One of my highest callings is the volunteer work I do for an organization called Philadelphia VIP. This year Philadelphia VIP (Volunteers for the Indigent Program) is celebrating its 35th year.
This organization started when, in 1980, President Ronald Reagan gutted the budget allocated to Community Legal Services, which up to that time, had been a powerful law firm employing almost 100 lawyers representing and defending the rights of persons unable to pay for their own lawyer. As a result, a few Philadelphia lawyers started a Pro Bono program intending to fill the void left by the gutted Community Legal Services. Today, 35 years later, thousands of Philadelphia lawyers offer their time, skill and compassion to thousands and thousands of Philadelphia residents who cannot otherwise afford a lawyer through Philadelphia VIP.
Philadelphia VIP volunteer lawyers help people keep their houses and other assets subject to forfeiture in criminal proceedings or at risk in civil litigation, helps maintain and preserve relationships with their children in custody or family court matters, fights to protect battered spouses, offers priceless guidance to small businesses and acts as the conduit to connect indigent Philadelphia residents involved in a myriad of complicated legal issues with skillful, thoughtful and selfless attorneys who handle these matters as vigorously, and with as much devotion to detail, as any paying client.
Hubert H. Humphrey said in his very last speech, “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” And Mahatma Gandhi said “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”
For 35 years, Philadelphia VIP, and all of the lawyers who volunteer have done their very best to make Philadelphia a great city. And I am proud to play a very small role in that very huge effort.
Tony Baratta is a trial attorney in Huntingdon Valley, PA who represents clients who have been seriously injured including due to medical mistakes. Tony is the founding partner of Baratta, Russell, & Baratta and on the board for the Philadelphia VIP. Tony is a Nationally Certified Civil Trial Advocate, AV Rated Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbel and a member of the Pennsylvania Brain Injury Association (BPIA). He is also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for trial attorneys and voted one of Philadelphia’s Super Lawyers 2008-2015.