by Chelsea Hildreth
Robert J. Kerwin, a former Massachusetts Bar Association
Business Law Section chair and past president of the City Solicitor
Town Counsel Association, devotes a considerable amount of time and
energy to pro bono efforts. Having worked for Tarlow, Breed, Hart
& Rodgers PC as a business litigator for 15 years, Kerwin uses
his resources to help those in need.
He is urging others throughout the state to join him.
Kerwin helped initiate the MBA Bankruptcy Pro Bono Assistance
Project to connect lawyers with indigent clients in need of workout
and bankruptcy assistance. "If this initiative can get lawyers
throughout the state to help where they can, then so many more
lives will be made easier," he said.
Kerwin's original inspiration for this important project came
last year when MBA President Valerie A. Yarashus visited his firm
to discuss the importance of community service.
"Working through these pro bono Chapter 7 cases gives me a
deeper appreciation of how the recent financial crisis severely
affects people," said Kerwin, primarily a creditors' rights
attorney. "It makes me realize that we are all a few steps away
from a serious medical crisis or job loss that could put us in an
extreme financial situation."
Kerwin and firm colleague Michael Dominick recently took a pro
bono case that highlights the tremendous needs of such clients.
Hounded by credit collectors and with numerous unpaid medical
bills, a client needs to file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
"Filing for bankruptcy will allow her to focus on getting her
life back together," said Kerwin, who notes that there are many
other MBA lawyers who are contributing significantly in this area.
"Mostly every lawyer I know is doing something formally or
informally," he said.
The MBA Bankruptcy Pro Bono Assistance Project began in 2009
when Leslie Storm, the Boston pro se clerk for the U.S. Bankruptcy
Court, expressed her need for assistance with those filing for
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Storm was put in contact with the MBA's
Business Law Section Council to discuss setting up this program.
Storm met with Kerwin and current Business Law Section Co-Chair
Francis Morrissey to begin developing a network of attorneys
throughout the state to whom Storm could refer pro se clients.
Now, with the encouragement of Susan Prosnitz, director of the
Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service at Suffolk University
Law School, Kerwin hopes the MBA will soon offer pro bono training
programs through the center.
"It's our goal to increase involvement in this project statewide
because there are so many more people who need help," Kerwin
Through his work with this meaningful project, Kerwin is
reminded often of why he went to law school: "I went to enhance my
ability to help people, and there is nothing better than helping
someone get their life back."