Kathleen Phelps

In my career as a lawyer, pro bono (volunteer) work is strongly encouraged. I serve on the board of Lawyers Clearinghouse, a non-profit organization, which connects lawyers who desire to do volunteer work with nonprofit corporations and homeless shelter clinic clients that require legal assistance. Over the years, I’ve performed legal pro bono services to develop and finance low income family and elderly housing, teach business basics to small businesses and help indigent individuals sort through housing and other issues.
One of my most personally rewarding volunteer experiences, however, came from an entirely different source. Liam O’Connor, my (then third grade) son, urged us to attend a meeting in 2011 of a group that was seeking to convert an abandoned railway into a multiuse trail. As a volunteer lawyer for the group and later as a board member, I appeared before the MBTA board to obtain the lease for the corridor, met with town officials to plan the trail’s development, attended many town events to raise money for the trail and even addressed the Needham Town Meeting, which approved the lease. While volunteer work usually makes you feel good about helping others and often allows you to learn new skills and gain expertise for free, it is not every project that results in such a tangible benefit to the community at large. We are all very excited about the opening of the trail this spring, and look forward to extending it through Dover to Medfield in the next few years. The new trail demonstrates how many people, each giving a small amount of money and time and working closely with town government, are able to make a significant positive change in a community.