The BBA's Public Service blog, Beyond the Billable is your one stop shop for everything Public Service at the BBA. Check it out here.
The day was hectic. More than 200 people from 29 different countries arrived, some of them coming from adverse circumstances, some of them confused by the process they had to go through to apply to become a U.S. citizen.
On September 26, those gathered at the Timilty Middle School in Roxbury represented just a small part of a population with a huge unmet need – immigrants who need assistance filling out their applications for citizenship. That’s why the BBA partnered with Project Citizenship to hold a training prior to Citizenship Day in Boston, where volunteers learned how they could help.
But for Wadner Oge, Staff Attorney with the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners, the focus of the day quickly shifted from processing applications to facilitating conversations. Wadner, who was born in Haiti and became a citizen in 2000, volunteered to act as a translator shortly after arriving. Of the 242 applicants for citizenship that day, 76 of them were from Haiti – the highest number from any single country. Wadner immediately recognized a need for volunteers who spoke their native language.
“As a translator, I had to be able to interact with the group of the people that the service (Citizenship Day) was designed for,” he said. “There was a misconception among some of them about how the process works, so I explained it to many of them in Haitian Creole. It was a very busy day and a lot of people came. I was very happy to be in a position to help.”
Wadner said he was motivated to get involved due to the high price of an attorney to assist with a citizenship application under normal circumstances. He estimated the average attorney might charge as much as $1,000, money that many immigrants can’t spare.
To Analisa Smith-Perez, a BBA member who works at the Brooke courthouse, the most moving part of her volunteer experience at Citizenship Day was watching 175 people sworn in as citizens during a naturalization ceremony at the school.
“What I really loved about the whole day was that here, you’re helping people, and then you get to see what happens at the end of the whole process if everything goes according to plan,” she said.
Analisa volunteers actively with the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and considers herself familiar with the many obstacles those who hope to become citizens face. Events like Citizenship Day can help prevent immigrants from turning to someone for legal help who may not have a law degree and may take advantage of them, Analisa said.
“There are so many instances of fraud, especially in the immigrant community, that we need to fight against,” she said. “Sometimes these people charge an exorbitant amount of money, they don’t necessarily do a good job, and once you make a mistake on your paperwork, you get rejected. They don’t always necessarily tell you why you got rejected. It isn’t cheap, and it’s very disheartening. It can make a person just want to stop trying.”
Analisa said she would encourage anyone to get involved and volunteer with Citizenship Day and other pro bono opportunities.
“It’s important to do this type of work because it emphasizes and reaffirms why I became an attorney in the first place. I became an attorney to help people,” she said. “When you do a project like this, it reminds you so much of the human element that is always present in what we do.”
The post Pro Bono Perspectives: Volunteers Share Their Experiences from Citizenship Day appeared first on Beyond the Billable.
Beyond the Billable was excited to see so many of its newly trained attorneys take part in the second annual Citizenship Day.
On September 21st, more than 30 BBA attorneys came to 16 Beacon to learn how to file an application for American citizenship – as well as an application fee waiver – on behalf of a client. Just five days later, they took that information with them and joined more than 200 other volunteers at the Timilty Middle School in Roxbury to assist those applying for naturalized American Citizenship.
One of the biggest challenges for those wishing to apply for American citizenship is the cost. There is a $680 processing fee for the applications, in addition to the cost of legal assistance for filing the paperwork. Applicants who had been pre-screened by Project Citizenship were able to come to the event free of charge and have their applications filled out by attorneys. With nearly 250 applicants from 29 different countries, their work was both greatly needed and greatly appreciated!
Several members of the BBA volunteered at the event, so watch for the stories of their experiences at Citizenship Day in next week’s addition of BBA week.
The post 2015 Citizenship Day Recap appeared first on Beyond the Billable.
Are you a law student looking to volunteer or gain clinical experience? If so, you should know about the Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03. SJC Rule 3:03 grants law students the ability to appear in civil and criminal proceedings on behalf of the Commonwealth or parties in need, under direct supervision of an Attorney who is admitted to the Bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Rule 3:03 Certified Students interested in assisting low income landlords and tenants can participate
Rule 3:03 eligible students can take part in a number of pro bono opportunities and projects with the BBA and its community partners. The BBA has a long standing Housing Court Lawyer of the Day Program where volunteers provide assistance to low-income pro-se litigants. The BBA is also teaming up with the Volunteer Lawyers Project and Senior Partners for Justice to train attorneys to provide pro bono assistance to debtors and creditors in court. Both projects will host trainings at the BBA this Fall – why not check out the trainings to learn more:
Thursday, October 8, 2015 from 4:00-6:00 pm: Lawyer for the Day Training: Fair Debt Collection
Tuesday, November 17, 2015 from 3:00-6:30 pm: Pro Bono Training: Landlord Tenant Law and Practice
In preparation for these trainings, Beyond the Billable asked, “How do law students obtain Rule 3:03 certification?”
Ultimately, the applicable law school Dean must complete and provide a student practitioner form. In the form, the Dean attests to the student’s credibility, character, and legal ability. The form also verifies that the student has completed, or is enrolled in a course in evidence or trial practice. To learn more about SJC Rule 3:03 click here.
Law students who are in their second to last year are eligible to appear in civil proceedings, while those in their last year who are seeking certification at least three months prior to graduation, are eligible to appear in both civil and criminal matters. Many students need this requirement in order to participate in law school clinical placements or for self-identified internships with government agencies and legal services organizations.
If you are a law student interested in getting certified, here’s where you need to go at your law school:
Boston College Law School: Contact the Dean for Students Office
Boston University School of Law: Contact the Student Affairs Office
New England Law | Boston: Please contact Jacqui Pilgrim in the Office of Student Services to acquire the proper forms.
Northeastern University School of Law: Please contact The Center for Co-op and Professional Advancement
Suffolk University Law School: Contact a staff member in the clinics & internship department.
If you are a recent law school graduate who was 3:03 certified at least three months before graduation, your certification remains in effect until the first bar exam following graduation. If a student took that examination, the certification remains in effect until the announcement of the examination results. For any student who passes that examination, the approval to appear under Rule 3:03 continues for six months after the date of examination or until the date of admission to the bar, whichever is sooner, unless your certification was withdrawn (which often happens following a legal clinic placement) or otherwise ordered by the Supreme Judicial Court.
For more information about SJC Rule 3:03 and how it applies to student practitioners, visit the Trial Court’s FAQ page here.
And remember – if you are looking for an opportunity to volunteer beyond your school’s clinics, 3:03 eligible students are invited to come to one of these trainings to learn how to assist litigants and to provide service:
The post Law Students Attaining Student Practitioner Status: Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03 appeared first on Beyond the Billable.