MLAC is largest funding source for civil legal aid in Massachusetts
UMass Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek is one of three new members appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court to the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). MLAC, the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth, provides leadership and support to improve civil legal services to low-income people in Massachusetts through collaboration with the legal services community, the public, the bar, and the legislature.
"I am very proud to join an organization with a mission and vision to provide equal justice that transforms lives and communities," Dean Bilek said. "As the Commonwealth's only public law school, it is essential that UMass Law be fully engaged in the dialogue about expanding access to justice."
Since joining UMass Law in July 2012, Dean Bilek has focused on expanding the role of the school in the community through an increased commitment to public service by the students and an expansion of clinic opportunities.
Last year, UMass Law launched Justice Bridge, a civil law practice incubator in Boston and this year expanded the initiative New Bedford. Justice Bridge provides mentorship, office space and other resources to new attorneys who provide legal services to clients who cannot afford market-rate legal fees. Justice Bridge attorneys have taken on 1,700 cases from 170 communities, including more than 100 in New Bedford. The program also has a satellite operation in Taunton.
At UMass Law every student is required to complete at least 30 hours of legal or law-related pro bono service under the supervision of a licensed attorney after the first two semesters of study. The Pro Bono Program graduation requirement is one part of the law school's integrated approach to producing practice-ready, justice-centered lawyers. Since the inception of the program inSeptember 2010, more than 17,000 hours have been volunteered by 248 students in 126 offices in 11 states and three countries.
Dean Bilek has dedicated her career to public legal education, social justice and access to justice issues. She serves on the statewide Access to Justice Commission and as the co-chair of its Access to Attorneys Committee. She also serves as a board member of the Children's Advocacy Center of Bristol County. Prior to joining the faculty at CUNY law school. A graduate of St. Mary's College and Harvard Law School, Dean Bilek practiced law for five years in New York City.
Dean Bilek is a member of the LSAC (Law School Admission Council) Diversity Committee and chaired the ABA Section on Legal Education and Diversity Committee from 2010 to 2011. She is currently a board member of Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) and served as a member of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Special Committee on the Professional Education Continuum from 2009 to 2013.
Joining Dean Bilek on the board as the newest members are Mala Rafik, a partner at Rosenfeld Rafik & Sullivan, which represents clients denied access to health care and Mary Jeanne Stone, the immediate past President of the Bristol County Bar Association and a member of the Joint Bar Committee on Judicial Appointments.
MLAC is governed by an 11-member Board of Directors. Ten members are appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court, and the 11th is the Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court or that Justice’s designee.
MLAC was established by the state legislature in 1983 to ensure that low-income people with critical, non-criminal legal problems would have access to legal information, advice and representation. For more information, visit http://www.mlac.org.
UMass Law, located in Dartmouth, is the only public law school in Massachusetts and was established in 2010. It is conveniently located 30 miles from Providence, RI, and 60 miles from Boston, MA. UMass Law is committed to ensuring access to an affordable legal education for students who hope to pursue justice and serve others through the practice of law. UMass Law is provisionally approved by the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the American Bar Association, 321 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60654, 312-988-6738.