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Pro Bono Report Spring 2003

PBA Pro Bono Coordinator
100 South Street/P.O. Box 186
Harrisburg, PA 17108-0186
Phone: 800-932-0311, Ext. 2236 – Fax: 717-238-7182

After 18 months and 75,000 miles logged as pro bono coordinator for the Pennsylvania Bar Association, I am pleased to report that there is much good news in the civil legal aid landscape of Pennsylvania thanks to the efforts of the PBA. This “good news” was highlighted at the PBA 2003 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. On Wednesday, April 23, 2003, the second annual Pro Bono Conference — a six-hour CLE program that brought more than 80 law and justice professionals together for a day of pro bono networking — took place as part of the PBA Annual Meeting. The following day, 29 individuals received Pro Bono Awards at the PBA Awards Breakfast. On Thursday, April 24, 2003, the reconfigured Legal Services to the Public Committee met to continue the mission of the second Task Force on the Delivery of Legal Services to the Needy, which has been merged into the committee. At the PBA Annual Dinner, the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation Goffman Awards were presented. This presentation at the dinner reflects the partnership that has been established between the Goffman Committee and the Legal Services to the Public Committee and the PBA’s increased emphasis on public service.

Although the annual meeting showcased the efforts of the PBA Pro Bono Office and the Pro Bono Conference Subcommittee of the Delivery of Legal Services to the Public Committee, there is much more that has been accomplished that is less obvious but equally important. The PBA Pro Bono Office has developed strong ties with the key players in Pennsylvania’s civil legal aid landscape. First and foremost, is the enhanced partnership with local bars. Travel across Pennsylvania to pro bono meetings and other events has made the Pro Bono Office a visible resource for local bars. Pro Bono Ethics CLE workshops have been conducted with local bar associations in Washington, Hershey, Lancaster, Harrisburg (for both the Dauphin County Bar Association and the Government Lawyer’s Committee), Allentown, Stroudsburg and Easton. There are additional programs planned this spring and summer with Bedford, Venango, Erie, Lancaster and Delaware counties.

The partnership between Pennsylvania Legal Services (PLS) and the PBA has been strengthened despite dealing with significant issues between some county bar associations and certain legal services programs around the state. PLS has responded to bar concerns in an open and positive manner thereby avoiding potentially damaging breakdowns in the partnership between legal services and the bar in a number of key areas across Pennsylvania. The relationship between the PBA and IOLTA also has been enhanced with the PBA Pro Bono Office working with IOLTA to provide technical assistance to programs awarded pro bono grants under the IOLTA initiative started by the former Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Although the funds raised by that initiative have been disappointing, 18 counties across the commonwealth, with little or no formal pro bono activity, have received or will receive development funding.

Together with PLS and IOLTA, the PBA Pro Bono Office is working to institutionalize civil legal aid across the state under the umbrella of PLAN (Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network). The PBA Delivery of Legal Services to the Public Committee and the PBA Pro Bono Office are vital to the success of PLAN. By working under a broad partnership umbrella, PLAN also provides access to additional resources for the PBA pro bono efforts. Since ongoing grant writing and other development efforts are vital for the PBA to achieve its goals in the pro bono field, the Delivery of Legal Services to the Public’s Development Subcommittee currently is exploring Cy Pres and other funding avenues.

A survey of county pro bono activity, conducted by the PBA Pro Bono Office, currently is underway with results going to the Local Support Subcommittee to help develop targets for future outreach efforts. The second PBA Pro Bono Scroll of Honor will be added to the ever-growing pro bono Web site at www.pabar.org/probonohome.shtml. The Task Force Final Report, now in draft form for review by the task force chairs, soon will be distributed. Trips through the northwestern tier, across the southwestern part and into the middle of the state have been planned for late spring and the summer. The calendar is filling with visits to various bar sites that will help with the targeted recruitment efforts. By the time the Delivery of Legal Services to the Public Committee reconvenes at the June Committee/Section Day, these and other efforts should allow the PBA Pro Bono Office to report continued success in its mission to enhance civil legal aid across Pennsylvania.