The sponsors of a "Know Your Rights!" Program, which educates non-profits on legal issues relevant to their clients, announced on March 13, 2014 that they were commencing a second session of classes in an innovative, statewide format. The program is a collaboration between Mintz Levin, the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts, Inc. (WBA) and the Women's Bar Foundation of Massachusetts, Inc. (WBF), the Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA), American Bar Association Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities (ABA), One Family, Inc.; and the South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston. The guest speaker at the kickoff, Honorable Dina E. Fein, First Justice of the Housing Court, Western Division and the Special Advisor for Access to Justice Initiatives stated that “the program is important because the legal system as a whole benefits when individuals know their legal rights and obligations.”
The participants, who are from Massachusetts non-profits focused on helping low-income women and families, will attend monthly classes about legal issues relating to the court system, criminal law, housing, family law, employment, education, and immigration. The classes have been coordinated by Mintz Levin and will be taught by a knowledgeable faculty of attorneys from legal service organizations, in-house counsel, government attorneys, firm lawyers and the judiciary. The first session, on March 25, 2014, will be an introduction to the court system and criminal law taught by Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Ralph D. Gants, Pauline Quirion at Greater Boston Legal Services and Lisa Edmonds of the Barnstable District Attorney's Office.
Thanks to the MBA, a new sponsor of the Program, the sessions will be filmed and accessible by webinar to non-profits throughout the state, including the Pine Street Inn, LIFT, YWCA Central Massachusetts, Safe Passage, REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, The Cardinal Medeiros Center, Second Step, Project Hope, YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts, YMCA Southcoast, Children’s Advocacy Center of Bristol County, Housing Families, Traveler’s Aid, the Women’s Center, and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Women, Gender & Sexuality.
At the kickoff luncheon hosted by Mintz Levin, Susan Finegan, a member in the firm’s litigation section and the firm’s Pro Bono Partner, described the expanded reach of the program throughout the state, with 22 participants from 15 nonprofits. Pattye Comfort, the Executive Director of the WBA and WBF emphasized the need to educate and provide resources to the participant non-profits, whose clients are some of the most in need. Lauren Rikleen, Vice Chair of the ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, announced the presentation of a webinar this summer that will teach bar associations nationwide on how to start their own Know Your Rights! Program.