September 13, 2019
President’s Message By Lori McMaster
The Allegheny County Bar Association has designated 2019-2020 as a “Year of Impact” in recognition (and in celebration) of all that the ACBA contributes to Allegheny County and the greater Pittsburgh region. My last President’s Message focused on wellness within the legal community, so this month it seems fitting to address how the bar association positively impacts the legal community’s well-being through the Allegheny County Bar Foundation Lawyers’ Fund.
The Lawyers’ Fund was created by members of the bar association in 1918 to assist attorneys and their families. At that time, the bar association placed 25 cents of a member’s $3 annual dues into the fund. Today, the Lawyers’ Fund has assets of $1.8 million. The fund’s main purpose is to provide confidential assistance to attorneys and their families based upon financial need. Any attorney or family member of an attorney that maintains their principal office in Allegheny County is eligible to receive assistance. Membership in the Allegheny County Bar Association is NOT a requirement in order to qualify.
All requests for assistance are strictly confidential. Carol Behers, former ACBF President, and former member of the Board of Governors of the bar association, currently serves as the Chair of the Lawyers’ Fund. We are so grateful for Carol’s continued years of impactful service to the bar association!
The Lawyers’ Fund has five primary (but not exclusive) charitable purposes:
1. Assistance to lawyers in Allegheny County or their immediate families who are in need. The Lawyers’ Fund is a powerful demonstration of the bar association’s fidelity to its mission of empowering our members, supporting the broader community, and fostering a culture of collegiality within the profession. The fund is a financial safety net available to all attorneys (and their families) within Allegheny County, regardless of their membership status within the bar association.
The fund has assisted attorneys (or their families) who are experiencing challenging financial circumstances, medical circumstances, and/or the loss of a family member. Because of the strict confidentiality surrounding the process, I have never learned the names of those persons who have been helped by the fund, but I am aware that it has paid thousands of dollars to people who have lost all of their belongings in a fire, or needed assistance in paying for several months of mortgage payments, or child care expenses, after the loss of a loved one.
Applying to the Lawyers’ Fund is relatively simple. The application requests a brief explanation of the need for assistance, the applicant’s employment information, and a statement of the applicant’s personal and business assets, liabilities and debts. If the request for assistance is related to the applicant’s health condition, a Consent for Release of Confidential Information is requested, along with information regarding the applicant’s current medical treatment. The information supplied on the application is used solely for the purpose of considering the application for a grant and is kept in strictest confidence.
2. Education. The Lawyers’ Fund develops or assists in the development of programs that educate the public on the legal system and the law. Over the years, the fund has assisted the bar association in sponsoring educational programs on our courts and legal system.
3. Stipends for study and public interest work. The Lawyers’ Fund sponsors 10 to 12 second-year law students working with local civil legal and government agencies for 8 to 10 weeks each summer by providing them with a financial stipend. The 2L students are certified to represent clients as long as they are working under the direct supervision of an attorney. Certified Summer Fellowship positions are awarded to 2L law students attending an accredited law school in Pennsylvania or who are the son/daughter of a current member of the bar with ties to Pittsburgh.
The Lawyers’ Fund has sponsored paid opportunities at organizations including: Christian Legal Aid; Disability Rights Pennsylvania; the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office; Education Law Center; Jewish Family & Children’s Service; Juvenile Court Project; KidsVoice; Office of Conflict Counsel; Allegheny County Office of Public Defender; the Pro Bono Center; Women’s Center & Shelter; and Women’s Law Project. This program was an instant success for the law students as well as the various organizations for whom they work.
4. Law school scholarships, loans, fellowships and grants-in-aid. Last year the Lawyers’ Fund provided $25,000 in scholarships to students. The Lawyers’ Fund may provide financial assistance to attorneys and law students working in public interest law positions. The F.C. Grote Fund, part of the Lawyers’ Fund, was established to grant loans to deserving law students, without interest and without security, or to create scholarships as outright grants to law students. Consideration for the Grote Fund is given to applicants with a connection to western Pennsylvania. The Grote Fund annually awards $5,000 scholarships to law students attending the University of Pennsylvania School of Law or the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
5. Historical Preservation. The fund may acquire, preserve and exhibit rare books and objects of art and other items of historical interest to the legal community or bearing on the administration of justice.
The Lawyers’ Fund is very unique. There are only a few similar funds that exist in bar associations or their foundations across the United States. During this, our Year of Impact, we celebrate the mission of the Lawyers Fund, and all of the families who have been impacted by its generous support in the past 100 years.
For additional information regarding the Lawyers’ Fund, or for an online application form, please see the Allegheny County Bar Foundation website at www.acbf.org. Potential applicants are also encouraged to contact Executive Director David Blaner at email@example.com or 412-402-6601. All inquiries remain confidential.
Please do share your thoughts with me about how the ACBA and the Lawyers’ Fund can continue to support the health and wellness of our members at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-648-2359.
All my best, Lori.