On Thursday, January 4th, the Equal Justice Coalition (EJC) hosted its annual Captains’ Breakfast at WilmerHale’s downtown Boston office. The event celebrated the dedication and contributions of law firms and law schools that had exceptional participation during the EJC’s FY24 campaign for increased state funding for civil legal aid in Massachusetts.
Specifically, attendees were thanked for exceeding expectations in their participation in the EJC’s annual lobbying day, “Walk to the Hill.” (“Walk to the Hill” became “Talk to the Hill” when in-person events were moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the event will be back in person this year). Every participating law firm and law school has a designated “team captain” who corrals their peers to join them at the EJC event. At “Talk to the Hill” last January, more than 1,000 people logged on to urge their legislators to support civil legal aid by fully funding the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation’s (MLAC) line-item request for $49 million. Over the summer, the Governor signed a final FY24 budget that included this full amount.
Louis Tompros, distinguished Partner at WilmerHale, esteemed Chair of the EJC (and one of the stars of MLAC’s new Walk to the Hill Promo Video), graciously hosted this year’s event. While guests tucked into a hot breakfast spread fit for a five-star hotel, Louis remarked on the challenges and opportunities for growth within Massachusetts’ civil legal aid community.
“By being back in person, we have the opportunity to again show our legislators and their staff just how big and just how loud the support for civil legal aid is in Massachusetts.” – Louis
Next, MLAC Executive Director Lynne Parker expressed her gratitude for the group’s unbounded efforts and impact in support of civil legal aid, and Mary Ann Mulligan from Governmental Strategies briefed everyone on the legislative process and timeline ahead.
The event’s Keynote Speaker was former Massachusetts Senator Eric Lesser, Senior Counsel at WilmerHale, who served in the Obama White House as the Director of Strategic Planning at the Council of Economic Advisers.
At the Captains’ Breakfast, Senator Lesser shared his insights on effective legal aid advocacy, emphasizing the importance of engaging with legislators beyond the Walk to the Hill program. He encouraged advocates to have informal conversations and establish an emotive connection when discussing the impact of civil legal aid. Drawing from personal experience, Senator Lesser stressed the significance of leading with the authenticity of your expertise on the subject matter and aligning support for civil legal aid with the legislators’ priorities.
Louis rounded us out with the presentation of several awards from the FY24 virtual “Talk to the Hill” event and their respective winners:
- Highest participation: Ropes & Gray
- Exceptional support award: Goodwin Procter
- Nancy King award: Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow
- Highest participation from a law school: UMass Law School
- Team Advocacy award: Ropes & Gray
- Social Media Advocacy award: Davis Malm
Everyone left with full bellies and a renewed feeling of enthusiasm for this year’s Walk to the Hill, which will surely be memorable after three years of virtual events!