Meet the Managing Partner: Nixon Peabody’s Ruth Silman

Nixon Peabody’s Ruth Silman on Finding her Path, Creating Communities, and Sensing Ahead

Ruth Silman’s path to the law is, in her words, “a winding one.” She’s a managing partner who once thought she’d never join a big firm, and a juris doctorate holder who thought she’d never practice law. So how did the BU Law grad end up leading the Boston office of a Global 100 firm? It started in a somewhat unlikely place: the National Park Service.

“I spent one summer during college in Washington, D.C. working in the policy office of the National Park Service,” Silman explained. “The woman I worked for was both a boss and a mentor.  She said ‘I’m going to do for you what somebody else once did for me.’ And she opened her rolodex and set up meetings for me with people throughout the city.”

Silman spent that summer meeting many people, from members of Congress to employees at The White House. Most of them were women, and the vast majority had gone to law school, although none practiced law. Their advice to her was to do the same:  Go to law school to hone your skills to think critically and analytically. Ruth took that advice and enrolled at Boston University School of Law.  She looked forward to the intellectual rigor, but had not planned to practice law. That all changed during her first semester.

“I was sitting in Torts Class just absorbing all of it,” she said. “My professor was both a doctor and a lawyer. He started talking about a toxic tort case that he was working on, and honestly, my entire career path became clear. I thought: I could do that for a living. I could investigate. I could figure out the law and the policy. I could help people. I could clean up the environment. Being an attorney was an opportunity to do all of that.”

After spending a year in the Attorney General’s environmental protection division following graduation, Silman transitioned to Anderson & Kreiger, where she practiced “litigation by day, and land use by night.” But Silman missed focusing on certain environmental issues like the Clean Air Act. In 2000, she made the move to Nixon Peabody, and immediately found herself working on environmental and renewable energy issues not just in Boston, but around the country.

“All of a sudden I had this national reach. I had the opportunity to work on cases from New England to California. There were so many clean air cases to work on, I felt like a kid in a candy store. And as renewable energy has grown, I’ve been able to broaden the breadth of my practice.” Silman has also had the opportunity to strengthen her land use practice, working closely with the firm’s preeminent affordable housing group.  “We create communities for people who are underprivileged and underserved.”  One project makes Silman particularly proud.  “A few years ago, one of our clients, Beacon Communities, was designated as the redeveloper for the initial phases of the Boston Housing Authority’s Old Colony project in South Boston.  We had an extraordinarily tight deadline to permit the project and begin construction.  Old Colony was a series of three-story concrete block buildings that stretched for ‘megablocks’ with little light or green space.”  Silman was part of a team that helped to reorient the development to the existing neighborhood and the nearby waterfront by building a series of beautiful new buildings.  “I brought my kids to the ribbon cutting and as we walked through the development, the residents kept thanking us for giving them true ‘homes’ that were not only safe and clean, but truly integrated.  I am very lucky to be able to help my clients navigate through the maze of permits and regulations to build new communities.”

Today, as Silman’s first year as managing partner of Nixon Peabody’s Boston office comes to a close, she’s looking ahead. Her vision for the office is a three-pronged one, including community, diversity and sustainability. She sees engagement in the community as not only a vital means of giving back, but also an important part of reaffirming the firm’s place as a corporate citizen.  “More of our attorneys are involved with non-profits and offering their time to community service.  We are living in a day and age when too many people are underprivileged; we have to do our part to help.”

Nixon Peabody is also working to move the needle on increasing diversity, something that – as the first female managing partner in the firm’s Boston Office – is important to her. To that end, the firm has hired a head of diversity and inclusion who focuses on this effort full time.   Silman owes a great deal to her family for its never-ending support, as well as to her numerous mentors and sponsors who have helped throughout her career. She wants to be a role model for others.

Silman is also focused on sustainability – literally as well as figuratively. In the next few years, the Boston office will follow an office renovation model other Nixon Peabody locations have undertaken, with a focus on more collaboration space and using lots of glass and light to create a transparent feel making less space feel like more. But what is also of importance is the sustainability of the firm’s people. “I want to make sure we’re paying attention to the long term viability of our people. This includes offering benefits such as flex-time and flex-place, but I also want to continue to motivate people to love what they do, and maintain that sense of being ‘in it’ together. This is very important to me.”

“Our mantra here is ‘sense ahead.’ As I see it, we need to stay on the cutting edge substantively, perhaps even outside of our traditional comfort zones.  It is what keeps us entrepreneurial and intuitive. Our clients are in situations where they have to make choices, and it’s never a ‘white hat, black hat’ scenario like you see in the movies. There are always shades of gray.  New issues arise daily.  When a client asks you what they should do, you’ve got to dig into your intuition and your judgment to inform them of their choices and provide a recommendation. This is our value. There are very few absolutes in the world. And that’s good. It is what keeps the work and the practice of law interesting.”

“A Pioneering Experience:” Boston Bar Celebrates Justice Geraldine Hines’ Life in the Law with the 2017 Haskell Cohn Award

Ask Justice Geraldine S. Hines why she decided on a career in the law, and she may answer with a question of her own: “How could I do anything else?” Growing up in Mississippi during the 1960s battles over segregation and voting rights, Justice Hines felt a strong desire to be part of the effort to bring about change.

“Law, to me, seemed to be the way to get things done, to make things change. I wanted to be part of that,” she said. “And I haven’t been disappointed. At the same time, I also came to understand that the law has its limits, and that you need to have a lot of different people doing different things – like community organizing and policy – to make it work.”

After graduating from Tougaloo College in 1968, Justice Hines received her juris doctorate from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1971. Upon graduation, she moved to Boston and focused on developing a career in public service, first as an attorney at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Roxbury Defenders’ Committee, and Harvard University Center for Law and Education. In 1970s Boston, being an attorney as a woman of color was, as she puts it, a “pioneering experience.”

“When I became a lawyer in 1971, there weren’t that many women,” Justice Hines explained. “It’s different now, but when I came to Boston as a new lawyer, I rarely saw women in the courtroom. You just had to figure it out by yourself and the few other women that you would meet along the way.”

Justice Hines went on to collaborate with two of the woman she met along the way – Margaret Burnham and Judith Dilday – on the founding of Burnham, Hines & Dilday, the first law firm in New England run by women of color. In private practice, Justice continued her focus on civil rights cases, while also taking on clients facing criminal, administrative, labor and family law matters. One case in particular stands out.

“In the 1990s, I was on the Committee for Public Counsel Services ‘murder list,’ and I was assigned to represent a juvenile who was charged with double murder,” she said. “This was a very controversial case; the two victims were children themselves (ages 11 and 15).  One was the youngest victim in a spate of violence that was going on in Boston. I lived in the neighborhood just blocks from where it happened, and it was a very tense time for me because people were angry. I was convinced that this person was innocent, and his life depended on me being competent and being passionate about his cause.”

Justice Hines calls the case an “all-consuming experience” that often required an effort to conquer her fear of mistakes.

“That case included everything that being a lawyer is about:  getting into someone else’s story, and meeting expectations. Not just your client’s expectations, but also your own, and the system’s expectations that you’re going to do what you need to do to give representation. My client was acquitted, and he has gone on to have wonderful life.”

Justice Hines began her judicial career in 2001, as an associate justice of the Superior Court. She served that court for 12 years, and joined the Appeals Court in 2013. In 2014, she became the first African American woman nominated to the Supreme Judicial Court.  The transition from lawyer to judge, she noted, added a new lens to her perspective on the law.

“I came to the court like everybody else, with my life experience, and with my view of the purpose of the law,” she said. “It’s supposed to solve problems. It’s supposed to help us have just outcomes to bad things that happen. You bring your sense of what is just, fair, and right. But you also bring awareness that, sometimes, it’s not possible to accomplish that. And you accept that, because you’re not an advocate anymore.”

One case in particular serves as a reminder of this critical point: a murder case involving two teenagers that came before Justice Hines during her second year as a judge in the Superior Court. A mother of a 15 year-old boy came to understand that her son had killed another teen. She brought people from her church into her home to pray, and confronted him.

“She told him that his life would never be worth anything if he didn’t confess,” Justice Hines explained. “So she and other family members brought him down to the police station, and instructed him to confess to the shooting. And he did.”

Justice Hines had to decide whether or not that statement could be suppressed due to his mother’s coercion.

“I wrestled with my conscience for the longest time,” she recalled. “As a human being, I felt that this child should have a right to have a trial. He should not be burdened with his mother’s religious conviction, which was not his conviction. Finally, I came to the realization that, despite what I personally felt was right, I had to follow the law. And the law says that a child is only entitled to advice from an interested adult, and nobody could argue that his mother was not an interested adult.

“That was the most challenging case in my career as judge. I had to come to terms with the tension between the law and what I thought was just. I felt it wasn’t right for a child to be tried on the basis of a confession that was coerced by parental authority. However, that’s the law. So that was a hard one for me. I think with that case I proved – to myself – that I was an honest actor in this whole business, which you have to work hard at. It’s a myth that judges are naturally unbiased; that’s something we have to work toward, because we’re all human.”

Looking ahead to life after the bench, Justice Hines will be exploring opportunities to work on voter suppression issues, which she calls the “great civil rights issue of our time.”  But before that, she will be instructing future lawyers on the intersection of race and criminal law as the spring 2018 Jerome Lyle Rappaport Distinguished Visiting Professor at Boston College Law School, where she hopes to convey the importance of having passion for your work.

“The lesson from my life as a lawyer is that you have to have passion for the work that you do, and you have to choose what you do wisely. I’ve been at this for 46 years, and it’s been so rich because I have come to it with a passion for justice and for seeing things made right. That’s a long time to be doing something if you don’t care about it.”

The ceremony for the Haskell Cohn Award for Distinguished Judicial Service will take place on June 22. For more information, please click here.

Voices of the Bar 5/11/17: Tell Us About Your Law Day in the Schools Session

We are two weeks into our Law Day in the Schools program, and for the next month, volunteers will continue to go into classrooms in the city of Boston and teach students of all ages about due process in the law. We checked in with volunteers who have already completed their sessions to ask how it went.

“Tell us about your experience with Law Day in the Schools.

Jennifer Durand – Schmidt & Federico
“My colleague, Glenn, and I taught Ms. Haynes’ 4th Grade class at the Mozart School in Roslindale.  This was my first experience as a Law Day in the Schools teacher and I was a bit nervous.  The experience could not have been better.  We had a great class filled with students who were engaged, lively and active participants.  Their teacher, Ms. Haynes, was excellent as well.  She kept the students engaged, focused and had an excellent rapport with the students.  At the end of the program there is a five minute question and answer session during which the students are allowed to ask questions about our jobs, being lawyers, etc.  Our question and answer session lasted at least fifteen minutes as the students peppered us with great questions on a variety of topics, legal and non-legal; they certainly kept Glenn and me on our toes.

The students seemed genuinely interested and eager to learn and their participation and spirit was infectious, which made the experience that much easier for two newbie Law Day in the Schools teachers like Glenn and me.  I walked out of the classroom completely energized and looking forward to my next Law Day in the Schools experience.”

Joseph Molina Flynn – Attorney at Law
“My law day in the schools session was excellent. Some of the students were really well-prepared and asked really poignant questions. I am always amazed by the way students interpret the lessons based on their lived experiences. This year, we received a lot of questions regarding the applicability of due process in immigration proceedings; that was a topic we did not expect to cover but based on recent headlines students were eager to know more about.”

Wadner Oge – Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners
“I had a great, rewarding experience speaking to school students about the Due Process during my Law Day in Schools Session at Charlestown High School.  The students are immigrants from Asia and Latin America, who are learning English as a second language.  I was particularly moved and motivated by fact that I could see myself in them because I sat in a similar classroom 24 years ago.  I shared with them that I was once an immigrant student who came from Haiti, attended Dorchester High School, and became a lawyer.  I was pleased to hear back from their teacher that my co-presenter and I inspired at least two students to think about becoming lawyers one day regardless of their immigrant status and socio-economic background.”

Michael Rossi – Conn Kavanaugh
“We had a wonderful visit to the Haley Pilot School in Roslindale.  I was so impressed and encouraged by the students’ curiosity and engagement.  They had some very challenging questions for us on topics ranging from transgender rights to stand-your-ground laws.”

Anne Mackin of GBLS to Receive Brooks Award at Law Day Dinner

Over the course of nearly 30 years working in legal services in the Boston area, Greater Boston Legal Services attorney Anne Mackin has met and assisted clients facing the hardest times in their lives.

Since 2003, she has worked in GBLS’s Immigration Unit, helping people from all over the world who have witnessed or experienced horrors and tragedy – the loss of friends, family or a home due to natural disasters, war, genocide, and other forms of persecution. She has sought justice and a safe harbor for those who have endured discrimination due to their race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality or beliefs.

“It is an enormous privilege for me to work in legal services,” Mackin said.  “I’ve met children who have been abused, abandoned and neglected – who, at very young ages, decided that to have a chance at life they had to leave the only home they’d ever known. They decided to pursue life in a country where they hoped to live in safety and pursue their dreams for themselves.  I am humbled and awed by what people survive, and the strength of the human spirit.”

Mackin’s career path in legal services began with a college internship, where she was dispatched on home visits to legal services clients and saw firsthand the difficulties they encountered. After graduating from Northeastern Law School in 1981, Mackin spent time working at a small law firm near the campus, then took a position at the Cambridgeport Problem Center, which later became the Community Legal Services and Counseling Center.

In 1988, Mackin started at Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services, which eventually became part of Greater Boston Legal Services. She became passionate about helping immigrant families, first through watching her colleagues handle cases in which clients coped with trauma and went on to grow and rebuild their lives. Mackin now focuses on immigration family law in her work.

“In some respects, the needs of our clients have not shifted in the years I’ve worked in legal services.  Our clients’ needs are often the same – they need income, food, clothing, shelter; they need protection from persecution, abuse, violence, and discrimination; they need education, fair wages, and dignity and respect,” she said. “They also need help navigating complicated bureaucracies and court systems with daunting rules, and in which a procedural technicality might bar a person from a benefit, a claim, an opportunity, or safe haven for which they might otherwise qualify.”

Mackin said she believes that progress has been made through litigation and policy work to promote the rule of law and address many of the challenges her client face. However, her work continues to evolve based on the shifting circumstances – personal, political and societal – that her clients face.

“Unfortunately, low-income people, single parents, and immigrants are often blamed, even scapegoated, for economic and social problems for which they do not bear personal responsibility.  Issues of race, class, disability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation permeate our society and especially impact our clients.  Regrettably, they are too often disregarded as human beings,” Mackin said.

In the case of immigrant clients, Mackin said, legal needs change depending on the reason that a person seeks protection.

“A political crisis in a specific country, the needs of women and children to be free of persecution, gang violence, gender violence, or other crises cause people all over the world to flee their homelands,” she said. “Additionally, the work changes depending on the current lens through which our society views the immigrant, the low income person, or the person(s) in need.”

Mackin said she considers working in legal services a privilege. Clients trust her with their painful stories, and being a part of their journey toward recovery and safety in permanent U.S. residency is an honor, she said.

“The most gratifying aspect of the work is getting to know the individuals we represent and to work in their communities,” she said. “We can use our skills to help people through the legal process, and are enriched beyond measure knowing that through our work, each client might have the opportunity to pursue his or her goals in life, and grow the personal potential of each.”

Mackin will receive the John G. Brooks Legal Services Award at the Boston Bar Association’s Law Day Dinner on May 15th. The award is presented to professional legal services attorneys for their outstanding work on behalf of indigent people in the Boston area.

From her steadfast dedication to clients to her generous mentorship of colleagues, Mackin exemplifies all that the BBA looks to honor in the legal profession—dedication to excellence, commitment to public service, and the celebration of diversity. Her work representing immigrant children in Massachusetts is more important than ever, and we salute her perseverance in helping those most in need.

To purchase your ticket to Law Day Dinner, please click here.

Voices of the Bar 4/20/17: What Was Your First Summer Job?

This week, the BBA transforms into a gaming spot for a good cause. The Boston Bar Foundation’s annual Casino Night fundraiser supports opportunities for Boston’s youth, including the BBA Summer Jobs program.

In the spirit of this fun event and our wonderful community partners, Summer Jobs employers, and students, we’re reaching out to ask:

“What was your first (or favorite) summer job?

Erica Han – Ropes & Gray
“My first “professional” summer job was a college internship at a PR firm.  I was interviewed by phone while studying abroad in Europe, so I had never seen the company in person until I showed up on my first day.  To my surprise, it was a one-person operation in her parents’ basement.  Not what I had expected, but it was a great experience nevertheless.”

Colin Korzec – U.S. Trust
“My first (and favorite as a matter of fact) job was when my dad helped me start a poor mans’ landscaping business – really I mowed lawns.  I was probably 12 years old and by the time I moved away for college, I was mowing upwards of 45 lawns on a routine basis.  It was a great opportunity to run my own little business and spend some time with my dad.”

 Louis Tompros – WilmerHale
“My first summer job was as the sports photographer for my small-town newspaper, the “O’Fallon Progress.”  I got to walk the field during American Legion baseball games and visit the high school’s pre-season football practices, snapping black-and-white photos.  They paid me $5 per published photo — so usually no more than $10 a week — but it was a great way for a not-so-athletic kid to spend the summer outside!”

Susan Cohen – Peabody & Arnold
” My favorite summer job was teaching swimming and lifeguarding at Whalom Park Lake in Lunenberg, Mass.”

Elaine Herrmann Blais to Receive Thurgood Marshall Award at Law Day Dinner

Goodwin Partner dedicates pro bono hours to helping immigrant and refugee children find safety in the U.S.

Elaine Herrmann Blais was surprised to learn that she would receive the Thurgood Marshall Award at the Boston Bar Association’s Law Day Dinner on May 15th. The annual award recognizes attorneys in private practice in Greater Boston for their extraordinary efforts in enhancing the human dignity of others by providing legal services to Massachusetts’s low income population.

But if Blais was surprised by the honor, no one else was. The Goodwin partner and head of litigation in the firm’s Boston office has had an active pro bono practice since 2008, when she began representing adults seeking asylum through both the PAIR Project and Immigration Equality. And for the last five years, she has represented unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children in their deportation proceedings through Kids in Need of Defense (KIND).

“From the start, the immigration work was rewarding and challenging,” said Blais. “The biggest challenge was developing the relationship with client so that they would trust you; because the more you can draw their stories out the better your work can be for them. But people don’t walk into your office and tell you their most horrible experiences on day one.”

In 2010, Goodwin began accepting cases from KIND. Those cases, Blais remembers, grabbed her attention.

“The cases with children just really pulled me in. They are underprivileged, and they are dealing with the repercussions of their experiences in their home countries, which can lead to behavior that undercuts their ability to succeed here. So, while you’re handling the legal argument that can help them, at the same time you’re acting as a positive role model who can influence them well in the future.”

One child in particular stands out for Blais. A nine-year old girl had been living with her grandmother in El Salvador; her parents had fled to the U.S. when their lives were threatened for standing up to a local gang. Fearing that the child would become the target in her parents’ absence, she made her way to the U.S. as well. With a loving home waiting for her, Blais was determined to win on her behalf.

“We all fell in love with this girl,” said Blais. “We all thought that if we lost her case we would take turns hiding her in our own homes, because there was no way we were going to send her back to El Salvador.”

Fortunately, it didn’t come to that. Blais and her team were successful in arguing that, because the child was being targeted as a result of her family’s brave stance against the gang, she was eligible for asylum.  Blais is now working with the family on her green card application.

Blais credits Goodwin with creating an environment that is supportive of pro bono work. Currently, Blais is one of many Goodwin lawyers representing the cities of Chelsea and Lawrence in a legal challenge to President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration.

“When this opportunity arose, leadership at the firm said ‘this is important; this is kind of work that we as lawyers with privilege should be doing.’ There is a real emphasis on the importance of pro bono. We have partners chairing our pro bono committee who are really dedicated, and our associates get full credit for their pro bono work, which is really helpful because associates can do the work they care about without worrying that they won’t make their hours.”

Blais encourages this participation among associates, and often acts as a mentor. “Where I am in my career, 22 years out, and leading litigation in Boston as a partner, I feel that my obligation is to give support so that as many associates can work on these cases as they want. Which works out well, because when a message comes in from KIND telling us that six more children need representation, it’s really hard to say no.”

Blais will accept the Thurgood Marshall Award from BBA President Carol A. Starkey at the Law Day Dinner on Monday, May 15th. For details on the event, please click here.

Voices of the Bar 4/13/17: What Do You Love About the Boston Marathon?

The excitement is in the air for this year’s Boston Marathon. We like to give our members a chance to let us know if they are running, and what the highlight of their day is every year on Patriot’s Day.

For this week’s “Voices of the Bar” column, we’re reaching out to ask:

“What do you love about the Boston Marathon?

Yareni Sanchez – Goulston & Storrs
“What I love most about the Boston Marathon is the sense of community that it inspires.  From Hopkinton to Copley, spectators of every age gather along the sidelines to hand out candy, energy bars (and sometimes even a beer), make a weary runner laugh with their funny signs and offer high fives or hugs to total strangers.  I’ve run marathons in other cities, but nothing compares to the raucous energy in Boston on Marathon Monday.”

Emily Hodge – Choate, Hall & Stewart
“What I love about the Boston Marathon is the dedication of the charity runners and the fans who support them.  Seeing other charity runners out on the course during training runs is inspiring – every one of them is out there running to support a cause they are passionate about.  On the day of the Marathon, the charity runners start together, and throughout the race the crowds are incredible.  They read the runners’ names and cheer for their charities, thanking the runners for being committed to the cause, and there is no better motivation.  Monday will be my eighth Boston Marathon with the Dana-Farber Challenge Team, and one of the best parts of the day will undoubtedly be when strangers yell as I jog by, “Thank you for running for Dana-Farber, Dana-Farber saved my life.”

 Hannah Bornstein  – Nixon Peabody
“For the second straight year, I am running the Boston Marathon for the PAIR Project.  PAIR is a Boston legal services non-profit that provides pro bono representation to low-income asylum seekers and unjustly detained immigrants.  I am truly honored to run for PAIR again.  My favorite part about the marathon is the run down Boylston Street:  the City of Boston is cheering you on, it’s incredibly loud, and the street is lined with countries’ flags – it feels like the Olympics.  It’s one of the most unbelievable moments in sports!”
Chinh Pham – Greenberg Traurig
“There are so many things to love about the Boston Marathon. Here are my reasons from having run this race over the years (not in any particular order): It is not only a premier Boston event, but an international phenomenon. It is THE marathon to run if you are a runner.  It has a long and storied history.  The crowd along the course is amazing and knowledgeable about running.  The challenging and technical nature of the course, including significant drops in elevation and the cruel placement of Heartbreak Hill, won’t allow you to zone out.  There are only six Marathon Majors and Boston is one.  I get to run in support of the Boston Museum of Science and their  wonderful community outreach programs.”

Heather Cox – Parker Scheer
“I love how the Boston Marathon brings out a sense of community you only see a few times a year. Spectators cheering on strangers and runners inspiring other runners. It is a beautiful thing. I also love how the city comes alive in the days leading up to the race. You can feel the excitement and anticipation in the air.”

Denise Chicoine – Englander & Chicoine
“I always look forward to this world-class athletic event which has inspired millions over the years.  As a past participant and aspiring qualifier in the future, it is thrilling to see the elite of the sport and the masses who struggle valiantly.”

If you would like to respond to a future Voices of the Bar, make sure you send a headshot, and contact Lauren DiTullio at [email protected].

Voices of the Bar 4/6/17: What should ISPs do to balance customer privacy with business interests?

Internet service providers (ISPs) soon will be able to sell their customers’ data — including their browsing histories — without their consent after the House voted to rout the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules.

This week’s Voices of the Bar question is:

“How should ISPs balance their business interests with their customers’ need for privacy?

Yale Yachiel Robinson, M. Robinson & Company

ISPs need to consider the consequences of disclosing customers’ data without harming either the customers or third parties.  A situation may arise where the disclosure of an anonymous internet user’s data could harm other individuals whose identities are known.  Compare Ajemian v. Yahoo! Inc., recently argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (docket no. SJC-12237).  The case involves a family’s request to recover the email archives of a deceased relative.  Yahoo’s attorney argued, inter alia, that the third parties who exchanged emails with the decedent did not consent to disclosure of those communications by anyone other than the decedent himself.  I agree with that argument, and more broadly, I suggest that the effects of disclosing information may extend far beyond the specific individual whose information is disclosed.  Therefore, ISPs should consider any possible impact on third parties before disclosing customer data.

If you would like to respond to a future Voices of the Bar, make sure you send a headshot, and contact Lauren DiTullio at [email protected].

Voices of the Bar 3/23/17: Why is federal funding for legal aid important?

This week, we are reaching out to members at legal services organizations and members who subscribe to our Legal Services Section to hear your thoughts on the importance of funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).

As you have likely seen in the news, President Trump’s budget proposes to eliminate the LSC, and federal funding for legal aid along with it. While the federal budget process is only just getting underway, we have heard concerns from many our partners in the legal community. We wanted to give members the chance to speak out on this issue.

“Why is federal funding for legal aid important?

Jayne Tyrrell – Massachusetts IOLTA Committee
“Legal services programs in every state, including Massachusetts, provide critically needed legal assistance to prevent illegal foreclosures and evictions, domestic violence, financial abuse and other injustices for struggling students, families, veterans and seniors.

In addition to de-funding civil legal aid, the President’s proposed budget would eliminate or deeply cut many other programs that help vulnerable residents, including, heating subsidies, work-study, housing assistance, health care, job training, education, work safety programs and Meals on Wheels as well as grants to banks and credit unions that support financial services in underserved communities. Legal services programs play a valuable role as a safety net for low-income people, advocating on their behalf in court, with administrative agencies and with lawmakers.”

Rebecca Cazabon – Foley Hoag
“The Legal Services Corporation provides essential grants to local legal aid agencies in every state in the United States. LSC-funded legal aid organizations successfully partner with private law firms, such as mine, screening cases for financial eligibility and merit, providing training, and supervising pro bono lawyers, which enables law firms to take cases. Eliminating federal funding for legal aid would have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable low-income individuals and families in Massachusetts and elsewhere, who depend on free legal help.  In addition, cutting federal funding for civil legal aid would make it nearly impossible for law firms to continue to represent domestic violence survivors, veterans seeking benefits, families being unfairly evicted, and others most in need.”

Suzanne Elovecky – Todd & Weld
“Federal Funding for legal aid is vital because it (a) provides access to the legal system for those with limited resources, (b) ensures that our court system is not a privilege only for the elite, and (c) it evidences that we – as a society – advocate for all persons to have access to the systems of our government.  Through legal aid funding, those with limited resources are given more opportunities to pursue their rights in important areas, such as family well-being, health, safety, housing and livelihood.”

If you would like to respond to a future Voices of the Bar, make sure you send a headshot, and contact Lauren DiTullio at [email protected].

Voices of the Bar 3/9/17: Who Has Been an Influential Woman in Your Life?

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8th, we wanted to give members a chance to tell us about a woman that has inspired them in their career, personal life or otherwise. Here is what they had to say!

“Who has been an influential woman in your life?

Cameron Casey – Ropes & Gray
“As an undergraduate, I served as an intern to Ruth J. Simmons, who had just become the 9th President of Smith College and who later served as the President of Brown University.  President Simmons provided an example of strength, eloquence and grace in the face of challenge.  What influenced me most, though, was President Simmons’s unwavering commitment to civil discourse.  She encouraged us to discuss issues about which we disagreed strongly, and to do so with an open mind and respect for the opposing viewpoint.  She has said, “One’s voice grows stronger in encounters with opposing views.”  It may be the most important thing I learned at Smith; and it’s certainly relevant twenty years later.”

Valerie Moore – Ferriter Scobbo & Rodophele
“My grandmother is an influential woman in my life. From a very early age, she encouraged me to read everything I could get my hands on, to take risks, and to always be curious about the world.”

Megan Gates – Mintz Levin
“My aunt, Betsy (“Bree”) McKenny, has been very influential on my life and in particular my career path. Before she retired, she was a trusts and estates lawyer and was the co-author of a book called Everyday Law Made Simple, which even as a young girl I thought was incredibly cool. From my earliest memories of what it meant to have a career, I wanted to be a lawyer like “Aunt Bree.” I knew from her example that there was nothing standing in my way of pursuing that path.”

If you would like to respond to a future Voices of the Bar, make sure you send a headshot, and contact Lauren DiTullio at [email protected].