Origins and Milestones
In 1977, the Boston Bar Association created a small pilot project to use pro bono attorneys to supplement civil legal aid services that were facing unprecedented demand. This pro bono experiment, called the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association, was established to provide legal representation in civil matters to low-income residents of greater Boston primarily through the pro bono services of private attorneys. VLP's first Executive Director was Esther Lardent who was known as the Queen of Pro Bono. In 1983, VLP incorporated as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
When legal aid funding was under attack in 1996, VLP and the other major legal aid providers in greater Boston implemented a plan to maximize services to our clients. Under that plan, VLP became the sole recipient of federal Legal Services Corporation funding in the greater Boston region.
In 2002, VLP entered a new era when Judge Edward M. Ginsburg retired from the bench and founded Senior Partners for Justice at VLP. In October 2016, VLP began operating its ERLI (Eastern Region Legal Intake) Helpline which provides intake, advice and referral services for the eastern part of the state.
In September 2017, VLP celebrated its 40th year of providing high quality, innovative pro bono legal assistance to clients who are under-served in our civil justice system, and the 15th anniversary of Senior Partners for Justice. VLP continue to serve as a model for pro bono representation in Massachusetts and across the country.
What We Do
VLP maintains a panel of about 2000 volunteer attorneys, paralegals and law students from all segments of the legal community. These volunteers and VLP and ERLI staff provide a variety of civil legal services to clients, from information advice and referral from ERLI, to brief service in court clinics, to full representation in trials and appeals, in a broad range of substantive areas.
Find out more about the wide range of pro bono opportunities available through VLP.
Over the last forty years, has developed best practices to promote positive experiences for pro bono attorneys and good outcomes for clients. We offer many trainings for volunteers in the types of cases we handle and we have Continuing Legal Education vouchers for active volunteers. We carefully vet cases before making pro bono assignments. Staff and experienced volunteer attorneys in Senior Partners for Justice provide mentoring for ongoing pro bono cases.
On a practical level, we provide professional liability insurance for all pro bono work, office space for volunteers to use, and interpreters to allow English-speaking attorneys to work with clients with limited English proficiency.
Collaboration is a key to VLP's success. VLP collaborates on projects with other legal services organizations, community organizations, law firms, corporations, and bar associations and partners with MetroWest Legal Services to provide pro bono assistance in the MetroWest part of VLP's service area.
The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association is a 501(c)(3) organization, and all financial contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.