By Leslie E. John, partner at Ballard Spahr LLP, and president of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.
Many of you are familiar with the Philadelphia Bar Foundation’s primary mission of providing annual grants to civil legal aid organizations. However, you may not be aware that our work involves far more than grant-making.
A vital aspect of the Bar Foundation’s mission involves supporting individual public interest attorneys through trainings, fellowships, and other programs. This support addresses needs beyond funding, helping to close the gap in access to justice by connecting and strengthening our legal aid community.
During the winter months, many of these programs are in full-swing. Last December, for example, the Bar Foundation held its R. Nicholas Gimbel Fund for Legal Excellence Trial Advocacy Training with Rutgers Law School at Pepper Hamilton LLP. The three-day intensive program provide free training to 33 local legal aid attorneys. Those who attended, including senior attorneys, said that the programming was the best they had ever experienced and that the faculty was remarkable. In December we also presented our annual Morris M. Shuster Fellowships. The Shuster Fellowships assist public interest attorneys with retiring their law school debt. The program helps decrease financial obstacles that many lawyers face when they are employed in public interest work.
A number of other Bar Foundation programs focus on shaping Philadelphia’s next generation of lawyers, with a specific emphasis on increasing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. In January, applications opened for two law school internship programs that the Bar Foundation supports: The Marutani Fellowship and the Association of Corporate Counsel Great Philadelphia (ACCGP) Diversity Corporate Internship Program. Through these partnerships, the Philadelphia Bar Foundation distributes scholarships to outstanding law students from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in the legal profession.
The Judge William M. Marutani Fellowship provides a stipend to subsidize a public interest or government summer internship for an Asian Pacific American law student in Pennsylvania or the Greater Philadelphia Area. The fellowship, established with the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania, honors Judge Marutani’s legacy of public service. Each year, the accomplishments of these fellows continues to impress. Last summer, our Marutani fellows completed in their internships in Philadelphia at HIAS Pennsylvania and the Sheetmetal Workers’ Union Local 19.
The ACCGP Diversity Corporate Summer Internship Program is intended to increase diversity within corporate legal departments. Law students who are members of groups traditionally underrepresented in the profession are invited to apply to the program and are placed with legal departments of sponsor companies within the Delaware Valley region.
At the Bar Foundation, we appreciate the value and importance of diversity and inclusion in the legal world. Promoting a more equitable and inclusive society is essential to our organization’s principles. We know that when our profession is reflective of our communities, we will be more successful in providing equal access to justice.
The Board Observer Program (BOP) is another example of the Bar Foundation’s dedication to shaping young lawyers in public service. BOP gives young lawyers the opportunity to volunteer and serve on a non-profit board of directors. Our 2019 cohort of Board Observers and host organizations kicked off the year at Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP on January 31st. We look forward to working with our 25 new Board Observers throughout the year.
If you are interested in learning more about the Philadelphia Bar Foundation’s unique programs, please visit our website at www.philabarfoundation.org/work/programs. You’ll find more information about each program, as well as applications and deadlines for the calendar year.
Interested individuals may donate to support a specific training, fellowship, or program. Simply visit the Bar Foundation’s website at www.philabarfoundation.org/donate, and select the campaign/program from the drop down menu, or add the program of your choice to the memo area. Your support is vital to the success of our programs and we are grateful for the privilege to be able to provide them to our community.