The meeting was chaired by Co-chairs Jim DeAngelo and Liz Fritsch. Present at the meeting, in addition to the co-chairs, were: Thomas Au, Al Azen, Sandy Ballard, Joe Campagna, Cathy Carr, Sam Cooper, Vicki Coyle, Matt Crème, David DeVries, Derek Green, Jim Kearney, Christine Kirby, Barbara Kittrell, Henry Leone, Sam Milkes, Iva Munk, Milton Munk, Bob Racunas, Art Read, Dveera Segal and Joanne Ross Wilder. Dale Schell and David Trevaskis represented the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
Welcome from the Co-Chairs
Jim DeAngelo and Liz Fritsch welcomed everyone and began the meeting at 1:30 p.m.
Pro Bono Coordinator’s Report
David Trevaskis handed out a copy of his report that was presented to the Board of Governors. The report will be posted on the Pro Bono Office Web site that Trevaskis noted is being updated for an early 2005 unveiling. Among the highlights Trevaskis noted: PALawHelp.org is up and running as a Web site designed and maintained with PBA support (www.palawhelp.org) for clients and attorneys to find available resources in the field; its companion, PAProBono.Net, a Web site designed for pro bono attorneys seeking support for their cases and for agencies to use in recruiting additional pro bono attorneys, was showcased to the legal community at last May’s Pro Bono Conference in Hershey and was up and running in a limited fashion this fall; and a new pro bono outreach, involving 60 attorneys from the Office of General Counsel, is utilizing these Web resources as part of the OGC’s Virtual Law Clinic.
Trevaskis added that the Pro Bono Office has brought into the PBA more than $50,000 of direct support since it was established in 2001 and has generated nearly $150,000 of in-kind support to promote travel and training in the field. The quarterly electronic Pro Bono Newsletter, monthly Pro Bono Spotlights in the PBA Bar News, an ever-expanding web presence on the PBA Web site, continuing CLE ethics training through the Pro Bono Roadshow – all highlight the commitment of the PBA to support pro bono service and civil legal aid.
Derek Green – Pro Bono Conference
Derek Green shared a draft agenda for the Wednesday, May 4, 2005, Pro Bono Conference in Pittsburgh. Trevaskis explained that the focus of the conference would be on mediation as a new paradigm in pro bono service. Justice Max Baer of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was noted as one potential speaker and model pro bono mediation programs in Westmoreland County (landlord/tenant) and Dauphin County (all areas) will be solicited to participate in the conference. All members of the committee were asked to try to attend the Pittsburgh event, though the scheduling conflict with the Equal Justice Conference in Austin, Texas, scheduled for May 5-7, 2005, was mentioned as a concern for attendance by a few members. Indeed, the PBA Pro Bono Office will be joining PLS, the Dauphin County Bar Association, the Office of General Counsel and MidPenn Legal Services in presenting a workshop on May 6 at the Equal Justice Conference highlighting the OGC Virtual Law Clinic.
Jim DeAngelo – Local Support
Jim DeAngelo noted that educational and CLE programs are continuing across the state as a tool for promoting pro bono. David Trevaskis added that there is a need for a more efficient and consistent way to collect information about what is going on in each county. There was discussion of a state survey and whether or not the committee should undertake such a survey. There was also discussion about the need to define pro bono as part of that survey. Fees from various counties’ opt out/opt in programs were noted and how they are utilized was discussed. The Local Support Subcommittee needs to decide if it should spend the considerable time and resources necessary to collect data on the exact status of pro bono activity in each of the 67 counties of the state. Trevaskis stated that past efforts by the subcommittee to develop greater pro bono support had returned spotty results, with some counties developing great programs and some still floundering.
Liz Fritsch – Development
Liz Fritsch explained that the Development Subcommittee had been in the background since the Task Force on Loan Forgiveness and Debt Reduction had been focusing on resources. However, Christine Kirby did present an update on Cy Pres and the ensuing discussion emphasized how this was an area for development that both the task force and the committee needed to pursue. It was determined that the best way to promote Cy Pres was through one-on-one peer communication. There is a need to identify organizations that could be awarded funds. A handout describing a program titled “Lawyers on Loan” was distributed to the committee. Two Pittsburgh area law firms each have donated a veteran associate to Neighborhood Legal Services in Pittsburgh for the coming year at not personnel cost to NLSA. It was noted that this program was not in lieu of pro bono or contributions to local bar associations.
Dveera Segal – Law Schools
Dveera Segal said that the task force also has co-opted the Law School Subcommittee’s work to a large extent, but she pointed to the research being done by that task force on law schools as being a valuable tool for the committee. Trevaskis explained that the research on the law schools would be available in January on the Task Force section of the pro bono Web page. There was also a general discussion of the need to bring law school administrators and PBA leaders together to discuss issues in civil legal aid for the neediest among us.
Report of Task Force on Loan Forgiveness and Debt Reduction
Sam Cooper gave a brief report to the committee about the work of the task force, and he noted that the next meeting of the entire task force would take place at PBA headquarters in January. Cooper noted that the task force was broken into four work groups and he briefly explained the task of each:
1. Law Schools. (Review law school LRAP programs and latest reports on student loan obligations; contact with law school career planning and placement offices and public service programs, interact with law school deans, faculty, students; review and analyze innovative approaches to the problem at law schools around the country; etc.).
2. Employers. (Review and analyze student loan programs and policies of public and private employers, legal services programs, nonprofit organizations, etc.).
3. Funders. (Review and analyze student loan programs of funders: legislative initiatives, higher education assistance agencies, foundations, financial institutions, bar associations, etc.).
4. Research. (Compile external resources, studies, articles, latest developments regarding student loan obligations and assistance programs; provide needed information to the workgroups; etc.).
Cooper said that he looked forward to the task force making a report and he then fielded questions from the committee. There was a general discussion of the interaction between the task force and the subcommittees of the committee and it was agreed that whatever overlap might occur, all subcommittees would keep following their own paths. It also was agreed that whenever the task force made its report, the subcommittees would be charged with following up on the action plan of the task force, as had been done with past task forces.
Sam Milkes gave a brief update on PLS, noting the March 8, 2005, Excellence Awards and inviting all committee members to attend the event. Nomination forms were handed out. He also gave an overview of efforts PLS had undertaken to attempt to eliminate the Sunshine Provision on the Access to Justice Act. Although those efforts did not eliminate the five-year term this time, Milkes stated his pleasure at the work that was done to let legislators know of the great impact the act was having in terms of improving civil legal aid in Pennsylvania.
Hank Leone and Christine Kirby provided explanation of and handout materials on the established PALawHelp.org site, as well as the recently unveiled PAprobono.net site. PAprobono.net is a new resource for pro bono attorneys that will allow lawyers to find materials to help them handle pro bono cases, as well allow them to sign up for pro bono cases online. The site went live just before the meeting. Leone discussed a rollout plan that will begin in full force in spring 2005. Leone and Trevaskis will be traveling the state in the spring signing up lawyers to the site and getting firms and legal services providers to agree to maintain areas of the site. A table display will be set up at CCBL in early March and at the PLS Conference.
Al Azen gave a report on the IOLTA program. He announced that the pro bono grants program had more than $90,000 to distribute in the coming cycle. He noted that PBA President Mike Reed and PBA President-elect Bill Carlucci both had joined the IOLTA Board. Azen talked about efforts by the Supreme Court to stabilize funding for law school programs at $200,000 for each law school per year, and he mentioned the court’s efforts to secure additional IOLTA funds through the minor judiciary.
Pro Bono Awards
David Trevaskis gave a brief report as the meeting was coming to an end and announced that the new round of pro bono awards would include awards for a legal services person and a judge. The committee had agreed upon these awards at previous meetings.
LAMP –Report on Efforts to Create a New Military Affairs Committee
It was noted that a number of lawyers had requested the organization of a Military Affairs Committee that would be staffed by the Pro Bono Office. Currently, the Pro Bono Office manages the LAMP (Legal Assistance for Military Personnel) Program.
Update on Common Law Marriage
Norma Chase explained how the legislature had codified the work of an earlier Commonwealth Court decision abolishing Common Law Marriage. After the first of the year, Chase noted, no new common law marriages would be recognized. Chase outlined certain problems with the legislation and suggested there was a huge need for public education on this issue.
Ethics Update (Impact of New Rules on Pro Bono)
Jim DeAngelo shared with the committee that he had sought an ethics opinion on the impact of the new ethics rules, especially about a client’s rights as regards entering into agreements for limited representation. Current practices seem to be all right under the interpretation received.
Spotlight Articles/Web Page Update
David Trevaskis asked for more volunteers to write spotlight articles, and he directed the committee to check out the recently redesigned pro bono program Web page.
Review of Process of Choosing New Chairs and Vice-chairs
Chairs for next year will be Liz Fritsch and Dveera Segal. Derek Green will remain as one co-vice chair and a second co-vice chair, preferably from western Pennsylvania, will be selected.
The meeting ended just after 3:30 p.m.