Philadelphia Bar Reporter – July 2013
For 35 years, SeniorLAW Center has proudly served seniors in our community. The need for the organization’s services is at an all-time high and only increasing. Twenty percent of Pennsylvanians are now age 60 or older and this population needs attorneys who can respond to its legal needs to provide assistance with issues relating to housing, elder abuse, financial exploitation, consumer problems, grandparent custody, and personal and end-of-life planning needs.
The commemoration of SeniorLAW Center’s 35th Anniversary has been an opportunity for us to reflect on our family’s long and continuing relationship with this invaluable organization. Three generations of our family have volunteered pro bono for SeniorLAW Center and our family has served the organization’s clients since the Center’s founding in 1978. We have passed the importance of service from generation to generation.
The late patriarch of our family, Joffrey B. Conn, volunteered with the organization for more than 20 years. He did it out of an old-fashioned sense of duty, professional responsibility and personal obligation to share with those in need. He is an example of the many sole and small practitioners who do pro bono work as part of their normal routine without much fanfare.
But we are sure that we speak for each and every attorney who has taken assignments from SeniorLAW Center, in large or small firms, in-house counsel or government counsel, when we say that we do it gladly and as part of our responsibility to the public and the profession.
The cases referred by SeniorLAW Center are not always complex, but they are important and can make a big difference to the people who seek our help. For instance, in a business or landlord and tenant dispute, a lawyer can provide a voice to someone who has been ignored, or avoided, because he or she is not perceived as being important or powerful. Or we may prepare a will, even when the client has no substantial assets, to provide the client with the comfort of knowing that he or she has recognized important people by bequeathing personal belongings to them. And, then there are the sad times, when assistance is vitally necessary to prevent neglect or abuse.
The clients are not always right, their legal positions are not always winners, and sometimes they can be just the least bit stubborn, but by having a lawyer on their side they can have their day in court, know that their dignity has been recognized, and in turn feel better about the legal system as a whole. Although these statements could apply to anyone who seeks legal assistance – young or old, rich or poor, without organizations like SeniorLAW Center, access to the courts and to justice would not be available to many who need it.
And the lawyers who volunteer do get personal rewards. There is the genuine gift of feeling good about yourself and the heartfelt gratitude we get again and again from our clients. There is also the more tangible benefit of valuable experience working on matters that may not otherwise come up in the office, or in the courtroom, and in interacting with the wide variety of people whose only common thread is that they have lived long enough to qualify for services. Finally, we have also been enriched by knowing, and working with, the talented and dedicated staff at SeniorLAW Center.
We encourage all lawyers to take advantage of the opportunities SeniorLAW Center provides to do meaningful pro bono work, and to support it financially, so that it will continue to be a valuable resource for many years to come. Personally, we hope to continue to have these opportunities for many years, and maybe even another generation.
Richard J. Conn and Jason Belmont Conn are father and son. Richard Conn is a sole practitioner and a member of the Board of Directors of SeniorLAW Center and has served as a volunteer attorney for its clients for the past 35 years. Jason Belmont Conn is Assistant Deputy General Counsel at Comcast Corporation and began serving as the third generation of SeniorLAW Center volunteers from his family in 2007 when he began his legal career at a Philadelphia law firm. For more information on SeniorLAW Center, please visit www.Seniorlawcenter.org.