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December 21, 2006

135th Firm Agrees to Raise the Bar; Nearly $1.5 Million Raised

With the addition of the Law Office of Jeffrey Campolongo and Judge Bernard J. Goodheart, 135 law firms have pledged nearly $1.5 million in support of Chancellor Alan M. Feldman's Raising the Bar Campaign to support legal services.

The 135 law firms, representing more than 4,600 attorneys, have pledged $1,478,070. 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.

The 135 firms making commitments to the campaign represent numerous solo practitioners, small and medium-sized firms and up to the city’s largest law firms, including 23 of the 25 largest firms as listed in the Philadelphia Business Journal’s 2006 Book of Lists. 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 $600. Nineteen of the firms are among the 20 largest as listed in the Philadelphia Business Journal’s 2006 Book of Lists. (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. We’re 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 it’s 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 Association’s 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 campaign’s minimum of $300 per lawyer could translate into 15 hours of legal assistance. The pledges by these 135 firms, representing 4,657 lawyers, mean a donation of more than $1.4 million for local public interest law agencies, or more than 69,000 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 Foundation’s 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 Association’s 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.

“I’m 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 city’s history. In fact, while we’re waiting to hear from some, and others we haven’t 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 Foundation’s grantees. “We’re 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 didn’t have to take care of. These are people many of us have given their lives to serve and we’re happy and proud that you stand with us in providing and answering that call,” Cervone said.

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