General counsels, law school deans support $55M for civil legal aid programs

Below is a press release written by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, published by the Boston Business Journal on January 17.

Nearly 60 corporate counsel and managing partners and nine law school deans from some of the largest firms and institutions in Massachusetts penned letters to Gov. Maura Healey urging the state to allocate $55 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. (MLAC) to the fiscal 2025 budget for civil legal-aid services.

The $55 million request is a $6 million increase from the $49 million approved for fiscal 2024. The MLAC is the largest funder of civil legal aid in the state, with 95,000 Massachusetts residents benefitting from civil legal aid in fiscal 2023, which ended June 30. For residents at or below 125% of the poverty line — $18,225 for an individual, 37,500 for a family of four in 2023 — civil legal aid is a “lifeline,” the Equal Justice Coalition wrote in a release Wednesday.

Financially eligible clients can receive free representation from a legal-aid attorney in family law, workers rights, tenant protections and other legal areas. A group of general counsel, managing partners and law school deans each wrote to show their support for Bill Gabovitch, general counsel of retailer Primark US, said it’s crucial to keep the justice system fair and open to everyone.

“Massachusetts has an impressive and impactful network of legal-aid organizations that are changing lives every day,” wrote Gabovitch, who was one of the 58 signees to the letter that went to the governor’s office. “Having access to a legal-aid attorney can mean the difference between housing and homelessness, or financial stability and extreme poverty.”

The 58 lawyers and law school deans represent a wide range of industries in Greater Boston, from banking and financial services to education and health care.

In fiscal 2023, legal-aid organizations funded by MLAC secured nearly $100 million in estimated benefits won on behalf of clients and savings obtained for the state, according to the legal assistance organization.

The letter is a precursor for the Equal Justice Coalition’s 25th annual “Walk to the Hill” event scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 25. The walk brings together private bar attorneys, law students and advocates for justice from across the state to lobby for increased funding for civil legal aid for low-income Massachusetts residents.