Supporting Legal Aid Through Sponsorship

  • Thomas Brophy Bar Foundation President

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

Well, summer is over and it is now money time.  Law firms will be shifting into higher gear dedicating more resources into issuing bills and collecting money.  As law firms approach the end of the year the pressure to issue those bills and collect on them will increase. Those of us involved in working with legal service organizations are no different.

Assisting our Grantees in Meeting their Mission

The Philadelphia Bar Foundation will be making grants at year end to more than thirty-eight legal service organizations. Those grants and the imprimatur of the Bar Foundation which comes with them, assist our grantees in meeting their mission of providing legal services for those unable to pay for those services themselves. As part of this grant giving process, representatives of the Bar Foundation visited the offices of the grantees in August and September. Those site visits will be followed up by meetings with the Executive Directors of the legal service organizations later this month. Those organizations have already submitted grant requests for 2017 to the Grants Committee of the Bar Foundation. 

The prevailing uncertainty for the Bar Foundation at the moment is how much money it will have at year end to distribute. 

Sponsoring the Access to Justice Benefit

The Bar Foundation’s Access to Justice Benefit on November 4, 2017 is a critical fundraising piece to help meet the needs of those legal service organizations. This year’s Benefit will be held at the Mutter Museum at the College of Physicians at 19 South 22nd Street, Philadelphia. It is probable that someone at your law firm has been or will be contacted by one of the Trustees at the Bar Foundation asking your law firm to be a sponsor of the event.

The Foundation will meet its expenses for the Benefit.  How much money it will have to distribute to its grantees will depend, to a significant extent, on how many law firms sponsor the event because it is the sponsorships which provide the greatest source of revenue for the grantees.  Thus, the more law firms that sponsor the event, the more money that will be available to be distributed to the grantees. 

I urge you to urge your law firm leadership to make your law firm a sponsor. I would also encourage you to attend. The funds that the Benefit generates are increasingly more important to the legal service organizations that administer to the disenfranchised people of Philadelphia.  I encourage the more senior members of our legal community to attend as a means of "giving back." I encourage the younger members of the legal community to attend as a way of "getting involved."

Those of us who are making phone calls and soliciting money on behalf of the Bar Foundation are truly invested in the mission of this non-profit. Conveying our enthusiasm for the Foundation's work through outreach to our colleagues comes naturally when one is dedicated to the vision of improving lives. When and if you are contacted to donate in any manner, we hope you will realize that most of those making the "ask" are not professional sales people. They are, in all probability, operating outside of their comfort zone.

Supporting Legal Aid in Philadelphia

As I close, I am struck somewhat by the irony of what I am asking in this article. We work in one of the most affluent professions in the United States yet we practice in one of the cities with the highest rate of poverty in the country. Nevertheless it seems that as a legal community, we can never raise enough money or donate enough time to meet the needs of those living in poverty. 

Studies show that money spent to assist the poor in addressing legal problems pays dividends well in excess of the money spent to provide the legal service. Individual clients and entire communities benefit when legal problems are addressed.

I ask you to assess what you have donated in the past year to support those organizations providing legal aid, including the Philadelphia Bar Foundation, to the poor and do better. You know you can.