Access to Justice Commission Launches New Pro Bono Fellows Program
The Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission will launch a first of-its-kind Pro Bono Fellows program in which senior lawyers will partner with non-profit and legal service organizations to provide critical legal assistance to underserved populations. Seven distinguished, experienced lawyers who have retired or are transitioning into retirement have been selected by the Commission to participate in the statewide pilot project to help expand legal services to persons of limited means.
The kick-off event will be held on Thursday, September 27 at 5:00 p.m. at the John Adams Courthouse. Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ralph D. Gants, who co-chairs the Access to Justice Commission, and retired Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall of the Supreme Judicial Court, an honorary Access to Justice Fellow, will deliver opening remarks in the Seven-Justice Courtroom. The first Fellows will be introduced at the event.
"Massachusetts has an extraordinary pool of talented, experienced senior lawyers who may be seeking opportunities to provide legal services for those in need," said Justice Gants. "We anticipate that the pro bono commitment of the first Fellows, widely accomplished lawyers and judges who are well respected in the legal community, will help to inspire others to follow in their footsteps."
The first Access to Justice Fellows and their partners are as follows:
- Hon. Patrick Fox, District Court Judge (1990 - 2010) - Massachusetts Justice Project, Dismas House, Lutheran Social Services of New England
- Martha Koster, Mintz Levin litigation partner - Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project (PAIR), Access to Justice Fellows Project
- William Patton, Ropes & Gray retired litigation partner - Volunteer Lawyers Project/Senior Partners for Justice
- Robert Sable, Greater Boston Legal Services, Former Executive Director - Greater Boston Legal Services
- Richard Soden, Goodwin Procter business law partner - Lawyers Clearinghouse
- Eileen Sorrentino, Retired solo practitioner from Chicopee - Volunteer Lawyers Project/Senior Partners for Justice
- Robert Tuchman, WilmerHale Regulatory and Government Affairs and Corporate and Transactional departments retired partner - The Trustees of Reservations, Environmental League of Massachusetts, Community Dispute Settlement Center, development of urban agriculture
The impetus for the Access to Justice Fellowship arose from recognition of two growing trends. One, severe cutbacks in funding have forced legal services programs and non-profit organizations to reduce staff and restrict services despite the increasing need among populations they serve. Two, many experienced lawyers are approaching retirement age, but wish to remain active members of their communities and want to help people in need with legal services.
The program is structured by pairing Fellows with a legal services provider or non-profit organization of their choice. The Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission Fellows Working Group will meet with each Fellow to design a project together with the provider or non-profit. The non-profit will provide training and support while law firms will provide resources, such as administrative support and office space. Each Fellow is expected to devote between 10 to 20 hours per week to individual pro bono projects. In addition, the Fellows will also meet once a month with community leaders, legal services providers, and public interest organizations, among others, to gain an in-depth understanding of the specific needs of the communities they will be serving. Susan Finegan and Martha Koster, partners at the law firm of Mintz Levin, led the Access to Justice Working Group in designing the program.