The Pennsylvania Bar Foundation, the charitable affiliate of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, presented the Lycoming Law Association with its 2004 Louis J. Goffman Award for outstanding pro bono service by an organization on May 13, 2004 in Hershey, PA during the state bar’s annual meeting.
The extraordinary breadth of pro bono services provided by the Lycoming Law Association and its members, relative to the size of the bar, earned the association the attention and appreciation of the 2004 Goffman Awards Committee.
With slightly over 115 attorneys engaged in active private practice, the opt-out pro bono program established in 1985 with the help of the county’s president judge and the local legal services provider has consistently generated a 95% or higher participation rate.
Attorneys participating in the mandated program are expected to take a maximum of three pro bono referrals a year. The Lycoming Law Association offers these attorneys a number of ways to satisfy their pro bono service requirement including participation on a domestic abuse panel that serves clients in need of protection from abuse orders; acceptance of referrals directly from North Penn Legal Services, the local legal services entity; or acceptance of clients the local legal services entity is precluded from serving due to conflicts of interest. In addition to providing the formal infrastructure for pro bono participation, the Lycoming Law Association and its members commit other resources to ensuring that the county’s most vulnerable citizens have access to the justice system. Attorneys and volunteer paralegals conduct divorce clinics for abuse victims, preparing and filing forms or offering representation to assist pro se clients. Some Law Association members serve as mentors or co-counsel to the local legal services staff and others have remained behind the scenes, researching and authoring briefs in cases handled by the local legal services office. In 2003, these assorted channels of pro bono participation handled 148 extended representations, three divorce clinics and two mentoring assignments for a total of 153 referrals.
The Law Association has even taken on the role of fundraiser. Ninety attorneys participating in an arbitration fee donation program generate $5,000 a year for local legal services and the Law Association’s affiliated foundation recently attained its goal of creating a $100,000 endowment to preserve and expand civil legal services programs for the county’s indigent.
“The way the Lycoming Law Association has so thoroughly and seamlessly integrated pro bono service into the everyday life of every lawyer is the county is to be commended,” said Pennsylvania Bar Foundation President Tim Riley. “This exemplary program, a successful partnership between Bench, Bar and the local legal services entity, appears to be within the reach of any organized bar and is certainly one well worth emulating.”