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March 17, 2003

Lawyer Who Helps Homeless to Receive Citizens Pro Bono Award

"When I was clerking for a federal judge and working downtown, it was distressing to step over homeless people in the street. I wanted to do something, so I handed out sandwiches. It helped but didn't do much for the broad-based problems," says attorney Geanne K. Zelkowitz, now an associate at Dechert LLP. Zelkowitz explains that when the Philadelphia Bar Association formed a committee which later became the Homeless Advocacy Project "it seemed to combine both things - being able to help the homeless and helping to shape policy." So, Zelkowitz became involved.
Now, Zelkowitz, a founding board member and former president of the board of HAP will be honored with the Philadelphia Bar Association's first Citizens Pro Bono Award bestowed by the Association, the Philadelphia Bar Foundation and Citizens Bank. The Award will be presented at the Association's Spring Quarterly Meeting and Luncheon on Thursday, April 3 at the Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue. It honors outstanding volunteer (pro bono) advocacy by a Philadelphia lawyer.
"We received quite a few entries for this Award and the decision wasn't easy," says Association Chancellor Audrey C. Talley. "The work of the nominees demonstrated the generous spirit of our legal community and the overwhelming need for pro bono lawyers in a wide spectrum of cases. Geanne's dedication and commitment are admirable," Talley adds. "She has spent a lot of time handling tough matters. We hope her efforts serve as a model for other lawyers who want to carry out their responsibility to help those who need but cannot afford legal services."
According to Zelkowitz, "HAP is a wonderful organization of competent professionals who are a pleasure to work with." At Dechert, Zelkowitz's areas of concentration include plaintiff's personal injury, product liability, and civil litigation. "I have corporate clients and I do good things for them. But when I volunteer for HAP, I know I'm helping change people's lives," she explains.
Marsha Cohen, the Executive Director of the Homeless Advocacy Project, has nothing but praise for Zelkowitz. "She's been involved as a volunteer attorney with HAP since its inception in 1990. As Dechert's pro bono coordinator, she's run 12 annual legal clinics for the homeless," Cohen says Zelkowitz brings Dechert attorneys to these legal clinics where she personally takes on pro bono cases and supervises all of the cases that Dechert picks up. "She's doing this for the right reasons," Cohen adds. "She's committed to helping the people because she has a good heart."
Talley says the Association is honored to showcase the unselfish works of lawyers who make a positive difference in the community. Two more Citizens Pro Bono Awards will be presented  to a law firm and a legal department at the Philadelphia Bar Foundation's Andrew Hamilton Ball in November.
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