Captains’ Breakfast 2024: Celebration and Motivation!

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!

Beacon of Justice 2019 Photo Gallery

Boost civil legal aid budget for the poor (Lowell Sun)

Below is an excerpt from a May 30 op-ed published in The Lowell Sun. The piece was written by James P. Hall, President of Northeast Legal Aid, in support of increased civil legal aid funding in Massachusetts.

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As state lawmakers construct a balanced budget that meets all of our needs, they should consider an increase in state funding for civil legal aid.

In fiscal year 2017 the work of civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts, including Northeast Legal Aid, which serves Lynn, Lowell and Lawrence, provided an economic benefit of $59.2 million to the state’s economy. By providing free legal representation in noncriminal legal matters to low-income people, the state received increased federal benefits and helped residents avoid unlawful evictions and foreclosures, or secure healthcare services to which they were rightfully entitled. Simply put, it’s cheaper for the commonwealth to help prevent a family from becoming homeless than it is to pay to shelter them after the fact. Likewise, it’s more cost effective to ensure that a military veteran receives the healthcare services he or she needs rather than have that person seek more costly emergency room care with no way to pay for it.

Read more at The Lowell Sun.

Massachusetts State House

Chief Justice, Bar Leaders to Speak at 19th Walk to the Hill

BOSTON (January 16, 2018)―Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court and bar association leaders will join hundreds of private attorneys from more than 40 law firms at the Massachusetts State House on Thursday, Jan. 25 at 11:00 a.m. for the 19th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Attendees of this annual lobby day, one of the largest held on Beacon Hill each year, will request a $5 million increase in state funding for programs that provide civil legal aid to low-income Massachusetts residents. Approximately 880,000 people in Massachusetts have incomes at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Level ($30,750 a year for a family of four), making them eligible for civil legal aid.

“Tens of thousands of people who live in Massachusetts cannot afford the legal help or representation they need when facing life-changing circumstances such as escaping domestic violence, unlawful eviction or home foreclosure, or the denial of veteran’s benefits,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). “They’re left to navigate these complex legal matters alone, putting their families, homes, health, and livelihoods at risk. Civil legal aid gives low-income people in Massachusetts the tools they need to achieve or maintain their financial stability and independence.”

Speakers at Walk to the Hill will include Chief Justice Gants, Boston Bar Association President Mark D. Smith, and Massachusetts Bar Association President Christopher P. Sullivan. The program will also include remarks by a client who has been helped by civil legal aid.

“At a time when immigrant communities face uncertainty and hostility, and fear that the rule of law is threatened, the need for legal advocacy and advice from our civil legal aid organizations has never been more urgent,” said Justice Gants.

MBA President Christopher P. Sullivan said: “With no guarantee of a lawyer in a civil case, far too many Massachusetts residents go unrepresented in court because they simply cannot afford a lawyer, and the legal aid resources are far too limited to help everyone who is qualified to receive such aid. That’s unacceptable. Having access to a lawyer is critical, especially when folks are fighting for their homes or services for their kids or facing other life-altering challenges. More funding for legal aid is the answer, and the Massachusetts Bar Association urges our elected officials to increase funding for legal aid to ensure equal justice for all in the Commonwealth.”

“Every year, we work alongside our partners in the Equal Justice Coalition to secure funding for civil legal aid in the state budget because we understand the devastating consequences for Massachusetts families who cannot afford legal representation,” said Boston Bar Association President Mark Smith. “In addition to enabling low-income residents to access legal services, investing resources in civil legal aid saves money.”

“Civil legal aid is a solid return on investment for Massachusetts taxpayers and our communities,” said MLAC Board Chair Marijane Benner Browne. “In fiscal year 2016, the work of the 14 civil legal aid programs funded by MLAC provided an economic benefit of $49.2 million to the state’s economy. This included federal benefits and other financial support for low-income residents, as well as shelter and health care cost savings for the state.”

Following the speaking program, attorneys will visit their legislators and urge them to increase funding for MLAC, the largest funder of civil legal aid in Massachusetts, by $5 million in the FY19 state budget, for a total appropriation of $23 million.

Walk to the Hill is sponsored by the Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. The event is also co-sponsored by numerous county and specialty bar associations throughout Massachusetts.

SPEAKING PROGRAM

11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Great Hall of Flags
Massachusetts State House, Boston

The order of speakers is as follows:

  • Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court
  • Boston Bar Association President Mark D. Smith
  • Massachusetts Bar Association President Christopher P. Sullivan
  • Legal aid client

NOTE: Members of the media are welcome to attend all or part of the speaking program. Please follow the Equal Justice Coalition on Twitter (www.twitter.com/equaljusticema) as well as the hashtags #IWalkForJustice and #WalktotheHill for the latest on Walk to the Hill 2018.

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About the Equal Justice Coalition

The Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, works to increase state funding for civil legal aid. For more information, visit www.equaljusticecoalition.org.

Chief Justice, Attorney General, Bar Leaders to Speak at 17th Walk

Media Contact:
Catherine Rizos
617-391-5627
crizos@mlac.org

Chief Justice Gants, Attorney General Healey and Bar Association Leaders to Speak at 17th Annual Walk to the Hill

Hundreds of Attorneys to Gather at State House on Thursday, January 28 to Request $10 Million Increase in Funding for Civil Legal Aid

BOSTON (January 21, 2016)―Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court and Attorney General Maura Healey will join hundreds of private attorneys from more than 40 law firms at the Massachusetts State House on Thursday, Jan. 28 for the 17th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Attendees of this annual lobby day, one of the largest held at the State House each year, will request a $10 million increase in state funding for programs that provide civil legal aid to low-income Massachusetts residents.

“Civil legal aid is integral to helping low-income people deal with the crises that confront them in everyday life,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). “Civil legal aid helps the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents avoid homelessness and unemployment, and gain access to health care and veterans’ services, receive a quality education, and escape domestic violence—and does so in a cost-effective manner.”

Speakers at Walk to the Hill will include Chief Justice Gants, Attorney General Maura Healey, Boston Bar Association President Lisa Arrowood, and Massachusetts Bar Association President Bob Harnais. The program will also include the screening of a video demonstrating the need for civil legal assistance in Massachusetts, featuring interviews with court personnel and Massachusetts residents in need of civil legal aid.

Due to lack of funding, civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts are forced to turn away more than 60 percent of those eligible for civil legal aid who seek services.

In 2014, the Boston Bar Association’s Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts recommended increasing the Commonwealth’s investment in civil legal aid by $30 million over the following three years to begin to address this unmet need.

“Civil legal aid is a potent tool for helping people maintain stable, independent lives,” said MLAC Board Chair Marijane Benner Browne. “Providing legal assistance to low-income people in danger of losing their home or being wrongfully evicted makes much more sense than allowing them to wind up on the street or in a shelter—places where it is difficult, if not impossible, to keep a job, raise a family, or maintain any sense of normalcy.”

Following the speaking program and video screening, attorneys will visit their legislators and urge them to increase funding for MLAC, the largest funder of civil legal aid in Massachusetts, by $10 million in the FY17 state budget, for a total appropriation of $27 million.

Walk to the Hill is sponsored by the Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. The event is also co-sponsored by numerous county and specialty bar associations throughout Massachusetts.

SPEAKING PROGRAM & VIDEO SCREENING

11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Great Hall of Flags
Massachusetts State House, Boston

The order of speakers is as follows:

  • Attorney General Maura Healey
  • Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court
  • Massachusetts Bar Association President Bob Harnais
  • Boston Bar Association President Lisa Arrowood
  • Legal aid client

NOTE: Members of the media are welcome to attend all or part of the speaking program. Please follow the Equal Justice Coalition on Twitter as well as the hashtags #IWalkForJustice and #WalktotheHill for the latest on Walk to the Hill 2016.

# # #

About the Equal Justice Coalition

The Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, works to increase state funding for civil legal aid. For more information, visit www.equaljusticecoalition.org