“I always wanted to be a lawyer so that I could help people... We’re really privileged to be at this firm where we are able to do systemic change work throughout the state and throughout the country around accessing justice for low-income litigants.”
“I’m focused now on making sure that survivors and nonprofits that work most closely with survivors are aware of the change in the law and that they can use it to remove some of those barriers that are holding them back.”
There are incredible opportunities to be had both substantively, in various areas of law, and also professionally, to develop a wide variety of skills as a lawyer and to do good for the community while working on these cases.
“I think one of the great aspects of the Pro Bono Program is that it enables attorneys, sometimes even at more junior levels, to take a real leadership role in their cases.”
Bob PopeoMintz Chairman
Changing the Narrative
Legal challenges can be life-changing. Having capable legal counsel can make the difference. Our pro bono team has stood with individuals, families, and communities throughout the United States in their pursuit of justice and a better life.
Under the Constitution, the government can’t take away someone’s liberty without establishing why it’s necessary. Nevertheless, thousands of immigrants across the United States are being detained in jails until they can show they shouldn’t be. Last year, Mintz partnered with the ACLU of Massachusetts to file and win a class action case on behalf of Gilberto Pereira Brito and two other immigrant detainees. In the ensuing months, Brito has been the foundation for obtaining the release of unjustly detained immigrants across New England. An appeal is currently pending in the First Circuit.
When the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Massachusetts to close court buildings, the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission stepped in to help litigants who needed to access the courts remotely but faced daunting challenges, such as a lack of access to technology and limited English-language proficiency. Pro Bono Committee Chair Sue Finegan, Co-chair of the commission’s COVID-19 Task Force, directed the effort, which relied on assistance from more than 140 volunteers. Their work resulted in numerous website and other improvements that are making it easier for individuals across the state to navigate the court system, even as court buildings reopen.
When opponents of a Massachusetts bill protecting transgender people from discrimination in public places tried to overturn the law by adding a referendum question to the 2018 state ballot, transgender people and their allies approached the legal community for support in upholding their civil rights. With our assistance, their Yes on 3 campaign was successful – making the Commonwealth the first state in the nation to defend transgender rights by popular vote.
Mintz played an integral role in a multiyear effort to secure passage of a Massachusetts law that streamlines the process for human trafficking victims seeking post-conviction relief for prostitution-related convictions and some drug offenses. The firm collaborated with the Immigrants’ Rights & Human Trafficking Program at the Boston University School of Law, Massachusetts State Representative Michael S. Day, and other stakeholders. The post-conviction language is included in an omnibus criminal justice reform law signed by Governor Charlie Baker in 2018. Since the signing of the law, the Mintz team has been raising awareness and planning trainings for interested Massachusetts attorneys.
The day after President Trump signed his first travel ban, we learned that incoming travelers had been detained at Logan Airport. Pro Bono Chair Sue Finegan and a Mintz team including Immigration Practice Chair Susan Cohen responded immediately. They worked late into the night with the ACLU and immigrant advocates at Boston’s US District Courthouse to craft arguments for a temporary injunction. At 2 am, the judges ruled in their favor. The seven-day hold on the ban helped many travelers, and the team’s arguments were used across the country to extend restrictions on the ban.
Congress allotted $5.5 billion in emergency funds to Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina. Then the state decided wind-damaged properties, mainly in black low-income neighborhoods, didn’t qualify for assistance. Mintz filed a federal lawsuit against HUD that put pressure on Mississippi and eventually resulted in a settlement of $213 million for 5,253 families.
Pro Bono Journals
Read our annual pro bono journals for more stories about our pro bono clients. The courage they display in their pursuit of better lives — for themselves, their families, and our communities — inspires us to do our best on their behalf.
Every year, Mintz works with hundreds of pro bono clients who have survived exceptionally difficult circumstances and persevered to overcome additional hardships, any one of which might have derailed their lives and dreams forever. In the firm’s annual pro bono journal, we bring you some of their stories. The resilience these clients demonstrate inspires us to help them pursue their legal rights and challenge the inequities that threaten the health of our communities.
Capable legal representation can alter the course of a life and affect many others in a client’s extended community. We witness the life-changing power of the law through the eyes and experiences of more than 300 pro bono clients each year.
Driving Innovative Programs and Solutions
Mintz has been instrumental in creating and promoting new collaborative partnerships to expand access to justice in our communities. These efforts are made possible through the firm’s long-standing pro bono partnerships.
Partnering with Our Clients
Mintz has partnered with our clients on pro bono projects for over a decade. In one such initiative, Mintz has collaborated with a number of partners to host the Clinic in a Box® pro bono workshops that train in-house lawyers to provide day-of pro bono service to nonprofits. Our partners have included Corporate Pro Bono, the Association of Corporate Counsel–Northeast, and Lawyers Clearinghouse. Over the course of nine years, Mintz has hosted almost 300 in-house lawyers at the annual clinic.
Access to Justice Commission and Fellows Program
Mintz has been at the forefront of promoting access to justice in Massachusetts. For several years, Pro Bono Committee Chair Sue Finegan has served as the co-chair of the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission with the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The Commission provides leadership and vision on efforts to remove barriers to civil justice for low-income and disadvantaged people. As a notable example, the firm played a key role in launching the Access to Justice Fellows Program. Primarily the brainchild of Mintz Member Martha Koster and Sue, this innovative program pairs retired lawyers and judges with legal services organizations, nonprofits, and the courts. To date, 139 retired and retiring lawyers have devoted nearly 100,000 pro bono hours as part of the Fellows Program.
Appellate Assistance & Representation
In 2013, Mintz’s Sue Finegan co-chaired a Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission committee that eventually developed the Appellate Pro Bono Project. Mintz has worked closely with the Volunteer Lawyers Project to manage a weekly clinic for self-represented litigants at the Massachusetts Appeals Court, staffed by Mintz and other law firms. As of October 2019, over 300 attorneys from 20 different law firms have helped more than 700 low-income litigants navigate the civil appellate process.
For information on recent pro bono honors, click here.