Fund Named for R. Nicholas Gimbel '76 Sponsors Public Interest Programs in Philadelphia


Sharpening the legal skills needed to represent poor and underprivileged clients was the focus of a three-day program in trial advocacy held this week at Rutgers-Camden Law School for 40 lawyers from public-interest organizations in the Philadelphia region.

The R. Nicholas Gimbel Fund for Legal Excellence financed the program. Gimbel was an insurance defense lawyer and partner with McCarter & English in Philadelphia and a fervent advocate of public-interest law. He died at age 58 in 2009.

Friends and family set up the fund, administered by the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.

Gimbel "always had a strong and deep conviction that everyone deserved legal representation," said Rayman Solomon, dean of the law school and a close friend of Gimbel. "He believed strongly in the principle and did a number of pro-bono cases in his life."

Solomon said the program, which ran from Monday through Wednesday, focused on sharpening the trial skills of lawyers who represent poor clients. Such training programs have become particularly important because public-interest legal organizations are under increasing financial pressure, and often unable to pay for training on their own.

Lawyers from the Senior Law Center, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, the Education Law Center, and other groups took part in the program. These groups provide legal assistance in civil matters to low-income clients who need representation for issues varying from housing to dealing with creditors and government agencies.

J.C. Lore, a Rutgers law professor and director of the school's trial advocacy program, said faculty were brought in from throughout the United States to conduct the program, and donated their time. The overarching goal, he said, was to train lawyers in the fundamentals of trying civil cases on behalf of their clients.

The lawyers, who ranged in experience from recent law school graduates to those who have been practicing for many years, received training in direction and cross-examination of witnesses, preparing expert witnesses, closing arguments, and other skills, Lore said. The program marked the first time that Rutgers Law School had provided such extensive training for members of the Philadelphia public-interest bar, Lore said.

"Public-interest legal agencies have faced drastic budget cuts, and one of the things that has been sacrificed is training programs," Lore said.

Before joining the Philadelphia office of McCarter & English, Gimbel, who lived in Bryn Mawr, practiced in Boston and New York City, and had been an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York from 1980 to 1984. He graduated from the University of Chicago Law School.