Kenneth Shear has served as Executive Director of the 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association since December 1976. His tenure constitutes nearly 18 percent of the life of the 211-year-old Association. With nearly four decades of dedicated service and inspiring leadership, Ken has left an indelibly positive mark on the oldest association of lawyers in the United States. The Philadelphia Bar Association has grown, thrived and won regional, statewide and national recognition under his direction. As chief operating officer, his work includes primary budgetary and personnel administration of the organization, primary responsibility for the implementation of policy decided by the Association’s Board of Governors, and oversight of all projects and programs.
In 1977-78, as Executive Director of the Philadelphia Bar Association, Ken was instrumental in the founding of the Senior Citizen Judicare Project, now known as SeniorLAW Center. In 1977, Ken worked with attorney and Bar leader Richard Weiner, Bar Association colleague Paul Carlin and two graduate students to pursue federal seed funding to launch a special legal services project for seniors in a small community in Philadelphia, in recognition of the special legal needs and challenges seniors faced. The proposal was successful and “Judicare” — now SeniorLAW Center — was born. With a staff of two, Rich Weiner as Board Chair, and office space graciously provided by the Bar Association, thanks to Ken, Judicare began to provide legal assistance, education and outreach to Philadelphia seniors in 1978. When the Bar moved, Judicare moved along with it, and Ken continued to support its success and its growth, and provide office space and supportive services until 2002, when Judicare outgrew its space, moved to its own expanded offices in the Land Title Building, changed its name to SeniorLAW Center, and continued to blossom. 35 years after its founding, SeniorLAW Center serves more than 8,000 seniors each year throughout Pennsylvania with a multitude of programs of legal representation, education and systemic advocacy, a talented diverse staff of attorneys and advocates, a dynamic board of directors, and over 100 volunteers.
Ken has served as a member of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency at the appointment of Governor Edward G. Rendell, and has lectured extensively as a longstanding member of the National Association of Bar Executives for which he has served as a local Representative to the Executive Committee.
Prior to the Philadelphia Bar Association, Ken served as Assistant Director of the Citizens Crime Commission (formerly Philadelphia Crime Commission), a private, nonprofit civic organization designed to help strengthen the criminal justice system in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. He also served as Administrative Analyst in the Office of the Managing Director of the City of Philadelphia. He has taught political science at both Temple University and Penn State University. He is a graduate of Temple University (B.A., 1967; M.A., 1969).
Ken serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Philadelphia Bar Association, as well as a member of the boards of the Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program (VIP) and Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, among other organizations. He has been honored for his service to numerous law-related public interest organizations and is a two-time recipient of VIP’s Founders Award and a recipient of Community Legal Services, Inc.’s Equal Justice Award. He is also a recipient of the Conference of County Bar Leaders’ Arthur J. Birdsall Award.
We are honored to formally express gratitude to our great partner and founder Ken Shear, with his induction as a member of the inaugural class of the SeniorLAW Center Hall of Fame — for his passion, enthusiasm and dedication to access to justice and service to elders.
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