For Immediate Release - September 24, 2013

Access to Justice Commission Announces 2013 Pro Bono Fellows

BOSTON, MA -- The Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission has announced the selection of twelve Access to Justice Fellows who will partner with non-profit and legal service organizations on pro bono projects throughout the Commonwealth. This first of its kind program in the state, launched in 2012, enables experienced and accomplished attorneys who have retired or are transitioning into retirement an opportunity to provide critically needed legal assistance to underserved populations.

A program introducing the Fellows will be held on Thursday, September 26 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, will deliver opening remarks in the Seven-Justice Courtroom.

"Last year's pilot program worked so well that this year we have increased the number of Fellows from seven to twelve," Justice Gants said. "The success of this program in pairing attorneys transitioning into retirement with important pro bono projects has made it a national model, which will likely be replicated in other states."

The program is structured by partnering Fellows with a legal services provider or non-profit organization of their choice. 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 from September 2013 to June 2014. The kinds of projects include: establishing a volunteer attorneys program; mentoring and training young lawyers; working with nonprofits on corporate governance; representing asylum seekers; expanding financial literacy; assisting with real estate matters; working to facilitate adoption of abused and neglected children; assisting the poor in preparing wills and health care proxies; and expanding urban agricultural opportunities.

Fellows are expected to meet once a month with community leaders, legal services providers, and public interest organizations, among others, to share experiences and ideas to better assist the needs of the communities they will be serving.

The 2013 - 2014 Access to Justice Fellows are as follows:

Rosemary Allen, Retired Partner, Mintz Levin
Carl Axelrod, Retired Partner, Brown Rudnick
Russell Dunning, Retired Partner, Posternak, Blankstein and Lund
Ruth Ellen Fitch, Retired President and CEO, The Dimock Center and Retired Partner, Palmer and Dodge
John Hand, Retired Litigation Director, Westchester-Putnam Legal Services
Tom Hannigan, Retired Partner, Ropes and Gray
Jeffrey Jones, Retired Managing Partner, Palmer and Dodge
Paula Mackin, Retired solo practitioner, Law Office of Paula Mackin
Richard Renehan, Retired Partner, Goulston and Storrs
Marilyn Ray Smith, Retired Deputy Commissioner and Chief Legal Counsel, Child Support Enforcement Division, Mass. Department of Revenue
Gary Spiess, Retired General Counsel, Fleet Boston Financial
Bancroft Wheeler, Retired of Counsel, Nutter, McClennen and Fish

The Access to Justice Fellowship was conceived in response to severe cutbacks in funding that forced legal services programs and non-profit organizations to reduce staff and restrict services despite the increasing need among populations they serve. Members of the Access to Justice Commission sought to address this problem by mining the talents of experienced lawyers approaching retirement age who wish to remain active members of their communities and help people in need of legal services. Susan Finegan and Martha Koster, partners at the law firm of Mintz Levin, led the Access to Justice Working Group in designing the program.