Clinics & Projects

Unemployment Unit

Unemployment Insurance is an important anti-poverty tool to those workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Pro bono attorneys represent workers whose benefits have been denied by the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) or have been awarded and then appealed by their employer. Volunteers are provided with a referral memo that describes the facts of the case and provides an analysis of the legal issues to be heard.  VLP welcomes volunteers at all levels of experience and provides mentorship to volunteers.


Unemployment hearings, which typically are scheduled for an hour, take place before a DUA review examiner officer, and are like mini-trials without the rules of evidence. Attorneys have the opportunity to examine witnesses, present documentary evidence and make closing statements.  Most of the time, pro bono attorneys are successful in helping clients obtain or maintain benefits, which can mean the difference between being able to pay rent for the month or be evicted. 

Case examples: 


Elderly client at high risk of COVID-19, who had been employed in a healthcare setting for many years, was terminated early in the pandemic after getting into an argument with a supervisor, who had reprimanded for client for wearing a mask.  VLP provided representation at the hearing, which resulted in the client being awarded $20,000 in lump sum benefits 


Single mother with two young children, who had been working full-time at a job for several years, lost one of her principal sources of childcare.  She requested a change in hours so that she could remain employed, but her employer was not able to accommodate her.  As a result, she was not able to continue working and had to quit her employment.  Pro bono attorney represented her at hearing where she was found eligible for unemployment.  She received $14,000 in lump sum benefits. 


  • Volunteers must either be (1) be licensed attorneys and members of the bar in good standing (2) law students employed by a law firm or (3) awaiting bar results and employed by a law firm. Volunteers of all levels of experience are welcome. 
  • All volunteers must take the Unemployment Insurance training prior to attending the clinic or taking on a case for representation.  An exception is made for attorneys with substantial experience in representing clients in unemployment hearings.  


  • Mentorship: Our newer attorneys learn from more experienced attorneys.  
  • Experience examining witnesses and presenting evidence without having to have a trial. 
  • Volunteers help clients obtain or maintain benefits that are essential to subsistence.  
  • The Volunteer Lawyers Project provides primary malpractice insurance for all pro bono work. 

For more information

Contact Pro Bono Manager Emelia Andres

Email Us 

*Current Partners: Greater Boston Legal Services Inc., Justice at Work, Lawyers for Affordable Justice,  Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, Suffolk University Law School, Volunteer Lawyers Project,  Brazilian Worker Center, Brazilian Women’s Group, Chelsea Collaborative, Chinese Progressive Association, and Metrowest Worker Center.