Providing opportunities for education and pro bono in all substantive areas of real estate law

Housing Court Offers Ample Opportunities for Fee-Generating Limited Assistance Representation

Limited assistance representation (LAR) has been offered in the Massachusetts Housing Court for the past three years, but it is still underutilized both by litigants and attorneys. BBA Week wanted to find out more about what LAR looks like in the Housing Court from an attorney’s perspective, and specifically focus on whether it is a viable economic model for lawyers looking to build a solo practice.

We sought the expertise of Christopher Saccardi, who has his own practice in Somerville, and Mary K.Y. Lee, who also practices independently in Boston.  Both started their LAR work in Boston’s Housing Court.

I started my LAR practice through pro bono work at the Boston Housing Court and have found it useful in my own practice to allow me to charge lower total fees for a specific piece of a case,” says Saccardi when asked why he initially chose to provide LAR.  “Because there are so many unrepresented litigants in the Housing Court, there is a lot of opportunity for LAR.”

Lee agrees.  “I personally think LAR is a viable economic model for solo practitioners, especially for those just starting out.  It is efficient, and the one-time representation serves the immediate legal needs of the client as well as serving the financial need of the attorney….Overall, LAR balances the economic scale for those who can afford full representation with those who cannot afford any representation.”

LAR has a solid economic foundation because the client pays for the portion(s) of the case that the attorney handles, something that is discussed in extensive detail before any work is done.  There are multiple ways to determine costs.  According to Saccardi: “In instances where there is no opportunity for…fee recovery, I charge hourly and sometimes fixed fees, depending on the nature of the assistance requested. I also tend to take on a lot of lower-income clients for whom I charge reduced fees.”  Lee charges similarly and also likes to have a pro bono case at all times.

In Housing Court, LAR has the potential to provide an especially welcome option to litigants and a great service to the court system at large.  Right now, about 95% of tenants who appear in Housing Court are self-represented, a statistic that could be lowered with a better understanding of LAR and how it works.  Both Saccardi and Lee continue to incorporate LAR into their current practices since there are ample chances to use it.

The advantages to LAR are numerous.  It provides a certain amount of legal assistance to litigants who otherwise would not use any at all.  Significant financial benefits also exist on both sides, since litigants do not have to pay for full representation and lawyers can charge a fee for the work that they do.  There is also more flexibility in LAR, since the reduced time commitment allows for more room in scheduling.

Finally, we were curious to know how litigants find attorneys doing LAR in Housing Court.  Saccardi cites Google searches as one route, since he specializes solely in landlord-tenant law.  He is the first result for the search “landlord-tenant law + limited assistance representation.”  All of Lee’s clients are referrals by the BBA Lawyer Referral Service, community agencies, community nonprofits, friends, and family.

For information on LAR certification, please click here.

Real Estate Committees

  • Affordable Housing Committee
    The purpose of this committee is to educate the local bar concerning new initiatives in financing and developing affordable housing.

    Contact Information

    Terrence M. McNeil

    Boston Properties, Inc.

    Karen Kelleher

    Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency

    (617) 723-0500

  • Construction Law Committee
    This committee addresses all aspects of construction law, including contract documents and alternative project delivery systems; construction litigation, arbitration and ADR; public contract law and other legal issues of interest to practitioners who handle matters relating to construction.

    Contact Information

    Rhian M.J. Cull

    Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP

    (617) 378-4120

    Michael P. Sams

    Kenney & Sams, P.C.

    (508) 490-8500

  • Land Use and Development Committee
    This committee focuses on issues related to land use and development in the context of real estate transactions.

    Contact Information

    Johanna W. Schneider

    Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster

    (617) 951-1162

    Mark A. Kablack

    M. A. Kablack & Associates, PC

    (508) 366-2900

  • Leasing Committee
    This committee studies issues affecting this area of practice and plans educational programs led by experienced leasing lawyers and other senior real estate practitioners.

    Contact Information

    Timothy J. Famulare

    Burns & Levinson LLP

    (617) 345-3000

    John N. Affuso

    Massachusetts Port Authority

    (617) 568-3144

  • Real Estate Finance Committee
    This committee is concerned with all aspects of financing real estate transactions.

    Contact Information

    Amanda S. Eckhoff

    Robinson & Cole LLP

    (617) 557-5988

  • Real Estate Public Policy Committee
    The BBA is very active in legislative and regulatory changes. Real estate attorneys are often asked to lend their expertise.

    Contact Information

    John J. Goldrosen

    Kopelman and Paige, P.C.

    (617) 556-0007

    Kathleen E. Connolly

    Murtha Cullina LLP

    (617) 457-4000

  • Real Estate Public Service Committee
    This committee oversees the BBA’s Lawyer for the Day in Boston Housing Court. The Real Estate Section has provided educational programs both membership-wide and to the public on issues related to landlord and tenant law and the Housing Court.

    Contact Information

    Seth A. Malamut

    STAG Industrial, Inc.

    (617) 574-4777

    Katy E. Ward

    Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.

    (617) 348-1850

  • Steering Committee
    The leadership committee of the Section organizes programs and discusses policy. To inquire about opportunities, please contact the Section Co-Chairs.
  • Title & Conveyancing Committee
    This committee covers topics such as mechanic's liens, survey matters and affirmative coverage; sophisticated title insurance endorsements; lis pendens; real estate litigation; title insurance claims; bankruptcy and creditors' rights; the land registration system; offers to purchase real estate; purchase and sale agreements; hazardous substances; forms of ownership; mortgages, foreclosures, easements and restrictions; and broker and lender relationships.

    Contact Information

    Sophie Stein

    Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company

    Richard D. Vetstein

    Vetstein Law Group, P.C.

    (508) 620-5352