MBF Annual Meeting; Powers honored and new trustees elected

GFOJ Award Weiner Powers.jpg

At the Massachusetts Bar Foundation’s recent Annual Meeting, Attorney Lonnie A. Powers, long-time executive director of the Mass. Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), was honored with the Great Friend of Justice Award. Over 60 MBF Fellows, grantees and friends braved the coming nor’easter to attend the event, held on March 7, at the Federal Reserve Building in Boston.

The MBF’s Great Friend of Justice Award is presented annually to an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to justice, consistent with the MBF’s values and mission of increasing access to justice in the state. Lonnie Powers’ commitment and dedication to access to justice exemplifies the spirit of this award.

Powers has devoted the majority of his distinguished career establishing, building, sustaining, and revitalizing legal aid organizations.  Powers recently announced his plans to retire from the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, where he has served as executive director since its inception in 1983. In this role, he worked tirelessly to strengthen civil legal assistance programs for the poor throughout the Commonwealth.  Under his leadership, MLAC developed partnerships with the private bar, judiciary, legislature, and the public to maximize resources for these critical legal aid programs statewide. Today, MLAC is the largest single funder of civil legal programs in the state, having awarded $24 million in grants in 2017.

Powers is also active in numerous community and public service efforts, including serving on the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court Committee on Pro Bono, as well as with the American, Mass., and Boston Bar Associations. He is an MBF Fellow and is a past president of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.

At the business meeting held that same evening, the MBF also elected the following officers and trustees:


  • President Harvey Weiner, Peabody & Arnold, LLP, Boston
  • Vice President Richard J. Grahn, Law Office of Richard J. Grahn, Mattapoisett
  • Treasurer Angela McConney Scheepers, Division of Administrative Law Appeals, Boston
  • Secretary David C. Henderson, Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP, Boston
  • Past President Janet F. Aserkoff, Rappaport, Aserkoff & Gelles, Boston


  • Robert J. Ambrogi, Law Office of Robert J. Ambrogi, Gloucester
  • Valerie C. Caldwell, Boston Municipal Court-Dorchester Division, Boston
  • Edward F. Dombroski, Jr., Travers | Dombroski PC, Boston
  • Hon. Robert G. Fields, Western Mass. Housing Court, Springfield
  • James F. Martin, Robinson Donovan, PC, Springfield
2018 MBF Board.jpg

Partner Spotlight: Nutter, McClennen & Fish, LLP


The Massachusetts Bar Foundation believes there is a role for every lawyer and judge in our organization. But it’s not just individuals in the Massachusetts legal community who support our efforts to increase access to justice for all—law firms continue to play an increasingly significant role in strengthening our capacity to help the organizations that are working hard to provide legal assistance to vulnerable clients facing issues including eviction, domestic violence, immigration, and many other circumstances threatening their safety and well-being. We thus are proud to acknowledge Nutter as one of our major partners in our work.

Nutter has helped pave the way for law firms to engage in pro bono work since its earliest days. Its co-founder, Louis D. Brandeis, who later became a renowned justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, devoted so much of his time to acting as unpaid counsel for causes of reform that he became known as the “People’s Attorney.” Nutter continues that tradition today, remaining deeply committed to social justice and principled causes.

There are numerous ways in which Nutter has strengthened the MBF. Nutter currently is one the two law firms contributing at the Silver Partner level in the MBF’s Law Firm & Corporate Partnership Program. In addition, thirteen Nutter attorneys are members of the MBF Society of Fellows, where they not only make generous financial contributions to the foundation, but also volunteer their time to serve on MBF grant review committees, helping to allocate critically needed funds to nonprofit legal aid organizations throughout the Commonwealth. David C. Henderson, a Nutter partner, currently serves on the MBF Board of Trustees, playing a crucial role in guiding the Foundation so that it may continue to be a resource to the community for many years to come. Retired Nutter partner Daniel J. Gleason previously served in that capacity for years.


“Louis Brandeis’ commitment to community service and the creation of a just society continues to inspire us at Nutter to this day. In many ways, these values – a standard of excellence both for client service and for commitment to the community – are the bedrock on which was Nutter was built. I am proud of Nutter’s commitment to supporting the MBF in its important mission,” said Deborah J. Manus, Managing Partner of Nutter.

The MBF welcomes other law firms to stand with us by joining our Law Firm & Corporate Partnership Program. Click here to learn more.

MBF Celebrates Grant Recipients and Presents President’s Awards

MBF President Janet Aserkoff and the 2017 President's Award Recipient, Attorney Ted Cohen.

MBF President Janet Aserkoff and the 2017 President's Award Recipient, Attorney Ted Cohen.

The Massachusetts Bar Foundation (MBF) recently presented President’s Awards to attorney Robert C. Ware, Esq., Williamstown, and to attorney H Theodore Cohen, Esq. of Cambridge. Given annually, the MBF President’s Award recognizes exceptional MBF supporters for their commitment to increasing access to justice for the most vulnerable in Massachusetts. The awards were presented at two recent events honoring grant recipients as well as MBF supporters.

H Theodore Cohen has been one of MBF’s most dedicated members of its Society of Fellows since 1998. Attorney Cohen is very involved in the grant review process, having served on a regional Grant Advisory Committee every year since 2001. Professionally, He was town counsel for Reading from 1972 through 2001, then practiced municipal law, real estate, and land use at Keegan Werlin until his retirement. Currently, he serves as the chair of the Cambridge City Planning Board. Attorney Cohen graduated from Brown University and the University of Chicago Law School. He received his award at the Eastern Mass. MBF Grantee Reception, which was held at Burns & Levinson, LLP, in Boston.

“Ted is someone the MBF can always rely on,” said MBF President Janet F. Aserkoff of Boston’s Rappaport Aserkoff & Gelles, “It is our great privilege to honor his outstanding support of legal services and the Massachusetts Bar Foundation in this way.”

MBF Vice President Harvey Weiner presents Attorney Bob Ware with the 2017 President's Award.

MBF Vice President Harvey Weiner presents Attorney Bob Ware with the 2017 President's Award.

Robert C. Ware has also been a grant reviewer every year since 2001. As a member of the Western Mass. Regional Grant Advisory Committee, Attorney Ware has volunteered his time and expertise traveling throughout the four western counties, visiting applicants and helping to ensure the MBF distributes funds effectively in this underserved region. He is a solo practitioner specializing in estate planning and probate matters. Attorney Ware graduated from Williams College with honors and received his law degree from Georgetown University. Prior to 1993, he was in private practice in North Adams, Massachusetts. He also worked as a litigator for the Federal Communications Commission. Attorney Ware is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc. He is a founding member and former President of the Williamstown Film Festival, as well as a former President of the Williamstown Rotary Club. Ware received his award at the Central & Western Mass. grantee reception, which was held at UMass Amherst.

“Bob’s exceptional commitment to working to increase access to justice, and his generosity towards the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, has not gone unnoticed. We are proud to honor him for all that he does,” said Aserkoff.

The receptions were also an opportunity for the MBF to celebrate its current grant recipients and their work, which includes providing civil legal services to people who otherwise could not afford them and improving the administration of justice in the Commonwealth. These programs help thousands of individuals and families in Massachusetts who have legal issues relating to domestic violence, housing, access to special education services, healthcare, discrimination, and many more. This year’s grantee speakers were Elinett Oquendo Burgos, a 2017 recipient of the MBF Legal Intern Program Fellowship and former intern at Mass. Advocates for Children, and Jada Ficarra, a high school student from Springfield and participant in the 2017 Judicial Youth Corps Program.

This year, the MBF awarded $2 million in grants through its annual Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Grants Program. These grants will fund 84 programs conducted by 56 nonprofit organizations throughout Massachusetts. Representatives of many of these organizations were in attendance.


Click here to view photos from the events.

MBF Awards $2 Million in Grants for Legal Aid Programs Across Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Bar Foundation (MBF) recently awarded $2 million to 84 programs conducted by 56 different nonprofit organizations through its annual IOLTA grants program.

“MBF grantees are working hard every day to meet the increasing demand for civil legal assistance,” said MBF President Janet F. Aserkoff of Boston’s Rappaport, Aserkoff & Gelles. “We are proud to be able to support these critically needed programs that provide services to communities throughout the Commonwealth.”

MBF IOLTA grants support projects that either offer civil legal services to people who could not afford them, or improve the administration of justice in the Commonwealth. Grants providing direct legal services include support to domestic violence programs, special education advocacy, humanitarian immigration assistance, and homelessness prevention.  Grants to improve the administration of justice include efforts such as court-connected mediation and lawyer of the day programs.

The Massachusetts Bar Foundation is one of three charitable entities in Massachusetts that distributes funds from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts Program.

Additional information about the MBF IOLTA Grants Program, as well as a complete listing of the 2017/2018 IOLTA grant recipients, is available here.

MBF Grants $24,000 to Law Students for Public Interest Internships

The MBF Trustees proudly announce that four exceptional law students were recently selected to receive a stipend of $6,000 each for their unpaid summer internships at non-profit legal aid organizations in Massachusetts. The grants are provided through the MBF’s Legal Intern Fellowship Program, which is funded by the MBF Fellows Fund and the Smith Family Fund and has two concurrent goals: to give talented students the experience and encouragement they need to continue in the public interest law sector and to provide legal aid organizations with much-needed additional staff capacity for the summer. 

This year’s award recipients are:


Erika Jacqueline Chavez
Boston University School of Law
Kids in Need of Defense
(Supported by Smith Family Fund)






Sarita Manigat
Western New England School of Law
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts
(Supported by MBF Fellows Fund)





Elinett Oquendo Burgos
Northeastern School of Law
Massachusetts Advocates for Children
(Supported by MBF Fellows Fund)




Madelyn Finucane
Harvard Law School
Greater Boston Legal Services: Housing & Employment Units
(Supported by MBF Fellows Fund)




Click here for more information about the Legal Intern Fellowship Program.