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Celebrate the Law, and Lawyers, During Law Week

May 3, 2011

Yesterday was the kick-off of Law Week 2011 here in Philadelphia. The Young Lawyers Division puts on a slew of community and student outreach programs celebrating the occasion with help from dozens of lawyer volunteers from the Philadelphia Bar Association. Free legal advice is offered at area libraries, tours of the city’s courtrooms are given to high schoolers, classrooms are visited. Attorneys even dress up in costume and join Court of Common Pleas judges to present mock trials based on popular fairytales to grade school students. These are all feel good events that stress the importance of the law in all our lives. But often lost in the conversation is the equal importance of the lawyers that help uphold this law.

Did you know that about 3,000 Philadelphia lawyers volunteer their time year-round to ensure access to justice for those struggling with poverty, abuse and discrimination? Or that Philadelphia has more than 30 public interest organizations helping everyone from children to senior citizens to the disabled? Or the 3,000 homes volunteer lawyers have helped save from foreclosure? This is the kind of work attorneys have been doing for free for more than 30 years. Sixty years when talking about the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service. LRIS (215-238-6333; click here) has provided referrals and direction to more than one million people in the Philadelphia area since its inception in 1948.

For whatever reason, these facts often get buried under lawyer jokes and negative portrayals present in the media and elsewhere. Which all leads to an unflattering and inaccurate caricature of the common practitioner. Do some in the field deserve this label? Surely. But one can pluck an unsavory representative from any profession. For all the public service they perform, for all the livelihoods they help sustain, restore or soothe, for the just and orderly society they help maintain, lawyers deserve better treatment.

So during Law Week, while lawyers ramp up their service to the community to an even greater degree than usual, let’s encourage everyone to not only celebrate the law but to put aside the punchlines and recognize all the work attorneys perform to help ensure our coveted way of life.

For more details on Law Week, May 2-6, click here.

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