On Tuesday, July 29 the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, a New England Council member, announced the launch of a unique new legal access center and law incubator. The center, “Justice Bridge,” aims to launch careers of recent UMass School of Law graduates while providing quality legal representation to clients who could not otherwise afford traditional legal fees.
Located in Boston’s financial district–with talks of a second South Coast location in the works–the center will serve clients with a variety of civil legal needs in areas such as family law, housing, probate, employment, consumer law, and immigration. Legal fees will be set on a sliding scale from about $50- $100 an hour, comparatively much more affordable than those of Boston firms. The attorneys, nine of whom have already been chosen to work on a six-month pilot basis, will be provided with a furnished shared office space, access to business referrals by Justice Bridge’s wide network of contacts within the legal field, and mentors in the form of retired judges and senior partners at a number of Boston’s law firms. Because the idea for the incubator began as collaboration between Executive Director Len Zandrow and Northeastern School of Law Professor Deborah Ramirez, Justice Bridge will not only employ UMass Law graduates, but will also reserve two slots out of a total of 12 for law graduates of fellow NEC member, Northeastern.
“Ultimately, Justice Bridge is about restoring hope — hope for new attorneys questioning their job prospects and hope for persons fearing that legal advice was beyond their means,” said Justice Bridge Executive Director Len Zandrow. “The program is built on the zeal of its attorneys, the latest developments in technology, the experience of its mentors, and our community’s collaborative spirit.”
According to data from the American Bar Association, only 56 percent of 2012 law school graduates had full-time, long-term employment requiring bar passage. The Boston Bar Association Task Force reported in 1998 that in some Massachusetts counties, more than 75 percent of the cases in Probate and Family Courts have at least one party unrepresented. Through Justice Bridge, UMass Dartmouth is taking active strides towards solving both of these issues that have been plaguing the legal field for years.
The New England Council applauds UMass School of Law for its dedication to training lawyers while working towards a solution to meet previously unmet legal needs across Boston.
Read more in the Boston Business Journal article here