Western Mass. hotline offers pro bono by phone

Issue November 2013 By Jason Scally

For the second time this year, MBA volunteer lawyers lent their ears - and their advice - to residents from Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties seeking  free legal advice through the MBA's Western Massachusetts Dial-A-Lawyer program.

The semi-annual call-in program is provided as a public service of the MBA. It is sponsored by Western New England University School of Law, which hosted the program, and The Republican, El Pueblo Latino, the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys and the Hispanic National Bar Association.

Held on Oct. 17, the hotline took place fittingly in the middle of Pro Bono Month, allowing approximately 200 callers to get their legal questions answered by an attorney for free.

"It's one way to give back a little bit, and it's important to let folks know what the resources are out there to help them," said Stephen Manning, who has been volunteering regularly with the Western Mass. Dial-A-Lawyer program since its inception.

"It's like a bridge to getting legal assistance," added Melissa K. Long, an attorney in Agawam. "I like to help them control any misconception about lawyers being scary or difficult, and just talk to them."

Twenty-seven MBA members took calls during the four-hour event and answered questions that ran the gamut from domestic issues and probate queries to employment- or housing-related matters. When a caller needed advice in a particular area of expertise, volunteers could refer calls to other Dial-A-Lawyer volunteers sitting nearby, or provide the number for the MBA's Lawyer Referral Service.

MBA member Elizabeth D. Katz, a Northampton attorney who is also president of the Hampshire County Bar Association, said she typically hears from older callers, many of whom are on a fixed income who appreciate being able to call and ask a question. "At one point I got three calls asking me about life estates. You would think it would be the same family calling, and it's not, because they're all calling from different towns. They're all worried about the state taking the house because the older person is going into a nursing home."

A veteran of many Dial-A-Lawyers, Katz added: "A lot of time people actually know the answer. You'll say, 'What have you been thinking you should do?' And I'll tell them, 'Yes, that's what I think you should do.'"

The two call-in programs held in Western Massachusetts complement the monthly Dial-A-Lawyer programs held at the MBA's Boston office on the first Wednesday evening of each month.

The MBA thanks the following members for donating their time and energy to this important public service effort.

  • Leslie A. Curley, Berkshire Mediation Group, Pittsfield
  • Colleen C. Currie, Colleen A. Currie, Attorney at Law, Northampton
  • Mary K. Eaton, Eaton & Rescia, LLP, East Longmeadow
  • Kenneth P. Ferris, Hashim & Spinola, Pittsfield
  • Stephanie Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald Attorneys at Law PC, East Longmeadow
  • John E. Garber, Weinberg & Garber PC, Northampton
  • Michael S. Gove, Gove Law Office, Northampton
  • Lisa L. Halbert, Bacon & Wilson PC, Northampton
  • Elizabeth D. Katz, Attorney at Law, Northampton
  • Oran Kaufman, Oran Kaufman Attorney at Law, Amherst
  • Kelly A. Koch, Bulkley, Richardson & Gelinas LLP, Springfield
  • Melissa K. Long, Attorney at Law, Agawam
  • Stephen Manning, Stephen R. Manning PC, East Longmeadow
  • Issac J. Mass, Law Office of Isaac J. Mass, Greenfield
  • Amy Megliola, Siddall & Siddall, PC., Springfield
  • Richard T. O'Connor, The Law Office Of Richard T O'Connor LLC, Longmeadow
  • Thomas D. O'Connor Jr., Thomas D. O'Connor, Jr., Attorney at Law, Springfield
  • Stephen J. Phillips, Dunn & Phillips PC, Springfield
  • Andrea D. Reid, Reid & Gaudet Law Group, LLP, Springfield
  • Katherine A. Robertson, Hampden County District Attorney's Office, Springfield
  • Daniel Mark Rothschild, Bulkley, Richardson & Gelinas LLP, Springfield
  • Denise M. Shear, Ostrander Law Office, Northampton
  • Barbara Smith Carra, MassMutual Financial Group, Springfield
  • Gillian Szlachetka Dubay, Szlachetka Dubay PC, Chicopee
  • Peggy A. Torello, Peggy A. Torello, Attorney At Law, Greenfield
  • Gregory A. Wolf, Law Office of Gregory A. Wolf Esq., Pittsfield
  • Dorothy Varon, MassMutual Financial Group, Springfield