Maintaining a dialogue on divorce, child custody, alimony and other family law issues

Frrom Beyond the Billable: The Rewards of Pro Bono Cases

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

By Adam Ruttenberg

Over the past ten years I have represented about a dozen debtors pro bono in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases referred to me through the Volunteer Lawyers Project. The cases have ranged from the simplest of no asset cases to more complicated matters involving the threat of liens on a debtor’s residence or failed business. With the help of the Boston Bar Association Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Pro Bono Volunteer Lawyer Training, you could take on these cases too.

A VLP referral is an excellent way for a lawyer just starting out to gain the experience of handling a bankruptcy case from start to finish. The trustees know from statements filed by the attorney that the representation is pro bono (and I usually state specifically that it is a VLP referral), and they try to be accommodating. The first three § 341 meetings I did (where a debtor is examined by the Chapter 7 trustee) were all pro bono cases. It was eye opening to watch the trustees question debtors as they go through the fifty cases they can be assigned in one five hour day (yes, that is an average of six minutes per § 341 meeting).

Once I had a debtor who got sick soon after the bankruptcy filing. The trustee agreed to conduct the § 341 meeting by telephone, from the debtor’s hospital bed. I went to the hospital with a notary who could administer the oath to the debtor, and we proceeded. I am sure the nurses and others around us were puzzled as to what was going on.

Most of all, though, I have found pro bono debtors to be the most grateful and appreciative of clients I have had. I have often received thank you notes or small gifts, something that doesn’t seem to happen much with my paying clients. I still remember the thank you note from one of my first clients, which in addition to expressing how pleased he was told me that he had made arrangements for a special novena to be said in church on my behalf.

This program is supported by the Boston Bar Foundation’s Charles P. Normandin Fund, which is dedicated to supporting the public service activities of the Boston Bar Association Bankruptcy Section.

To view the original post, click here.

Family Law Committees

  • Family Law Communications Committee
    This committee publishes information relevant to the family law bar. If you are interested in an editorial position or writing for the newsletter or blog, contact the Co-Chairs.

    Contact Information

    Wendy O. Hickey

    Nissenbaum Law Offices

    (617) 330-9090

    Melinda Markvan

    Markvan Law LLC

    (617) 784-6832

  • Family Law Education Committee
    Help develop relevant and innovative educational sessions led by a diverse group of talented speakers who cover family law issues.

    Contact Information

    Joanne Eleanor Romanow

    Casner & Edwards, LLP

    (617) 426-5900

    Peter Jamieson

    Perocchi Family Law Group

    (978) 681 5665

    Thomas D. Ritter

    Atwood & Cherny, P.C.

    (617) 262 6400

    Katherine M. Potter

    Law Office of Katherine M. Potter

    (617) 877-8664

  • Family Law Public Policy Committee
    The BBA is very active in legislative and regulatory changes in the law. Family law attorneys are asked to lend their expertise.

    Contact Information

    Gayle Stone-Turesky

    Stone, Stone & Creem

    (617) 523-4567

    Peter G. Coulombe

    Massachusetts Department of Revenue

  • Family Law Public Service Committee
    This committee focuses on educating and training members about various pro bono opportunities. The committee also organizes community service and student outreach projects for the section.

    Contact Information

    Cynthia E. MacCausland

    Law Office of Cynthia E. MacCausland

    (617) 284-3804

    Abbe L. Hershberg

    Greater Boston Legal Services

    (617) 371-1234

  • Steering Committee
    The leadership committee of the Section organizes programs and discusses policy. To inquire about opportunities, please contact the Section Co-Chairs.