Legal Services Project
Work of the Project
The work of the project has been quite varied. We have found a number of ways to concretely move forward our goal of fostering relationships between the Section's members and the legal services community. Because the hardest struggle of legal services programs is the quest for adequate funding, we have focused much of our work on that issue. Legal services programs struggle daily with inadequate resources while faced with tremendous needs of people with no where else to turn for legal help. To assist, we have developed a very successful training program.
Intensive Private Bar Fundraising Training
There has been a recognition in the legal services community in recent years that programs need to stop seeing themselves as quasi-governmental agencies, reliant exclusively on government funding, and instead develop a diversified funding base with support from a variety of sources. An obvious source of financial support is the private bar, and many programs in the country raise significant funds from local law firms and lawyers. However, many legal services programs have still made no efforts in this area and when they think of building such a new funding source, they do not know where to begin.
The Project developed the Intensive Private Bar Training Program to address this problem. The Program improves the fundraising skills of legal services managers and staff, and at the same time, builds relationships between the private bar and legal services staff to move such fundraising efforts forward. The Section annually commits $10,000 to support a two-day intensive training on best practices to secure financial support from their local private bar attended by legal services programs and private attorneys from their community. The training sessions are held during the Section's Annual Conference without charge to the participants and stipends are available to defray some of the programs' travel expenses. To date, a total of 53 programs from across the country have participated. A recent survey conducted by the Legal Services Project of the participant programs, found that the legal services programs collectively increased the amount they raised from their private bar campaigns by more than $4,000,000.
Section Reserve Fundraising Grants
In 1999 the Legal Services Project requested that the Section of Litigation approve up to $50,000 in funding from the Section Reserves to assist legal services programs in establishing private bar fundraising campaigns. The request was approved, and grants of up to $10,000 per program have been made in the past to help programs obtain the technical assistance needed to launch fundraising efforts. To be eligible for a grant under this effort, legal services programs are required to involve members of the Section's leadership in developing their campaign, as well as provide matching funds. Grants have been awarded to a total of six programs in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland and Tennessee. The Legal Services Project developed standards and reporting requirements for grantees. Recipients are required to provide a progress and final report on the outcome of the campaign and the involvement of Section leadership in the implementation of their campaigns.
The Legal Services Project developed out of the Section's annual meeting in Miami in 1996. In advance of the meeting, Larry Fox put forth the idea that the leadership group did not adequately represent the many stellar litigators in the public interest bar, and it was decided to invite sixty legal services lawyers to the annual meeting. A 1996 memo came out of the ensuing discussions at the Miami meeting, recommending the establishment of a new Section project that would focus on developing strong, ongoing local partnerships between firms and legal services programs and integrate legal services leaders into Section leadership. The Legal Services Project was then born and has been an effective part of Section activities ever since.
The Project now convenes at the leadership meetings of the Section and is composed of members of the leadership and representatives of legal services programs who are annually appointed by the Chair of the Section. It has developed into a very active group with multiple ongoing projects that pull together Section leadership and legal services programs. The Project has worked to build the relationships of local private litigators and legal services programs all across the country. We have paid particular attention to building those relationships right within our own Section leadership and have succeeded at making connections between Section leaders and their local legal services programs that can serve as national models.