By Wilson M. Brown III, Senior Counsel at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP and President of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.
As I write this, it is the last week of March. Hopeful signs abound. Spring has arrived. The skies, at last, are a bright blue. The pandemic that has taken too many from us appears (for now) to be ebbing in our region.
Lawyers are feeling their way into this new normal, looking to build on the positives they found in isolation and poised to reconnect with one another in ways other than emails and audio/visual links. The practice of law involves a human touch, whether we are called to counsel, to represent, to legislate or to adjudicate. Indeed, the most important work lawyers do with clients, with adversaries, and in court is, in effect, teaching: educating the audience on what the facts and the law are and what together they mean in terms of an outcome. While audio-visual connections are useful, they are not a substitute for live, in-person interaction. Ask any grade-schooler or grade-school educator.
Throughout the past year, the human touch was the business of legal services organizations in Philadelphia and their many volunteers from our remarkable legal community. For these providers, the pandemic was a challenge and never an excuse. Their attorneys, both staff and volunteer, and their support personnel labored tirelessly in very difficult conditions to help those in need of legal assistance.
Domestic violence and victim safety during the pandemic commanded the resources of at least four such organizations (Women Against Abuse, Philadelphia Legal Assistance, Women’s Law Project, and SeniorLAW Center). Students experiencing homelessness and children in foster care requiring COVID assistance found help at five others (Education Law Center, Juvenile Law Center, the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice and Research, The Hope Center, and Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children).
Those needing immigration services found them at HIAS-PA and Community Legal Services. Those facing unemployment as a consequence of the pandemic secured guidance at CLS, Philadelphia Legal Assistance, and Good Shepherd Mediation Services. Renters and homeowners affected by COVID obtained help at Regional Housing Legal Services. Older adults needing assistance with health care, benefits, and other services found them at the SeniorLAW Center.
You can find a complete list of three dozen local organizations helping those in need deal with COVID-19 legal issues on the Bar Foundation’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources for Civil Legal Aid page. Every one of them deserves our thanks and our support.
So, as quarantines ebb and we find a new normal, please consider not only giving to the work of the Foundation but becoming involved with one or more of these excellent legal services providers. The need for this network of civil legal aid organizations will continue. Your investment, your involvement, your touch will make a difference.