Communications Coordinator – VLP

POSITION: Communications Coordinator

DAYS/HOURS: Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 4:30pm, with one unpaid hour for lunch

REPORTS TO: Pro Bono Manager, Emelia Andres

LOCATION: Hybrid/7 Winthrop Square, Floor 2, Boston, MA 02110

STATUS: Full-time, non-exempt

SALARY: $60,000

Click here to apply!

This application will remain open until the position has been filled.

SUMMARY OF POSITION:

The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association (VLP) is a non-profit legal services organization which provides free civil legal assistance to low-income residents of Greater Boston, primarily through the pro bono services of private attorneys and through our call center (aka Eastern Region Legal Intake).  The Communications Coordinator will work with the Pro Bono Manager on VLP communications, managing the organization’s website, and creation of materials for the units.

REQUIRED EDUCATION/TRAINING/KNOWLEDGE:

  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • Experience using visual design software (Canva, WordPress, Vimeo, Constant Contact, Adobe Creative Suite, or similar software)
  • Experience using Microsoft Office Suite
  • Experience creating content for and managing organization-wide social media

PREFERRED

  • Knowledge of recruitment and outreach best practices
  • Prior experience serving low-income populations and communities
  • Comfortable with public speaking
  • Video editing, graphic design, and photography experience

REQUIRED MENTAL/PHYSICAL ABILITIES/SKILLS:

  • Heavy use of phone, computer, case management software and web-based applications
  • Ability to sit and/or stand for long periods of time
  • Ability to travel to multiple locations in the Boston area
  • Ability to problem solve and troubleshoot
  • Excellent written and oral communications skills
  • Technology and social media savvy with experience creating infographics for social media and other electronic communications
  • Ability to be flexible with a sense of initiative
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Strong organization skills
  • High level of attention to detail and accuracy
  • Ability to prioritize and meet deadlines
  • Ability to learn and use various software platforms

ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO:

  • Keep the Volunteer Lawyers Project website updated
  • Assist Pro Bono Manager in mass communication to volunteers
  • Creation and coordination of social media posts
  • Assist in development and distribution of VLP publications
  • Attend statewide Legal Server Marketing Meetings
  • Produce stories on legal aid clients for use on the VLP website and other promotional materials
  • Work with Pro Bono Manager in development and distribution of VLP publications (I.e. Quarterly Newsletter)
  • Co-lead Social Media committee with Pro Bono Manager
  • Create promotional online visual media (I.e. photos, ads, and videos)
  • Edit recorded substantive law unit trainings and upload them to Vimeo
  • Ensure VLP staff are adhering to VLP branding guidelines
  • Assist Pro Bono Manager in coordinating student internship program
  • Assist Pro Bono Manager with coordination of the interpreter program
  • Assist Pro Manager with Senior Partners for Justice program, including coordinating luncheons
  • Other duties as needed

Volunteer Lawyers Project is committed to a diverse work environment and is proud to be an Equal Opportunity Employer. Our ideal candidates are respectful of an inclusive work environment. VLP strives to ensure that those working in our organization reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. VLP encourages applicants from a broad spectrum of backgrounds to apply for positions.

Bias of historic redlining in Springfield plain as day on map (MassLive)

Below is an excerpt from an article published by MassLive on April 30 about the history and origins of housing discrimination in Massachusetts and the nation. Community Legal Aid’s Nuri Sherif authors the article.


The Fair Housing Act became United States law in 1968 in order to end discrimination in the home rental and buying markets. Over the past 55 years, the act has fallen short of its purpose. From October 2021 to September 2022, the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development received 11,741 complaints of discrimination across the country.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination received 427 complaints about discrimination in state public and private housing markets from October 2022 to September 2023.

Not only is the act supposed to address discriminatory housing practices that have already happened, it also requires that HUD-funded organizations take “meaningful actions … [to] overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities.” This is what HUD and fair housing programs nationwide call Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. In theory, the act’s enforcement measures and mandate to address systemic inequities should together end housing discrimination.

But this has not yet happened, including in Massachusetts.

Read more at MassLive.

Community Legal Aid expands Disability Benefits Project to Franklin County (Greenfield Recorder)

Below is an excerpt from an article published by the Greenfield Recorder on May 4 discussing the expansion of the Disability Benefits Project into Franklin County. Community Legal Aid’s Kathryn Madison is quoted. 


GREENFIELD — Community Legal Aid, a nonprofit that offers free civil legal support to elderly and low-income residents in western and central Massachusetts, has expanded its Disability Benefits Project into Franklin County, a change that coincides with the future opening of a new legal office downtown.

The nonprofit began its Disability Benefits Project in 1984. The program provides legal assistance to low-income elderly and disabled residents who have been wrongfully denied federal disability benefits or have had their benefits wrongfully terminated or reduced. While the project only moved into Franklin County weeks ago, it has served Berkshire, Hampden and Worcester counties for decades.

Attorney Kathryn Madison recently joined Community Legal Aid after working as a supervising attorney representing asylum seekers at Central American Legal Assistance in Brooklyn, New York. She said in the cases she has handled for the Disability Benefits Project, courts often overlook “invisible disabilities” and mental health issues, as they are not presented physically in a courtroom.

Read more at the Greenfield Recorder.

Rental Applicants Using Housing Vouchers Settle Ground-Breaking Discrimination Class Action Against SafeRent Solutions (ABC)

Below is an excerpt from an article published by ABC on April 26 about a settlement that, if approved, will provide over $2 million to tenants with housing vouchers who were disproportionately discriminated against by SafeRent Solutions and its algorithmic screening program. Greater Boston Legal Services’ Senior Housing Attorney Todd Kaplan and National Consumer Law Center’s Shennan Kavanagh are quoted.


BOSTON, MA / ACCESSWIRE / April 26, 2024 / On April 25, 2024, the Honorable Angel Kelley for the United States District Court of Massachusetts allowed a $2.275 million settlement on behalf of Massachusetts housing voucher recipients to move forward, certifying the settlement classes and directing notice to be sent to class members. The Court will hold a final approval hearing in November. The settlement, if finally approved, will resolve a lawsuit against SafeRent Solutions, a national tenant screening provider formerly known as CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions, claiming that SafeRent’s algorithmic tenant screening program (the “SafeRent Score”) disproportionately harmed housing voucher recipients, including Black and Hispanic individuals, under Massachusetts law protecting individuals based on their source of income and race. In July 2023, the Court denied SafeRent’s motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs’ Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Massachusetts Discrimination Law claims.

The pending settlement provides for significant injunctive relief to tenant applicants who rely on vouchers and may be subjected to SafeRent tenant screening. It would require a more robust evaluation of prospective housing voucher tenants’ eligibility for housing based on their full record rather than relying on a score derived though an algorithm. If SafeRent develops another tenant screening score it wishes to use after five years, it would have to be validated by an independent third-party organization agreed to by the Plaintiffs. This injunctive relief would establish precedent for the tenant screening industry.

Read more here.

Keeping kids out of foster care saves families — and state money (Boston Globe)

Below is an excerpt from an editorial published by the Boston Globe on April 22 explaining the need and benefit of legal intervention for families dealing with DCF. Community Legal Aid’s Madeline Weaver Blanchette and Massachusetts Law Reform Insitute’s Susan Elsen are quoted.


There are lots of good ways to spend money to help families and children. Rarer are policies that help families while saving money.

Yet that is the likely outcome when programs intervene early to stabilize families involved with the Department of Children and Families and prevent children’s removal. When families can safely remain together, it saves children and parents anguish while avoiding costly foster care placements and court cases.

For the past couple of years, funding from the courts and the state has supported pilot programs where lawyers, social workers, parent advocates, and mediators intervene with families when a DCF case is opened. While more study of these programs’ outcomes is needed, early evidence is promising, and similar models are being expanded nationwide. Massachusetts should ensure there is stable funding for these programs and that they are given the resources needed to expand. The investment will pay off in dollars and, more importantly, in children’s lives.

These programs generally do not deal with allegations of child abuse. But more than 85 percent of the approximately 23,600 children DCF found to have experienced mistreatment in fiscal 2022, the latest data available, involved neglect, a category often influenced by poverty. It is those cases where efforts to stabilize a family can sometimes alleviate DCF’s concerns.

Read more at the Boston Globe.

Jailed students in Massachusetts sue Department of Elementary and Secondary Education over special ed access (Boston Herald)

 

On April 17th, the Boston Herald’s Rick Sobey wrote about the lawsuit against DESE filed by three incarcerated students. The students argue that they are not being provided special ed instruction and services in houses of correction. Read the excerpt below, which includes a quote from Phil Kassel of Mental Health Legal Services.


A group of jailed men have sued the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education over special education access for incarcerated students.

The three men between 18 and 22 on Tuesday filed the class-action lawsuit against DESE for reportedly not providing special ed instruction and services in houses of correction — which they’re entitled to under state law.

“DESE’s failure to uphold its legal obligation to provide adequate education to incarcerated youth is unacceptable,” Phil Kassel of the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee said in a statement.

“Every student, regardless of their circumstances, deserves access to a quality education that meets their individual needs,” Kassel added. ““We are committed to fighting for the rights of these vulnerable individuals and holding DESE accountable for its failures.”

The three men are being represented by the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee and the EdLaw Project of the Committee for Public Counsel Services.

Read more at the Boston Herald.

MLAC Executive Director Lynne Parker Testifies at Joint Ways and Means Hearing for FY25 Budget

BOSTON, March 19 2024 – Today, Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Executive Director Lynne Parker will testify before the Joint Committee on Ways and Means in support of MLAC’s FY25 budget request. In her remarks, Parker will request $55 million for MLAC’s line item (0321-1600), emphasizing the tremendous need for civil legal aid services across the Commonwealth.

MLAC is the largest funder of Massachusetts civil legal aid programs. Individuals and families with an annual income at or below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines are eligible for civil legal aid funded through MLAC’s line item. In 2024, that threshold is $39,000 for a family of four and $18,825 for an individual. 13% of the state population meets these eligibility requirements.

“Unlike in criminal cases, people do not have a constitutional right to an attorney in most civil legal cases,” Parker says. “The civil legal aid organizations MLAC funds help people with low incomes solve serious legal problems that impact their most basic needs, including housing, domestic safety, economic stability, employment, health care, education, and more.” By promoting equal access to legal representation and resources, civil legal aid helps ensure that a person’s income does not determine the outcome of their case or impact their ability to stay safely housed, employed, retain access to health care, or access other vital services.

“In recent years, increased investments in MLAC’s line item have helped legal aid organizations turn away fewer qualified people who seek their help,” Parker says, noting that this proves the legislature’s ongoing support is having a tangible impact. “Still,” she continues, “about 50% of people who are eligible and seek help cannot be represented due to funding limitations. While progress is admirable, significant need for civil legal services remains.”

Parker explains that demand for civil legal aid has increased across many issue areas during the past three fiscal years (FY20-23), including housing, employment, income maintenance, family law, and consumers’ rights.

In FY23, MLAC-funded legal aid organizations resolved 26,458 cases, and their work benefitted more than 95,600people. In total, civil legal aid secured an estimated $100 million in economic benefits for the Commonwealth and its residents – including benefits secured for clients and savings obtained for the state (including shelter costs).

“To meet demand, increase and retain staffing, and expand partnerships and outreach, our state’s legal aid organizations need more funding,” Parker states.

Legal aid is a vital service and essential part of the state’s safety net. Residents in 95% of cities and towns across Massachusetts were assisted by civil legal aid. MLAC will continue to advocate for the House and Senate to fund its $55 million line-item request in their respective budgets. Governor Healey’s budget proposal, released in January, allocated $50.5 million for civil legal aid.

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Intake Specialist/Paralegal – VRLC

Organization:

Victim Rights Law Center (VRLC) is a nonprofit law center that provides free legal representation to victims of rape and sexual assault in Massachusetts and Oregon and national training and support for lawyers and advocates on the civil legal needs of rape and sexual assault victims. VRLC’s mission is to provide legal representation to survivors of sexual violence to help rebuild their lives; and to promote a national movement committed to seeking justice for every rape and sexual assault victim.

All applicants must support VRLC’s mission and philosophy regarding our commitment to improving the response to sexual violence, empowerment, and inclusiveness. This position will be filled by someone with a strong work ethic, a passion for mission-driven work, and a commitment to addressing the needs of marginalized communities.

VRLC strives to build and strengthen a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This includes building a team that reflects the diversity of the communities and professionals we serve. Research suggests that qualified women, Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color may self-select out of opportunities if they don’t meet 100% of the job requirements. People of color, LGBTQIA2S+ individuals, survivors, immigrants, and people with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply for this position. The VRLC will gladly assist applicants in need of accommodation. For assistance, contact humanresources@victimrights.org.

Description:

The Intake Specialist/Paralegal is the first contact clients have with VRLC. The specialist will conduct phone screenings with sexual assault survivors seeking legal assistance and provide support to attorneys representing sexual assault survivors.

Responsibilities:

  • Conduct initial phone screenings with sexual assault survivors seeking civil legal assistance and/or criminal justice advocacy in Massachusetts
  • Assess potential clients for eligibility for services and provide referrals
  • Assist attorneys with legal casework and other administrative tasks related to direct client representation such as:
    • Drafting client correspondence
    • Using DocuSign to secure client signatures on legal documents
    • Requesting audio recordings of court hearings
    • Drafting and filing court pleadings
    • Conducting legal research using LexisNexis
    • Drafting legal memoranda as assigned, and
    • Compiling reporting data for state and federal funding
  • Assist clients in gathering assault-related information and documents for their legal cases in the areas of housing, education law, employment, immigration, privacy hearings, protection orders, benefits, and victim compensation
  • Work collaboratively with the direct services team focused on meeting the legal needs of survivors
  • Attend outreach events, meetings, and trainings virtually and throughout the Commonwealth related to addressing sexual violence to build relationships with organizations working with survivors in Massachusetts
  • Other duties as assigned

Required Qualifications:

  • Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite
  • Highly motivated, organized, and able to handle several tasks at once
  • Attention to detail and follow-through
  • Fluency in Spanish or Portuguese

Preferred Qualifications:

  • B.A./B.S. and/or relevant work experience
  • Experience working with trauma survivors and/or underserved communities
  • Experience working in a law office

Salary Range: A salary within the range of $40,000-$45,000 (+ language use stipend) will be provided to the successful candidate. The salary within this range will be determined by the years of relevant experience they bring and with consideration given to VRLC’s internal compensation matrix.
Please note that this range has been established within an internal salary matrix.

Benefits:

  • 19 paid vacation days
  • 12 paid holidays per year
  • Week-long office closures week of July 4th and year’s end
  • Generous sick time
  • Paid parental leave
  • Health, Dental, and Vision insurance
  • 403b Retirment plan with employer match
  • Organization-sponsored life insurance
  • MBTA Pass
  • A fun, caring, and innovative work environment

Hybrid Work: VRLC has a Hybrid Work Policy. “Hybrid Work” is a flexible workplace model that is supportive and inclusive of employees fulfilling their job responsibilities in-office, remotely, or at another location (partner agency) for all or part of their regularly scheduled work hours. Employees have a choice in selecting a working environment that helps them be most productive while meeting the needs of VRLC and prioritizing both a survivor-centered approach to work and survivor privacy. The ideal candidate for this position would be expected to be in the office at least twice a month.

To Apply: Please fill out the form below. If you cannot fill out the form, please email your cover letter and resume humanresources@victimrights.org. Use your last name and “Intake Specialist” as the subject of the email. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Please indicate where you saw this posting in your application. No phone calls please.

Who is supposed to clear snow from MBTA bus stops? The answer isn’t so simple. (GBH)

Below is an excerpt from an article published by GBH on February 13 detailing the inequitable experiences of MBTA transit riders during the winter months. Greater Boston Legal Services’ Taramattie Doucette is quoted.


Joanne Daniels-Finegold sometimes carries a shovel on the back of her wheelchair because she’s never quite sure what conditions she’ll find at bus stops.

Sometimes, she finds ice and heaps of snow blocking her path to a bus shelter, which leaves her with a few unfortunate choices to get where she needs to go: drive her wheelchair into the street near traffic, or dig out the bus stop herself.

The MBTA is responsible for removing snow and ice from all MBTA properties. But when it comes to the thousands of bus stops across the Boston area, which are mostly located on municipal sidewalks, it’s a shared responsibility. The MBTA clears snow from 15 of its busiest routes, but the duty is less clear for the more than 100 other routes. Those bus stops often fall under different snow removal ordinances, and clearing them may be the responsibility of the state, city, town, private property owner or business owner.

Advocates say this lack of uniformity can lead to snow and ice not being properly removed at bus stops, and disabled riders don’t know who to contact to complain.

Read more at GBH.

Many former prisoners are on parole indefinitely. One year into new rules, it’s finally ending for some. (GBH

Below is an excerpt from an article published by GBH on December 27, revealing positive trends for formerly incarcerated people as they navigate the parole termination process. Prisoners Legal Services’ James Pingeon is quoted. 


Harold Adams spent more than half a century in the state’s criminal justice system — 31 years in state prison, and then another 22 years out on parole in the community.

He spent those two decades checking in with a parole officer at least once a month, restricted from free travel, wary of random searches and, until recently, paying $85 a month in monthly parole fees. Some people in his situation spend the rest of their lives on parole.

But in October, Adams received the good news that his parole had finally been terminated.

“It didn’t sink in immediately,’’ Adams told GBH News in a recent interview. “It was sort of surreal. Thinking in terms of the things that I can now do.”

Adams is one of 13 formerly incarcerated people who had their parole terminated in 2023 by the Massachusetts Parole Board, according to state data obtained by GBH News Center for Investigative Reporting. This is a dramatic increase in the state where only one person received a parole termination since 2018, according to state data.

Read more at GBH.