Pennsylvania Bar Association and Pennsylvania Bar Institute Become One Organization

HARRISBURG (Feb. 24, 2020) — The Pennsylvania Bar Institute (PBI), a provider of continuing legal education (CLE) programming to lawyers and judges across the state, is now functioning as a department within the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA).

The newly-formed department results from a Jan. 6 determination by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, and a ruling today by Judge Andrew H. Dowling of the Dauphin County Orphan’s Court that dissolves PBI’s status as a separate 501 (c)(3) and allows PBI to operate within PBA, a 501 (c)(6) nonprofit organization.

“We’re excited to bring PBI into the PBA’s organizational and management structure, and we are confident that PBI will remain Pennsylvania’s premier provider of CLE, just as it has been since its founding in 1965,” said PBA President Anne John. 

“The CLE marketplace is clearly changing and, to best serve Pennsylvania lawyers and judges, PBI is evolving with it,” John said. “Aggressive, nimble national CLE providers are flooding the Pennsylvania marketplace, and we are working to not only match those providers in how they reach lawyers and judges but to surpass them with meaningful and impactful course content.”

John said PBI’s future looked much different two years ago. A performance audit found that PBI had experienced a decline in market share and had been pulling from its reserve funds to operate. The PBA Board of Governors set into motion the dissolution of PBI as a separate nonprofit organization and the development of an action plan to improve PBI’s financial footing while assuring the continuation of quality programming. 

“Strategies to retain and grow attendance have been put in place,” said Barry M. Simpson, executive director of the PBA. “In addition, administrative and operating costs have been significantly reduced, steps that have included the painful but necessary elimination of 26 employee positions since late 2017.”

“Staff members are now focused on maintaining PBI’s aggressive schedule of programming, increasing online offerings, improving video streaming for live and recorded programming, and building recognition of a more forward-thinking PBI brand through online advertising,” Simpson said.

Simpson said that market research will set the future course of CLE programming content and delivery.

“Based on feedback and analysis, PBI will continue to innovate to meet and exceed the learning expectations of lawyers and judges and to remain on a financially sustainable path going forward,” Simpson said.

“Over the course of more than five decades, PBI built a brand known for quality and, to the credit of our many course presenters and our staff, we are confident that reputation will be continually reinforced in the months and years ahead,” said John.

Founded in 1895, the PBA strives to promote justice, professional excellence and respect for the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access of legal services; and serve the lawyer members of the state’s largest organized bar association.