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Philadelphia Pro Bono Update

By Jeff Lyons

The Board of Governors has unanimously approved 23 resolutions from a set of more than 60 recommendations offered by the Association’s Pro Bono Task Force.

“This is truly a document this Association can be proud of,” Chancellor Allan H. Gordon told the Board after its vote at the Sept. 26 meeting. “I want to thank and complement (Chancellor-Elect) Audrey Talley and her committee for the enormous amount of work they did. I also want to thank Sy Kurland, Aretha Delight Davis and Lou Rulli for their efforts with the task force.” The Board received the Task Force’s recommendations in June. At that time, Gordon created a committee, led by Talley, to examine the Task Force’s report and come back with a list of recommendations.

The resolutions included the following recommendations:

  • The pursuit of all avenues that ensure pro bono service becomes a fundamental and integral aspect of being a member of the Philadelphia Bar Association. 
  •  The adoption of a 50-hour aspirational standard for pro bono participation.
  •  The further study of mandatory reporting of pro bono hours.
  •  Initiation of discussions with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Continuing Legal Education Board to award CLE credit for pro bono representation in new areas.
  •  Request the implementation of a bylaw that requires members of the Board of Governors to handle one pro bono matter per year, unless there are restrictions based on their employment, in which case they would be required to demonstrate alternative support.
  •  Fully embrace Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program and approve the funding of VIP based on its needs and other relevant criteria.
  •  Encourage large and mid-sized law firms to support pro bono.
  •  Coordinate the development of a mechanism for the annual reporting of pro bono participation by law firms.
  •  The Board of Governors will annually devote a meeting to discuss the state of pro bono in Philadelphia.
  •  Ask the chair of the Survey Committee to develop questions on future surveys regarding the pro bono delivery of legal services designed to assess the response of the legal community to unmet needs of the poor and disadvantaged.
  •  Develop opportunities in which legal assistants, paralegals and legal secretaries can be involved in the pro bono delivery of legal services and propose other mechanisms by which other organizations can engage paraprofessionals in pro bono participation.
  •  Recognize and publicly honor area law students who have provided more than 100 hours of uncompensated and non-credited legal services to the needy.
  •  Support of the leadership of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.
  •  Support of the leadership of Philadelphia VIP.
  •  Strengthen and encourage joint initiatives by the Philadelphia Bar Association and the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.
  •  Increase the leadership role of Philadelphia’s large and mid-sized firms in pro bono participation.
  •  Increase the participation of solo and small firm practitioners.
  •  Urge the increased participation of corporate legal departments.
  •  Participation of the judiciary in encouraging pro bono participation.
  •  Increase the leadership role of the legal service agencies.
  •  Increase law school participation in pro bono services.
  •  Streamline the public’s access to pro bono legal services.
  •  The Board will receive a status report within six months on the progress of the implementation of the recommendations.

Copyright 2002, Philadelphia Bar Association. Used with permission.