That’s a question I get asked a lot, and I’m sure it’s one you’ve asked yourself. Let me start by explaining what it’s not. It is not to be confused with the Legal Foundation of Washington (LFW), which raises and distributes state, private, and IOLTA funds to support civil legal aid across the state. Nor is the Washington State Bar Foundation the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA), which both regulates lawyers and provides professional-association-like services to its members. So what is the Washington State Bar Foundation? The Foundation is the fundraising arm for the WSBA’s public service and diversity programs. Separately incorporated as a Washington state nonprofit, it is recognized as a public charity under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
The Foundation’s mission is “to provide financial support for programs of the Washington State Bar Association that promote diversity within the legal profession and enhance the public’s access to, and understanding of, the justice system.” OK, so what does that actually mean? The Foundation Board of Trustees is comprised of 14 attorneys, two non-attorneys, and one law student. Their sole mission is to raise funds for the Call to Duty Program, Moderate Means Program and Diversity and Inclusion Programs. These are programs that are run by the WSBA but they are funded through the funds donated to the Foundation.
So you may be asking yourself, “Why should I donate to the Washington State Bar Foundation?” You should donate because these programs not only serve veterans and individuals of moderate means but they also help your fellow attorneys. The Moderate Means Program has referred more than 3,500 cases to access legal services at a reduced fee and engaged more than 500 attorneys in the program More than 70% of participating attorneys are new and young lawyers. These attorneys not only benefit from the referrals and an opportunity to serve their community, but are also receiving access to free public service seminars and training. More than 300 attorneys have been connected with training and service opportunities by taking the WSBA Call to Duty Pledge or participating in a Day of Service. The 2015 Diversity Research Project Literature Review and the Diversity, Intersectionality & WSBA Membership Reports are leading-edge research, offering insight into the prevalence and persistence of the challenges faced by under-represented populations in the profession. In 2015, WSBA conducted the three-part Achieving Inclusion CLE series and reached nearly 300 people through community networking events to foster connections between WSBA staff, volunteers, members and local communities.
Want to know how you can you help? You can check the box on your licensing renewal to donate to the Foundation. Don’t want to wait that long? No problem — you can make a donation to the Foundation at any time. You can also be a sponsor of the Community Networking events or be a sponsor at the APEX awards. Interested in helping in the fundraising efforts? The Foundation is currently recruiting for Board members.
There are many ways to support the efforts of the Washington State Bar Foundation. Whichever avenue you choose, know that you will be supporting WSBA’s efforts to expand justice, public service and diversity. For more information, visit the Foundation section of the WSBA website.