Anne John, President of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, discussed the services the organization offers to its attorney members and the general public. She described it mission, including to advance the science of jurisprudence, to see that no one is denied justice on account of poverty, that no one is denied their legal rights, to promote a thorough legal education and to promote diversity and cordial intercourse within the profession. The bar, while not mandatory, is a valuable resource to attorneys, she referred to it as ‘your other partner’ as it offers a management coordinator, payment and records management software, human resources support and more. There is also career counseling and a job bank. The PBA offers a CLE Leadership Institute for continuing education and oversees the required ethics education; they offer an ‘ethics hotline’ and will also give non-binding opinion on ethical issues facing an attorney. Toward ensuring a strong legal education it hosts opportunities for law students to work with the public in legal clinics, as well as moot court competitions for high school students.
The PBA is also the advocacy arm of the profession, offering opinions on the legal ramifications of legislation. They work with lawmakers on new legislation and give PBA’s positions on issues before the General Assembly.
To the public, the PBA works not just through pro bono cases and lawyer referral services, but also with programs such as ‘My Clean Slate,’ a state program that can erase a prior criminal record, including some first degree misdemeanors, and even second and third degree convictions after years of subsequent charges. The ‘Clean Slate’ allows the recipient a better chance at jobs and housing. She notes that the prior record is still available to law enforcement as needed. The PBA is also involved with reform in incarceration and parole supervision. For veterans, Ms John spoke about the PBA’s Legal Needs Clinics for veterans and others, they also work to help first responders and military obtain wills. Ms John recommended the PBA’s pamphlet series, consumer information pieces on a variety of topics, including material for grandparents charged with raising young grandchildren, she notes that the legislature has made changes to custody.
Finally, a discussion of the PBA Judicial Evaluation Commission, an independent review board that serves to inform the public of the qualifications and merits of judicial candidates. After a brief overview of the judicial system that explained the importance of the Superior Court, Ms John explained how the commission interviews candidates and rates them based on their education, writing skills, temperament and fitness for the bench, candidates voluntarily appear before the commission and are rated Highly Recommended, Recommended and Not Recommended. Candidates who do not appear receive a rating of Not Recommended for Failure to Participate, it is not a judgement of their qualifications.
To learn more about the PBA, request legal information pamphlets, get a lawyer referral, info on Wills for Heroes or a schedule of the veteran’s legal clinics, visit PABAR.ORG.