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Local attorneys eager to have a title bestowed upon them by the Philadelphia Bar Foundation no longer have to cut a check for thousands of dollars.

As part of its 2004 Access to Justice campaign, set to run during the first two weeks of May, the Philadelphia Bar Association’s charitable arm will offer annual individual memberships in the bar foundation in exchange for $100 donations.

Last year, when the bar foundation conducted spring and fall Access to Justice campaigns, roughly $32,000 was raised, according to foundation executive director Maureen Mingey, but memberships were not offered. This year, Mingey said, the foundation’s trustees hope to bring in $40,000 over the course of a single campaign.

All money raised will go to the foundation’s general operating funds, Mingey said. While the foundation’s endowment is primarily used to gather interest and provide the bar with a financial cushion, the general operating funds are used to directly support local public interest groups.

The foundation’s traditional grantees include Friends of Farmworkers, the Homeless Advocacy Project, the Women’s Law Project, the Support Center for Child Advocates and the Legal Clinic for the Disabled.

Mingey said that payments of the contributions can be made by check or credit card and that there will be prizes (which are as yet undecided) for the firm with the highest per capita participation rate.

This year’s Access for Justice campaign committee is being chaired by Duane Morris partner Jane Leslie Dalton, who chaired the bar association’s Board of Governors in 2003. (Dalton was abroad and could not be reached for comment.) The committee has recruited a network of lawyers at more than 30 Philadelphia firms that will help drum up support for the initiative amongst colleagues.

Campaign committee member and foundation trustee Amy Ginensky, co-chairwoman of Dechert’s litigation department, will be her firm’s liaison for the campaign. Ginensky said that simply making co-workers aware of the membership drive is an important step.

“The hardest thing is to get people’s attention,” Ginensky said, noting the flood of e-mails and requests that most attorneys receive on a daily basis.

To make this memo stick out, Ginensky said, she would circulate an e-mail about the campaign with the signatures of firm management and well-respected partners and associates attached.

Ginensky said that Dechert chairman Barton Winokur came up with the idea to create a “leadership list” last year. The signatures of members of the firm’s executive committee are also considered key.

Following another tactic that was successful last year, Ginensky said, Dechert will hold a raffle of firm tickets to events such as Sixers and Phillies games for campaign participants.

Over the course of last year, according to Mingey, Dechert alone raised $5,600, with 56 lawyers participating in the initiative.

Bar foundation president Ed Chacker said that the financial support of local law firms is instrumental to the bar; in comparison to other major cities, he noted, Philadelphia’s firms control a sizable portion of its corporate wealth.

“This is a way to give every lawyer in the city an opportunity to participate in the foundation, because it’s their foundation,” Chacker said. “For the price of $100, they can show that they have made the commitment to providing equal access to justice for all citizens.”

Chacker said that in the past, the foundation has typically recognized gifts of no less than $25,000. The names of this year’s annual members will be published in the Philadelphia Bar Reporter and other local media, he said.

The deadline for membership contributions is May 14, according to Mingey.

Ginensky urged attorneys to “get involved in trying to fund the organizations that do such a terrific job handling cases for people who can’t otherwise afford to pay.”

Those looking for information about contributing can contact Mingey at 215-238-6334, or at [email protected].

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