Established in 1950, the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, Inc.’s purpose, then and now, has been to address the professional needs and development of Black lawyers in the City of Philadelphia through programs such as seminars, cultural events and publications.
Since the early years of its establishment, the Barristers’ Association has also recognized the need, and its obligation, to be a pro-active advocate for the cause against injustice. In 1973, Barristers members served on the Liacouras Commission which investigated ways to eliminate racial discrimination in bar admission procedures. In 1978, the Barristers joined other concerned groups in filing an action against the Philadelphia Registration Commission which resulted in the addition of 50,000 Philadelphians to the voter registration pools. In 1983, the Association provided testimony before the Pennsylvania State Legislature on the issue of the merit selection of judges.
In more recent years, the Association has sponsored or participated in activities which promoted youth awareness and career opportunities in the legal profession, and increased citizens’ awareness of their rights under the law. Scholarships to minority law students at local law schools have continued to be awarded to further encourage and support Black students in their pursuit of a degree in law. Continuing legal education seminars and political education forums have been offered to Association members to facilitate professional development and political awareness.
Today, the Association continues to provide a very important and unique role for its members by providing a forum for discussion and dissemination of information of matters of particular interest to Black attorneys and the Philadelphia Black community at large. This role is one which manifests the continuing need for a forum to express ethnic perspectives.
The Association membership now encompasses a network of approximately 1,000 lawyers and jurists who serve society at the highest positions in both the private and public sectors of the legal profession. As an affiliate of the National Bar Association, Barristers’ Association is an active participant in a community of practicing Black lawyers, judges and law students in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The Association’s structure consists of an Executive Committee and an Advisory Board. The Executive Committee is responsible for the operation of the organization and is composed of elected officers and appointed members. The Advisory Board, which is made up of distinguished members of the legal profession, jurists and the community, provides advice and counsel to the Executive Committee. The programmatic work of the organization is conducted through fifteen substantive law Sections and twenty-four Special Committees, with the Executive Committee serving in an oversight capacity.