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August 08, 2001

Bar Association Receives Outreach Award

The Philadelphia Bar Association's LegalLine program has been selected as a winner of the National Association of Bar Executives 2001 LEXIS Community and Educational Outreach Award.

The award was presented Aug. 2 at the NABE Annual Meeting in Chicago. It is given annually to recognize public service and law-related education programs.

Since its inception in 1982, LegalLine has helped nearly 40,000 people with their legal problems. More than 150 attorneys volunteer their time each year for LegalLine, which by the Association's Young Lawyers Division.

"I am delighted yet not surprised that LegalLine won this award," said Charles J. Klitsch, the Association's assistant director of Public and Legal Services. Klitsch accepted the award on behalf of the Association.

"The Young Lawyers Division has worked tirelessly over the years to make LegalLine an effective, reliable source of information for the public. Thanks to the volunteer commitment of Association members, Philadelphians have learned that they can receive valuable legal guidance with one quick call to LegalLine."

"It's wonderful that a high-impact public service program that has served so many people over the years is finally getting some recognition," said Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Carl S. Primavera.

"The participating lawyers show that our association cares deeply about the public we serve," said Primavera.

LegalLine co-chair David Felderman has been involved with the program for about two years. "Unlike clothing drives for the homeless or other community service related volunteer activities that are run by the YLD, LegalLine is unique in that it is the only program where the time spent by the volunteers is time spent where they are acting in their capacity as attorneys," Felderman said.

LegalLine is a service provided twice each month during which volunteer attorneys provide free legal advice over the telephone and, upon request make referrals to attorneys who participate in the Bar Association's Lawyer Referral and Information Service. The program is conducted on the first and third Wednesday of each month, from 5 to 8 p.m., at the headquarters of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Several times during the year, special LegalLines are held concentrating on topics such as domestic relations, bankruptcy, tax and employment law. On these nights, attorneys who practice primarily in those areas handle the calls. Newer attorneys and seasoned veterans can volunteer to answer calls for LegalLine.

Various law firms and legal organizations in the city "adopt" LegalLine evenings and assume responsibility for staffing at different times throughout the year.

The program works like this: People call in to speak to a lawyer and have their legal questions answered in plain language. When necessary, callers are referred to a lawyer with whom they can meet for a reduced rate of $25 for the first half-hour of consultation.

Felderman said that volunteers are always needed and welcomed for the program.

"We do seek the assistance of many of the large law firms in the city as well as many of the Bar Association's various committees to find volunteers," he said.

"A common response when I ask someone to volunteer is: 'What if I don't know the answer to a question?' Most people don't realize that if they don't know the answer, more often than not they will be able to refer the caller to one of the attorneys listed in the Bar Association's LRIS database. In this regard, LegalLine is also unique in that it results in more business for the Philadelphia Legal Community via the referrals that are made each night," said Felderman.

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