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What We Do

Legal Priority Areas

Consistent with our mission of leveraging the powerful resources of the community to provide free, high-quality legal services, our programs are designed to meet significant legal needs that otherwise would go unaddressed.

We provide pro bono legal services to individuals, small businesses, and nonprofits with civil legal issues in four service areas, each encompassing multiple areas of substantive law.

Preventing Homelessness

Eviction Defense
Mortgage Foreclosure Defense
Probate
Deed Transfer
Quiet Title

Preserving Income

Estate Planning
Debt Collection Defense
Name Change
Income Tax Issues
Tort and Auto Accident Defense*

Supporting Family Stability

 

Divorce*
Custody
Spousal and Child Support
Guardianship*
Adoption

Promoting Community Economic Development*

Transactional legal assistance for small businesses and non-profits on a wide range of topics. Examples include incorporation, governance, contracts, and employment agreements

*Areas in which VIP is the only provider of free legal assistance in Philadelphia

VIP’s Model of Service

Philadelphia VIP was founded in 1981 as the pro bono arm of the Philadelphia Bar Association to address the urgent, unmet need for civil legal services. Decades later, our essential activity remains the same. We recruit, train, and support the volunteer attorneys who represent VIP’s clients — low-income individuals, families, businesses, and nonprofits — without charge.

Our model has four main steps — referral, intake/work-up, matching, and legal representation — and includes ongoing support for clients and volunteers.

Step 1: A partner organization refers the case to VIP

Most of VIP’s individual clients come to us by referral from Community Legal Services or Philadelphia Legal Assistance. We also receive direct referrals from specialized legal services agencies. Small business and nonprofit clients may apply directly to VIP for assistance

Step 2: The Legal Team prepares the case for a volunteer

After the client’s case is referred to VIP, our Legal Team analyzes the case. After all the boxes (income eligibility, case type, no conflict of interest) are checked, VIP opens the case. The client’s first point of contact at VIP usually is a Pro Bono Case Manager who works with the client to gather more facts and documents about the case. This is called the “case work-up” process.

Step 3: The client is matched with a volunteer attorney

Once the case work-up is finished, VIP will work to match the case with a volunteer attorney, a “pitching” process that draws on the Legal Team’s knowledge of volunteers’ interest areas, capacity, and prior service.

Step 4: The volunteer provides the client with free legal representation

Once matched with a volunteer attorney, a client will usually meet with her/his attorney to review the case. After that initial meeting, the specific legal assistance provided by a VIP volunteer attorney varies on a case-by-case basis. Clients receive the full scope of services (e.g., court filings, representation during court hearings, negotiating with opposing counsel) needed for the case.

Ongoing Support: As the case continues, a Legal Team member will serve as a liaison between the client and the volunteer attorney to facilitate communication and troubleshoot any challenges, as needed. VIP’s Staff Attorneys provide support to volunteer attorneys, including through one-on-one advice and topical Practice Groups.