July 13, 2006
99th Firm Agrees to Raise the Bar; Nearly $1.4 Million Raised
With the addition of The Colleran Firm and Grant and Lebowitz LLC, 99 law firms have pledged nearly $1.4 million in support of Chancellor Alan M. Feldman's Raising the Bar Campaign to support legal services.
The 99 law firms, representing 4,388 attorneys, have pledged $1,396,170. Campaign organizers remain confident that many more firms will agree to participate in the weeks and months ahead, according to Feldman. The Raising the Bar Campaign is a joint effort by the Philadelphia Bar Association and the Philadelphia Bar Foundation to increase funding for Philadelphia public interest law centers.
"Our founder, William Rawle, was the first Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association. We are proud to join the current Chancellor, Alan Feldman, in his Raising the Bar Campaign. We see it as a continuation of our Firm's long commitment to Philadelphia and its people," said Thomas P. Wagner of Rawle & Henderson LLP.
"DLA Piper is committed to pro bono in each of the 59 offices and 22 countries it practices. The firm's answer to Chancellor Feldman's call to "Raise the Bar" is one important way to deeply involve our attorneys and staff in both pro bono and our dear home, Philadelphia," said James M. Brogan of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary US LLP.
Each firm made a pledge of at least $300 per attorney in its Philadelphia office, with a number of firms committing to as much as $400. Seventeen of the firms are among the 20 largest as listed in PaLAW 2005. (To contribute, contact Maureen Mingey, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.)
The extraordinary support our Raising the Bar campaign has received from Philadelphia law firms demonstrates just what being a Philadelphia lawyer is all about: support for the disadvantaged, dedication to improving access to justice, and protection for the legal rights of every man, woman and child in our community to give them all a shot at a better life, Feldman said.
Remember: these financial commitments are completely separate from the thousands of free pro bono hours provided by the dedicated work of the lawyers and paralegals of the wonderful Philadelphia law firms. Were proud that the legal profession continues to support the needy citizens of our city in ways unmatched by any other professional organization, simply because we know its the right thing to do, Feldman said.
Representatives from the firms committed to the campaign joined staff from local legal agencies and Bar Association and Bar Foundation officers at the April 19 event at Loews Philadelphia Hotel. This is an important step forward for legal services in Philadelphia, said Robert D. Lane Jr., president of the Bar Foundation. Local firms are pledging new support and continuing or increasing existing levels. The neediest of our citizens will truly benefit from this campaign.
According to a survey taken by the Associations Delivery of Legal Services Committee, a five-year veteran attorney in a Philadelphia public interest law agency makes an average of $20 per hour. The Raising the Bar campaigns minimum of $300 per lawyer could translate into 15 hours of legal assistance. The pledges by these 99 firms, representing 4,388 lawyers, mean a donation of nearly $1.4 million for local public interest law agencies, or more than 65,000 hours of legal services.
Founded in 1964 as the charitable arm of the Philadelphia Bar Association devoted to the support of legal services agencies, the Bar Foundations mission is to promote access to justice for all of our fellow citizens in the region, particularly those struggling with poverty, abuse and discrimination. The Foundation provides grants and technical assistance to legal services organizations that have demonstrated both a need for financial support and an effective program for assisting clients. In 2005, the Bar Foundation funded 29 legal organizations with grants ranging in size from $2,000 to $100,000.
In early March, the first step of the campaign was to send letters to the top 75 law firms in the city. Follow-up visits were conducted by Lane, Feldman and campaign co-chairs Kathleen D. Wilkinson and Wendy Beetlestone. Wilkinson, the assistant secretary of the Associations Board of Governors, is a partner at Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker LLP. Beetlestone, the former general counsel for the School District of Philadelphia, is a trustee for the Bar Foundation and a shareholder at Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin.
Im confident that these law firms will be joined by virtually every law firm in Philadelphia in elevating financial support for legal services to the highest level in our citys history. In fact, while were waiting to hear from some, and others we havent even had a chance to talk with, not a single firm has said no, Feldman said.
This campaign represents a wonderful partnership that many of us are familiar with, said Frank Cervone, executive director for the Support Center for Child Advocates, who spoke on behalf on the Bar Foundations grantees. Were tremendously grateful to this leadership and the wonderful leaders of this campaign and to all of you who are stepping up. You have once again stepped up to take care of people you didnt have to take care of. These are people many of us have given their lives to serve and were happy and proud that you stand with us in providing and answering that call, Cervone said.