Sean obtain SSI benefits. He was granted a retroactive payment in addition to a benefit of almost $800 a month. Now he is able to pay his child support obligation and still have some money to live. Sean used some of his first check to buy himself a new comforter, and he hopes to move out of the shelter soon.

*Clients’ names have been changed to protect privacy.

July 2017

“Pro bono is a great way to broaden your views on a lot of things. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet people you might not have met, and also to have a meaningful impact on someone’s life. As a young associate it was also a great opportunity to argue in a hearing, because it was something I’d never done before.” – Darlena Subashi, Associate, Ropes & Gray

Ropes & Gray Associate Darlena Subashi first met Andrew* at a Legal Clinic for the Homeless at MBHP.

Because of issues with his landlord, Andrew was seeking legal assistance transferring his Section 8 housing voucher to a new apartment. A while later, Darlena was working on Andrew’s transfer paperwork when he told her he had received a notice of proposed termination of his housing voucher from the Boston Housing Authority, due to perceived criminal activity related to an incident with one of his friends.

Andrew told Darlena he had already filed an appeal seeking an informal hearing, and she and her colleague, Mitch Stromberg, agreed to represent him. At the hearing, they showed the hearing officer a video of Andrew’s friend, who claimed the incident had been a prank and that the two men had a history of pranking one another. Andrew also spoke about how he had been able improve his life in the six years he had been housed and off the streets.

Shortly after the hearing, Andrew received a formal notice that his housing would not be terminated. The hearing officer agreed that there had been a misunderstanding and that Andrew should not lose his housing voucher. Andrew told Darlena he was very happy and grateful for the outcome and reiterated how meaningful his housing was to him.

*Client’s name has been changed to protect privacy.

June 2017

“It’s easy to not be so aware of the need that’s out there, so it’s important to me to be able to give back to people who have a sometimes desperate need for help and have no place else to turn. [Pro bono] is also extremely gratifying. As a private attorney working for clients, you charge them a fee and get paid and hopefully everyone is satisfied. This is a different level of satisfaction, and I’m very grateful for these opportunities.” – Jon Rockwood, Senior Contracts Manager, Liberty Mutual

Jon Rockwood, a Senior Contracts Manager at Liberty Mutual, was first connected with Kevin* following a Legal Clinic for the Homeless at the Pine Street Inn.

Kevin was seeking help with his estate plan, because he had a modest life insurance policy and wanted to ensure the money went to his grandchildren in the event of his passing. He was especially insistent because neither of his parents had made an estate plan, which contributed in part to the loss of the family’s home after they died.

Over the next couple months, Kevin and Jon met multiple times at Pine Street. They drafted a will for Kevin and a durable power of attorney for one of his close friends, who will be able to access and distribute funds on Kevin’s behalf.

Jon says it’s great to see Kevin planning ahead, and Kevin is happy to have his affairs in order and to be able to provide something for his grandchildren.

*Client’s name has been changed to protect privacy.

May 2017

“I enjoy getting involved in pro bono work because it gives me an opportunity to provide my services to persons and organizations of limited means. The particular needs of pro bono clients are also interesting and enable me to connect with people professionally who I might not otherwise interact with in the course of my own practice.” – Timothy Maun, Associate, Latham & Watkins LLP

When a local education nonprofit sought to dissolve their organization, they reached out to the Lawyers Clearinghouse Legal Referral Program. The Clearinghouse connected the group with Latham & Watkins attorney Timothy Maun, who practices in Latham’s Technology Transactions Group.

The organization had built up a large collection of education-related materials, which they wanted to transfer to another local education nonprofit. Tim assisted his client with a purchase agreement, which involved reviewing and negotiating agreement terms, followed by a full transfer of intellectual property (IP).

The IP transfer enabled the second organization to successfully carry on the important work previously done by Tim’s client, who will move forward with the formal dissolution process with legal guidance from Tim’s colleague, Latham Associate Jonathan Ellis.

Tim would like to thank his colleagues Abigail Prague and Gloria Mak, members of the Latham & Watkins Pro Bono Committee, for their support throughout this case.

April 2017

“One of the great things about doing pro bono work is that it gives you substantive experience that you might not otherwise get. I’m not a litigator, but I was able to work with litigators from our office, attend hearings, and write a brief. It’s something that I really enjoyed, because it got me out of my comfort zone.” – Chelsea Johnson, Associate, Goulston & Storrs

Goulston & Storrs attorney Chelsea Johnson first met Laura* at a Legal Clinic for the Homeless at Pine Street Inn.

Laura needed help with her application for social security disability benefits. She had applied multiple times, but her application was always rejected due to misconceptions about the impact her mental health issues had on her ability to work. Though Laura presents well and can usually acquire a job, she has difficulties maintaining employment and consistently completing everyday tasks.

Chelsea collaborated with her colleague, Marshall Senterfitt, and with their help, Laura submitted a new application for benefits to the Social Security Administration. When that application was also rejected, Chelsea filed an appeal to go before an administrative judge.

In a brief submitted prior to the hearing, Chelsea successfully argued that Laura’s illness made it impossible for her to keep a job. Shortly after, Laura was approved for benefits and started receiving monthly payments, which will enable her to remain housed and focus on her health.

*Client’s name has been changed to protect privacy.

March 2017

“Pro bono work allowed me to have a real impact on a client’s life right at the beginning of my legal career. CORIs put already vulnerable people at a disadvantage in finding jobs and stable housing. Since these cases were resolved, Stephen has done everything he can to put himself in a position to find a good job and a home. He earned this success, but it was a privilege to help him through this process and to help him on his path to independence.” – Harry Hanson, Associate, WilmerHale

WilmerHale associate Harry Hanson first met Stephen* in October 2016 through the Lawyers Clearinghouse’s Legal Clinic for the Homeless. At the time, Stephen was working nearly full-time and pursuing his high school degree, all while living in an emergency shelter. Stephen had charges on his criminal record, or CORI, and even though the charges had been dismissed, Stephen knew that they could still affect his ability to find housing and a good-paying job. He came to the clinic for help sealing his CORI.

Harry worked with Stephen to prepare an affidavit, secure letters of support, and gather school records and other documents to include with Stephen’s petition to seal. The petition, filed in Boston Municipal Court, explained how Stephen’s CORI put him at a disadvantage in applying for subsidized housing and competitive employment. It also highlighted Stephen’s hard work since these cases were resolved; Stephen’s boss and his school principal submitted letters touting his positive attitude and perseverance.

In January 2017, Harry represented Stephen at a hearing in Boston Municipal Court. An Assistant District Attorney opposed the petition, arguing that the records should remain available to the public, and Harry countered, arguing that the disadvantages to Stephen outweighed the public’s interest in access to these records. After reviewing the written submissions and hearing argument, the court allowed Stephen’s petition. With these records sealed, Stephen plans to continue his education, and hopes to move into his own home soon.

*Client’s name has been changed to protect privacy.

February 2017

“My practice, although focused on affordable housing and community development, involves project financing and development. In contrast, the Legal Clinic provides the opportunity to work directly with individuals in need. That personal connection is very rewarding and is a powerful reminder of why we do what we do.” – Stephen Nolan, Partner, Nolan Sheehan Patten

Attorney Steve Nolan, a Partner at Nolan Sheehan Patten, met Brian*, an elderly homeless man, in 2016 while volunteering with the Massachusetts Legal Clinic for the Homeless.

Brian was living in Long Island Shelter after financial hardship left him unable to pay his rent in full for a number of months, resulting in eviction and a judgment for unpaid rent. He had recently applied for subsidized housing through the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), but his application had been rejected due to his eviction record, which the BHA believed showed an inability or unwillingness to comply with terms of his lease.

Nolan Sheehan Patten helped Brian set up a payment plan to resolve his outstanding debt. Steve then assisted Brian with his appeal of BHA’s denial of housing. In the meantime, he encouraged Brian to apply for housing through other sources, including the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP).

The BHA ultimately denied Brian’s appeal, but because Brian had settled his debt with his former landlord, he was able to secure affordable housing through MBHP and is now housed.

*Client’s name has been changed to protect privacy.

January 2017

“Everyone should be able to access justice, irrespective of economic status. Pro bono work is part of our contribution and obligation to the community to make sure that our most vulnerable members can have their voices heard.” – Genevieve Aguilar Reardon, Associate, Choate Hall & Stewart

Genevieve Aguilar Reardon, an associate at Choate Hall & Stewart, first met Miguel* at a Legal Clinic for the Homeless at Pine Street Inn.

Miguel was living in low-income housing and had fallen behind on his rent, causing his landlord to issue an eviction notice. By the time Miguel, an immigrant whose primary language is Portuguese Creole, was able to find someone to translate the notice for him and figure out his next steps, the court date for the eviction hearing had passed. Because he hadn’t shown up in court, his landlord obtained a default judgment that enabled him to move forward with the eviction process.

At the clinic, Miguel told Genevieve he was afraid he was going to be evicted at any moment. He had nowhere to go and shelters around the city were packed due to sub-zero temperatures and an impending snowstorm.

Immediately following the clinic, Genevieve contacted Miguel’s landlord’s attorney and negotiated a payment plan. The landlord also agreed to rescind the eviction notice and withdraw the default judgment. A week later, Genevieve, Miguel, and Katherine Todd (another Choate associate) headed to Housing Court, where a magistrate judge signed off on the new agreement.

Miguel is very happy that he is no longer facing homelessness. He has only one monthly payment left before he completely pays off his debt to his landlord.

Genevieve would like to thank attorneys Dick Bauer, Of Counsel at the Lawyers Clearinghouse, and Eloise Lawrence, of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, for their advice and guidance during this case.

*Client’s name has been changed to protect privacy.

December 2016

“I cannot begin to thank you enough for finding Dick for us. To no one’s surprise, he was thoughtful, patient, and a total pleasure to deal with. As a result of his efforts we will now be able to start aggressive fundraising for our work.” – Lynn Girton, Vice-Chair, Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

In 2008, the Massachusetts State Legislature created the Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. Known as the Grandparents Commission, the group was designed to provide education, resources, and other support to grandparents who were full-time guardians for their grandchildren.

Though the Commission was originally created to be run by volunteers, using funds appropriated by the state government, the Commissioners recently agreed that the group could be more effective if it could fundraise and distribute money to the nearly 40 nonprofits throughout the state that support grandparents and other guardians.

After the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging (MCOA) agreed to act as fiscal sponsor for the Commission, Vice-Chair Lynn Girton reached out to the Lawyers Clearinghouse for assistance. She was connected with Dick Allen, a former partner in Casner & Edwards’ Nonprofit Organizations Law Practice who also served as an Access to Justice Fellow.

Dick proceeded to draft a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Grandparents Commission and the MCOA. The document clarified the expectations of both parties and laid out the guidelines for their partnership, effectively cementing the fiscal sponsorship agreement.

Thanks to Dick, the Grandparents Commission can now receive donations via the MCOA and can in turn support nonprofits around the state.

Dick Allen has been volunteering with the Lawyers Clearinghouse since 2014, when he first signed on as an Access to Justice Fellow. As a Fellow, he helped the Clearinghouse train and mentor new attorneys, assisted Veterans Legal Services with governance matters, and worked on strategic planning with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. He and his wife Rosemary, also a former Fellow, continue to volunteer with a number of organizations, and the Clearinghouse would like to thank them for their invaluable work and dedication.

November 2016

“I think that sometimes the rules are stacked against people, and it’s just a matter of untangling the web of requirements to understand what needs to be done. Being able to support somebody in trying to work through that is very rewarding.” – Nora Marantz, Corporate Counsel, Liberty Mutual Legal Department


From left: Oh Sung Kwon, Nora Marantz, and Kathleen Brekka

Liberty Mutual attorneys Nora Marantz, Oh Sung Kwon, and Kathleen Brekka first met Jorge* in the summer of 2015 at a Legal Clinic for the Homeless at St. Francis House.

Jorge was living at the Shattuck Shelter in Jamaica Plain and had a job at a local grocery store, but could not afford an apartment of his own. He had previously applied for housing with the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), but his application had been denied after he was unable to provide the BHA with a recommendation from a past landlord.

After some research, and based on Jorge’s specific situation, the Liberty team decided the best course of action would be to file a new application. Nora, Jorge, and a case manager then attended an in-person interview with the BHA, where they were asked to collect more supporting documentation. The team compiled character references from Jorge’s case managers and a member of his church and had Jorge sign an affidavit attesting to his past tenant history.

The BHA approved Jorge’s new application in February 2016 and he was able to move into a one-bedroom apartment that March.

Nora, Oh Sung, and Kathleen extend their thanks to Shirly Ferreras, a legal secretary at Liberty Mutual, for assistance with Spanish language interpretation and translation during their meetings with Jorge, and to Kathleen McGrath, an attorney and pro bono coordinator in the Liberty Mutual Legal Department, for her advice and encouragement.

*Client’s name has been changed to protect privacy.

October 2016

Bats Wheeler accepts the Adams Pro Bono Publico Award from Justice Geraldine Hines. Image source.

Attorney Bancroft “Bats” Wheeler, a retired partner at Nutter McClennen & Fish and an Access to Justice Fellow, was one of four attorneys honored with a 2016 Adams Pro Bono Publico Award on October 26 at the John Adams Courthouse.

Bats was recognized for the pro bono work he started as a Fellow in 2013 after partnering with MetroWest Legal Services, where he piloted a program, called “Wills on Wheels,” which was designed to provide simple wills, durable powers of attorney, and healthcare proxies to disabled and elderly clients around Massachusetts. During his Fellowship, Bats drafted over 250 legal documents for over 100 MetroWest clients. He continues to volunteer with MetroWest today.

For many years, Bats has used his expertise in the areas of trusts and estates to actively serve his community. In addition to his work through the Fellows Program, he also volunteers with Senior Partners for Justice to work on matters related to the probate aspects of bank foreclosures.

The Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards are presented annually to legal professionals, law firms, government attorney offices, corporate law departments, and other legal institutions that “demonstrate outstanding and exceptional commitment to providing volunteer legal services for the poor and disadvantaged.”

September 2016

“I wouldn’t have this apartment if it wasn’t for all your help, time and dedication. You took time out of your busy schedule to help me and my family.” – Tara, Client, Legal Clinic for the Homeless

john_clohertyiii_08302016Attorney John Cloherty, a partner at Pierce, Davis & Perritano, was connected with Tara* after she attended a Legal Clinic for the Homeless at the Medeiros Center. Tara and her three sons had been evicted from their subsidized housing the year before and lost their next apartment after the landlord declined to renew the lease. They were staying with a family member, but needed to find a more stable living arrangement with two bedrooms.

Tara applied for an apartment at a subsidized housing complex, but was rejected due to her eviction history and an unpaid debt. She already had her hands full as a single mom working multiple jobs, and she was unsure of what to do next.

When Tara found another potential apartment, John and his support staff at Pierce Davis helped her compile the necessary packet of materials, including a financial history showing her past ability to pay rent.

In September 2016, Tara’s application was approved. She and her children are excited to have a place to call their own and thanked John for his assistance.

*Client’s name has been changed to protect privacy.

July 2016

“[Lawyers] have a very specific set of skills and the ability to do things that not everyone can do, including advocating for people who can’t afford attorneys. Pro bono should be a necessary part of most people’s practices . . . it’s a great opportunity to manage a case years before you would do it for another client at the firm, and it allows you to really take the lead and initiative to see something through from start to finish.” – Joey Polonsky, Associate, Choate Hall & Stewart

Shaina and Joey - ChoateChoate Hall & Stewart attorneys Shaina Wamsley and Joey Polonsky met Robert* in the summer of 2015 while volunteering with the Clearinghouse’s Massachusetts Legal Clinic for the Homeless. Robert needed legal help after the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied his application for disability benefits. He was homeless and had suffered multiple traumatic brain injuries in recent years, which left him struggling significantly in his daily life.

Shaina and Joey represented Robert in appealing the SSA’s decision. Over the course of a year, they collected and analyzed Robert’s medical records and drafted a persuasive memo advocating for him in advance of a June 2016 hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

Shaina and Joey zealously represented Robert’s interests at the hearing, and in July 2016, Robert received a fully favorable decision from the ALJ, reversing the SSA’s denial of benefits. Robert will now receive monthly disability benefits as well as over two years of back pay. These benefits will provide critical support for Robert’s day-to-day needs and will have a significant impact on his ability to secure stable housing.

*Client’s name has been changed to protect privacy.

August 2015

“Yesterday ranks insanely high on my days of professional fulfillment. Had it not been for the clinics you run, I never would have met Aaron, and given the complex nature of his particular case, it is unlikely he would have been granted asylum without some assistance from counsel.” – Jessica Lisak, Senior Associate, WilmerHale


Attorney Jessica Lisak met Aaron* in 2013 while volunteering at the Massachusetts Legal Clinic for the Homeless. Aaron was seeking assistance preparing for his asylum interview and had already been turned away by two other organizations who were unable to help him.

Jessica agreed to take the case, under supervision from a partner and another attorney at the firm. The team spent the next two years compiling affidavits and conducting research to bolster Aaron’s asylum application leading up to a hearing this Spring.

Aaron was granted asylum this August and the team will continue working with him to file applications for his wife and children.

*Client’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.

We would like to extend our gratitude to the many volunteers who make these pro bono victories possible. Thank you for working to promote access to justice for all.

Have you achieved a pro bono victory through one of our programs? Let us know.