STATE— The Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) presented a County Bar Recognition Award to the Wayne County Bar Association during the 53rd Annual Seminar of the Conference of County Bar Leaders, Feb. 21 – 23, at the Nittany Lion Inn, State College.

Recognized for its Access to Justice Pro Bono Program, the Wayne County Bar Association is one of 22 local bar associations in Pennsylvania honored this year for sponsoring projects that improve the legal profession, justice system or community. The awards are presented annually by the PBA.

“Each year, we’re proud to recognize the important projects and programs that members of local bar associations are doing to better communities throughout Pennsylvania,” said PBA President Charles Eppolito III. “I applaud the efforts of the many volunteers that made these good works possible.”

In January 2018, a call went out to members asking for volunteers for the association’s new pro bono plan that created a partnership among the WCBA, North Penn Legal Service (NPLS) and the Wayne County Judiciary “in Providing Equal Access to a Fair and Effective System of Justice for All” with a 100 percent participation obtained. Based on the responses received, teams were created and began receiving referrals directly from NPLS in May 2018.

A “low-bono” model, where panel attorneys are paid a fee for service that is higher than NPLS’ contract amount but lower than the attorneys’ standard rates, was created to help fulfill the unmet demand of child custody and spousal abuse cases. By year end, the program had received 29 custody and abuse referrals from NPLS, as well as panel requests related to wills, powers of attorney, advance health care directives, mortgage foreclosure, simple divorce, credit cards and bankruptcy.

In addition, the association secured financial assistance to fund representations, developed a wide range of simple forms for clients and amended its bylaws to make the Pro Bono Committee permanent.

The Conference of County Bar Leaders, whose membership includes leaders from county bar associations throughout the state and from the PBA, organizes a yearly educational conference focusing on the exchange of innovative bar association projects and ideas, and on the development of mutually-beneficial relationships among bar leaders that improve the legal profession.

Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association strives to promote justice, professional excellence and respect for the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access of legal services; and serve the lawyer members of the state’s largest organized bar association.