Fair Debt Collection Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Municipal Court
This project provides pro bono lawyers to low-income, unrepresented debtors and creditors to assist in their civil debt collection lawsuits. It is a joint effort of the Volunteer Lawyers Project, Senior Partners for Justice, and the Litigation Section of the Boston Bar Association.
Volunteer attorneys assist low-income debtors and creditors at the Boston Municipal Court in the Brooke Courthouse on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon on a Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) basis. LAR means that the attorney only represents the client in the proceeding (case management conference, motion, etc.) before the court that day. The representation begins and ends on the same day.
In addition to being a valuable service to the court and the low-income litigants assisted, the BMC Attorney for the Day Project offers a unique opportunity for newer attorneys to get courtroom experience in a supportive environment. Less experienced attorneys may pair up with or shadow more experienced attorneys until they are ready to handle a case on their own. Because this is a Limited Assistance Representation project, it is also a great, time-limited pro bono opportunity for busy attorneys who want to help but have limited time. For all, this project is a great way to meet and network with other attorneys.
How It Works
The project is set up every Wednesday outside Courtrooms C and D on the 5th floor of Brooke Courthouse from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Clients come to the project in a number of ways - most are referred by the judges or court clerks, and some just walk up to our table. In the morning, clients are typically at court for a case management conference or a motion hearing. The supplementary process session is in the afternoon.
When a potential client comes to the table, a paralegal or law student screens for eligibility to ensure that we only help low-income clients. A VLP or BBA attorney coordinates the project and matches clients with volunteer attorneys. Attorneys with consumer law experience are available for mentoring and guidance.Volunteer attorneys may provide advice, brief service such as help drafting pleadings, or limited assistance representation negotiating a settlement or arguing a motion in front of a judge. We have forms, files, reference materials and other necessary items for volunteer attorneys.
Get the Training You Need to Volunteer
For volunteer attorneys new to consumer or collection law, substantive training materials are available at http://www.vlpnet.org/resources/folder.311896-Debt_Collection. If you are registered for the VLP website, you will need to log in to the website to see the materials. If you are not registered for the website, you will need to do so first. In addition, VLP and other organizations provide trainings from time to time. Check www.vlpnet.org for upcoming training dates.
In order to take Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) cases, the attorney must have completed a do-it-yourself LAR training. Links to training videos and materials are available here. From time to time, MCLE or the BBA provide live LAR certification training. If you are LAR-certified for the Probate & Family Court, all you need to do is complete the BMC certification form and fax it to Lisa Yee at the BMC (fax no. 617-788-8747). You do not need to take the LAR training again. Keep a copy of the certification and bring it with you to the BMC when you volunteer.
VLP provides malpractice insurance for all pro bono work done under this project.