UMass launches law incubator

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has launched Justice Bridge — a new law incubator for graduates focused on preparing new lawyers for their careers while providing affordable legal services for those who cannot afford typical market rates. The program is designed to help clients by providing accessible legal services while also helping recent graduates who are seeking employment in solo or small law firms with public interest focuses.

“Justice Bridge is a perfect opportunity for UMass Law and UMass Law is the perfect home for Justice Bridge,” said Dean Mary Lu Bilek. “As the Commonwealth's public law school, UMass Law is committed to improving access to justice in the state and to preparing our students to practice as justice-centered lawyers. The worth of our justice system depends on our ability to make quality legal representation accessible for people in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure, their apartments to eviction, or their children in custody battles.”

The incubator will as serve as a center to research ideas about best practices, trends and other resources. It is located in Boston, which was chosen due to its proximity to a large legal community. The law school is also looking to address similar issues in southeastern Massachusetts and it is working towards launching a second incubator on the south coast.

Incubator participants receive many benefits including employment opportunities, referrals of legal business, counseling from mentors and a furnished office space in downtown Boston.

Justice Bridge clients must have an annual income less than 2.5 to 3 times the federal poverty guidelines, which is approximately $60,000 for a family of four. Clients will pay a modest retainer fee and a scaled average of $50 per hour for legal services.

Justice Bridge will offer legal services to clients in several languages including Arabic, Creole, French, Nepali, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tibetan and English. The incubator also offers weekend and evening hours. Justice Bridge will not handle criminal law cases. The incubator is meant to serve legal issues in practice areas such as a family law, housing, probate, employment, consumer law, immigration and small business.