Pro Bono Victories

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

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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

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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.