Eckert Seamans serves the communities where we have offices through a pro bono program that involves numerous attorneys throughout the firm. The pro bono program includes representation of indigent clients, referred through local legal service providers and bar association pro bono programs, in civil rights, consumer law/litigation defense, Protection From Abuse, landlord-tenant, unemployment compensation, public benefits, child advocacy and protection, divorce, custody, support, and bankruptcy matters. In addition, the firm serves a variety of civic and charitable, educational, religious and arts organizations, either through the provision of direct legal services, board or committee involvement, or other volunteer service.
Pro Bono Involvement
A partial list of pro bono activities firm attorneys are involved with includes:
- Eckert Seamans is a board member of the Pittsburgh Pro Bono Partnership, a group of law firms and corporate legal departments that collaborate to increase pro bono legal services in Southwestern Pennsylvania by developing signature pro bono projects which provide needed legal services to persons of limited means in the community. One of these signature projects, the Custody Conciliation project, provides free legal representation to parents in custody conciliations in Allegheny County;
- Representation of dependent children through the Legal Aid For Children Program and the Support Center for Child Advocacy;
- Representation of HIV and AIDS affected persons through local AIDS service organizations;
- Involvement in homelessness, housing and hunger issues through, for example, representation of Habitat for Humanity, the Community Partnership For The Homeless, Project Home in Philadelphia and participation in a variety of community redevelopment programs;
- Representation of immigrants and refugees through various programs, including those organized by the Allegheny County Bar Association, the Legal Committee for Soviet Refugees, AILA, and Catholic Charities;
- Representation of individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities through the Alliance For The Mentally Ill of Massachusetts, United Mental Health, Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and local bar association programs;
- Participation in the Adopt-A-Nonprofit program which pairs firm attorneys with corporate counsel to render legal services to a variety of nonprofit community organizations;
- Co-sponsorship of the Philadelphia Bar Association City Year Team;
- Representation of U.S. military veterans through the Veterans' Pro Bono Consortium; and
- Representation of artists and arts organizations, both independently and through local Volunteer Lawyers For The Arts programs, including PROARTS and the Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyer for the Arts, and serve as counsel to and as Board members of a wide array of arts organizations, both large and small, including: The Dance Alloy, Chatham Baroque, Pittsburgh Dance Council, Pittsburgh Opera, Gateway to Music and the Performing Arts, City Theatre Company, Pittsburgh Symphony, Pittsburgh Public Theater, the Original Trilby String Band, Mendelssohn Choir, and Civic Light Opera of Pittsburgh.
The firm's attorneys also render pro bono legal assistance to and through a variety of community service organizations, including:
- Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania
- Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Indigent
- Philadelphia Senior Citizens Judicare Project
- AIDS Law Project
- Homeless Advocacy Project
- Project Home
- Epilepsy Foundation of America
- Neighborhood Legal Services
- Washington County Council on Economic Development
- Better Business Bureau of Western Pennsylvania
- The Public Health Trust
- Youth Crime Watch of America National Crime Prevention Conference
In addition to serving on the boards of dozens of charitable and civic organizations, Eckert Seamans employees give back to the community through direct donations, volunteer work and providing pro bono counsel. Listed below are just a few examples of the types of efforts the firm made over the past year to better the communities we call home.
- Through the firmwide Charity Challenge initiative to assist local food banks in need, employees raised a total of $42,473 in cash donations and an additional 45,582 units of food valued at about $36,000. Food bank executives estimated that this will provide over 100,000 children’s meals in the communities where Eckert Seamans has offices.
- The firm's Boston office participates in the Everybody Wins! Metro Boston Power Lunch reading mentorship program. On a weekly basis, the Eckert Seamans participants travel to local elementary schools during lunch hour for one-to-one reading sessions with students, promoting the skills and love of reading through reading aloud, sharing favorite stories and talking about books. Continuing in the spirit of literacy initiatives, the office also conducted a book drive to benefit Reach Out and Read (ROR), a national organization helping to make early literacy a standard part of primary care. Part of the ROR mission is to ensure each child between the ages of six months and five years receives a developmentally appropriate book at every visit to the pediatrician.
- Betsy McCoy, an Associate in the firm’s Harrisburg office, is the founder and CEO of Communities Rising, a nonprofit organization tending to the educational needs of India's rural villages. In the communities where Betsy works, families live in thatched huts with no sanitation, no running water and limited electricity. Most adults have less than a sixth grade education and can read and write little more than their own names. Less than 20% of village children finish high school. Since incorporating in April, Communities Rising has already established an after-school program for students in grades one through 12, a remediation program for high school dropouts and a tutoring program for handicapped students. In addition, with used computers donated by Eckert Seamans, Communities Rising opened the first computer center in the area, and is now providing computer instruction for more than 135 students who had never seen a computer before!
- Eckert Seamans’ Pittsburgh office carried out its annual day of service project, which consists of leaf raking and various other outdoor clean-up and fix-up tasks at the Family Resources Retreat Center in Mars, Pennsylvania. Family Resources works to combat child abuse and provide support and treatment services to families in Western Pennsylvania. Each year, approximately 8,000 parents, children and teenagers attend activities at Family Resources’ Family Retreat Center, which offers special opportunities to work on family issues in a natural setting.
Special Recognition and Awards
Although our lawyers are certainly not in it for the awards, we welcome the recognition we receive for our pro bono work in the communities we serve. We have been recognized by a number of important outside organizations for our pro bono work, including state and local bar associations and legal service providers, including: the Allegheny County Bar Foundation, Pennsylvania Bar Association, Neighborhood Legal Services, Alliance For The Mentally Ill of Massachusetts, and Community Partnership For The Homeless.
The firm has also received special awards for pro bono service, including:
- Eckert Seamans received the 2006 Law Firm Pro Bono Award from the Allegheny County Bar Association (ACBA), in recognition of the firm’s administration of the Custody Conciliation Project. Also, in conjunction with this award, the ACBA honored the work of firm paralegal Rachel Klink, whose service to the Custody Conciliation Project earned her the 2006 Paralegal Service Award.
- Attorney Sarah L. Shannon received the 2007 Pro Bono Award from the Pennsylvania Bar Association for her work on the Custody Conciliation project.
- Led by Philadelphia office Member-in-Charge Albert G. Bixler, the Philadelphia office was awarded the William J. Brennan Award by the Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program in May 2000.
- The firm was awarded with the Law Firm Achievement Award by the Allegheny County Bar Association in 1999.