Pennsylvania Bar Association Pro Bono Home Page
"Service is the rent we pay for living. It is not something to do in your spare time; it is the very purpose of life."
-Marion Wright Edelman, founder, Children's Defense Fund
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Extraordinary Pro Bono Service: Lawyers Making a Difference
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Pro Bono for Veterans Tops PBA Agenda, May 2014
PBA President Francis X. O’Connor kicked off his term by announcing an agenda of pro bono for veterans, highlighted by an expansion of the Wills for Heroes program to include vets.
Left to right, Wes Payne (retired Army JAG and chair, PBA Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee), Staff Sgt. Jasper Patterson (two tours of Iraq, currently stationed at the Army Recruiting Barracks, Harrisburg), PBA President O'Connor, PBA Immediate Past President Forest N. Myers and PBA Young Lawyers Division Immediate Past Chair Robert Datorre on the occasion of O'Connor’s announcing his pro bono initiative for veterans at the PBA House of Delegates meeting in Hershey, May 16
Then-PBA President-Elect O’Connor, just days from becoming the 120th leader of the statewide bar, kicking off a session at the May 13, 2014, Statewide Pro Bono Conference on the PBA’s 2014 Pro Bono Week focus: serving those who serve, our veterans of recent and not-so-recent wars. Wes Payne, chair of the PBA’s Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, highlighted developments in providing access to justice for veterans, joined by Susan Saidel, head of the Widener University School of Law Veterans Clinic, and Al Ciardi of the Military Assistance Project, which helps vets with bankruptcy issues. Materials on veterans from palawhelp.org and paprobono.net were shared by PBA Pro Bono Coordinator David Trevaskis. Shown above, from left, are Trevaskis, Saidel, Ciardi, Payne and O’Connor
Chief Justice on Pro Bono
In 2014, his final year as leader of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille called on every lawyer in Pennsylvania to recommit themselves to equal opportunity for all, especially in the civil justice arena. Castille issued an April 2014 letter calling on all Pennsylvania lawyers to volunteer to help the neediest among us. Read the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Court's news release. In his letter Castille notes that the Pennsylvania Bar Association has been the court's partner in supporting civil legal aid in a variety of ways, from providing new avenues for funding to setting up a loan forgiveness program for legal services practitioners. Every lawyer in Pennsylvania contributed $35 in 2013 to civil legal aid through the IOLTA portion of the annual licensing fee, but it is the volunteer efforts — whether in direct representation of clients or further financial support — that goes beyond the mandatory payment that matter most. The Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, in partnership with regional legal-aid providers and a network of specialty legal-aid programs, helps provide the framework and structure for legal assistance for the poor. Pro bono volunteers, encouraged by the PBA and local bars, provide time and financial contributions to help fuel the important work of representing those clients who have critical needs but cannot afford to retain private counsel. Our law schools inculcate the values of pro bono service in the next generation of Pennsylvania lawyers.
PBA Pro Bono Assistance
The Pennsylvania Bar Association's Pro Bono Office assists local bar associations, legal services programs and other groups who offer pro bono legal services across the commonwealth to expand the access to justice for the neediest among us. The Pro Bono Office also provides direct legal help to those in need, from the poor to veterans. The links above will connect you to specific information available here among the PBA pro bono Web pages. Go to PALawHELP.org if you are a client seeking pro bono services; lawyers and judges interested in pro bono should check out PAProbono.net. Click here for our partners at the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service. Click here for Pennsylvania county pro bono programs. For all pro bono questions, email PBA Pro Bono Coordinator David Keller Trevaskis at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on his cell at 717-571-7414.
Trevaskis has served as the PBA's first full-time pro bono attorney since 2001. In the 12 years since then some impressive numbers have been posted through the PBA's in-house pro bono efforts, including outreach that has touched almost 60,000 people with legal aid issues; more than 400 individuals and organizations being honored with pro bono awards; nearly 250 CLE programs having been conducted locally, regionally and across the state; and the securing of more than $500,000 in direct and in-kind support. Add in nearly three-quarters-of-a-million miles of travel and there has been a lot of activity out of an office that is staffed by a single full-time attorney and a half-time administrative assistant.
Although there was pro bono activity sponsored by the PBA prior to the October 2001, with the hiring of attorney Trevaskis as the PBA's first full-time pro bono coordinator pro bono received an increased emphasis at the PBA, with the formal creation, staffing and budgeting of a Pro Bono Office. The office was created to meet the crisis of unmet civil legal needs among the poor in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation. The defining principle of our legal system is the promise of equal justice under law for all, yet, despite all of the efforts of the PBA and the thousands of lawyers and judges statewide who take pro bono cases and support legal aid, far too many of the poor and near poor never have the opportunity even to talk to an attorney while handling legal concerns.
There is some type of pro bono activity in every county in the state; each county's approach to pro bono is unique. Please check out the County Pro Bono Activities and Other Pro Bono Resources area to find out what is happening in a particular county.
The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania summarized a lawyer's pro bono duty in its February 2011 "Attorney E-Newsletter."
 Pro Bono Awards were started in 1988. The PBA’s Task Force on the Delivery of Legal Services to the Needy under Joseph H. Jones issued its seminal report in 1989 after extensive study, conferences and continuing legal education classes were conducted during the 1990s, and the PBA’s Delivery of Legal Services to the Needy Task Force II started its work in 1998. PBA Committees did outreach and created educational materials, including pamphlets on various legal matters and videos promoting access to justice, and PBA staffers had pro bono duty assignments.
 The Pennsylvania Legal Assistance Network (PLAN) estimates that only one in five poverty level persons with legal issues ever sees an attorney and PLAN surveys show that half of the eligible clients who go to a legal aid office in Pennsylvania are turned away because the local offices, even with pro bono support, do not have the resources to help them.