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ABA Honors Law School's Public Service Program

In a ceremony held during the ABA's Annual Assembly in New York in July, the American Bar Association presented Dean Michael A. Fitts with the 2000 Pro Bono Publico Award. This honor is particularly noteworthy because it is the first time in the history of the award that it has been given to a Law School. Traditionally, the ABA recognizes law firms and individuals that have performed extraordinary volunteer service to their communities.

The ABA's endorsement comes at a time when the Public Service Program, under the direction of Susan Feathers, enters its twelfth year of providing legal services to the Philadelphia community. The Program was started in 1989 under Dean Colin S. Diver and Professor Howard Lesnick. Judi Bernstein-Baker, the first director of the Program, was integral to the Penn Law team that established one of the first programs in the nation that made the performance of public service mandatory in order to graduate. In their second and third years of law school, Penn Law students must provide 70 hours of public service law-related work. Since 1989, more than 2,400 students have performed more than 200,000 hours of pro bono service for clients, most of whom are individuals of low income who otherwise might not have had access to legal representation. More than 80 percent of the program's graduates continue to actively participate in pro bono work after graduation.

As an example of students' initiatives, Simi Kaplin L'00 facilitated the immigration appeal of a Liberian family through work with Catholic Social Services. Kaplin helped the family prepare forms, she took their asylum testimony and demystified the legal process before they went to court for to make their appeal. At the Women Against Abuse Legal Center Dara Rosenthal L'00 and Christine Neagle 2L provided intake services, completed subpeonas, helped clients extend the duration of their protection orders, and assisted with preparing educational materials for presentations on domestic violence. At the Internal Revenue Service Michael Bindas 2L was placed in the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program where he completed tax forms and provided tax education to low income citizens in a district community office.

Penn Law students are the first to praise the Public Service Program for making very real for them the opportunities and responsibilities that derive from being lawyers. At a time when the value of public service requirements is debated among leading law schools as they consider establishing similar programs, the success and recognition of Penn Law's program proves that the rewards that come from such a commitment are far-reaching. Evolution in the delivery of legal services to those in need is only beginning, and Penn Law is leading the way.

What Do Workers Want?  
Journal of Labor and Employment Law 2000 Symposium

"The stunning fact of our democracy is that there are thousands of people out there who would like to have a union but don't have one. The main reason why people don't have collective bargaining when they want it is employer opposition," stated Andy Levin, Assistant Director of Organizing for AFL-CIO.

Levin was one of several panelists gathered for the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Labor and Employment Law's 2000 Symposium "What Do Workers Want: Reflections on the Implications of the Freeman & Rogers Study." With the authors of the study, and the book "What Workers Want" (Cornell University Press 1999), in attendance at the symposium, legal scholars, economists, and human resource experts from around the country explored the results and the implications of the massive survey of workers on their attitudes and desires toward employee participation in the workplace.