PHILADELPHIA, PA – The Philadelphia Bar Association community came together virtually on Tuesday, December 8 to set an agenda for 2021 and to look back on 2020 as a year of accomplishments in the face of extraordinary circumstances.
The Annual Meeting introduced 94th Chancellor Lauren P. McKenna, Esq., partner at Fox Rothschild and an active Association member throughout her career. As the Association looks ahead to the coming year, the focus will be on leveraging the collective power of the community to build on its primary goals: Providing critical education, services and support to the legal profession, the courts and to the City of Philadelphia at large.
“We are not just a trade association, but the hub of the Philadelphia legal community, for which there are many spokes,” McKenna said. “This has always been central to our mission – and the challenges of 2020 brought that into focus. By bringing these various communities together, we are reminded of the foundational principle of the Association – that there is strength in numbers – and that our shared values of professionalism and service will protect us in trying times.”
McKenna noted that 2020 has brought an unprecedented global health crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty that has disproportionally impacted Philadelphia’s most vulnerable residents, a heightened racial divide, and challenges to the integrity of the law and the legal profession.
“2020 also revealed in concrete ways that the Bar Association has never been more relevant or more needed,” McKenna said, noting that, among other accomplishments, the Association quickly pivoted to offering all programming online, provided crucial support as the courts and law firms adapted to COVID-19 guidelines, and supported the city’s eviction diversion programs to help tenants stay in their homes.
“We are the oldest and finest Bar Association in the nation, and we have work to do,” McKenna said. “At the Association, one important first step in achieving change is examining the issue of unconscious and implicit bias. This is hard work. Fixing the problem of implicit bias will not happen overnight. Fortunately, the Association has a strong tradition of valuing diversity and inclusion and I therefore have a deep bench of diverse talent who can join me in this work.”
The Association will provide implicit bias training to all members of the Judicial Selection and Retention Commission, which evaluates and makes public recommendations on judicial candidates for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia Municipal Court or a statewide appellate court if the candidate has an office or chambers in Philadelphia. The Association’s Board of Governors will also receive the training.
McKenna will also form a task force on legal needs arising from the pandemic to interface with the courts, law firm members, law schools and the business community. “This collaboration will allow us to speak with one voice,” she said. “Many of our members, large and small, are struggling in their practices and there are law students and law graduates who are owed our support and assistance. This task force will allow us to strategically address these needs and act proactively.”
McKenna will call on the task force and the Large Firm Management Committee to update a 2013 study commissioned by the Large Firm Management Committee to study the economic impact of the legal industry in the city of Philadelphia. The earlier version of the study estimated that there was an annual impact of about $5 billion, supporting 31,000 jobs and $3 billion in earnings.
In addition to welcoming McKenna, the meeting also honored the winners of the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg “Pursuit of Justice” Writing Competition, the Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Award and the Citizens Bank Achievement Award.
The Ginsburg competition honored two winners, both of whom will receive a $2,500 prize: Sara Fishel, who will graduate in 2021 from Drexel University’s Kline School of Law, and Alexander Rojavin, a 2020 graduate of Temple University’s Beasley School of Law.
The O’Connor Award, which honors outstanding women in the legal profession, recognized Judge Kathryn Streeter Lewis, who served on the bench for almost 20 years and has dedicated her life to public service. The Citizens Bank Award honored Robert S. Tintner, Esq., a partner at Fox Rothschild who has been an active volunteer for both Philadelphia nonprofits and the Bar Association.
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The Philadelphia Bar Association, founded in 1802, is the preeminent metropolitan association of lawyers in the United States. It is a keystone in the ongoing developments of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania legal systems. With more than 200 years of dedicated service to stand on, the Philadelphia Bar Association is firmly rooted in the Philadelphia community as a steady and reliable bellwether. To learn more about the association, visit here.