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Lokvan Talks To Manisha Bhatt, Winner, John G. Brooks Legal Service Award

Nirmala Garimella

As this story goes online, Manisha Bhatt, a Senior Attorney working at the Family Unit of Greater Boston Legal Services -- where she represents survivors of domestic violence in divorce, paternity, and abuse prevention proceedings – will be named winner of the Boston Bar Association's 2011 John G. Brooks Legal Services Award. That award will be presented by BBA President Lisa C. Goodheart on October 13 at the BBA Annual Meeting Luncheon, an event drawing more than 1,000 lawyers.


This is one of the many laurels for this rising star in the legal field. A Massachusetts native, Manisha graduated from Boston College majoring in Spanish and History, and Suffolk University of Law. Her interest in law started early. In her social studies class at school, she was chosen to be the prosecuting witness for a mock criminal case and liked it so much that she made up her mind to study law.

Her first job was at a small law firm in Boston as a general practitioner but a domestic violence incident with one of her clients forced her to rethink on how she could help and support such clients better. While at law school she served as an intern in Greater Boston Legal services and the work appealed to her. So she gave up that job and came back to take a more active role. According to her award’s press release,’ "Manisha is acutely sensitive to cultural differences among diverse populations, and firmly believes that giving people positive knowledge about their rights and remedies will help them survive and thrive. She has the skills and experience to assure her clients that even though they are at a low point in their lives, their best days are ahead. Manisha embodies the heart and soul of what it means to be a legal services lawyer."  

In 2007, SABA, the South Asian Bar Association approached her to share her expertise and perspective on various issues affecting the immigrant community. Around the same time she got involved with Saheli and AASRA both South Asian domestic violence support groups and with Girish Mehta at ICC. Her interaction among the various communities led her to think of creating bridges to diverse legal communities. Says Manisha,”there is a tremendous need to know the basics of our fundamental rights”. Personally observing and hearing people’s problems whether it is work related or family related, I realized that if leaders in the community knew their rights they could disseminate it within”. That was the genesis of "Know Your Rights," an award-winning program developed by the South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston (SABA). In 2007 SABA GB named her Board Member of the year, and in 2009 she won the North American South Asian Bar Association's Cornerstone Award. 

The Program is now in its second year and is conducted every fall and spring with sessions ranging from ‘Fair wage and hour law, employment discrimination, Consumer Rights and Foreclosure Prevention,Criminal law,  Unemployment compensation and Workplace safety. The workshops are friendly, informative and interactive. Participants are leaders in their various communities as diverse as the Wayland Islamic community, Saheli, Chinmaya mission, Gurjar, etc. Manisha would like to expand these to many more participants next fall  and hopes for an active recruitment. All workshops are free . Says Manisha,” As long as there is a need in the community I will like to keep this going.” If the need changes, the content will change accordingly”


The John G. Brooks Legal Services Award is named for John Graham Brooks, a past president of the BBA, former Legal Services Corporation board member, and advocate for legal services for poor people. Established in 1988, the award honors career legal services lawyers working on the front lines.

Congratulations Manisha !


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