Kenneth Shear Civil Gideon Legal Justice Essay Competition and Scholarship Fund

December 19, 2013
In honor of the retirement of long time Philadelphia Bar Association Executive
Director Kenneth Shear, who served the legal community for over 37 years, Philadelphia
Bar Association Chancellor Kathleen D. Wilkinson and Philadelphia Bar Foundation
President Deborah Gross announce that the Philadelphia Bar Association in partnership
with the Philadelphia Bar Foundation, have established the "Kenneth Shear Civil Gideon
Legal Justice Essay Competition and Scholarship Fund” to honor Kenneth
Shear's contributions to the Philadelphia legal community.
To raise an Endowment to support the Essay Competition and Scholarship Fund,
Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Kathleen D. Wilkinson and Philadelphia Bar
Foundation President Deborah Gross are donating seed money to begin the funding of the
Essay Competition and the Scholarship Fund in order to award at least one scholarship in
Because of Kenneth Shear 's service to the Philadelphia Bar Association as
Executive Director for 37 years, holding the distinction of being the longest serving
Executive Director in the 211 year history of this organization, his service to the
Philadelphia Bar Foundation as its First Executive Director and his years of service as a
trustee to the Foundation, his tireless work with bar leadership to build the Philadelphia
Bar Association into the most highly respected metropolitan bar association in the United
States, it is appropriate to recognize him with a scholarship in his name which is
consistent with his missions over the years.
Kenneth Shear has transformed the Philadelphia Bar Association into a model for
other local and state bar associations to emulate. Kenneth Shear is well known for his
wise counsel, sound judgment and exceptional dedication to the Chancellors, leaders,
members and staff of the Philadelphia Bar Association and the Philadelphia Bar
Foundation. Ken Shear’s commitment to access to justice for all Philadelphians is
reflected in the number and range of legal services organizations, such as SeniorLAW
Center, Support Center for Child Advocates, Homeless Advocacy Project, Philadelphia
VIP, and the Philadelphia Bar Foundation that have been founded with the leadership and
guidance of the Philadelphia Bar Association during his tenure as Executive Director of
the Association.
Kenneth Shear has been instrumental in the Philadelphia Bar Association
receiving numerous awards for excellence from city, state and national organizations. In
the past 37 years, the Association has won three ABA/NLADA Harrison Tweed Awards,
given annually to bar associations that develop or significantly expand projects or
programs to increase access to civil and criminal legal services for poor persons, an
unprecedented achievement during the tenure of any bar association Executive Director.
Kenneth Shear’s pursuit of justice for all Philadelphians has been recognized by
his receipt of many awards, including the Community Legal Services Equal Justice
Award, recognition from SeniorLAW Center, and the Philadelphia VIP Founders
Award. Throughout his career as Executive Director, Kenneth Shear has lived the
mission of the Philadelphia Bar Association, to serve the profession and the public by
promoting justice, professional excellence and respect for the rule of law. Through his
leadership, the Philadelphia Bar Association continues to foster understanding of,
involvement in and access to the justice system.
Kenneth Shear's retirement on December 31, 2013, and his final year as Executive
Director also marked the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, establishing the right
to counsel for the indigent in serious criminal matters. Few such rights have been
recognized in civil matters where basic human needs such as shelter, safety, health,
sustenance, and child custody are at stake. With the assistance of a grant which the
Philadelphia Bar Association applied for and obtained from the American Bar
Association in February 2013, a statewide “Civil Legal Justice Coalition” ("Coalition") of
stakeholders was created, three hearings were held by the Senate Judiciary Committee,
conducted by Committee Chair Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, and over 80 witnesses provided
testimony on the great need for civil legal representation of the indigent in Pennsylvania.
The Philadelphia Bar Association’s Civil Gideon Task Force and the statewide
Civil Legal Justice Coalition and/or future statewide Civil Legal Justice Commission
offer a unique opportunity for law students to participate in Civil Gideon and bring
awareness to these issues by writing a short essay and showing their willingness to work
pro bono on such issues, or issues involving public education in the City of Philadelphia
school system.
Please join us by making a contribution of any amount to the Fund and help us to
provide deserving law students the opportunity to gain experience.
All contributions to the Fund should be in the name of the Philadelphia Bar
Foundation with an indication in the memo field that the donation is for the purposes of
the "Kenneth Shear Civil Gideon Legal Justice Essay Competition and Scholarship
Please mail your check to:
Jessica Hilburn-Holmes
Philadelphia Bar Foundation
1101 Market Street, 11th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Kathleen D. Wilkinson                                               Deborah R. Gross, Esq.
2013 Chancellor-Philadelphia Bar Association         2013-2014 President-Philadelphia Bar Foundation