Access to Justice Award winners to be honored

Thursday, Apr. 17, 2014

The Massachusetts Bar Association's Access to Justice Awards will honor five attorneys and one law firm, recognizing their exemplary legal skills and service to the community, at its 2014 Annual Dinner at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel on Thursday, May 15.

Jessica Berry, Children's Law Center of Massachusetts

Jessica BerryJessica Berry, a staff attorney at the Children's Law Center of Massachusetts, goes above and beyond in every case, leaving no stone unturned. As an advocate for young people, she brings unmatched personal dedication and commitment to her clients, both inside and outside the courthouse.

In one instance, Berry met with a 21-year-old homeless woman with significant mental health issues who was in danger of losing custody of her child. Berry calmed the client, made numerous calls to homeless shelters and then drove the client halfway across the state to a shelter with a vacancy. She then prepared an appropriate, safe plan to present to the Department of Children and Families to prevent the baby's removal. Work like this isn't anecdotal for Berry; it's what she does day in and day out.

(Photo by Philip-Lauren Photography)

Gerald Wall, Greater Boston Legal Services

Gerald D. WallGerald Wall may well be more invested in his work than any other attorney in the commonwealth. When he first started handling immigration cases with Greater Boston Legal Services, a large percentage of them involved El Salvadorian refugees seeking asylum in the United States from violence and death squads during their home country's civil war. Not only did Wall advocate for many of these individuals, he and his wife pursued adoption, ultimately bringing in to their family a 3-year-old son and 21-month-old daughter.

Wall has spent his entire 40-year career as a legal services lawyer. Now the most senior attorney in GBLS' Immigration Unit, he credits his longevity to both the satisfaction he gets from making a direct impact on real clients, and the "hard work and collegial nature" of his like-minded co-workers.

(Photo by Philip-Lauren Photography)

Klein Hornig LLP

Klein HornigKlein Hornig LLP, this year's recipient of the Access to Justice Pro Bono Award for Law Firms, has found a way to successfully balance business interests while also bettering the community at large. The firm was founded on the idea that a strong community makes for a strong people. While its lawyers focus exclusively on affordable housing and community development, the firm strongly encourages them to do pro bono work in their communities, even if it's outside the scope of their traditional work.

The firm's lawyers have worked on projects involving housing tax credits, Section 8 rental assistance and tax exempt bonds. They also provided assistance to the Coalition of Occupied Homes in Foreclosure, which purchases foreclosed homes, allowing homeowners and tenants to remain. At Klein Hornig, each and every day is filled with work aimed at bettering communities and fighting for the public good - and then they go out of their way to do some of it for free.

(Photo by Jeff Thiebauth)

Stephen Phillips, Dunn and Phillips PC

Stephen J. PhillipsFor the past 13 years, attorney Stephen Phillips has worked with more than 130 hospice patients at Baystate Visiting Nurse & Hospice, where he has assisted them with everything from drafting wills to counseling on end-of-life matters. But sometimes his greatest work comes when he just spends time with them to watch a Red Sox/Yankee game.

Phillips is this year's Access to Justice Pro Bono Publico Award Winner. His skill at addressing the legal needs of hospice patients is only surpassed by his reputation for going outside the role of counsel when he feels that's what his clients need. Calling pro bono an "honor, not a chore," Phillips says the times when he's had the "honor of feeding a hospice patient" or adjusted their bed are some of the best things about working with his pro bono clients.

(Photo by Denise Smith)

James B. Krasnoo, Krasnoo | Klehm LLP

James B. KrasnooDefense attorney James B. Krasnoo started his legal career at the Attorney General's office and always knew he wanted to be a trial attorney. But when he began to see the problems of inadequate defense, he found himself drawn -- or pulled -- into the work of a bar advocate. A career later, Krasnoo is still fighting for his clients for the same reasons he started all those years ago.

Krasnoo has won his share of big cases, but his impact on clients extends well beyond his reported matters. He is widely regarded as a zealous advocate who sees the best in all people. Krasnoo also serves as a mentor to other lawyers, and he says: "Find someone you can call once you've read over the police report, someone who you can bounce ideas off of and who will tell you what they think."

(Photo by Philip-Lauren Photography)

Lisa Edmonds, District Attorney's Office for the Cape and Islands

Lisa F. EdmondsAs a prosecutor, Lisa Edmonds has been blazing a trail for others to follow for more than 15 years. In 1999, she spearheaded the creation of a Juvenile Diversion Program, which allowed first time nonviolent youth offenders to preserve their record by engaging in community service, counseling and showing personal responsibility. Offenders sign a contract with the DA's office, and upon its fulfillment, avoid the negative externalities of a criminal record. It's a model that has since been replicated by others.

Since becoming Chief of the Domestic Violence unit, she has implemented a High Risk Task Force, which brings together law enforcement, social service agencies, domestic violence advocates and the DA's office to identify and target cases where there is a great risk of homicide or an escalation of violence.

(Photo by Jeff Thiebauth)