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VIP in Action Published June 9, 2020

Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis…

Published on June 9, 2020 | Article written by Samantha Melamed, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Family Court: Parents and victims seeking legal help find locked doors and few answers.

The morning of the hearing on her request for a permanent protection-from-abuse order, Erica Bryant, 31, tried the door of Philadelphia Family Court and found it locked.

She stood there, squinting at the various signs and court orders taped to the glass door, until a deputy sheriff ambled over and informed Bryant, in a muffled shout, that the courthouse was closed.”

Published on June 3, 2020

While much of Philadelphia has shut down due to the pandemic, the need for parents to resolve issues with their custody arrangements has not. Typically, parents could turn to the Family Court Help Center for guidance. However, with the Help Center closed for the foreseeable future, a need has emerged – and VIP’s volunteer attorneys have stepped forward to address it.

In close collaboration with Philadelphia Legal Assistance (PLA) and the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Family Law Section, VIP has launched a new initiative to match clients with volunteer attorneys for consultations in their custody matters. This effort expands upon VIP’s typical custody work, which prioritizes clients who have an upcoming hearing date. Under this new program, PLA refers clients with custody questions to VIP, and VIP matches those clients with attorneys recruited from the Family Law Section and VIP’s existing pool of volunteers. The Family Law Section has been particularly eager to mobilize during the crisis, so we are grateful for their members’ energy and expertise and are dedicated to leveraging it through this initiative.

We are excited for this opportunity to expand the service that VIP volunteers provide to clients and look forward to the ongoing collaboration with our partners at PLA and the Family Law Section.

Published on May 22, 2020

Available through our Resource Library, VIP is providing attorneys and other viewers with a video series addressing common Landlord-Tenant challenges. These videos will consider issues such as Statutory Compliance, the Implied Warranty of Habitability, and Lead. Finally, we will break down the latest guidance from Municipal Court including a timeline for the court reopening, rescheduled hearings, and filings.

Published on May 22, 2020

On June 1, 2020, Philadelphia Family Court will resume certain important services. In an effort to prepare volunteers, our team is offering a Practice Spotlight on May 26, from 1:30 – 2:30 pm.

Join VIP Staff Attorney, Todd Nothstein, and longtime VIP volunteer and mentor Lee Schwartz, Esq., for a brief presentation and conversation regarding the court’s recent order. Key topics will likely include filing, deadlines and timelines, and emergency filings.

This event will take place over Zoom, a free video-conferencing platform. Please RSVP here for the Zoom meeting information.

Published on May 14, 2020

VIP recently partnered with Duane Morris LLP and Blank Rome LLP to begin offering estate planning services to front-line healthcare workers. This effort is geared toward essential workers who report to work in a healthcare setting, who work or live in Philadelphia, and whose household income is at or below 300% of poverty. Clients will receive wills, powers of attorney, and advance healthcare directives (living wills) that reflect their wishes for their and their families’ futures.

We are pleased to announce that we have matched several clients with volunteers thus far, and our staff is working hard to continue expanding client outreach through City Council contacts, sister agencies with medical-legal partnerships, and various membership associations for healthcare workers.

Please help us spread the word to healthcare workers; they can register here.

Published on May 11, 2020

In the last two months, home has become a sanctuary in a way it never has before – a place to keep our families healthy and safe on a most fundamental level. For Philadelphians living in a home owned by a loved one who has passed away, home is also an uncertainty that threatens their family’s future.

Twenty-five VIP clients are currently waiting for a volunteer attorney to step forward and help them keep their family home, by probating the estate of their loved one and getting title in their name. Make a difference in a family’s life by saying “yes!”, and the VIP team will be with you every step of the way.

Be a part of rebuilding Philadelphia, one home and family at a time; take a homeownership case today.


Published on April 13, 2020

Although the city’s courts and administrative offices are closed, legal challenges still threaten the critical needs of Philadelphia’s low-income residents, families, small businesses, and nonprofits. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit our community, VIP had to turn away nearly 4 in 10 clients for lack of a volunteer.

Now, more than ever, our clients need the expertise of VIP’s volunteer attorneys. There are concrete ways you can partner in our efforts right now; say “yes!” to helping a client remotely.

Published on April 2, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has had a major economic impact on small businesses and nonprofits in Philadelphia. VIP is launching a new opportunity for volunteers to provide counsel and advice to organizations in need. Volunteers will identify the legal topic(s) on which they can provide legal advice, then VIP will match them with clients for 1-hour phone consultations. All volunteers and clients will be matched on a rolling basis.

To volunteer, please contact Evy Cruz at or (484) 424-6282.

Published on March 16, 2020

As our city comes together in these trying times, we hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and well. Our priority, as ever, is the health and safety of our community – including staff, clients, and volunteers. We have therefore adapted our program and provided an update below regarding VIP’s activities amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Ongoing operations: Consistent with guidance from local and state government, our offices have closed and our team is working remotely. We are just an email or phone call away, and available during normal business hours. Contact information for team members is available on our website, and you can reach us by phone by dialing the main office number (215-523-9550).
  • Trainings and events: We are adapting our scheduled trainings and events to be conducted by phone or video-conference, when feasible. Please check the events page on our website for the most up-to-date information.
  • Court operations: Due to the pandemic, most of the Philadelphia court system will be closed indefinitely. We ask that volunteer attorneys visit Phila.Courts.Us for more information about reopening, and to keep in contact with clients regarding court hearings that have been scheduled in the meantime.
  • Need for support: We are anticipating a major uptick in need for legal assistance in the wake of the pandemic. If you are an attorney who has capacity to volunteer, please contact us or take a case. We have cases in need of representation now, and we are eager to stay connected about your pro bono availability over the coming weeks and months.

We’re in this together and now, more than ever, we are grateful for VIP’s community of volunteers, supporters, and clients.