Fall 1999

A Message from the Dean

A Discourse on Constitutional Law
The Journey of a Journal
On History and Heritage: John K. Castle
In Defense and Celebration of the First Amendment

Public Service at the Forefront
Lindback Adwardee: Bruce H. Mann
Snippets of History (1915 - 1951)
Celebrations: Alumni Reunion and Commencment

Faculty Notes
Alumni Briefs
In Memoriam

Penn Law

"Many of us consider it to be the highest award our profession can bestow," wrote Carl (Tobey) Oxholm, III, chair of the Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services of the Philadelphia Bar Association. He was talking about the American Bar Association's annual Pro Bono Publico Award, only five of which are presented nationwide.

In March, the legal community nominated Penn Law's Public Service Program for that prestigious recognition. "Because the Award was designed with law firms and lawyers in mind, it has never before been given to a law school or to a service program," stated Oxholm.

Penn Law has taken pride in educating its graduates for leadership roles in law firms, corporations, and the public service sector. But how is it that schools like Columbia and the University of North Carolina are using Penn Law's Public Service Program as a template in developing their own programs? It has become the model because Penn Law's Public Service Program enhances the education of the students and impacts the lives of their clients.

John J. Grogan U93, Director of the Camden Center for Law and Social Justice, says that "for small, under-funded organizations like my own, the Program has been a life-saver. [It] has allowed organizations like mine to maintain services ... that would otherwise have been cut due to lack of funding."

Leslie Ann Miller, President of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, attests to the seriousness of that struggle: "Our Task Force has confirmed that, because of massive funding cuts over the past twenty years, our legal services system has had to sharply reduce staff, close offices, and turn clients away when they need help most." This in a city with roughly 400,000 people living at or below the poverty level and fewer than 75 full-time lawyers to assist them with legal services.

When he wrote to endorse the nomination of Penn Law's Program, Philadelphia Mayor Edward G. Rendell commended the school's pro bono graduation requirement and pointed out that "lawyers who volunteer to help the poor provide a critical part of the safety net that maintains our society."

The growing national reputation of our Public Service Program is based on a fivepart formula: initiative, program infrastructure, commitment to support, impact, and proven successes. Long before Penn Law recruited her from Yale, where she was directing their public service efforts, program director Susan Feathers admired the structure developed at Penn Law by Professor Howard Lesnick, and former program director Judith Bernstein-Baker.

It is more than fitting that Feathers grew up in a family committed to social justice: her mother taught in prisons and her father, a deacon in their local church, ministered to the homeless. She decided to become a lawyer at the age of twelve as she prepared for a classroom debate on the death penalty. Today, exuding energy and enthusiasm as she and her staff see their efforts capped by the ABA's pro bono nomination, she turns to new challenges rising like peaks in the near distance. No problem - she reads mountaineering books for pleasure.

The first class to meet Penn Law's new 70-hour pro bono requirement graduated in 1992. Still today the Program requires more hours of public service, offering more opportunities in more places, than any other comparable program in the country. This year, 495 students performed more than 20,000 hours of public service work to aid approximately 800 low-income clients who otherwise would have had no legal representation in crises concerning food, health services, and shelter. Their outreach affects people in the surrounding communities, agencies for whom the student volunteers work, and not least the students themselves.

Recognizing that his pro bono work had been valuable "in the development of necessary skills to be an effective lawyer," third-year student Steve Ebert adds, "I know that through my public service work, I have made a difference in the life of a child." The Program produces a lasting legacy. A recent informal survey of Program graduates revealed some 80 percent to be involved currently in pro bono work, which is eighttimes the legal community's national average.

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