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Greater Boston Legal Services, Inc.

 197 Friend Street
 Boston, MA 02114
[P] (617) 371-1234
[F] (617) 371-1222
Ana Cruz
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 Printable Profile (Summary / Full)
EIN 04-2103907

LAST UPDATED: 01/22/2019
Organization DBA GBLS
Cambridge & Somerville Legal Services
Former Names Boston Legal Aid Society (1976)
Boston Legal Assistance Project (1976)
Organization received a competitive grant from the Boston Foundation in the past five years Yes



Mission StatementMORE »

GBLS provides free civil (non-criminal) legal assistance to low-income people in Boston and 31 surrounding cities and towns.  The mission is to serve as many low-income people as possible to help them secure some of the most basic necessities of life such as food, safety, and housing. Founded in 1900, GBLS' advocates have expertise in a wide spectrum of poverty law matters. Through individual representation and impact advocacy, and working closely with a wide network of community partners, GBLS upholds the philosophy that justice is for all not just for the few with the means to afford it.

Mission Statement

GBLS provides free civil (non-criminal) legal assistance to low-income people in Boston and 31 surrounding cities and towns.  The mission is to serve as many low-income people as possible to help them secure some of the most basic necessities of life such as food, safety, and housing. Founded in 1900, GBLS' advocates have expertise in a wide spectrum of poverty law matters. Through individual representation and impact advocacy, and working closely with a wide network of community partners, GBLS upholds the philosophy that justice is for all not just for the few with the means to afford it.

FinancialsMORE »

Fiscal Year Jan 01, 2018 to Dec 31, 2018
Projected Income $15,683,593.00
Projected Expense $15,826,426.00

ProgramsMORE »

  • Greater Boston Legal Services

Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2016 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

For more details regarding the organization's financial information, select the financial tab and review available comments.


Mission Statement

GBLS provides free civil (non-criminal) legal assistance to low-income people in Boston and 31 surrounding cities and towns.  The mission is to serve as many low-income people as possible to help them secure some of the most basic necessities of life such as food, safety, and housing. Founded in 1900, GBLS' advocates have expertise in a wide spectrum of poverty law matters. Through individual representation and impact advocacy, and working closely with a wide network of community partners, GBLS upholds the philosophy that justice is for all not just for the few with the means to afford it.

Background Statement

Legal advocacy is often the only recourse remaining for low-income individuals to secure some of the basic necessities of life which have been illegally or inappropriately denied them.  These can include earned wages, freedom from abuse and violence, and access to emergency shelter, medical benefits and transitional assistance. Since its founding in 1900, GBLS has been committed to providing free  legal assistance to low-income families and individuals. In order to remain true to its mission of providing a full range of advocacy options to all classes of low-income people, in 1996 GBLS withdrew itself as a recipient of federal Legal Services Corporation funding due to Congressional restrictions on serving immigrants and prohibiting certain types of representation.

Impact Statement

GBLS’ principal accomplishments this past year included handling more than 12,000 matters for over 10,000 clients in the areas of housing, wages and workers’ benefits, consumer rights, immigration, family law, and public benefits. In addition, GBLS’ successful impact benefited thousands of addition clients.   A few examples include:

  • Work with a broad coalition to secure earned sick time and parenting leave in Massachusetts;
  • Passage of a law that provides thousands of domestic workers with the same basis rights and protections as other workers; and
  •  Major court ruling more thoughtfully defined the sealing of CORI records to enable people to regain employment.

Three priorities for the coming year are: 

  • Increasing GBLS’ presence in low-income neighborhoods by expanding collaborative efforts with community based organizations/groups to ensure easier access to GBLS’ assistance for low-income residents and responsiveness to emerging important issues.
  • Significantly expanding financial support from donors outside of the legal community; and
  • Securing fellowships for young attorneys of diverse backgrounds who have potential to become the future experts in the various substantive areas of poverty law for which GBLS provides assistance.

Needs Statement

GBLS' Affordable Tenancy Preservation Project provides assistance to low-income and disabled tenants to avoid homelessness by defending against inappropriate eviction from affordable housing.   Cost approximately $1,000 per case.  

GBLS’ Family Destitution Prevention Initiative provides legal assistance for poor families to secure subsistence TAFDC income benefits and/or Food Stamps which have been denied.  Cost: approx $750 per case.

GBLS’ Unaccompanied Minors Project provides legal assistance to immigrant children, fleeing persecution and/or gang violence in their homeland to help secure legal status in the United States to allow them to grow up and become productive members of society.  Cost approximately $1,500 per child. 

Chelsea Public Housing Authority Tenant Empowerment Initiative.  After a major investigative report, The Boston Globe revealed that the head of the Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) had been illegally concealing thousands of dollars in annual salary and diverting funds from CHA unit maintenance and improvements. GBLS was called upon to represent the CHA tenants to gain a voice in management and improvements in the upkeep and operations of the CHA developments where they lived. Legal work over the next year will cost approximately $20,000.

CEO Statement

Legal advocacy is often the only recourse poor people have when no other agency can resolve the client's issue.  Without GBLS' help, it often means a family facing eviction becomes homeless, a victim of domestic violence cannot escape abuse or an elder is denied the critical medical care to which they are entitled.  
The need for GBLS' assistance is starkly demonstrated by the fact that despite assisting more than 12,000 clients a year, this is only a fraction of the people who seek GBLS' help.  GBLS estimates that 60% of those who contact the agency with legitimate civil problems are declined assistance due to GBLS' limited staffing resource. 
GBLS maximizes the impact of its work by engaging in significant systemic advocacy that brings about positive change that benefits large numbers of poor people who face the same problem.

Board Chair Statement


Geographic Area Served

In a specific U.S. city, cities, state(s) and/or region.

Greater Boston Metropolitan area

Organization Categories

  1. Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy - Alliances & Advocacy
  2. Housing, Shelter - Alliances & Advocacy
  3. Human Services - Victims' Services

Independent research has been conducted on this organization's theory of change or on the effectiveness of this organization's program(s)



Greater Boston Legal Services

In 2016, GBLS handled over 12,000 legal matters for more than 10,000 low-income individual and community-group clients with legal problems in the areas of housing, homelessness, government benefits, family law (mostly for victims of domestic violence), employment related issues of low-wage workers, access to job training and health care benefits, as well as immigration matters. Each case benefits 2.5 people on average when clients and their affected family members are counted.   GBLS also conducts special outreach to elders, particularly those who are socially isolated such as nursing home residents. GBLS' Asian Outreach Project continued extensive outreach efforts to assist the low-income Asian communities. GBLS also has extensive collaborative relationships with more than 75 community and/or client based organizations, often providing legal counsel and assistance to help build their capacity and advance the agendas of their low-income constituents. In addition to assisting clients with their individual legal problem, GBLS, on behalf of its clients, engages in impact advocacy to bring about systemic change that alleviates the conditions of poverty or moves individuals and families out of poverty and promotes individual autonomy.
Budget  $14,936,931.00
Category  Crime & Legal, General/Other Legal Services
Population Served Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent Families Females
Program Short-Term Success  In 2016, GBLS assisted 10,000 low-income people. Of these clients 67% were women and 23% were over the age of 60.  The breakdown of the legal issues for which they needed legal assistance was: 29% - obtaining or retaining affordable housing or emergency shelter; 13% -  access to health care and disability benefits; 21% - asylum or other immigration status;  10% - unpaid wages or illegally denied unemployment or other worker benefits; 12% - family law issues resulting from domestic violence; 8% - TAFDC (welfare), Food Stamp and Child Care benefits; and 7% - other poverty law related matters.
Program Long-Term Success  GBLS advocates represent poor people who have been denied the most basic necessities of life - food, shelter and safety from violence.  Successful outcomes mean that clients can stay in affordable housing and eat regular meals.  Children have a chance at a good education because they live without the threat of domestic violence, have food to eat and they can continue attending the same school.  Parents are able to support their families because they are being paid a decent wage for the hours they worked.  GBLS' eviction defense, mortgage foreclosure prevention efforts and affordable housing preservation work helps to stabilize neighborhoods.  Just as important, poor people can believe in the promise of equal access to justice.  With a skilled legal advocate by their side, clients are on equal footing in court or before a government agency. 
Program Success Monitored By  GBLS measures success in several ways. Individual case representation is measured by if the client obtains the desired outcome.  Impact advocacy is measured by if desired change is achieved.  GBLS continually evaluates which advocacy approach or legal strategies are the most efficient and effective in achieving the desired outcome for the client.  The legal experts in each of the substantive legal unit regularly conduct these evaluations.  GBLS seeks regular feedback from community based agencies which refer clients as to client satisfaction.   When GBLS conducts community legal education it solicits feedback from both participants and from the staff of the sponsoring agency or organization.
Examples of Program Success  For those cases for which GBLS provides full representation, GBLS has a more than 80% success rate in securing the outcome desired by the client.  The effectiveness of its impact is demonstrated by the examples detailed earlier in the form.    

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments



CEO/Executive Director Ms Jacquelynne J. Bowman
CEO Term Start Aug 2011
CEO Email
CEO Experience

Jacqui Bowman, a graduate of Antioch Law School in Washington, DC, has dedicated most of her legal career to providing civil assistance to our nation’s poor. She became a staff attorney at West Tennessee Legal Services after law school, representing clients with education and family law matters. In 1984, she joined GBLS, serving as Family Law Unit Managing Attorney from 1987 to 1991. After a stint at Massachusetts Law Reform Institute doing policy work about family and juvenile issues, she returned to GBLS in 1997 as an Associate Director. In that position she was primarily responsible for overseeing the organization's professional development and evaluation systems and worked with law unit managers on strategic plans for the units' advocacy work. Because of her leadership skills, in 2000 Ms. Bowman was offered the Deputy Director position. She has been a key player on the senior management team, overseeing program operations and assisting in setting and defining the strategic direction of the organization.

As Executive Director, Ms. Bowman continues to do policy work on domestic violence and child welfare issues and still represents some clients. She serves on numerous local and national task forces and commissions, including the Supreme Judicial Court's Access to Justice Commission.

Co-CEO --
Co-CEO Term Start --
Co-CEO Email --
Co-CEO Experience --

Former CEOs and Terms

Name Start End
-- -- --

Senior Staff

Name Title Experience/Biography
Jacquelynne J. Bowman Esq. Executive Director --
Daniel Manning Associate Director/Litigation Director --
Joanne Sanders Director of Finance --


Award Awarding Organization Year
-- -- --


Affiliation Year
-- --
Member of state association of nonprofits? No
Name of state association --

External Assessments and Accreditations

External Assessment or Accreditation Year
-- --



CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments


Foundation Comments


Staff Information

Number of Full Time Staff 91
Number of Part Time Staff 9
Number of Volunteers 55
Number of Contract Staff 0
Staff Retention Rate % 98%

Staff Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 11
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 8
Caucasian: 63
Hispanic/Latino: 25
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 3
Other (if specified): Two or more races
Gender Female: 85
Male: 24
Not Specified 0

Plans & Policies

Organization has Fundraising Plan? Yes
Organization has Strategic Plan? Yes
Years Strategic Plan Considers 5
Management Succession Plan Under Development
Business Continuity of Operations Plan No
Organization Policies And Procedures Yes
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistle Blower Policy Yes
Document Destruction Policy Yes
Directors and Officers Insurance Policy Yes
State Charitable Solicitations Permit --
State Registration --

Risk Management Provisions


Reporting and Evaluations

Management Reports to Board? Yes
CEO Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Bi-Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes N/A
Non Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Semi-Annually


Board Chair Mr. Ken Felter
Board Chair Company Affiliation Ropes & Gray
Board Chair Term June 2017 - May 2020
Board Co-Chair --
Board Co-Chair Company Affiliation --
Board Co-Chair Term -

Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
Isaac Bantu Client Community Representative Voting
Tom DeSimone W/S Development Associates Voting
John Kenneth Felter Goodwin Procter Voting
97 Other members listed on Form 990 Attorneys and Client Community Representatives Voting

Constituent Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Youth Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Advisory Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Board Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 15
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 2
Caucasian: 71
Hispanic/Latino: 6
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): 4
Gender Female: 42
Male: 58
Not Specified 0

Board Information

Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits --
Board Meeting Attendance % --
Written Board Selection Criteria Yes
Written Conflict Of Interest Policy Yes
Percentage of Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage of In-Kind Contributions 10%
Constituency Includes Client Representation Yes

Standing Committees

  • Board Governance
  • Development / Fund Development / Fund Raising / Grant Writing / Major Gifts
  • Executive
  • Finance
  • Legislative
  • Nominating
  • Program / Program Planning

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments


Foundation Comments



Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2016 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

Prior Three Years Total Revenue and Expense Totals

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Total Revenue $16,187,441 $14,370,795 $14,004,023
Total Expenses $13,772,789 $14,197,228 $14,831,309

Prior Three Years Revenue Sources

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
-- -- --
Government Contributions $8,306,743 $7,788,673 $1,968,689
    Federal -- -- --
    State -- -- --
    Local -- -- --
    Unspecified $8,306,743 $7,788,673 $1,968,689
Individual Contributions $7,044,622 $5,686,575 $10,676,924
Indirect Public Support $343,769 $382,601 $439,271
Earned Revenue $285,229 $332,436 $746,240
Investment Income, Net of Losses $181,105 $140,156 $144,168
Membership Dues -- -- --
Special Events -- -- --
Revenue In-Kind -- -- --
Other $25,973 $40,354 $28,731

Prior Three Years Expense Allocations

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Program Expense $11,984,102 $12,390,701 $12,895,464
Administration Expense $1,204,229 $1,090,239 $1,214,758
Fundraising Expense $584,458 $716,288 $721,087
Payments to Affiliates -- -- --
Total Revenue/Total Expenses 1.18 1.01 0.94
Program Expense/Total Expenses 87% 87% 87%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue 4% 5% 6%

Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Total Assets $21,561,158 $19,124,940 $19,574,072
Current Assets $12,335,601 $8,395,781 $8,415,760
Long-Term Liabilities $0 $0 $0
Current Liabilities $1,814,250 $2,056,936 $2,464,388
Total Net Assets $19,746,908 $17,068,004 $17,109,684

Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
1st (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
2nd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
3rd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --

Financial Planning

Endowment Value $4,953,426.00
Spending Policy Percentage
Percentage(If selected) 5.0%
Credit Line Yes
Reserve Fund Yes
How many months does reserve cover? 5.00

Capital Campaign

Are you currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Capital Campaign Purpose --
Campaign Goal --
Capital Campaign Dates -
Capital Campaign Raised-to-Date Amount --
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? Yes

Short Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities 6.80 4.08 3.41

Long Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Long-term Liabilities/Total Assets 0% 0% 0%

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

GBLS has cut all non-personnel costs to as low as possible and has implemented a diverse fundraising plan.  In addition, the Board of Directors has authorized GBLS to use its reserve funds to keep clients services at the highest level possible during this time of increased demand for assistance while the organization aggressively works to raise more income. 

Foundation Comments

Financial summary data in the charts and graphs above are per the organization's IRS Form 990s. Contributions from foundations and corporations are listed under individuals when the breakout was not available.


Other Documents

No Other Documents currently available.


The Impact tab is a section on the Giving Common added in October 2013; as such the majority of nonprofits have not yet had the chance to complete this voluntary section. The purpose of the Impact section is to ask five deceptively simple questions that require reflection and promote communication about what really matters – results. The goal is to encourage strategic thinking about how a nonprofit will achieve its goals. The following Impact questions are being completed by nonprofits slowly, thoughtfully and at the right time for their respective organizations to ensure the most accurate information possible.

1. What is your organization aiming to accomplish?

Greater Boston Legal Services' primary aim is to help families and individuals who cannot afford legal help secure basic necessities of life to help them stabilize their lives so that they can begin to move out of poverty.  GBLS also assists client groups in advocating for social change and in creating law and legislative reform, to benefit people with lower incomes across the metro Boston area.  GBLS evaluates the results it achieves immediately upon completing the case.  GBLS has a success rate of over 80% in cases where it provides full representation, meaning that GBLS' client received a completely favorable outcome and the client's goals were achieved. 

2. What are your strategies for making this happen?

Greater Boston Legal Services uses legal advocacy to advance its goal.   When no one else can resolve the problem, legal advocacy is often the only recourse a poor family or individuals has to secure what has inappropriately or illegally been denied. Many of the programs upon which the poor rely to help stabilize their lives and begin to move out of poverty are governed by very complex rules, regulations and eligibility criteria.   Legal expertise if often needed to inform individuals of their rights and protections or to appeal what has been inappropriately been denied.

3. What are your organization’s capabilities for doing this?

GBLS handles a large volume of cases which has two benefits. It allows its advocates to develop extensive expertise in the areas of poverty law in which they practice which helps ensure efficient successful representation of clients. In addition, the high volume of case work allows GBLS to identify recurring issues/problems. GBLS will then engage in system advocacy to correct these problems. In addition, GBLS works closely with over 75 organizations and community-based groups.   This work helps GBLS identify emerging legal issues of poor people for which legal advocacy is needed and helps GBLS build effective advocacy coalitions. 

Depending upon the issues, GBLS will then undertake the most appropriate means to bring about the needed change. This ranges for litigating in court, to administrative advocacy, to drafting bills and lobbying for changes to existing legislation.   Successful impact advocacy results in a positive change that benefits large numbers of the poor who faced the same problem. It also frees staff to shift their focus of assistance to other areas of need. 

4. How will your organization know if you are making progress?

GBLS uses both quantitative and qualitative metrics to evaluate its works. For individual case work, GBLS evaluates both the number of clients assisted and the results obtained for the individual case as the basic measure. GBLS attorneys and its Director of Litigation also evaluate on a regular basis, the effectiveness of the legal strategy and legal arguments used. GBLS measures its impact work by if the desired goal was fully achieved and if the approach used could be replicated in other impact efforts. If only partial success was achieved or not at all, then an evaluation is undertaken as to why and if additional efforts to bring about the required change would be feasible, efficient and cost effective and, if so, what changes would need to be taken in the advocacy approach.

5. What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?

In the areas of individual representation, GBLS continues toward its long-term goal of providing legal assistance to the largest number of poor people as possible. A recent example is despite having had to reduce the size of its staff a couple of years ago due to a precipitous drop in the income of GBLS’ primary funder resulting in a lower grant to GBLS, GBLS was able to sustain its level of assistance by leverage increased pro bono assistance.   As a result GBLS was able to continue to sustain the number of people assisted at approximately 13,000 a year. 

GBLS’ employs impact litigation as an efficient and effective means to benefit large numbers of poor people who face the same problem as GBLS’ clients.   For example in 2013 GBLS settled a major class action suit in Federal Court against the Mass. Department of Transitional assistance to remove significant procedural and administrative barriers that where causing people with disabilities to have their benefits inappropriately denied or terminated. In another case, GBLS secured more than $850,000 in owed wages for almost 200 workers of an Asian supermarket chain that had not been paid the minimum wage or overtime. 

GBLS has learned in its legislative advocacy that the outcome of efforts can be totally unpredictable. Despite wide-spread popular support other reasons may impede progress. For example, for a period of time GBLS worked with a coalition to advance state legislation that would require paid sick days for workers.   After it became evident this past year that this effort would not be successful in the legislature, it was decided to let this become a ballot initiative.  

To ensure that GBLS is able to identify as early as possible issues that unexpectedly emerge for large number of poor people for which legal advocacy is needed, GBLS is investigating new delivery models which are more community based.