Letter From The President Of The Philadelphia Bar Foundation

2013-06-20 15:29

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:

Almost fifty years ago, in December 1964, the Philadelphia Bar Foundation was created by a prescient group of lawyers who wanted to assure the funding of legal programs that would provide access to justice for all. Today, the Bar Foundation continues to provide funding, collaboration and innovation to organizations and programs that promote equal access to justice. Last year, the Bar Foundation awarded almost $600,000 in grants to over 30 different legal nonprofit entities. Our goal is to continue to provide such unrestricted funding and support for at least another fifty years.

The Philadelphia Bar Foundation raises moneys through individual donations, multi-year donations, arbitration fees, memorial and tribute donations, and events such as the Golf and Tennis Classic, the Andrew Hamilton Gala, The Young Lawyers Division Night of Comedy, and Go Casual for Justice. We have trustees who are well-respected attorneys in law firms and corporate law departments, and trustees who are well-respected in the Philadelphia business community. We provide unrestricted grants allowing the public interest legal service providers to use their own discretion in allocating the best use of the funds we provide.  Our Grants Committee is charged with reviewing grant applications, conducting site visits and interviews with the executive directors of each agency, and making recommendations to the entire Board of Trustees. Final decisions are made by the entire Board of Trustees after discussion and review.

In addition to funding public interest legal service providers, the Bar Foundation also proudly provides financial support for the coordination of the Delivery of Legal Services Committee (DLSC). The DLSC, created in 1977, is a unique model among bar associations; no other metropolitan or state bar association has a comparable body that draws from so many sectors for the benefit of disadvantaged populations. The committee includes executive directors from over thirty nonprofit legal service providers, as well as law school representatives, leaders of the Bar Association and the private bar, law firm pro bono coordinators, judges, and foundation directors. This extraordinary committee provides a forum for collaboration on innovative ways to improve the delivery of legal services to the most vulnerable. Since 1996, the Bar Foundation has partnered with the Philadelphia Bar Association and nonprofit members of the Delivery of Legal Services Committee (DLSC) in pooling resources to fund a staff person to assist DLSC in fulfilling its overarching mission of advancing access to justice.

The Bar Foundation is also a collaborative initiator. For example, we worked with the Young Lawyers Division in establishing the Board Observer Program which provides mentorships to young lawyers, offering them the opportunity to learn about and serve on nonprofit boards. For years, LexisNexis has collaborated with the Philadelphia Bar Foundation to provide research resources at no charge for the nonprofit interest organizations that receive funding from the Foundation. This collaboration was initiated with the help of Foundation Honorary Trustee Rod Wittenberg of Reed Technologies. In addition, we are carefully pursuing the establishment of a Civil Justice Center to enhance the efficiency of, and collaboration among, many of the region’s legal services organizations. Finally, through a dedicated grant, we are providing advocacy training for lawyers in the nonprofit legal community in connection with Rutgers Law School.


Deborah R. Gross