To the Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
The 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association, chartered in 1802, is the oldest association of lawyers in the United States. A little over 20 years ago, we made history when we broke through a barrier to welcome the first woman chancellor of the Association. Today, I am the sixth woman to hold this position in 211 years.
This year history is being made again because I am serving as chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association while my husband, Thomas G. Wilkinson, is the president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association - the first time that a husband and wife have led the Commonwealth’s two largest bar associations at the same time, and perhaps a first in the nation as well.
This year, I have undertaken several new initiatives to help our young, diverse and women attorneys learn the tools and skills they need to succeed in their careers.
Our Chancellor’s Leadership Institute provides ongoing substantive programming aimed at developing leadership skills and opportunities for women, attorneys of diverse backgrounds and young lawyers. Through the power of partnerships, we host these programs with Philadelphia law firms and other groups, harnessing the wisdom and experience of some of our city’s top legal minds and leaders of the profession.
Our Women’s Initiatives in Law Firms (WIL) Task Force is a network that fosters a dialogue among leaders from women’s initiatives in Philadelphia law firms. It supports the creation, growth and continued relevancy of such initiatives. Foremost on the WIL agenda is improvement in key areas such as equity partnership, compensation, rainmaking and top leadership positions. Twenty-two law firms have already signed up as WIL members. Meanwhile, I have reactivated our Large Firm Management Committee, which is studying the economic benefits large firms bring to the business community, and will be meeting with top governmental and community leaders.
At the same time, our Association remains committed to serving the public interest through pro bono service and our mission of promoting justice, professional excellence and respect for the rule of law. We have partnered with the U.S. Coast Guard in Philadelphia by offering a new program on the preparation of wills and other services, free of charge to active duty and reservist members. The program is an extension of our ongoing Military Assistance Program (MAP) honoring the military’s commitment to our nation by providing pro bono assistance to active duty personnel and their families, as well as to post-9/11 veterans. Additionally, we have received a grant from the American Bar Association as part of the ABA’s Access to Justice Commission Expansion Project. We requested the grant through our Civil Gideon and Access to Justice Task Force to support efforts to create a broad-based statewide coalition to collaborate on improving access to justice in civil matters where basic human needs are at stake. A series of statewide public hearings will be held to generate greater public awareness and understanding of the civil justice gap crisis. Pennsylvania Supreme Court chief justice Ronald D. Castille has been very supportive of this vital work.
We continue to work vigorously on these initiatives while maintaining our legacy public service programs including the work of our non-partisan Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention. The Commission is currently completing over 35 evaluations of candidates for 9 open seats on Philadelphia Common Pleas Court and Philadelphia Municipal Court in the May 21 Primary election. We issue Recommended or Not Recommended ratings based on strict criteria including legal ability, experience, integrity, temperament, community involvement and judgment. This is an enormous undertaking involving hundreds of interviews by the Commission’s Investigative Division and careful review, consideration and deliberation by the Commission.
As we continue our third century of dedicated service to the profession and the public, we invite you to join us as your partner for justice. Please visit the Philadelphia Bar Association’s website at philadelphiabar.org, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @PhilaBar and @2013Chancellor. I thank you for this opportunity.
Kathleen D. Wilkinson