For 30 years, the Legal Clinic for the Disabled (LCD) has served those with physical disabilities in the Philadelphia area. This nonprofit formed through a partnership of the Young Lawyers Divisions of the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Bar Associations and Magee Rehabilitation Hospital provides legal services at zero cost to low-income families with physical disabilities, including the deaf and hard of hearing. Partner Tom Brown was a founding member of the LCD and has watched the organization grow from day one.
I was inspired by Jim Ferriman, then Counsel to our firm and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Magee, who was convinced that with the help of the young lawyers division of the bar association, we could start such a clinic at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital to duplicate the only other clinic of its kind which he had visited at the Chicago Rehabilitation Hospital. It turned out he was correct.
The greatest and most pleasing success that I see is the LCD’s growth, both in terms of the number of in-house lawyers and staff employed, and the breadth of services the clinic now offers to the disabled community. The LCD’s medical-legal partnerships with medical providers and other human services organizations to meet the legal needs of low-income people with disabilities is truly innovative and unparalleled.
By far the biggest struggle we encountered in the early days was the ability to raise money. This was before the Americans with Disabilities Act, so the disabled community, and in particular its legal needs, was generally unknown. We were also competing for dollars with organizations fighting cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other more well -known illnesses which made it even more difficult. The needs of the disabled were not a sexy topic. We hit a low watermark in the early days when I had to personally pay our executive director’s mortgage payment until we received grant money that was outstanding. It was a challenging time.
I continue to support the LCD financially and our lawyers continue to volunteer their time to represent clients of the Clinic in need of pro-bono services.
I have always tried to pass on to associates with whom I have worked the importance of community activity. We, lawyers, are uniquely qualified to assist those in need and to serve on boards in our community working to make our neighborhoods better places. Perhaps most importantly, serving the community provides a tremendous source of satisfaction and pride, and an immediate sense of accomplishment, something we rarely get these days in the day-to-day practice of law.
To read a feature article of Tom Brown’s involvement on the LCD website, please click the side link in the box above.