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Leveraging Your Pro Bono Efforts

The LACB Foundation offers the best way to maximize the return on your contributions 

By Sarah Heck Griffin

Sarah Heck Griffin, a partner with Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, is the 2000-01 president of the Los Angeles County Bar Foundation Board of Directors.

This President's Page was originally published in the November 2000 issue of
Los Angeles Lawyer.

Leverage, according to Webster's, is the "power to act effectively." We all know how important leverage is to our clients and to our legal practices. Clients with leverage generally negotiate better terms. Lawyers who leverage their time and expertise by training and delegating to junior associates, by specializing, or by taking advantage of technology are better able to build a legal practice and maintain their sanity at the same time.

But what leverage can we apply when it comes to giving something back to our community and to our profession? How best can our already strained resources-time, money, and expertise-be leveraged when it comes to fulfilling a commitment to help provide legal services for those who can least afford it? I applaud the associates at Munger, Tolles & Olson who, according to a June 16 Los Angeles Daily Journal article, have formed a committee to encourage their colleagues to contribute a portion of their salaries to a fund that the committee will distribute to organizations in California and nationwide that provide legal services for the underprivileged. I also marvel at their energy.

Rex Heinke has graciously offered me the opportunity as a guest President's Page columnist to remind you of another way that lawyers in Los Angeles can increase the effectiveness of their pro bono and charitable efforts by leveraging the dollars and time they devote to these undertakings. That leverage is the Los Angeles County Bar Foundation.

A History of Commitment
Historical records show that a charitable foundation initiated by prominent leaders of the Los Angeles legal community has been in existence off and on since 1944. The Foundation as it is presently organized has existed for more than 35 years. The board of directors of the Foundation currently consists of 34 lawyers who have committed themselves to raising funds, reviewing grant applications from law-related projects all over Los Angeles County, and awarding grants to many projects in need. Due to the efforts of these lawyers and the Foundation staff, during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2000, the Foundation was able to award grants totaling $248,079 to 14 organizations that exemplify the goals and mission of the Foundation. That mission is to:

  • Improve the administration of justice and the delivery of legal services.       
  • Cultivate understanding of and respect for the rule of law.       
  • Render assistance to the poor, the neglected, and the discriminated against. 

I have great confidence in the process and in the commitment that the board members who serve on the Grants Committee have shown in furthering this mission.

My work with the Foundation has given me a means to focus my energy and my dollars on the legal industry, which has provided me with a challenging profession and my livelihood. Through my membership on the Foundation's board of directors, I participate in the process of leveraging the dollars that the Foundation raises by funneling them into grants that fund projects that, in turn, broaden the base of legal aid in the community.

Last year those projects included four operated by the Los Angeles County Bar Association: Dispute Resolution Services, Inc.'s Community, School, & Youth Services; the Barrister's Domestic Violence Legal Services Project; the Barrister's AIDS Legal Services Project; and the Immigration Legal Assistance Project. Several other projects serving Los Angeles County not operated by the Bar Association but similarly exemplifying the mission of the Foundation also received grants during the last fund-raising campaign. They are: Break the Cycle, the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law, the Centinela Valley Juvenile Diversion Project's Victim/Offender Restitution Services, the Central American Resource Center's Legal Services Project, El Rescate Legal Services' Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act Project, Friends of Child Advocates, Inner City Law Center, Levitt and Quinn Family Law Center, the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice's Battered Immigrant Women and Children Project, and Mental Health Advocacy Services, Inc.

Where You Come In
Although the Foundation made grants totaling more than $245,000 last year, many requests could not be answered. Which brings me to the many ways that you can leverage your own money, time, and expertise to maximize your power to make a difference in the Los Angeles legal aid community. Contributing to the Foundation and, if you are so inclined, participating as a member on the board, offers you that leverage. I urge you to consider pledging at one of the contributing donor levels: as an Honor Roll Member ($5,000 to $50,000 or more in annual installments of at least $1,000 or one-tenth the total amount pledged), a Life Fellow ($2,500 in annual installments of $500), a Barristers Fellow ($500 in annual graduated installments of $50, $75, etc.), or as a Supporting Member at a minimum of $100 per year. You may also include a voluntary contribution of $30 to the Foundation when you pay your annual LACBA dues.

I also urge you to remember the Foundation when you have enjoyed extraordinary returns from your efforts for a client. Donald Mitchell found that his significant contribution of $48,500 was a good way to both commemorate a favorable outcome for his client and to memorialize his father, Herbert S. Mitchell. With this generous gift, Donald Mitchell continues the practice that he began when he became a Life Fellow Member of the Foundation.

The Foundation's Endowment
Another outlet for your own generosity may be the Joseph Taback Memorial Endowment Fund. The fund was established by Joe Taback's colleagues as a memorial after his recent passing. As you may know, Joe was a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. He was also a member of the executive committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association's Family Law Section for many years, and he served as section chair in 1985-86.

Joseph Taback was also a significant contributor to the Foundation and, in his memory, the Foundation created this special endowment fund. All contributions to the fund will remain a part of the Foundation's permanent endowment in Joseph Taback's memory. Income from the endowment will be used to make grants annually.

In addition to your contributions by pledge; through an extraordinary gift like the one made by Donald Mitchell; or to the Foundation's endowment, such as through the Joseph Taback Memorial Endowment Fund, serving as a member of the board is another method of leveraging your time and your expertise. I commend it to you, as would any of the other members of the board's executive committee. This year those members are Rex S. Heinke, president-elect; Donald A. Daucher, senior vice-president; Donna J. Zenor, vice-president/treasurer; Lawrence F. Liebenbaum, secretary; and Don Mike Anthony, immediate past president. If you have any questions about making a contribution to the Foundation or participating as a member of the Foundation's board, feel free to contact Linda Stude, the Foundation's administrator, at lstude@lacba.org, or call her at (213) 896-6409.

Go ahead. Maximize the effectiveness of your pro bono activities and charitable giving. And let the Los Angeles County Bar Association Foundation be your leverage.


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