News, Events & Publications

Know Your Legal Rights as a Caregiver

May 23, 2017 – Deciding on elder care can be an uncertain time for many folks. Elders and their family caregivers often face a mix of legal and financial difficulties on a daily basis. Be sure to make informed decisions by understanding the decisional capacity of your family member and your legal authority as a caregiver. It is important for you, the caregiver, to assist loved ones in making financial, legal and health-care decisions they are no longer capable of making themselves.

Here are some tips to help you manage those complicated issues and protect your assets:

  • Complete a Healthcare Power of Attorney. Completing a Health Care Power of Attorney can provide guidelines for making important healthcare decisions. Carefully complete this form with your loved one to ensure that a trusted individual is appointed as a Health Care Agent.
  • Complete a Financial Power of Attorney. Complete a Financial Power of Attorney to designate a trustworthy individual to manage your specific financial needs. It is important to pay careful attention to the specific needs of you and your loved one when drafting a Power of Attorney to avoid financial exploitation. Also keep in mind that powers of attorney do not recognize Social Security and Veterans Benefits and those benefits must be managed through the SSA or VA directly.
  • Recognize signs of exploitation and discrimination. It is important for caregivers to be vigilant against elder abuse and neglect and remember to take action when you witness injustice.
  • Remember that caregivers have rights too! The Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid-job protected leave per year to care for immediate family members, such as your child, spouse or parent. You cannot be discriminated against by your employer if you need to take any periodic or unplanned time off to care for a sick loved one.

If you are interested in hiring a qualified attorney to protect you or your loved one’s financial assets, to hire a power of attorney, or to further understand your legal rights as a caregiver, contact the Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service to be connected with a qualified attorney. Call us at 617-742-0625 or submit an online request form today!

Public Schools & Equal Access Regardless of Immigration Status

April 10, 2017 – Attorney General Maura Healey has issued an advisory notice to public schools titled “Equal Access to Public Education for All Students Irrespective of Immigration Status.

“This advisory is intended as a reminder that state and federal law require state educational agencies and local school districts to provide all elementary and secondary students with equal access to public education—irrespective of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or immigration status.”

The notice lists multiple different state and federal laws, as well as previous court cases including Brown v. Board of Education, that have upheld the rights laid out in the notice. The advisory specifically notes that these rights apply to students regardless of immigration status, meaning even those who may be undocumented are protected by Massachusetts and Federal law.

The advisory also lists specific requirements that schools in the state must uphold, which are:

(1) Allowing children to enroll and attend school without regard to race, national origin, or immigration or citizenship status;

(2) Avoiding information requests that have the purpose or effect of discouraging or denying access to school on the basis of race, national origin, or immigration or citizenship status;

(3) Protecting all students from bullying and harassment on the basis of race, national origin, or immigration or citizenship status.

If you believe your or your student’s rights may have been violated, even if a specific incident is not explicitly covered in this notice, you can reach the Office of the Attorney General here, or by calling (617) 963-2917.

Furthermore, if you would like to hire a qualified attorney to help further protect your rights, to speak about a specific incident, or help with issues regarding your immigration status, you can contact the Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service to be connected with a qualified attorney. Call us at 617-742-0625 or submit an online request form to begin the referral process. All contacts are kept confidential, and any information you provide to us will not be shared with anyone other than the attorney you are referred to only if you choose to allow it.

The People’s Law School: Legal Services Center Annual Event, Saturday April 8th

March 30, 2017On Saturday, April 8th, from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, the Wilmer Hale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School will be hosting a day of free workshops geared toward helping people learn more about legal issues that affect them. The “Know Your Rights” event, which is free and open to the public, will have 16 one-hour workshops on a wide range of topics.  The workshops will cover many areas of law from public assistance to immigration rights, as well as housing, student loans and many more.  The event will take place at the Legal Services Center, which is located at 122 Boylston Street, Jamaica Plain, MA  02130.

To view the full schedule, of sessions, click here.

For full details, please refer to the flyer below. If you have other questions, please email [email protected] or call the Legal Services Center at (617) 522-3003 and ask for the People’s Law School Coordinator.

 

Trademarks, Patents, and Copyrights – What’s What?

March 10, 2017 – When starting a business, inventing a new product, or forming a public brand, your intellectual property is a major part of what makes your project ‘yours.’ This makes intellectual property (IP) law extremely important for new businesses, large corporations, and individuals alike. IP law helps these groups protect inventions and other intellectual property, like pharmaceuticals or ‘brand names,’ from unauthorized use.

There are many different categories of ‘things’ that constitute intellectual property. If you are forming a new business, setting up a blog, creating content on video sharing site like YouTube, or are inventing a new product, there are many different ways to protect your ideas and creations through IP law. A few of these examples are

  1. Trademarks, which allow you to register for exclusive use of ideas such as a business name, phrase, or symbol/logo
  2. Patents, which can be registered on inventions, pharmaceuticals, and procedures relating to the creation of many types of products
  3. Copyrights, which allow you to protect original content such as writings, film creation, music, computer programs, and other content of an ‘original’ nature

While these laws and protections are in place and apply to everyone, it is important to understand what types of ideas you can protect, as well as understand the methods you can pursue to protect your work that is being unlawfully used. Having an attorney who works in IP law can help explain exactly what protections your type of content is afforded, how you can go about making a claim of infringement, and help you make sure you are not infringing on someone else’s intellectual property. If you would like to speak to an experienced attorney who can help you make sure you are properly protected from infringement and infringement claims against you, please contact us today at 617-742-0625 or fill out our online form here.

Free Wage Theft Legal Clinics

February 15, 2017 – The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is hosting free wage theft clinics in February and March. These clinics will help workers in Massachusetts get the wages and benefits they have earned. Lawyers, law students, and advocates will help workers learn their rights, draft demand letters, and prepare small claims court complaints.

More details about the upcoming clinics are below, and can also be found online here.

Where:

Suffolk Law School, First Floor Function Room
120 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02108 (near the Park Street MBTA station)

When:

  • Monday, February 27, 2017 from 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM
  • Monday, March 27, 2017 from 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Details:

  • Walk-ins are welcome at these clinics.
  • If you need an interpreter, please call (617) 963-2327 at least 1 week before the clinic you wish to attend.
  • If you have already filed a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division, please bring:
    • Your private right of action letter,
    • A copy of your complaint, and,
    • Any documents related to your case (i.e. pay stubs, time sheets, letters or emails from your employer)

In addition, if you wish to hire an experienced, qualified attorney for assistance with any workplace problem, please contact the Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service by calling (617) 742-0625 or filling out an online request form here. All of our attorneys are licensed, vetted, and have malpractice insurance.

Making Real Estate Transactions Run Smoothly

February 8, 2017 – Buying a home is a huge life decision and whether it’s your first property or not, having a qualified real estate broker and an attorney can make the process much more safe and simple.

The real estate market is extremely diverse and complicated, with different property classifications (i.e. residential, commercial), land use requirements, and regulations regarding what insurance is needed, mortgages, how much you’ll pay in taxes on the property, and what sort of forms and inspections you are responsible for.

Because of how complicated buying a home can be, working with a licensed real estate broker can make the transaction much smoother. Real estate agents are required to be licensed by the state and are regulated by the Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons. Along with this regulatory body come many laws and regulations that the brokers themselves need to follow that protect your rights as a consumer.

Many real estate attorneys are also licensed Real Estate brokers, and they can help to review contracts and mortgages you are presented, make sure the sellers are respecting your rights as a consumer, and inform you of the legal responsibilities that go along with purchasing a home, such as insurance and zoning requirements.

If you are considering purchasing a home and would like to speak to a qualified attorney well versed in real estate law, or if you’ve experienced a situation where you believe your rights were violated during a real estate transaction, call the Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service at (617) 742-0625 or fill out an online request form today.

Massachusetts Increases Minimum Wage to $11 per Hour

January 25, 2017 – On January 1st, 2017, the Massachusetts minimum wage officially rose from $10 per hour to $11 per hour thanks to a law passed in 2014. The law was designed to incrementally increase Massachusetts minimum wage by $1per hour per year, beginning with January 1st, 2015 when the minimum wage increased to $9 per hour, and ending January 1st, 2017. This year’s is the final increase mandated by that law, meaning that unless additional legislation is passed, the minimum wage will remain at $11 per hour and will not rise next year.

However, the law does have some exceptions. For example, tipped workers are only required to be paid $3.75 per hour, but only if their tips brings wage up to $11 per hour.

As the legislation is complicated and nested within a much larger regulatory environment, it can be difficult for employees to know when their rights as a worker are being violated. This is why the Office of Massachusetts Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division oversees Massachusetts wage and hour laws and helps workers understand their rights as well as investigate and prosecute employers that are treating their employees unfairly. You can contact the AG’s office by visiting their website or calling (617) 727-3465.

If you are concerned that your employer is not following the wage and hour laws and would like to speak to a lawyer, you can contact the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service to be connected with an attorney who can assist in resolving your employment issues. Call us today at 617-742-0625, or fill out our online request form to begin the referral process.

Winter Weather: Legal Responsibilities and Liability

January 11, 2017 – As winter weather hits the city, it’s important to remember that snow doesn’t just have the capacity to make your morning commute a nightmare or damage your property. Along with snow and ice, winter can bring some additional responsibilities for property owners, specifically regarding snow removal.

In the city of Boston and throughout most of Massachusetts, property owners are legally responsible for snow/ice removal not only on their own property, but on public sidewalks, walkways, and curb ramps adjacent to the property. Failure to clear these pathways can result in fines and even being held liable for injuries that occur on untended walkways. Failure to remove snow and ice from a sidewalk or other walkway can get property owners fined from $50-$200. These fines vary based on whether a building is commercial or residential, the square yardage of snow that was not removed, and every day that goes by without the snow being cleared counts as another fineable violation.

The fines and requirements for when/how snow removal must be carried out also vary by municipality. In Boston, property owners are required to clear walkways within 3 hours of snowfall, or 3 hours from sunrise if the snowfall occurred during the night. Because these regulations may be different based on where you live, it may help to check out http://www.mass.gov/portal/snow/  for all Massachusetts resources on snow and winter weather.

If you end up failing to clear snow and are fined, are held liable for an injury occurring on walkways you are responsible for, or are injured yourself on an unsafe walkway and need a qualified attorney, give us a call at 617-742-0625 or submit an online request.

Notarios: Avoiding Exploitation when Seeking Immigration Law Help

December 13, 2016 – Immigration laws within the United States are complex and navigating such laws usually requires help from a knowledgeable and qualified lawyer.  Unfortunately, some people who are not lawyers try to exploit immigrants seeking legal assistance by claiming they are licensed or certified to give legal help, but end up just taking people’s money.  They are often called notarios, escribanos, or notarios publicos, and they provide unqualified and illegal immigration law services.

Don’t let the name confuse you: notarios are not equivalent to public notaries within the United States.  Notarios are not authorized to provide legal assistance. Any advice or service provided by a notario is provided illegally and is usually incorrect. Notarios may also charge fees for immigration forms which can be found for free online. You should only take legal advice or help from a licensed attorney or an accredited representative (someone given special permission by the government to help people in immigration court).

To determine if someone is legally qualified to assist with an immigration law matter, ask to see their law license or accreditation.  If you are in Massachusetts, you can also verify their license online through the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers website. Go to massbbo.org, click “Attorney Lookup,” and enter the person’s first and last name.  Click “Find Them!” and, if the person has been admitted to practice law in the Commonwealth, their name and contact information will appear. The page will also display the person’s discipline record and state whether or not the person has legal liability insurance.

There are numerous resources available to ensure you find proper immigration law help:

  • For additional tips on notario spotting, you can view this video created by law students at the University of Pennsylvania titled “Notorious Notarios.”
  • To assist in your search for legal assistance, MassLegalHelp has a useful list of trustworthy immigration specialists within the state of Massachusetts who are qualified to help with immigration law matters. Some of these specialists may be able to provide help for free or at reduced costs.
  • MassLegalHelp has also written their own article on notario fraud.

Additionally, if you wish to hire an experienced and qualified immigration lawyer, please contact the Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service by calling (617) 742-0625 or filling out an online request form here. All of our attorneys are licensed, vetted and have malpractice insurance.

Make Sure You’re Covered this Winter

December 1, 2016 – As we approach the second winter since breaking the Massachusetts snowfall record, it’s important to make sure that your property is covered against potential damage due to snow and ice. This means not only making sure that your insurance is up to date, but also that you know what kind of damage your policy covers. From car insurance to homeowners and renters policies, safeguarding your possessions against the many dangers winter weather brings can help make sure you aren’t paying for a collapsed roof or a car destroyed by a snow plow out of your own pocket.

A great first step to take in making sure your property is protected is to read through your policy so you know what you’re covered for. Your policy is a legal agreement that you have signed, and the insurance company is responsible only for what is included in that agreement. You can request a full copy of your policy from your insurance company, as well as speak to your insurance agent (if you have one) to have them help you understand what you are covered for.

If you do end up needing to utilize your coverage after experiencing damage, you should contact your insurance company as soon as you can to make sure there aren’t any issues in having your claim covered. If you disagree with the insurance companies decision on whether or not to cover your damage, or disagree with the amount they will pay, you can file a complaint with the Massachusetts Division of Insurance, which will review your case and determine what the insurance company is responsible for. If you don’t receive a favorable determination from your complaint and are seeking legal representation, please call us today at 617-742-0625 or submit an online request, and the BBA can help put you in contact with an experienced and affordable attorney.