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

Katy Ward at Boston's Housing Court: "Everyone Wins in Pro Bono Work"

The statistics are telling: approximately 90% of tenants and 50% of landlords go unrepresented in Boston’s Housing Court. There is an extremely high demand for assistance in this area, but the problem persists, as does the question, “What can the legal community do to mitigate this issue?” Part of the answer may lie in pro bono work.

Katy Ward of Mintz Levin has dedicated a significant portion of her time outside the billable hour to finding a remedy and providing help to the influx of pro se litigants in Boston’s Housing Court. As co-director of Mintz Levin’s Housing Court Program, she organizes a monthly trip to Boston Housing Court as part of the Lawyer for the Day Program and coordinates full representations of low-income tenants. She has also participated in Mintz Levin’s Domestic Violence Project. Katy emphasizes that she is “fortunate to work at a law firm…that not only supports but encourages associates to be involved in pro bono projects.”

But even apart from Mintz Levin’s encouragement, Ward’s passion for engaging in pro bono work is rooted deeply in the personal conviction that her efforts can change lives:

“I love doing pro bono work for so many reasons, but the most important to me is the huge impact it can make on someone’s life…I have focused my work [at Housing Court] on representing low-income tenants who are usually unaware of the many rights they are afforded under Massachusetts law. This knowledge can mean the difference between a tenant staying in their home and getting evicted, having to bring their family to a shelter.”

Among other victories, her careful research and representation has helped a mother and her seven children avoid eviction from their home. The client was not only able to remain in the apartment, but she and her family were able to live there rent-free for several months because Ward documented the landlord’s many violations. As an unrepresented litigant, the mother may not have won her case; with Ward’s pro bono legal assistance, however, the family was saved from homelessness. These efforts ensure proper access to justice within what can be a very confusing system.

Another crucial component to providing pro bono assistance in Housing Court is the Vaughan Fund, which provides financial support for the Housing Court’s Lawyer for the Day Program. Without the fund and, by extension, without the full potential of the Program, thousands of low-income tenants and landlords would go unrepresented every year. Ward suggests that “for those who don’t have time to volunteer for the Lawyer for the Day Program, donating is a great way to contribute—and every little bit counts.”

Ultimately, the goal is to assist the pro se litigants coming to Housing Court – an effort that, as Ward points out, is just as beneficial to the attorney:

“Everyone wins in pro bono work. The client gets access to legal representation that they normally wouldn’t have, and the attorney can improve their skills, broaden their network, and get satisfaction from knowing that they’ve really made a difference in someone’s life.”

If you would like to make a difference by donating to the Vaughan Fund, please visit the Boston Bar Foundation’s page here. Information about other volunteer and public service opportunities is available through the Boston Bar Association’s Public Service page.

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

    Karen Kelleher

    Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency

    (617) 723-0500

    Robert M. Ruzzo

    Holland & Knight LLP

    (617) 305-2030

  • 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

    Carolyn Marie Francisco

    Corwin & Corwin LLP

    (617) 742-3420

    Jeff D. Bernarducci

    Holland & Knight LLP

    (617) 854-1408

  • 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

    Mark A. Kablack

    M. A. Kablack & Associates, PC

    (508) 366-2900

    Susan M. Kincaid

    Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP

    (617) 526-6577

  • 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

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

    Contact Information

    Ashley A Brooks

    Sullivan & Worcester LLP

    (617) 338-2800

    Kimberly L. Martin-Epstein

    Hackett Feinberg P.C.

    (617) 422-0200

  • 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

    Joseph Callanan

    Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General

    (617) 727-2200

    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

    Maureen McDonagh

    Harvard Law School

    (617) 390-2542

  • 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

    Richard D. Vetstein

    Vetstein Law Group, P.C.

    (508) 620-5352

    Sarah Ricciardelli

    Ricciardelli & Small , LLC

    (617) 242-4100