Since 1989, the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation has recognized and rewarded outstanding pro bono service with the annual presentation of the Louis J. Goffman Award. This year, the Foundation honored the Widener University School of Law – Dauphin County Bar Association Incubator Program.
In January 2015, the Dauphin County Bar Association, Widener University School of Law and MidPenn Legal Services launched a unique and innovative partnership to bring more affordable legal services to Dauphin County.
The Widener University School of Law – Dauphin County Bar Association Incubator Program is the result of their collaboration. The first of its kind in Pennsylvania, the initiative helps to meet the legal needs of low and moderate-income individuals while helping new lawyers secure work and offset the significant expenses associated with establishing a law practice.
The yearlong program is open to 2014 graduates of Widener Law. It provides three new attorneys with Harrisburg office space, the requisite office computer technology, training in building a law practice and mentoring and networking opportunities. In return, program participants are encouraged to accept “low bono” work, are required to provide 100 hours of pro bono legal work and must cover the cost of their malpractice insurance. Three new attorneys will rotate into the program when their predecessors transition to independence.
The Dauphin County Bar Association provides office space in its headquarters building in Downtown Harrisburg. It supplies the offices with computer technology and coordinates numerous networking opportunities for the participants.
Widener Law Associate Clinical Professor J. Palmer Lockard II teaches the art of building a law practice. From engaging clients to managing insurance needs to adhering to the rules that govern the handling of client funds, Lockard helps the participants develop a foundation for the future. He conducts training sessions and serves as a mentor, preparing the participants for budding careers as solo/small firm practitioners. Lockard also coordinates the technology provided for the offices.
MidPenn Legal Services provides experienced staff attorneys, pro bono mediators and the services of the public service coordinator to assist the new attorneys in fulfilling their 100-hour pro bono service commitment. The participating attorneys assist the five MidPenn staff attorneys by screening requests for assistance and accepting pro bono cases.
The Widener University School of Law – Dauphin County Bar Association Incubator Program is a huge help to MidPenn Legal Services whose limited resources make it difficult to provide representation to many low income applicants seeking legal services the Widener University School of Law – Dauphin County Bar Association Incubator Program adds affordable legal services to the community. It gives new attorneys legal experience, business skills and an appreciation of the importance of assisting the underserved. Moreover, the program helps to maintain the integrity of the profession by training new lawyers for small firm and solo careers, the most prevalent practice setting for Dauphin County Bar members and a growing trend in the profession given the challenging job market for attorneys.