By Leslie E. John, Partner at Ballard Spahr and President of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation
The Philadelphia Bar Foundation’s annual awards celebrate Philadelphia’s public interest community and remarkable individuals working in the legal profession and organizations which have made a significant contribution to the pursuit of equal justice in our region. These awards are one of the highlights of the year.
The Bar Foundation is pleased to announce that Kelly J. Gastley, Esq., Managing Attorney at Philadelphia VIP, and David Keller Trevaskis, Esq., Pro Bono Coordinator at the Pennsylvania Bar Association, are the recipients of the 2020 Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award which recognizes public interest attorneys who have dedicated their careers to the fight for equal access to justice. Comcast NBCUniversal and Dechert LLP are the recipients of the 2020 Pro Bono Award, which recognizes Philadelphia law firms and corporate legal departments that perform outstanding volunteer efforts in providing legal services to those in need.
Comcast NBCUniversal’s Law Department has made exceptional contributions to the Philadelphia community through its Pro Bono Program. Launched in 2016, the program connects the company’s in-house legal department with a variety of pro bono opportunities. Attorneys partner with many of the Bar Foundation’s nonprofit partner grantees, and other nonprofits, to serve members of the community most in need. Recent efforts have included hosting, staffing, and sponsoring citizenship clinics, life planning documents’ clinics, and birth certificate clinics, in addition to supporting individual client work related to protecting the rights of children and seniors. Comcast’s program has taken innovative approaches to expanding pro bono participation, and Law Department leadership has prioritized and actively promoted pro bono service. As a result, engagement among employees at every level is consistently high.
Dechert LLP has a longstanding history of pro bono legal service, which is evidenced in their significant contributions to protecting civil rights and civil liberties of marginalized residents in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania. In 2020, firm attorneys are providing a substantial commitment of time, resources, and litigation support to assist those who are incarcerated in jails or held at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities. Many of these individuals are unable to social distance or practice hygiene, putting them at increased risk for contracting COVID-19. This essential, demanding work to protect lives is conducted with Bar Foundation nonprofit partners the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project. Across the firm, Dechert lawyers participate in at least 25 hours of mandatory pro bono work per year, resulting in thousands of hours of annual pro bono service in our communities.
Kelly J. Gastley, Esq., currently serves as the Managing Attorney for Philadelphia VIP, one of the Bar Foundation’s nonprofit partners. Gastley has dedicated her 15-year career to public interest work at VIP, securing representation for individuals, families, and organizations in need, including developing VIP’s Tangled Title Project to stem the tide of Philadelphia’s affordable housing crisis. She has served on the City Council Working Group that overhauled Philadelphia’s real estate tax collection process for owner-occupants as well as the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Fraudulent Conveyance Task Force. She tirelessly advocates with judges, policymakers, and public officials on behalf of homeowners. It is estimated that Gastley has protected thousands of families in Philadelphia from homelessness. As Managing Attorney, she leads VIP’s legal team in recruiting, training, and supporting hundreds of volunteer attorneys.
David Keller Trevaskis, Esq. is a champion of access to justice, pro bono service, and public interest work. The first and only full time Pro Bono Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Bar Association since he was hired in 2001, Trevaskis coordinates civil legal aid services and clinics for thousands of Pennsylvanians in need each year. During his tenure at the PBA and previously at Temple Law, Trevaskis developed and implemented transformative youth educational programs in hundreds of Pennsylvania schools. An activist for conflict resolution through non-violence, he designed and launched Project PEACE (Peaceful Endings through Authorities, Children and Educators), a peer mediation, anti-bullying, and youth court program.
David Keller Trevaskis, Esq. is receiving the Philadelphia Bar Foundation award as a special tribute in honor of Louis Apothaker’s widow, Cathy Apothaker, who contracted COVID-19 and passed away in April of this year. Established in 1979 as the Louis D. Apothaker Award, and renamed the Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award in 2005, the award memorializes the legal accomplishments and community work of the late Louis D. Apothaker, a past president of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.
The Philadelphia Bar Foundation’s 2020 award recipients will be honored during our Access to Justice Awards Benefit on Tuesday, October 20th at 5:00 p.m. This annual event celebrates Philadelphia’s public interest community, civil legal aid organizations, and the businesses that partner with the Bar Foundation to support the vibrant and essential civil legal aid system. While this year’s virtual event will be different, I’m looking forward to thanking our generous donors and honoring these inspirational award recipients for their service.
Sponsorship opportunities are available for businesses that serve the legal industry, and there’s still time for law firms to be celebrated and recognized as Unified Giving partners. Thank you for your support!