By Thomas A. Brophy, president and CEO at Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, P.C., and president of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.
As Julie Andrews sang to boost the spirits of the von Trapp children, it sometimes helps to remember all of the wonderful things going on in our professional and personal lives.
The Philadelphia Bar Foundation is privileged to have a vitally important mission of promoting access to justice for all people in the community, particularly those struggling with poverty, abuse and discrimination. You may not be fully aware of the broad scope of work we do to accomplish this mission.
The Foundation’s most well-known efforts involve providing annual unrestricted grants to more than 35 legal aid nonprofits. Approximately $3 million in grants have been awarded by the Foundation in the last five years, supporting the full range of vital services for people in need.
Looking forward to the next two years as president of the Foundation, I would like to draw attention to the many other noteworthy aspects of our operations. The Foundation is a highly effective and multi-faceted organization of unique value for the legal community. I invite you to join us and get engaged in these programs, whether through philanthropic support, volunteering, attending our events or following us on social media. Together, we can use this comprehensive approach to close the access-to-justice gap.
Removing Barriers to Justice
SUPPORTING THE FULL RANGE OF LEGAL AID. The Foundation helps to guarantee equal access to justice for all by ensuring that a wide range of legal services are available to meet the varied needs of clients. Gaps in legal services mean gaps in our system of justice. The Foundation is committed to supporting the full range of nonprofit legal aid organizations, from education to employment, from health to housing, from youth to seniors, and from people with disabilities to immigrants.
DRAWING ATTENTION TO JUSTICE ISSUES. Through our website, social media, email blasts and special events, the Bar Foundation informs the legal community and the broader public about the importance of equal justice. We monitor and publicize the many success stories of nonprofit legal aid organizations and pro bono efforts. We encourage attorneys to fulfill their professional responsibility to support access to justice to raise confidence in the rule of law and the justice system. Engaging the Legal Community
SERVING AS THE HUB FOR ACCESS TO JUSTICE. The Foundation engages the entire legal community and embodies its commitment to the core principle of access to justice. We involve many individuals, law firms, corporate legal departments, vendors and other businesses in philanthropic and volunteer efforts. For example, numerous law firms and corporate legal departments have participated in the Raising the Bar Campaign since 2006, with the goal of annually pledging $300 per attorney (or more) to help close the access-to-justice gap.
RECOGNIZING LEADERSHIP IN THE FIELD. The Foundation issues awards each year acknowledging and promoting excellence and accomplishment in the legal profession. For example, the Foundation’s Pro Bono Award – received in 2016 by Peter (“Tad”) H. LeVan Jr., LeVan Law Group LLC – is presented annually to a law firm or corporate legal department that demonstrates outstanding volunteer efforts in providing legal services to those in need. The Honorable Louis H. Pollak Champion of the Public Interest Award – received in 2016 by Lawrence J. Beaser, partner, Blank Rome LLP – honors a lawyer, in private practice, who throughout his or her career has provided extraordinary service to accomplishing access to justice for all. The Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award recognizes excellence in the nonprofit legal services community and was received in 2016 by Marsha I. Cohen, executive director, Homeless Advocacy Project. See our website for details about our other award programs.
Building Organizational Capacity
PROVIDING MORE THAN GRANTS. Nonprofit legal aid organizations need assistance beyond funding. The Foundation addresses a wide variety of needs in the legal aid sector, including training programs, fellowships, awards and assistance for technical and operational issues. The Foundation is in a unique position, with the ability to identify sectorwide needs and marshal the resources to address issues in effective and timely ways.
EQUAL JUSTICE CENTER. The Foundation is working closely with our grantees and other partners to build an Equal Justice Center facility that will co-locate dozens of legal aid organizations and strengthen client services. This unique center will set a new national standard for inter-agency collaboration and operational impact. By sharing the same building, the organizations will improve outcomes for clients and lower costs – ensuring more efficacious use of limited resources. The community-wide social and economic benefits of the center are estimated to exceed $202 million per year.
BOARD OBSERVER PROGRAM. Five years after the Foundation first developed the Board Observer Program, it serves as a model for replication in other states. The program gives young lawyers the opportunity to learn about local legal services and other public interest organizations and develop leadership skills by serving on the boards of such nonprofits. It operates in partnership with the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division and Delivery of Legal Services Committee.
TRIAL SKILLS TRAINING. Through the R. Nicholas Gimbel Fund for Legal Excellence, the Foundation utilizes proven examples of effective training programs and makes them available for local legal aid attorneys. We offer National Institute for Trial Advocacy-style trial skills training to our grantee organizations at no cost, through an acclaimed three-day intensive program in conjunction with Rutgers Law School. We also offer a writing skills program of similar high quality and impact.
FELLOWSHIP PROGRAMS. The Foundation administers several fellowship programs in support of those committed to public service careers. The Honorable Albert W. Sheppard Scholarship Fund supports a law student clerkship position with the Commerce Case Management Program, in coordination with the Association’s Business Law Section Business Litigation Committee. The Judge William M. Marutani Fellowship subsidizes a summer internship position with a nonprofit public-interest organization, court or government entity, in conjunction with the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania. The Morris M. Shuster Public Interest Fellowship Program provides awards each year to deserving publicinterest attorneys to help them retire their law school debt.
JUDGE LUONGO FUND. The Foundation administers the Judge Luongo Memorial Fund in support of the Supervision to Aid Reentry, or STAR, program of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, providing assistance and resources to exoffenders who are reintegrating into the community, including help with employment, housing and health care.
In closing, the Foundation looks forward to working with you on the wide variety of our exciting programs. Please contact us to get involved in the only foundation in Philadelphia solely dedicated to supporting our city’s legal services community.