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Alumnus-Founded Public Interest Organization Receives Pennsylvania Bar Foundation Award

'09 alumnus Mike Lee - courtesy of photographer Jeff Fusco Photo courtesy of Jeff Fusco

May 03, 2017

The Pennsylvania Bar Foundation will award the 2017 Louis J. Goffman Award to Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity in Pittsburgh on May 10.

PLSE is a non-profit legal aid organization co-founded by alumnus Mike Lee, ’09, who serves as its executive director and supervising attorney.

The organization pursues fair outcomes for low-income individuals who have interacted with the Pennsylvania criminal justice system. PLSE focuses on expungement of inaccurate or out-of-date criminal records that prevent individuals from obtaining housing, employment or educational opportunities. Since it was founded in 2010, the organization has filed more than 7,000 expungement petitions with the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, more than 95 percent of which have been granted.

Former Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Deborah Willig nominated PLSE for the award, noting that “in addition to direct legal serves, (PLSE) has engaged in innovative strategic litigation, partnered with a wide variety of stakeholders, expanded access to criminal records education through the Pennsylvania Bar Association, trained several local bar associations on criminal records and expungement representation and connected countless numbers of pro bono lawyers with underserved communities throughout the commonwealth.”

PLSE also engages in education and legislative advocacy, conducting “know-your-rights” training, providing expert testimony before the Pennsylvania Legislature and helping to design and implement Philadelphia’s “Ban the Box” ordinance that bars employers from asking about criminal backgrounds during the job application process.

Partnerships PLSE maintains with the Kline School of Law and the University of Pennsylvania Law School enables law students to gain important experience in legal practice by providing pro bono service.