I usually write food and restaurant reviews for the Dining Out column in the Bar Bulletin. True to form, this column is about a breakfast. It is tradition for the president of the King County Bar Foundation Board of Trustees to serve as guest columnist in the March issue to address the upcoming annual Breakfast with Champions.
The goal of the column is to encourage attendance at the Breakfast; the goal of the Breakfast is to inspire generous donations. The goal of the KCBF is to direct the donations to legal scholarships fostering diversity in the bar and bench and to fund KCBA's legal clinics and other pro bono activities providing access to the legal system for those who otherwise could not afford it.
This breakfast is different, though, from the meals I routinely share with KCBA members. It is not so much about the food, although the food will be great. It is not so much about the ambiance, although that will be unparalleled in its warmth and generosity of spirit. It is not really about the company, although that too will be incomparable, featuring 1,000 of your nearest and dearest colleagues, or at least some of those attending; the rest will be fellow practitioners.
This breakfast will cost you more than most breakfasts. The price is not a simple calculation of food ordered with tip to be added depending on the quality of service. The price is the cost of your seat at the table.
The table is the legal profession. It may seem odd to purchase a seat at a fundraiser (or be provided a seat as a guest) for the privilege of then being asked to donate more. The donation is not the tip, if you will. It is not an afterthought. It is the main course, the most important part of this meal, deserving advance thought and budget considerations.
The amount you donate is judged only by your values and your conscience. The more you donate, the better it is for our community. The more you donate, the more progress we will make toward equal justice and equal access to justice. The less you donate, the higher the long-term cost to our society and our community.
This year the Breakfast is on March 19 at the Westin. The speaker is Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, a prominent legal theorist tirelessly working to "secure the rights guaranteed by the Constitution for everyone equally under the law." Prof. Ogletree shares the KCBF mission, believing that everyone deserves a guaranteed right to access to justice and that diversity in the legal sector is a necessity for an equal system.
Your gifts support this mission by funding pro bono services provided by the KCBA at legal aid clinics and providing diversity scholarships to law school students in Seattle.
In 2013, KCBA volunteers provided pro bono services valued at $6.6 million and assisted 10,026 people. Every dollar contributed provided $7.53 worth of legal services. Last year, 1,300 volunteers provided 41,000 hours of free civil legal services.
For the 2013–14 academic year, KCBF provided $130,000 in minority scholarships for more than 50 students at the two local law schools. It is one of the largest sources of minority law school scholarship funds in the state. More than 800 scholarships and $2 million have been awarded since the scholarship program's inception in 1970.
In addition to giving, you will leave with the satisfaction of camaraderie, having shared a morning with one of the largest gatherings of attorneys in the city listening to insights and perspectives from one of the best speakers you will hear this year. You also will leave confident that as a community we join together as part of a worthy and laudable journey, struggling to assure access and justice for all.
Last, but certainly not least, the Breakfast also celebrates all volunteers who give their time, energy and vision providing representation and advice to many people who would otherwise not be able to navigate the legal system. Pro bono volunteers are the foundation of all that we accomplish.
It takes a recipe of sorts to make the Breakfast with Champions happen every year. As a Board, it is our largest annual event and the one we most anticipate. Once the annual Breakfast ends, there is no time for basking in a job well done. The debriefing and lessons learned start immediately.
The information is incorporated into planning for the next Breakfast. The committee in charge of the Breakfast works continuously and tirelessly year round. Mike Schechter, who chaired the committee for the past several years, deserves recognition as he led his committee to revisit every element of the planning stages, sponsors and the event, restructuring where needed, tweaking where appropriate. Last December, Schechter resigned to take a position with the Alaska Attorney General's Office and Eric Gillette stepped in, took over and moved forward with this year's event. Other committee members who deserve appreciation and thanks are Kate Battuello, Charles Burdell, Vanessa Power, John Ruhl, Don Scaramastra and Scott Smith.
KCBF looks forward to seeing you on March 19 - registration information appears on the back page of this issue. If you are unable to make the Breakfast in person, please consider making a contribution to the King County Bar Foundation. Visit www.KCBF.org for more information.
Mary Jo Newhouse is president of the King County Bar Foundation and a shareholder at Schwabe, Williamson, & Wyatt, where she focuses on healthcare and medical malpractice law. She can be reached by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (206-407-1526).