This week, the BBA hosted the latest program in its summer lunch career series, teaching law students and new lawyers “What’s It Really Like Working in Legal Services?” We know that legal services work can be extremely challenging in many ways; but we also know that there is a reason why so many attorneys choose to dedicate their life’s work to helping to provide legal support to those who need it most.

With this in mind, BBA Week reached out to legal services attorneys and asked:

"What do you find most uplifting about working in legal services?"

If you would like to respond to a future Voices of the Bar, make sure you send a headshot, and contact Eric Fullerton at efullerton@bostonbar.org.

Joanna Allison - The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association
"Working with my legal services colleagues is the most uplifting part of my work. I spend each day with folks who see a problem and, instead of ignoring it or only complaining, develop solutions and then work to implement those solutions. Through my work at Volunteer Lawyers Project, I have found that it is not just my office mates who show that commitment. I meet and work with hundreds of volunteer private attorneys who have the same dedication to access to justice as those of us who get paid for the work."

Elizabeth Brusie - Medical-Legal Partnership
"I often tell clients that I handle the legal stuff to make space for them to make the decisions about the real stuff. So I find it most uplifting when my representation allows clients to feel empowered enough to make their own decisions."

Nadine Cohen - Greater Boston Legal Services
"Being able to make a real difference in client’s lives. Helping people fight foreclosure or eviction and be able to stay in their homes is very rewarding. Also, being able to challenge unlawful practices on a systemic level is gratifying."

Julie Dahlstrom - Lutheran Social Services
"It is a privilege to change lives every day. Every day, I find new challenges and new successes but never a dull moment."

Barbara Mitchell - Community Legal Services and Counseling Center
"My career in legal services has been very satisfying for many reasons. Chief among them:  helping vulnerable individuals and families who desperately need legal assistance that they cannot begin to afford (either directly or by supervising/mentoring other attorneys);  positively impacting the law through systemic efforts; and working with dedicated colleagues in legal services and the community who share my passion for social justice."

Anna M. Schleelein - Shelter Legal Services
"Helping homeless and at-risk veterans who have served our country achieve stable housing, economic security, and healthy families is a great way to use my legal skills to give back to those who have already given so much."

Katherine E. Schulte - Casa Myrna Vazquez
"The most uplifting thing about working in legal services is helping my clients gain meaningful access to the legal system. The legal system can be incredibly intimidating and disempowering, particularly for some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. It's incredibly rewarding to help clients identify and protect their rights, and to support them with the tools and resources necessary to navigate the system."

Deborah Silva - Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation
"When I get home at the end of the day, I love knowing that I’ve spent my energy working to make life a little bit better for people who are struggling. We operate on the motto that we provide equal access to justice. That sounds great, and it’s aspirational. But what it means, practically speaking, is that we help folks meet their basic human needs, whether it is securing housing, employment, health benefits, or court orders that protect families from domestic violence."

Elizabeth A. Soule - MetroWest Legal Services
"Working in a legal services office can be very demanding on many levels. Our clients are in the throes of poverty and crisis and have nowhere else to turn for legal assistance. I have been working in legal services for 26 years and continue to find it both challenging and rewarding because at the end of the day, you feel that you really made a significant difference in someone’s life by helping them to keep a roof over their head, have sufficient income to feed and care for their family, keep themselves and/or their family safe from domestic violence, or to obtain or retain their right to a basic human need."

Angelica M. Vargas - Disability Law Center
"Working in legal services is in and of itself uplifting for me. I became a lawyer in order to help others, especially those whose life experiences seem to scream of injustice and unfairness. Once I started doing this work, I quickly realized that this work would also entail having to deal with difficult opposing parties and counsel and that this held the potential for quick burnout. But as I have gained more and more experience and developed my own skills and style, I have found that it is all worth it and I am meant to be doing this, at least for now. It’s also extra rewarding when every once in a while I get a heartfelt greeting card from a grateful client, especially a recent one that said: “Your dedication to your work is so honorable, noble and a real rarity these days.” Those types of comments don’t just make my day, they make my month!"