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MetroWest Legal Services Inc.

 63 Fountain Street, Suite 304
 Framingham, MA 01702
[P] (508) 6201830 x 230
[F] (508) 620-2323
http://www.mwlegal.org/
[email protected]
Elizabeth Soule
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INCORPORATED: 1976
 Printable Profile (Summary / Full)
EIN 04-3177488

LAST UPDATED: 07/09/2018
Organization DBA --
Former Names South Middlesex Legal Services (2008)
Organization received a competitive grant from the Boston Foundation in the past five years Yes

Summary

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Mission StatementMORE »

The mission of MetroWest Legal Services is to provide legal advocacy to protect and advance the rights of the poor, elderly, disabled and other disenfranchised people in our service area and to assist them in obtaining legal, social and economic justice. We help our clients secure access to basic needs and challenge institutional barriers in order to achieve equal justice for all.

Mission Statement

The mission of MetroWest Legal Services is to provide legal advocacy to protect and advance the rights of the poor, elderly, disabled and other disenfranchised people in our service area and to assist them in obtaining legal, social and economic justice. We help our clients secure access to basic needs and challenge institutional barriers in order to achieve equal justice for all.

FinancialsMORE »

Fiscal Year July 01, 2017 to June 30, 2018
Projected Income $2,000,500.00
Projected Expense $2,000,500.00

ProgramsMORE »

  • MetroWest Legal Services

Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2017 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2016 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

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


Overview

Mission Statement

The mission of MetroWest Legal Services is to provide legal advocacy to protect and advance the rights of the poor, elderly, disabled and other disenfranchised people in our service area and to assist them in obtaining legal, social and economic justice. We help our clients secure access to basic needs and challenge institutional barriers in order to achieve equal justice for all.

Background Statement

Incorporated in August 1976, MetroWest Legal Services has provided legal advocacy to protect the rights and improve the lives of poor, elderly, disabled and otherwise disenfranchised individuals and families in our service area. In FY17, MWLS handled 2,675 legal cases for clients. MWLS conducted 31 outreach or training events benefitting 1,485 attendees and held 111 legal clinics where 620 participants received legal advice or assistance completing pleadings or paperwork related to their legal case.

MWLS provides a full range of legal services, including advice, brief service, negotiation, and representation in court and administrative law proceedings. MWLS’ priorities are housing, government benefits and access to health coverage, domestic relations and immigration for abuse victims and unaccompanied minors, consumer law, education, elder law, and wage & hour disputes. 
 
MWLS operates a Pro Bono Panel of local attorneys who provide legal assistance with domestic relations cases, bankruptcies, wills, small claims defense and veterans issues. . Volunteer attorneys also staff the Lawyer for the Day Programs (Family Law and Small Claims) and the Immigration Clinic, all designed to assist pro se litigants navigate the court system when full representation is not available.

Impact Statement

Accomplishments:
  1. Margaret Stewart-Fay v. DTA: MWLS co-counseled this class action litigation with Mass. Law Reform and Sugarman Rogers. After 30 months of litigation, the case was settled in October 2016. The settlement agreement will automatically pay retroactive SNAP to over 9,000 households who lost benefits due to the wage matches in certain scenarios, and will afford another 12,000 more an opportunity to reapply and possibly receive retroactive benefits if their cases reopen.
  2. Immigration Response: The need for immigration representation and education has skyrocketed. MWLS attorneys have presented 8 “Know Your Rights” sessions to local immigrant groups as well as in three school systems for immigrant children in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program and for teachers in those school systems. After a presentation at Framingham High School for 300 students, 70 students asked for advice or assistance in applying for immigration relief. MWLS is working with the MetroWest Interfaith Association and has held immigration clinics at the Greater Framingham Community Church.
  3. Wage & Hour Project: The Wage and Hour Project assists workers in obtaining relief from unlawful wage theft. MWLS received funding in early 2016 to create this project. In just over a year, the project has already realized remarkable results for local workers. Almost $110,000 of wages has been paid to workers due to legal intervention by MWLS.
Goals:
  1. Replicating the Medical Legal Partnership model of service delivery by fashioning projects where MWLS attorneys are embedded with other agencies or organizations that deliver services to the same populations.
  2. Increasing MWLS’s visibility by developing more professional marketing and fundraising materials that can be used for community engagement, grant requests, and soliciting individual donors.
  3. Securing ongoing funding for our three newest projects: Wage and Hour Project, Community Enterprise Project and Juvenile Immigrant Relief Project.

Needs Statement

  1. The Wage and Hour Project assists workers in obtaining relief from unlawful wage theft. The initial two year funding for this project will end in April 2018. Cost to continue this project for one year $80,000.
  2. The Community Enterprise Project helps both new and existing small businesses overcome legal hurdles to create economic opportunity in underserved and underrepresented areas and populations. The CEP attorney provides direct legal representation to low and moderate income small business and entrepreneurs. The initial two year funding for this project will end in April 2018. Cost to continue this project for one year $80,000.
  3. Juvenile Immigrant Relief Project provides legal representation to undocumented immigrant youth in the Framingham school system who are seeking legal status because they were abused, neglected or abandoned by one or both of their parents in their country of origin. The initial one year pilot funding for this project will end in June 2018. Cost to continue this project for one year $80,000.

CEO Statement

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Board Chair Statement

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Geographic Area Served

METROWEST REGION, MA
MWLS serves 45 communities in Middlesex and Norfolk counties: Acton, Ashland, Bedford, Bellingham, Belmont*, Brookline*, Canton*, Carlisle, Concord, Dedham, Dover, Foxborough, Framingham, Franklin, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hudson, Lexington, Lincoln, Marlborough, Maynard, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Natick, Needham, Newton*, Norfolk, Northborough*, Norwood, Plainville, Sharon, Sherborn, Southborough*, Stow, Sudbury, Walpole, Waltham*, Watertown*, Wayland, Wellesley, Westborough*, Weston, Westwood, Wrentham. *elders only

Organization Categories

  1. Crime & Legal - Related - Legal Services
  2. -
  3. -

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

Yes

Programs

MetroWest Legal Services

Incorporated in August 1976, MetroWest Legal Services has provided legal advocacy to protect the rights and improve the lives of poor, elderly, disabled and otherwise disenfranchised individuals and families in our service area. In FY17, MWLS handled 2,675 legal cases for clients. MWLS conducted 31 outreach or training events benefiting 1,485 attendees and held 111 legal clinics where 620 participants received legal advice or assistance completing pleadings or paperwork related to their legal case.

MWLS provides a full range of legal services, including advice, brief service, negotiation, and representation in court and administrative law proceedings. Two initiatives, the Eviction Defense Project and the Lawyer for the Day Programs, assist pro se litigants. In addition to individual representation, MWLS pursues impact cases in order to use its resources for the greatest possible benefit for low-income people. 

MWLS’ priorities are housing, government benefits and access to health coverage, domestic relations and immigration for abuse victims and unaccompanied minors, consumer law, education, elder law, and wage & hour disputes. MWLS’ staff includes 14.8 FTE attorneys; 2 FTE AmeriCorps volunteers; 2 FTE support staff, 1 FTE intake supervisor, 1 FTE finance manager, and 1 FTE development staff. An Advocacy Director supervises the advocacy staff as well as handling a small caseload. MWLS operates a Pro Bono Panel of local attorneys who provide legal assistance with domestic relations cases, bankruptcies, wills, small claims defense and veterans issues. 140 PBI volunteers worked on 223 cases, providing 1,887 hours of legal work worth $509,490 to our clients. Volunteer attorneys also staff the Lawyer for the Day Programs (Family Law and Small Claims) and the Immigration Clinic, all designed to assist pro se litigants navigate the court system when full representation is not available. 

Budget  $2,000,572.00
Category  Crime & Legal, General/Other Legal Services
Population Served Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent At-Risk Populations
Program Short-Term Success 
In FY17, MWLS handled 2,675 legal cases for clients. MWLS conducted 31 outreach or training events benefiting 1,485 attendees and held 111 legal clinics where 620 participants received legal advice or assistance completing pleadings or paperwork related to their legal case.
Program Long-Term Success 
Since its incorporation in 1976, MetroWest Legal Services has helped tens of thousands of low-income clients with their civil legal problems. Over the years, dramatic changes in the agency and the practice of law have allowed us to assist more people, with a greater variety of difficulties. At that beginning, the agency had five attorneys and helped clients in 12 towns with benefits, housing and domestic relations issues. Over the years, our service area grew to 20 towns, then to 36 and finally to 45. 
 
To our original priorities, we have added education, assistance to victims of domestic abuse and senior citizens, immigration assistance, health advocacy, an active pro bono program, help for unrepresented litigants and a medical-legal partnership. To ensure that eligible persons are aware of our services, we began giving presentations to client groups, community organizations and local service providers.
Program Success Monitored By 

Depending on the subject area, projects will be considered successful if the benchmarks of that substantive area are met. The Advocacy Director provides oversight and quality review. He regularly reviews the case statistics and meets with the advocates individually and as units, to discuss the progress of ongoing cases and the results in completed ones. When closing cases, the MWLS advocates draft memoranda which include identifying outcome measures for the Advocacy Director who assesses whether the clients obtained the relief to which they were entitled, given the facts and the evidence available. Each advocate has an annual work plan which sets forth the goals for the coming year. This is reviewed and used as a guide for annual evaluations.

Examples of Program Success 
This year MWLS has worked on a number of major cases/impact projects including:
  1. Representation of tenant in an appeal to the Appellate Division of the District Court reversing a lower court decision and determining that public housing authorities cannot include terms in an agreement for judgment contrary to statute allowing for issuance of an execution after monetary judgment satisfied;
  2. Representation of a homeowner in a post-foreclosure eviction action where the court, in a case of first impression, where the issue presented was whether a landlord can prevail on an eviction based upon a foreclosure by entry after successfully defending an eviction based upon foreclosure by sale;
  3. Representation of a parent of a child with special needs before the Bureau of Special Education Appeals in a case of first impression on the issue of whether a parent retains standing to bring a claim against a school district when the parent has custody of the children during the time period in question but subsequently loses custody to a state agency. The BSEA ruled in the affirmative and the Court awarded MWLS a significant attorney fee award; and 
  4. Margaret Stewart-Fay v. DTA: MWLS co-counseled this class action litigation with Mass. Law Reform and Sugarman Rogers. After 30 months of litigation, the case was settled in October 2016. The settlement agreement will automatically pay retroactive SNAP to over 9,000 households who lost benefits due to the wage matches in certain scenarios, and will afford another 12,000 more an opportunity to reapply and possibly receive retroactive benefits if their cases reopen.

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

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Management


CEO/Executive Director Ms. Elizabeth A Soule Esq
CEO Term Start Sept 2008
CEO Email [email protected]
CEO Experience Elizabeth Soule earned her Juris Doctor degree in 1987 from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. For over 20 years, she worked as an elder law attorney and led the Benefits Unit of South Middlesex Legal Services, now MetroWest Legal Services. In addition to being a faculty member for the Trial Skills training program at the Center for Legal Aid Education in Boston, she taught as a visiting clinical supervisor at the Boston College Legal Assistance Bureau and has given presentations on many elder law topics in a wide range of contexts. She currently serves as board chair of the Wayland Council On Aging, the co-chair of the Delivery of Legal Services Section of the Boston Bar Association, and on the Access to Justice Section Council of the Massachusetts Bar Association.
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
Mary Kiely Finance Manager --
Ileana Matamoros Intake Supervisor --
Steven Matthews Esq Advocacy Director --
Sonia Shah Esq. Development Director --

Awards

Award Awarding Organization Year
-- -- --

Affiliations

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

External Assessments and Accreditations

External Assessment or Accreditation Year
-- --

Collaborations

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CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

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Foundation Comments

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Staff Information

Number of Full Time Staff 20
Number of Part Time Staff 1
Number of Volunteers 175
Number of Contract Staff 0
Staff Retention Rate % 88%

Staff Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 1
Caucasian: 15
Hispanic/Latino: 5
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): 0
Gender Female: 17
Male: 4
Not Specified 0

Plans & Policies

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

Risk Management Provisions

Commercial General Insurance
Employee Dishonesty
Professional Liability
Workers Compensation and Employers' Liability

Reporting and Evaluations

Management Reports to Board? Yes
CEO Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually
Non Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually

Governance


Board Chair Mr. Jack K Merrill, Jr Esq
Board Chair Company Affiliation Kushner Sanders Ravinal LLP
Board Chair Term July 2016 - June 2019
Board Co-Chair --
Board Co-Chair Company Affiliation --
Board Co-Chair Term -

Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
Jennifer Allen Esq. Law Office of Jennifer M.D. Allen Voting
Deepika Bhayana Esq. Dell EMC Voting
Richard Biller Esq. McLaughlin, Richards, Biller & Schindel Voting
Douglas Charles Boyer Esq. Bar Association of Norfolk County Voting
Claudette Edwards Client Board Member Voting
Carolyn Flammey CPA Chief Financial Officer at Safe-Way Electric Motor Company Voting
Katherine Garrahan Esq. Bowditch & Dewey LLP Voting
Michael Heineman Esq. Heinlein Beeler Mingace & Heineman, PC Voting
Jack K Merrill, Jr Esq. Kushner, Sanders Ravinal LLP Voting
Paula Nedder Esq. Heaney & Small, LLP Voting
Stephen M. Richmond Esq. Beveridge & Diamond, P.C. Voting
Nicole Zani Client Board Member 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: 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 1
Caucasian: 11
Hispanic/Latino: 0
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): --
Gender Female: 6
Male: 6
Not Specified 0

Board Information

Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits --
Board Meeting Attendance % 80%
Written Board Selection Criteria Under Development
Written Conflict Of Interest Policy Yes
Percentage of Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage of In-Kind Contributions 50%
Constituency Includes Client Representation Yes

Standing Committees

  • Board Development / Board Orientation
  • Development / Fund Development / Fund Raising / Grant Writing / Major Gifts
  • Executive
  • Finance
  • Investment

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

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Foundation Comments

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Financials


Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2017 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2016 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Fiscal Year July 01, 2017 to June 30, 2018
Projected Income $2,000,500.00
Projected Expense $2,000,500.00
Form 990s

2017 990

2016 990

2015 990

Audit Documents

2017 FY2017 Audit

2016 FY2016 Audit

2015 FY2015 Audit

IRS Letter of Exemption

IRS Letter of Determination

Prior Three Years Total Revenue and Expense Totals

Fiscal Year 2017 2016 2015
Total Revenue $2,008,223 $1,622,044 $1,590,300
Total Expenses $1,714,750 $1,541,748 $1,510,656

Prior Three Years Revenue Sources

Fiscal Year 2017 2016 2015
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
-- -- --
Government Contributions $36,000 $0 $0
    Federal -- -- --
    State -- -- --
    Local -- -- --
    Unspecified $36,000 $0 $0
Individual Contributions $1,816,787 $32,609 $47,841
Indirect Public Support -- $35,500 $41,000
Earned Revenue $73,101 $1,497,772 $1,456,688
Investment Income, Net of Losses $10,023 $6,304 $5,870
Membership Dues -- $0 $0
Special Events $72,312 $49,859 $38,901
Revenue In-Kind -- -- --
Other -- $0 $0

Prior Three Years Expense Allocations

Fiscal Year 2017 2016 2015
Program Expense $1,415,621 $1,274,623 $1,243,095
Administration Expense $156,034 $150,786 $152,239
Fundraising Expense $143,095 $116,339 $115,322
Payments to Affiliates -- -- --
Total Revenue/Total Expenses 1.17 1.05 1.05
Program Expense/Total Expenses 83% 83% 82%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue 7% 99% 90%

Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities

Fiscal Year 2017 2016 2015
Total Assets $1,800,708 $1,491,106 $1,449,775
Current Assets $1,783,992 $1,471,988 $1,418,481
Long-Term Liabilities $0 $0 $0
Current Liabilities $115,841 $99,712 $138,677
Total Net Assets $1,684,867 $1,391,394 $1,311,098

Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources

Fiscal Year 2017 2016 2015
1st (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
2nd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
3rd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --

Financial Planning

Endowment Value --
Spending Policy N/A
Percentage(If selected) --
Credit Line No
Reserve Fund Yes
How many months does reserve cover? 10.00

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? No

Short Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2017 2016 2015
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities 15.40 14.76 10.23

Long Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2017 2016 2015
Long-term Liabilities/Total Assets 0% 0% 0%

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

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Foundation Comments

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

Documents


Other Documents

No Other Documents currently available.

Impact

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?

MetroWest Legal Services' primary goal is to provide legal assistance to individuals and families in our 45 community catchment area who could not afford to pay a lawyer to represent them.  The overarching goal is to provide equal access to justice for those in poverty by assisting them in navigating the justice system.  Through representation and empowerment, MWLS clients are able to assert and enforce their legal rights.  In addition to legal representation, MWLS participates in systemic change by bringing impact cases, working to implement changes in legislation or new legislation, and working collaboratively with other legal and community partners to identify and enact changes that will have a positive effect on groups of people throughout the Commonwealth.

2. What are your strategies for making this happen?

Direct client representation, impact work, legislative work and education are strategies used to implement our goal.  The particular legal expertise of the MWLS advocates is critical in working to ensure that the legal rights of clients to obtain or maintain outcomes are achieved.  Many substantive areas of law that affect people living in poverty are particularly complex and legal aid attorneys are trained in these areas generally and using the poverty lens to inform their work. 

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

MWLS has a staff of highly dedicated attorneys who are trained in the critical legal areas for those in poverty.  Staff not only receive training on a regular basis to enhance their knowledge and skill.  MWLS runs a successful Private Bar Involvement program recruiting private attorneys to take cases for MWLS eligible clients who cannot receive legal assistance in-house due to priorities or lack of resources.  Panel members receive training, mentoring and other support to successfully assist clients.  MWLS works collaboratively with over 50 community partners who serve the low-income population to ensure that appropriate referrals, training, and connections are made in the easiest possible way for clients.  MWLS has developed a number of service delivery models that have worked to improve client access to legal services (e.g. a school based intake clinic for unaccompanied minors seeking immigration representation, a Medical Legal Partnership with the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center where the MWLS attorney is embedded on site 2 days per week). 
 
 

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

MWLS uses its case management system to track the number of clients served in various subject areas and identify outcome measures in cases.  MWLS also uses client surveys to obtain qualitative feedback on the services provided.  The MWLS Advocacy Director and other senior staff routinely monitor and review cases with advocates to determine if the client is obtaining optimal results in a given case based upon the particular facts and circumstances.  All cases are again reviewed at closing and results are evaluated at that point as well and if less than favorable results were received, discussion about how to improve the outcome take place if appropriate. 

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

MWLS has not eradicated poverty in its catchment area despite best efforts to do so over the past 40 years.  Despite expansion of staff, MWLS is not able to represent every eligible client that requests assistance.  That being said, MWLS has accomplished great outcomes for clients over four decades.  MWLS' individual representation of clients has increased every year and the areas in which representation is provided has likewise increased to an all-time high (2,675 in FY17) at present.  MWLS has also increased participation in its pro bono program, increased the amount of training provided to pro bono volunteers and is now actively recruiting corporate legal departments in the MWLS service area. MWLS has increased its impact work over the past 10 years and now spends approximately 15% of its time on impact work.  MWLS has an active role in statewide legislative advocacy both on the funding for legal aid side and the substantive legislative side.  Most recently MWLS was a key player in the successful expansion of the jurisdiction of the Housing Court to be statewide.