About the Excellence Awards
The Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network Excellence Awards honor members and friends of the legal aid community who exemplify excellence in their commitment and accomplishments as advocates for low-income people.
Nominations are made in the following categories:
Legal Services Staff
This category is for all staff positions. We are seeking nominations for employees who exhibit excellence and commitment in the performance of the duties of their jobs;
This category is for members of the private bar who display an outstanding commitment to legal aid and the legal needs of low-income Pennsylvanians;
This category is for client leaders, organizational partners, or others who have donated significant time and energy to the mission of legal aid and the needs of low-income people.
This category is for volunteers and friends who demonstrate exceptional dedication to legal aid. It may include legislators or government officials, clients, community leaders, or others who help promote the mission of legal aid.
Nominations are open to everyone. You do not have to be a member of the legal aid community to submit a nomination. You also do not have to be a member of a particular category to submit a nomination in that category. There is no limit to the number of nominations you may submit.
Nominations usually open in the last quarter of each calendar year for the awards to be made in the spring of the following year.
Specific information on nominations and a submission form will be posted here when nomination open for next year's awards.
About the 2017 Excellence Award Winners
Outstanding Leadership in Support of Legal Services Award
Fulton Financial Corporation and its affiliated banks Fulton Bank, Swineford Bank, Lafayette Bank and FNB Bank NA, have invested more than $2.4 million to Pennsylvania’s IOLTA program, helping to close the gap in access to justice for low-income individuals at a time when returns on IOLTA revenues have been at historically low interest rates.
Fulton Financial Corporation and its associated banks have participated in Pennsylvania IOLTA’s Platinum Leader Banking initiative since 2009. Platinum Leader Banks voluntarily commit to providing a premium interest rate on IOLTA accounts, which results in greater funding for legal aid. Fulton Financial Corporation will receive the Outstanding Leadership Award for its demonstrated commitment to the IOLTA program and the mission of funding civil legal services to the poor.
Pamela Lynn Dalton-Arlotti, Esq. has a vast and distinguished career as a legal aid lawyer, manager, and executive. She has served as Neighborhood Legal Services Association’s Director of Program Performance and Compliance since 2003 and is a key member of NLSA’s management team. In her current position, Ms. Dalton-Arlotti safeguards program integrity, satisfies all funders’ reporting requirements, guarantees that NLSA is in compliance with all regulatory mandates, and ensures that clients receive the highest quality of legal services possible. She has exceeded all expectations as to how regulatory compliance and quality legal work can be combined and supervised.
Ms. Dalton-Arlotti graduated from West Virginia University College of Law where she was a member of the Order of Barristers, was first in the legal clinic class, and received honors in Trial Competition. She began her legal aid career as a Reginald Heber Smith Fellow working at the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund. Ms. Dalton-Arlotti then worked as a legal aid staff attorney and Executive Director in West Virginia before relocating to Pennsylvania, first working as a legal aid staff attorney and managing attorney before being elevated to her current position. She performs her job with passion and excellence and is someone who inspires excellence in others.
Barbara Griffin, Esq. is the Director of the Allegheny County Bar Foundation Pro Bono Center where she creates, manages, and supports programs that provide legal services to low-income persons facing critical legal issues. Ms. Griffin supports 36 Pro Bono Center programs and member organizations in various pro bono initiatives that tackle inequality and poverty. She works closely with Neighborhood Legal Services Association and the Pittsburgh Pro Bono Partnership to expand access to legal services which benefitted over 6,600 people last year.
In addition to the amazing and tireless support she offers to the community and the legal profession, Ms. Griffin will not turn away a compelling case, often representing the client herself, when she sees an unrepresented person who has nowhere else to turn. She is also active in various efforts to expand access to justice and educate the private bar about the needs of the low-income client community. Ms. Griffin is currently co-chairing the Host Committee of the 2017 Equal Justice Conference which will be held in Pittsburgh this spring.
Although Ms. Griffin began her legal career in private practice at both large and small firms, she has spent most of her legal career in public interest law. Ms. Griffin received her law degree from the University Of Texas School Of Law where she was an Executive Editor of the Texas Law Review. She also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Gene Strassburger in the Civil Division of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
Jill Kelly McComsey, Esq. is an associate attorney at Seidel Cohen Hof & Reid, LLC in Bethlehem, PA. Ms. McComsey is an experienced personal injury litigation attorney with particular interest in wrongful death and motor vehicle accidents. She is very active in the Northampton County Bar Association, the Bar Association of Lehigh County and in the community. Ms. McComsey is also an alumna of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Bar Leadership Institute.
She is a very active volunteer fundraiser for North Penn Legal Services, where she created the Raise a Glass to Justice fundraising event in 2012. Raise a Glass to Justice has become an annual fundraising event benefitting North Penn Legal Services. Since its inception it has generated, as a result of Ms. McComsey’s direct involvement, over $56,000 for North Penn Legal Services.
Ms. McComsey solicits sponsors, attendees, and contestants for the event, which features a “Lawyer Idol” competition that features contestants vying for the Lawyer Idol Crown. Ms. McComsey is the lynchpin to the success of Raise a Glass to Justice which provides essential financial resources to provide critical legal aid to residents of the Lehigh Valley. As a result of Ms. McComsey’s efforts, NPLS is able to leverage event proceeds with an annual bar donation from Northampton County Bar Association to fund a full time attorney position, enabling assistance to 150 clients that would be otherwise turned away.
Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania Centralized Telephone Helpline Staff are the first point of contact for individuals seeking legal aid in Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s (LASP) four county service area. The Helpline is LASP’s centralized intake, advice, brief service and referral unit. The Helpline staff respond to more than 15,000 calls annually, providing essential brief services to clients as well as performing as a crucial intake and triaging system for the organization. The Helpline is staffed by five paralegals, two staff attorneys, a supervising attorney and one support staff member who work as a cohesive team to provide quality legal aid to callers.
Robin Babillis has been a paralegal in the Helpline unit for over 11 years. Ms. Babillis excels in finding online forms and other tools to assist clients.
Delores Wilson Bailey recently retired from LASP as a paralegal in the Helpline unit after a 30-plus year career in legal services. Ms. Bailey specialized in family law and continued to run the custody clinics for Delaware County after joining the Helpline unit.
Kristan Burgess, Esq., who is fluent in Spanish, came to LASP after having worked as a staff attorney in New Jersey and Pennsylvania legal services programs where she specialized in employment and consumer law as well as low-income tax issues. As a Helpline Attorney, Ms. Burgess supervises the Helpline paralegals and is currently in charge of the custody clinics in Chester and Delaware counties.
Eleonor Glasco hails from Panama and began her legal aid career over 40 years ago. Today, she is a paralegal in the Helpline unit. Ms. Glasco specializes in housing issues and is able to efficiently service Spanish speaking clients since she is bilingual. She also staffs an outreach office one afternoon each week in Chester County.
Carolyn Hettell came to LASP over 14 years ago from a prominent Social Security law firm where she worked as a paralegal. Ms. Hettell now works as a paralegal in LASP’s Helpline unit. She has a strong background as well as extensive knowledge of disability issues. Ms. Hettell conducts outreach sessions on a weekly basis in Montgomery County.
Nanci Hoover, Esq., leads the Helpline and is responsible for creating the espirit de corps amongst the Helpline staff. As the Supervising Attorney for the Helpline since 2001, Ms. Hoover works with the Helpline team to implement efficiencies and maintain the high level of quality services provided by staff members.
Randall Hove, Esq. works as a Helpline Attorney for LASP. He was originally a pro bono attorney helping legal aid clients experiencing consumer problems and helping the elderly. Mr. Hove has over 40 years of legal expertise, having performed defense and transactional work in the insurance field. As a staff attorney at LASP, he now specializes in responding to calls for assistance from senior citizens and regularly surveys clients regarding their satisfaction with their experience with the LASP Helpline. As a result of Mr. Hove’s efforts, LASP has learned that nearly 90% of seniors who call the Helpline take action based on the information obtained and that almost 70% of those who took action had a positive outcome.
Pamela Manning works as the sole support staff member for the Helpline unit handling the majority of the paperwork needed for local offices. Ms. Manning’s efforts allow the unit’s paralegals to spend more time providing direct services to clients. She is credited with keeping the Helpline operations running smoothly.
Venezla Moses was a judge in her native Venezuela. After immigrating to the United States, she came to work at LASP as a bilingual paralegal over 13 years ago. Ms. Moses has an extensive background in the law and is very knowledgeable. Because of her extensive experience with Spanish legal lexicon, she is able to translate complex legal analyses for clients. Ms. Moses also conducts general outreach weekly in Montgomery County.
Michael D. LiPuma, Esq. concentrates his private law practice in commercial litigation. He represents plaintiffs and defendants in state and federal courts in a variety of business disputes. Mr. LiPuma was an excellent chair of the Boards of Community Legal Services (CLS) and Philadelphia Legal Assistance (PLA) from 2013 until February 2017 when his term as Board Chair ended. He has served on CLS’ Board since 2008 and PLA’s Board since 2004.
In addition to chairing both Boards and Executive Committees, Mr. LiPuma pioneered and chaired the Boards’ Overlapping Board Committee, an innovation which ensures that CLS and PLA are working collaboratively together to benefit clients. He challenged the two organizations to become better than before and offered the necessary support and resources to make it happen. Throughout his board service, Mr. LiPuma has been a visionary and tireless champion of equal justice by working to improve access to legal services and ensuring a well-coordinated service delivery system to meet the legal needs of Philadelphia’s client community.
Linda D. Renick has a lifetime of dedicated service to others. She carries on a family trait instilled in her at a young age by her aunt, mother and grandmother. Ms. Renick began her legal services career in 1974 with Lehigh Valley Legal Services which became part of North Penn Legal Services when many Pennsylvania legal aid programs merged. Throughout her legal aid career, Ms. Renick has handled a wide variety of cases, including divorces, public benefits, Social Security disability, housing, education, and employment.
She tirelessly works to remedy the hardships facing the community she is charged with representing and has worked closely with the Pennsylvania Welfare Rights Organization and its affiliates to address client needs. Her current advocacy efforts focus on helping low-income workers remove legal obstacles impacting their ability to get and keep jobs, through North Penn Legal Services’ Overcoming Barriers to Employment program where she is instrumental in organizing outreach events, developing client and community engagement strategies and developing community partnerships.
Thomas B. Schmidt III, Esq. is a pro bono attorney extraordinaire, always answering the call to assist Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network programs when the need for expert legal representation arises. Mr. Schmidt is currently of counsel with Pepper Hamilton LLP and the attorney-in-charge of the firm’s Harrisburg office.
Mr. Schmidt’s litigation practice includes complex commercial disputes, administrative agency matters, professional liability claims, construction claims, product liability claims, and insurance coverage and “bad faith” claims. His appellate practice includes frequent appearances before the Pennsylvania Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth Courts. Mr. Schmidt serves regularly as a court-appointed mediator and has been honored for his service in that capacity by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Schmidt has been on the faculty of the American Bar Association Section on Dispute Resolution’s “Advanced Mediation and Advocacy Skills Institute.” Mr. Schmidt was appointed by Chief Judge Yvette Kane to serve on the Middle District’s “Civil Jury Trial Task Force” and co-authored its report. Early in his career, Mr. Schmidt was the attorney representing several organizations advocating on behalf of farmworker rights and was key to the passage of the Pennsylvania Seasonal Farmworker Act in 1978. Even earlier, he played an active role in the civil rights movement activities in Selma, Alabama. Mr. Schmidt continues to maintain a substantial pro bono practice. In addition to his volunteerism with PLAN programs, he continues to serve as Pepper Hamilton’s coordinating attorney on ACLU cases.
Patricia A. Shilling exemplifies the ideal legal aid advocate. Every day throughout her 45 year legal aid career, Ms. Shilling works to ensure fairness for all in the justice system, regardless of how much money her clients have. Over the course of her career, she has provided lifesaving services to thousands of low-income clients and their families.
Ms. Shilling began as a legal secretary with Schuylkill County Legal Services in 1972. After completing paralegal training at Penn State, she began working as a paralegal in 1975, preparing and handling divorce and custody complaints. Ms. Shilling soon became skilled in the preparation of bankruptcy petitions. With increased experience came yet more responsibility. She was at the forefront of legal services paralegals who helped handle legal aid’s large caseload by representing clients as an advocate before administrative boards and bodies.
Over the years, Ms. Shilling educated herself in the complexity of Social Security disability and successfully represented clients before administrative law judges. She has also proven to be a superb negotiator. Ms. Shilling successfully navigated various program mergers and demonstrated her commitment to client service by commuting to Reading, PA for five years to work as an intake paralegal. She returned to MidPenn’s Schuylkill office in 2002 where she chiefly handles public benefits, public housing and unemployment compensation hearings for legal aid clients.
Judith E. Wilson, Esq. began her employment with Northwestern Legal Services in 1979 where she rode the law van – a large recreational vehicle that doubled as a law office – traveling to remote rural areas to interview legal aid clients and complete intake. She later transferred to NWLS’ Meadville, office, quickly tackling over 200 open cases that she inherited. Today, Ms. Wilson is the Managing Attorney for the Erie, Bradford, and Warren offices of NWLS.
Ms. Wilson has many skills that benefit legal aid clients. She is a relentless advocate who uses every tool available to her to right injustices and achieve positive outcomes for her clients. Ms. Wilson possesses a keen memory of information about cases, parties, facts, and circumstances of NLWS cases which always proves useful in development of case handling strategies. She also excels in developing new staff attorneys and student interns by readily sharing her knowledge of the law. Ms. Wilson provides orientation and presents training in all substantive areas for new staff members and makes time to mentor new law workers, making them better advocates for legal aid clients.