Funding the Future of Legal Aid


By Thomas A. Brophy, president and CEO at Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, P.C., and president of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.

In my Bar Reporter column last month, I wrote about the need to support legal aid organizations in Philadelphia through firm sponsorship of the Bar Foundation’s 2017 Access to Justice Benefit held at the M├╝tter Museum in November. The funds that the Benefit generates are critical to the legal aid organizations that support the disenfranchised people of our city. These organizations are the Bar Foundation’s non-profit partners and will receive grants that advance access to justice and remove barriers for people facing poverty, abuse, and discrimination.

A Chance to Make Giving Count

The second opportunity to support the work of the Bar Foundation will be through its end-of-year appeal for support. Lawyers can and do make annual donations and pledges to the Bar Foundation. If you are one of those lawyers who has the time and the motivation to actively provide Pro Bono legal services, more power to you. However, the reality is that many of you are overextended in your practice, or in your community obligations, or in family obligations and cannot render the level of Pro Bono service that you would like and that would be necessary to significantly reduce the need for the services provided by the legal service organizations supported by the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.

If you fall into that category, make a donation to the Bar Foundation before the end of the year. How much should you give? As my mother used to say, "Let your conscience be your guide." But aside from your conscience, consider some other benchmarks: how much money do you spend dining out in a year? How much money do you spend on wine in a year? How much money do you spend attending concerts at the Wells Fargo Center?  How much money do you spend on attending sporting events in a year? Determine that amount and contribute some percentage of that. If you do so, I have no doubt that you will donate more money to the Bar Foundation this year than you have in any recent year.

Whatever money the Philadelphia Bar Foundation raises through these initiatives will not be enough to meet all of the needs of the legal service organizations it supports or the people aided by those organizations. However, the money you donate will make a difference.

Counting Important Pennies

For every dollar that we invest in legal aid, research shows that dollar yields an $11 benefit on average for individuals, families and communities. Legal issues that are successfully resolved result in improvements in family stability, safe housing, educational opportunities, health care, employment, increased income for food and clothing, and more. These results not only impact the clients served, they have far-reaching effects throughout the whole community. 

There are many ways you can make a donation to the Bar Foundation before we begin 2018. The easiest way is to visit the website at and click the "Donate Now" button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. This is a safe and secure easy-to-use online option. Alternatively, visit the "Support Us" section of the website to learn about planned giving, major gifts, memorial giving and more.

Supporting Tens of Thousands

The Philadelphia Bar Foundation relies on the financial contributions of committed individuals and institutions to advance the goal of equal access to justice for all. More than 60,000 clients receive direct services annually from the legal aid non-profit partners funded by the Bar Foundation. Your donation ultimately will make its way to one of the legal service organizations, and as a result, that organization will help some disenfranchised individual or family obtain medical care that was otherwise unavailable or obtain disability benefits that were not being received previously or perhaps enable a family to avoid a mortgage foreclosure. For those people, your donation will be life changing.