The Sustainable Lawyer (TSL) has been getting some feedback about readers wanting to hear about public service or pro bono opportunities in the environmental field. With all the lawyers out there passionate about the environment, it’s no surprise that they wanted to combine that passion with their passion for public service. But where do they find the opportunities? What is the time commitment? Where can they find out more? That’s where TSL comes in. Thanks to our Sustainability Task Force, we were able to contact Anne Rogers of Alternatives for Community & Environment to talk about the work ACE does to facilitate pro bono professional assistance in the environmental field.
The Massachusetts Environmental Justice Assistance Network (MEJAN), one of several projects run by ACE, provides pro bono professional assistance on environmental issues to lower-income and minority community groups. MEJAN has a panel of between 200-250 volunteers that is made up of lawyers, health professionals, environmental engineers, and more. Essentially, MEJAN pairs up their qualified volunteers with community groups that meet ACE’s requirements for assistance. Wondering what types of cases MEJAN members volunteer for? So were we. Anne was kind enough to give us three specific examples so we could give potential volunteers more information before making a decision to sign up.
Boston Community Energy Services Co-Op (ESCO)
A team of four lawyers is helping three community based non-profits to develop an energy conservation business that is initially focusing on weatherization. What did the attorneys do? They helped explore finances, set up ESCO’s booking system, organize fundraising efforts and facilitate discussions about mutually beneficial opportunities with another business.
Two community groups are working with MEJAN lawyers, and a License Site Professional (a state authorized manager of hazardous waste cleanups) to create community gardens in Chelsea and Roxbury. When vacant properties are purchased, contamination is a potential issue, which the LSP handles. The attorneys will participate in negotiations with the land owner to buy or lease the land and draw up the necessary paperwork. In another case, an attorney worked with a community group in Roxbury to negotiate with the BRA a purchase from the Department of Neighborhood Development.
REEP: Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Project
REEP, also a part of ACE, is a youth-led community organizing program where interns work for environmental justice. REEP members have been campaigning for 2 years for a reduction in diesel emissions, and recently had 6 MEJAN volunteers (university professionals, environmental experts, air quality specialists and more) testify before the Boston City Council in support of an ordinance to reduce diesel emissions.
So, now you know. ACE’s MEJAN project acts as liaison connecting experienced environmental professionals and attorneys with community groups needing assistance with unique environmental projects and problems. If you have been looking for environmental public service opportunities, ACE might just be the place to try. Find out more information here and see the application here.