From Tipping the Scales - Sheila Hubbard: “We All Have a Responsibility to Do Something to Help Others”

Sheila Hubbard is Executive Director of the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) of the Boston Bar Association, and provides free civil legal assistance to low-income residents of Greater Boston, primarily through the pro bono services of private attorneys. Dedicating her career to public service, she has worked as a Homeless Specialist for the Department of Social Services, Director of Boston’s Minority and Women Business Enterprise Office, the Chair of the Massachusetts Parole Board and President of the Association of Paroling Authorities International.  She was the Associate Director of the Office of Public Interest Advising at Harvard Law School, assisting law students and alumni to pursue public interest and legal service careers, and Senior Program Director for the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama working on issues of race and poverty. Sheila is a member of the BBA’s Council, and of the BBA’s Delivery of Legal Services Section.

1.     This is a time of tough budgeting and scarce resources. How do you exercise your leadership authority to navigate these difficulties and serve Boston’s vulnerable populations?

The first thing that came to mind was staying optimistic while being realistic. VLP is 95% federally funded and is significantly affected by what goes on in Washington. Over the last three years, VLP has seen its federal grant from the Legal Services Corporation reduced by $500,000 due to federal budget cuts. As a leader, it’s important for me to be open and honest with staff about where the organization is financially, but also to let the staff know that, despite these tough fiscal times, I have a vision and a plan. I realized early on that part of the plan had to include a diversification of VLP’s revenue sources so that we were not so dependent upon federal funding, especially by increasing the number and amount of individual donations VLP receives from its supporters.

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