When Sierra Applegate first encountered Philadelphia VIP, she thought, “Whatever I do, I need to be a part of this organization.” She has held herself to that promise in the years since. First as a legal intern, and now as a dedicated volunteer attorney, she has shown a commitment to expanding access to justice in Philadelphia that few others can match.
After attending a VIP event as a law student, Sierra jumped at the opportunity to give back to the city she calls home. She joined the VIP team as a legal intern in 2017, and while working there, she developed a strong interest in remedying tangled title issues through estate planning and the probate process. This interest followed her beyond law school: she clerked for the Honorable Sheila Woods-Skipper in Orphans’ Court, and now works in the Trusts and Estates Group at Kleinbard, LLC.
Sierra’s pro bono work has always reflected her belief that “housing is as fundamental as education.” During her clerkship, she focused on VIP eviction defense matters, but her desire to help her Philadelphia neighbors secure title to their homes was never far from her mind. As her clerkship drew to a close in the beginning of 2020, she called VIP’s office and asked for a probate case.
Sierra enjoys her probate work through VIP not only because it develops her lawyering skills, but also because it allows her to make a difference in the lives of Philadelphians and their families.
As an intern, I worked with families who had lived in their homes for generations, and who were suddenly on the brink of losing them due to title issues.
Now, as a barred attorney, Sierra feels fortunate to have the skillset to continue helping such clients on the path to free-and-clear homeownership.
Convinced of the importance of this work, Sierra also asked VIP for an estate planning case, which she has worked on alongside her probate case during the pandemic. “Estate planning is such an important tool,” she says. “I’m glad I can help people use that tool to protect their legacies.”
Handling two VIP cases during a global crisis may seem like a tall order, but Sierra feels confident in the support she gets from VIP. “I’ve never had a question go unanswered,” she explains.
The team’s spirit empowers me, as well. VIP is able to provide all the resources and support they do because they’re committed to this work. That inspires me to commit.
Ultimately, Sierra owes her outstanding pro bono career to her own tenacity. She handles setbacks with ease and grace, and always returns to VIP for another case. She finds that the work enriches her private practice, and she recommends it to her fellow attorneys, especially those newer to the field: “Whether you’re a judicial clerk, or getting started at a firm, or trying to establish your own practice, get involved with VIP,” she says. “You’ll not only nurture your legal skills – you’ll also help the city you work in.”