RESOLUTION REQUESTING WAIVER OF CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION FEES FOR PRO BONO ATTORNEYS

WHEREAS, the decade-long reductions in government funding for legal services have forced legal aid programs across the state to close offices and to freeze or reduce salaries, and to reduce their financial support for the pro bono programs that work closely with them;

WHEREAS, the typical law student today bears an educational debt upon graduation of more than $60,000, making it exceedingly difficult for our newest lawyers to afford to take jobs in the public interest;

WHEREAS, starting salaries for lawyers in legal services programs in Pennsylvania are approximately $20,000 per year, and very experienced legal services lawyers (after as many as 15 years of service) are typically paid less than $35,000 per year;

WHEREAS, all lawyers in Pennsylvania are now required to attend 12 hours of continuing legal education (MCLE) programs during the year, with average hourly fees per MCLE course hour of $2.50 to the statewide Continuing Legal Education Board and $40 to the MCLE provider, combining to impose an average MCLE expense of more than $500 on all attorneys every year;

WHEREAS, legal services and pro bono programs cannot afford to pay or reimburse any of the MCLE expenses for their attorneys, without compromising the funds available to serve the indigent;

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association believes that our profession ought to support, wherever possible, the critically important service being rendered by the attorneys who are working full time in public interest legal service, and has a proud tradition of supporting those good works;

WHEREAS, there are fewer than 275 attorneys statewide working full time in pro bono and public interest law firms, out of a total number of 53,000 attorneys in active practice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania;

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Education Center has agreed to provide up to 12 MCLE credit hours for free to any attorney employed by a legal services, pro bono or public interest law firm that is approved by a bar association or bar foundation or otherwise eligible to receive IOLTA funding; and

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Foundation has agreed to pay the $2.50 per course hour up to 12 MCLE credit hours to the Philadelphia Bar Education Center or the state Continuing Legal Education Board for any attorney employed by a pro bono or public interest law firm that is a recipient of funds from the Philadelphia Bar Foundation, until such time as the state Continuing Legal Education Board waives such fees for those attorneys;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association joins with the Philadelphia Bar Education Center and the Philadelphia Bar Foundation in calling on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board to waive the $2.50 per course hour fee for any attorney employed by a legal services, public interest or pro bono program sponsored by a bar association or bar foundation or otherwise eligible to receive IOLTA funding;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association joins with the Philadelphia Bar Education Center in calling on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to require all MCLE providers in Pennsylvania to provide up to 12 MCLE credit hours for free to any attorney employed by a legal services, public interest or pro bono program sponsored by a bar association or bar foundation or otherwise eligible to receive IOLTA funding.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: March 28, 1996