SAVE THE DATE
Click here to listen to a podcast of Georgetown University Law Center Professor and author Peter Edelman discuss poverty in America at a program co-sponsored by the Public Interest Section on Feb. 28. 2013. Community Legal Services presents "Recent Changes to Programs Administered by the Department of Public Welfare" on July 26, 2012. Click here to listen. The Law School Outreach Committee's Summer Brown Bag lunch program on fellowships on June 7, 2012. Click here to listen. Listen to author Amy Bach addresses a Public Interest Section plenary session on April 13, 2010: click here. Listen to Heather Jarvis, senior program manager for Law School Advocacy and Outreach Resources at Equal Justice Works, on Managing Student Loan Debt: New Loan Repayment Assistance Programs at a Sept. 16, 2009 program o-sponsored by the Public Interest Section's Delivery of Legal Services Committee and the Young Lawyers Division: click here Listen to the April 29, 2009, plenary meeting on Systemic Advocacy: click here Listen to the April 10, 2008, plenary meeting of the Public Interest Section and the Pennsylvania Bar Association: "Civil Gideon: A Right to Counsel in Civil Cases"
THE ANDREW HAMILTON AWARD
Each year, the Public Interest Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association honors a legal services advocate or public defender with the Andrew Hamilton Award. The award-winner must work for, or be associated with, an organization whose purpose is to serve persons who cannot afford to pay for legal representation, or be a public-interest lawyer working with a nonprofit organization serving a charitable or public interest purpose.
See a list of past Andrew Hamilton Award Recipients here.
AboutThe Public Interest Section, founded in 1991, provides a forum for public interest and private lawyers to come together on behalf of Philadelphia's neediest community. In 1994, the Philadelphia Bar Association By-laws charged the newly created Public Interest Section with "promot[ing] the interests of the members who address the legal needs and rights of the poor, minorities, victims of abuse, persons with disabilities, the homeless and other disadvantaged populations." The section was to provide a "forum for the Bar to work together on issues of mutual concern that affect the public interest . . . and to educate and involve the entire Bar in issues affecting the public interest." Today, over four hundred members, consisting of public interest and private lawyers, law school faculty members, foundation directors and law students collaborate on projects to improve the delivery of legal services to Philadelphia's poorest community. Such collaboration not only vastly improves the delivery of legal services, but also has created a culture of inclusion within the Philadelphia Bar Association regarding issues that affect and concern the poor. The Public Interest Section, as the largest Bar Association team of public interest and private lawyers working to improve justice in Philadelphia, epitomizes the fulfillment of the Philadelphia Bar Association's mission to serve both the profession and the public by promoting equal access to justice, professional excellence and respect for the rule of law.
The Benefits of Section MembershipSection members can stay abreast of new developments in the law and exciting opportunities to shape the future of our society. The Public Interest Section's activities include:
Public Interest Profiles
Each month the Bar Association will highlight the work of a local public interest agency. To participate, interested organizations should send a short agency description (100-150 words), contact information, Web site link and logo or other graphic, to Web Manager Wesley Terry.
About Philadelphia VIP
Mission Statement: VIP promotes equal justice for the poor by providing civil legal services not otherwise available, collaborating with other legal services organizations and promoting a culture of volunteerism by educating and exposing attorneys and law students to issues of poverty.
Philadelphia VIP is the hub of pro bono legal services in Philadelphia. For the past 27 years, we have provided volunteer legal services for low-income residents and families facing civil legal problems that threaten their basic human needs. We rely on the private bar in Philadelphia to bridge the gap between the needs of the community and scarce legal services.
VIP, through its volunteers and staff, serves more than 1,100 individuals and families yearly who could not afford attorneys and whose cases could or would not be handled by other public interest organizations. We are the agency of last resort for the majority of our clients.
Our clients are among the poorest in the City. To be eligible for our services a client's income must be at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Thus, our most financially secure clients earn $20,000, while a family of 4 lives on $40,000.
VIP handles any civil matter that is non-fee generating and for which there is no right to counsel. Our caseload has four priority areas:
The majority of VIP's cases are referred to us from Community Legal Services and Philadelphia Legal Assistance; an additional number come from specialized legal services organizations throughout Philadelphia.
In stark terms, VIP is the agency of last resort for many low-income individuals and families who face critical legal problems that affect their basic needs.
1. Philadelphia continues to lose population but because the poverty rate in the City increased from 22.9 percent to 24.9 percent in the period since the 2000 Census, the population of people in poverty has grown from approximately 347,500 to 364, 500.
2. The sole exception to this rule applies to clients seeking legal assistance from LawWorks to form a small business whose income may be at 300 percent of the poverty guidelines.