Delivery of Legal Services Committee
Karen C. Buck
Joseph A. Sullivan
The Delivery of Legal Services Committee (DLSC) was formed in 1977 as a standing Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association. In 1994, the Philadelphia Bar Association By-laws charged the newly created Public Interest Section with "promot[ing] the interests of the members who address the legal needs and rights of the poor, minorities, victims of abuse, persons with disabilities, the homeless and other disadvantaged populations." The section was to provide a "forum for the Bar to work together on issues of mutual concern that affect the public interest . . . and to educate and involve the entire Bar in issues affecting the public interest." In order to accomplish this, the By-laws required that there be three standing committees of the Public Interest Section, in addition to other committees created by the section: "a Civil Rights Committee, a Delivery of Legal Services Committee, and a Women's Rights Committee". Thus the Delivery of Legal Services Committee, in its current form, was born.
The DLSC consists of a wide cross section of leaders from all sectors of the legal community who come together regularly in an effort to identify, and provide for, the civil legal needs of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the Philadelphia community. The Committee includes executive directors from over thirty nonprofit public interest law firms as well as representatives from Philadelphia-area law schools operating public interest clinical programs, leaders of the Bar Association and the private bar, foundation directors and others committed to expanding equal access to justice.
The Committee's goals include creating and expanding legal services for the poor; improving the quality of those services; developing and providing continuing legal education for public interest lawyers; sharing and expanding the collective knowledge of experts in various areas of public interest law; raising public awareness of legal and social issues affecting the poor and disadvantaged; and leveraging the work of public interest law firms by forging partnerships with the private bar to expand delivery of legal services to those in need.
The numerous and widespread talents which comprise the Delivery of Legal Services Committee can be seen in the Directory of Public Interest Legal Organizations which contains information about each of the participating organizations. Members of the DLSC have put together their diverse experiences and collective expertise to improve both the delivery of legal services and access to the courts, enabling the public interest legal community to highlight issues broader than the focus of their individual agencies. For example, in the past three years, members of the DLSC have collaborated on efforts to improve Family Court by successfully ensuring that procedures to file Petitions in forma pauperis are in place, that there is adequate access to the Court for the handicapped and that Petitions for Protection from Abuse are accepted at any time as is required by Statute. DLSC members have come together to work for greater funding for legal services programs in Philadelphia through the creation and introduction of a filing fees bill was enacted by the State legislature.
In 1996, public interest agency members of the DLSC pooled their resources with the Bar Foundation, the Philadelphia Bar Association's charitable arm, and the Bar Association, in order to hire a staff person for the DLSC. The staff person is charged with coordinating the activities of the DLSC and ensuring that all of the members are kept informed about one another's individual and collaborative efforts. In addition, it is the coordinator's job to aid the DLSC in accomplishing its goals through scheduling meetings, writing and distributing written materials, connecting the private bar to the public interest bar for volunteer opportunities, conducting surveys, compiling data, planning events and writing reports.
At the present time, DLSC members are collaborating on issues relating to obtaining government funded loan repayment assistance for public interest lawyers and the creation of opportunities to do more public interest work in Philadelphia. In addition, the DLSC is currently working with the Courts, government and community leaders to improve the delivery of pro bono legal services.
In short, the DLSC is a unique Committee of extraordinary individuals who take the time, in addition to fulfilling their own daily public interest obligations, to come together to work on collaborative projects in the public interest. Such collaboration not only vastly improves the delivery of legal services to Philadelphia's poorest community, but also has created a culture of inclusion within the Philadelphia Bar Association regarding issues that affect and concern the poor. The DLSC, as the largest Bar Association team of public interest and private lawyers working to improve justice in Philadelphia, epitomizes the fulfillment of the Philadelphia Bar Association's mission to serve both the profession and the public by promoting equal access to justice, professional excellence and respect for the rule of law.
DLSC Retreat 8.15.08
The Philadelphia Bar Association sponsored a half-day retreat for the Delivery of Legal Services Committee on July 25 to celebrate more than 30 years of collaborating on the provision of legal services to poor and other vulnerable communities. Sharon Browning, nonprofit consultant and executive director of the Just Listening Project, facilitated the retreat, which focused on ways to create and sustain a healthy work environment and practical strategies and techniques to help avoid burnout. Karen C. Buck and Joseph A. Sullivan, co-chairs of DLSC, welcomed more than 40 DLSC members to the retreat, including executive directors of public interest legal organizations, pro bono coordinators from firms, and representatives from local law school pro bono and public service programs. The retreat was held at the ACE Conference Center in Lafayette Hill. (Photos by Jeff Lyons)
Sharon Browning, Ourania Papademetriou, Sara Woods, Eve Biskind Klothen and Karen Forman.
Delivery of Legal Services Retreat 2009