The Massachusetts Bar Association's
Access to Justice Awards will be given to five attorneys and one
law firm, recognizing their exemplary legal skills and service to
the community, at the MBA 2014 Annual Dinner at the Westin Boston
Waterfront hotel on Thursday, May 15.
RISING STAR AWARD
Jessica Berry, Children's Law Center of
Jessica Berry interacts with everyone from newborns to
22-year-olds as part of her work as a staff attorney at the
Children's Law Center of Massachusetts. But Berry has a special
place in her heart for her work with teenagers because of their
"Often times the people around them may be discouraged or have
given up," says Berry, this year's Access to Justice Rising Star
Award winner. "But the chance to get these kids into a better
situation, or receive better services can really turn things
Berry graduated in 2007 from the University of Michigan Law
School and joined the staff at the Children's Law Center of
Massachusetts as a Skadden Fellow. Although she envisioned working
with children ever since she was in high school, Berry never could
have predicted she would end up in the position she's in today,
where she has the ability to help so many young people in need.
As a lawyer, Berry is known for going above and beyond in every
case and leaving no stone unturned. She also enjoys extending her
advocacy beyond the courtroom to pursue changes in the law when she
believes they are warranted. In short, she is a complete advocate
for her clients.
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 phone
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 attorney Berry. This type of
personal dedication and commitment is what she does, day in and day
LEGAL SERVICES AWARD
Gerald D. Wall, Greater Boston Legal Services
Gerald D. Wall, this year's recipient of the Access to Justice
Legal Services Award, 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 three-year-old son and 21-month-old
daughter from El Salvador.
Since he was first admitted to the bar, Wall has spent his
entire 40-year career as a legal services lawyer, beginning in
April 1974 with the Boston Legal Aid Society, and continuing when
that agency merged with the Boston Legal Assistance Project to
become Greater Boston Legal Services.
Wall loves his work, and 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
As the most senior attorney in GBLS' Immigration Unit, Wall
brings an expertise and passion to his work that is unmistakable to
his clients and colleagues. Yet when asked about his reaction to
receiving this award, all he found himself doing was thanking
others for their work and passion.
PRO BONO PUBLICO AWARD
Stephen J. Phillips, Dunn & Phillips PC
For the past 13 years, attorney Stephen J. 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
After seeing the nature of his selfless work, it's no wonder
Phillips' reaction to being this year's award recipient was met
with one word: "humbled." Phillips said he plans to accept the
award not only on his own behalf, but on behalf of all the staff
and nurses at Baystate Visiting Nurse & Hospice, and everyone
else who works to ensure dignified care.
This kind of work is something he'd like to see future
generations continue to do. When asked what he'd say to a young
lawyer or law student who was considering this type of work,
Phillips' answer was simple and direct: "Do it."
PRO BONO AWARD FOR LAW FIRMS
Klein Hornig LLP
Klein 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 principles of applying smart,
efficient and durable legal solutions to the development and
preservation of affordable housing and community revitalization for
nonprofit sponsors as well as for profit companies. 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
Klein Hornig lawyers have provided pro bono legal assistance to
many different community projects, tenant organizations and
individuals, with respect to housing tax credits, subsidized rental
assistance and tax-exempt financing. They've worked with Coalition
of Occupied Homes in Foreclosure, for example, an organization that
works to keep homeowners and tenants to remain in their homes after
Whether helping a local food bank incorporate or assisting
low-income residents in their fight against foreclosure or
eviction, every attorney at Klein Hornig can tell a personal story
or two about the pro bono work they've done and how supportive the
community has been. At Klein Hornig, each and every day is filled
with work aimed at bettering communities -- and Klein Hornig
attorneys feel privileged to be able to do pro bono work.
James B. Krasnoo, Krasnoo | Klehm LLP
When representing a client for the first time, attorney James B.
Krasnoo has a saying: "There is always something good you can say
about a client; even a murderer is loved by his mother." Krasnoo's
clients and fellow attorneys, on the other hand, probably have no
shortage of good things to say about him, where zealous advocacy
and seeing the best in people have been some of the hallmarks of
his career as a bar advocate.
Krasnoo, this year's Defender Award honoree, has won his share
of big cases, such as last year's Commonwealth v. Ortiz,
84 Mass. App.Ct. 258 (2013), where the Appeals Court held that
certain statements in a murder trial were inadmissible because of
interrogation tactics used by law enforcement. But his impact on
clients extends well beyond his reported cases.
Krasnoo, who started his legal career at the Attorney General's
office, always knew he wanted to be a trial attorney, but when he
began to see the problems of inadequate defense, found himself
drawn - or pulled - into the work of a bar advocate. Krasnoo tells
a story of being cornered by two judges, who told him some
disturbing news about defendants taking guilty pleas on weak facts.
Before long, Krasnoo took on the role of bar advocate with the goal
of representing the underrepresented and changing things.
A career later, Krasnoo is still fighting for his clients for
the same reasons he started all those years ago. He practices
regularly in criminal and civil court, which he likens to "driving
both a stick shift and an automatic car." And he says the variety
keeps him on his toes and makes him a sharper lawyer in each.
Krasnoo's service doesn't stop with his clients. He serves as a
mentor to several younger attorneys, and if he could give one piece
of advice to a new lawyer, 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."
Lisa F. Edmonds, District Attorney's Office for the Cape and
Lisa F. Edmonds is this year's Prosecutors Award recipient, and
while she always knew she wanted to get involved with public
service after law school, she initially thought it would be on the
other side of the courtroom.
During her 3L year, Edmonds was in the defenders clinic at
Suffolk University Law School and later worked for the Committee
for Public Counsel Services as an intern. But when an opportunity
presented itself with the Cape and Islands District Attorney's
office, she took it head on. Now more than 15 years later, Edmonds
is blazing a trail for others to follow.
One of the things that really swayed Edmonds was the District
Attorney's willingness to have ADAs pull innovative ideas from
outside the office. As such, in 1999 Edmonds 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.
The Cape and Island's model has been picked up and replicated all
But Edmonds eye for innovative practices in the pursuit of
justice didn't stop in 1999. 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
Despite dealing with such tragic cases, Edmonds is always
impressed by the victims she works with. "Often times I meet people
at the lowest and most challenging part of their lives, but I'm
always impressed when they are able to find their voice and stand
up for themselves, often for the first time," she says.