Posts Categorized: Boston Bar Foundation

Speaking Up For Those Who Need a Voice

As I listened to her speak, I realized how easy it would be for someone to be wrongfully evicted and forced into poverty and homelessness.

Ginette sat down to film an interview this winter, sharing a personal story that would ultimately be shown to hundreds of strangers. Entering into a rent-to-own contract, she told us, was fulfilling a longtime goal of home ownership. It was her piece of the American dream.

What she didn’t realize was that her broker sold the mortgage on the house, but continued to accept her monthly payments. And the bank that now held her mortgage didn’t notify her of the change, as required by law.

Imagine her shock and bewilderment when, after paying her mortgage on time every month, she received an eviction notice from a bank she’d never heard from before. When she approached her broker with the letter, she found that he had been arrested for fraud.

Good, you might think, a happy ending. But that’s not actually true; Ginette’s civil legal encounter was just beginning. She showed up at court, where a judge delayed her hearing and referred her to Greater Boston Legal Services. Ultimately, GBLS attorneys were able to help Ginette keep her home.

“This group of men and women were here for me, so I have a roof over my head,” she said. “And that was the most important thing that anyone has ever, ever done for me.” (Watch her full story here.)

Last week, Governor Baker released his proposed budget, in which the Judiciary – including civil legal aid – was level-funded. Here’s why, even in this fiscal climate, that’s not good enough: civil legal aid to support people facing wrongful evictions actually saves money.

Every $1 invested in legal aid to fight wrongful evictions and foreclosures saves the state $2.69 in shelter, foster care and law enforcement costs. That’s what an independent economic analysis determined in our Investing in Justice Report. Whatever we invest, we get back – and then some.

It’s with that in mind that I urge you to use your voice. Let your legislators know that increasing civil legal aid is part of the solution towards fixing, not exacerbating, the budget gap.

I know that it takes courage to speak up; just as it took courage for Ginette to share her story on camera. I’ll speak up for her and others like her.

Will you?

Understanding the BBA/BBF Relationship

It’s that time of year again: as the old year wraps up, we’re looking ahead to the new. What’s on our plate for 2015? One of the first items is the John & Abigail Adams Benefit, the premier event of the Boston Bar Foundation, coming up on January 31.

If you have never attended the Adams Benefit before, 2015 is a great year to start. In addition to honoring John Hancock for their work to support Boston youth during a full evening of dining and musical acts throughout the entire Museum of Fine Arts, this year the BBF has added a new element called “Late Night at the Museum” – a post-dinner party with drinks, a DJ, and dancing.

Of course, the larger message of the Adams Benefit is about supporting our community. All of the proceeds from the event will go directly to grants for legal services organizations that do vital work in our city by assisting those who need civil legal aid in areas such as homelessness, domestic violence, and immigration, but who cannot afford full representation.

As you know, supporting legal services in Boston is also a priority of the Boston Bar Association. The BBF and the BBA are closely linked, and I’d like to take a moment to explain their relationship and how they work together on common initiatives. Simply put, the Boston Bar Foundation is the official charity of the Boston Bar Association. It was started with the goal of making substantive contributions in the areas of access to justice and public service. In both of these areas, the BBF is an integral part of the BBA’s efforts to develop and strengthen opportunities to get involved and give back.

How Does the BBF Do This?

  • Access to Justice: Part of the BBA’s mission is to expand access to justice, and with the release of Investing in Justice, the report of the Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid, the BBA has been very active in this area recently. With targeted initiatives like this, yearly events like Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid, and engagement with legal services attorneys through its Delivery of Legal Services Section, the BBA advocates for increased access to justice year-round. But that’s just one piece; the other is the work that legal services attorneys and organizations do on the ground every single day. This is where the BBF comes in – by providing immediate, direct support to organizations through charitable grants.
  • Public Service: Many of our members are familiar with the ongoing public service programs of the BBA – including the Summer Jobs Program, Lawyer for the Day in Boston’s Housing Court, and the Military and Veterans Legal Help Line – and generously give their time to these causes, which is critical to their success. The BBF funds the BBA’s public service programs through fundraising campaigns and events, the proceeds of which are dedicated to increasing the resources and reach of the programs. It also helps to place Summer Jobs Program students in positions at nonprofits and government agencies throughout the city.

I hope this understanding of the BBF’s work has served to pique your interest. If you’re interested in getting involved, there are many ways to do so. One way is to donate to the BBF’s Annual Campaign; another is to consider becoming a member of the Society of Fellows by pledging your support annually. As a Senior Fellow myself, I can attest to the great sense of community this group of lawyers embraces – and the delightful seasonal receptions!

Attending the Adams Benefit is yet another way to support the BBF and the community, and I assure that you will have a spectacular Saturday evening. I hope to see you there!