April 2012 Bar Bulletin
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April 2012 Bar Bulletin

King County Law Firms Contribute More Than $500,000 for Access to Justice

By Amy Spencer

 

On a recent February morning, 37 lawyers gathered at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Seattle - all wearing their brightest smiles - for the third annual "Champions of Justice" photo shoot. The photo acknowledges the law firms in King County that generously contributed at least $250 per attorney to the King County Law Firm Campaign for Equal Justice, a joint fundraising effort by Legal Aid for Washington Fund (LAW Fund) and the King County Bar Foundation (KCBF).

The King County Law Firm Campaign seeks to raise funds to support more than 20 civil legal aid programs across the state, several of which operate in King County, including Seattle Community Law Center, King County Bar Association Pro Bono Services, TeamChild, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Unemploy­ment Law Project, and Columbia Legal Services. These organizations and others across the state provide access to free legal help for Washington's most vulnerable families and individuals.

As of March 1, 121 King County law firms have donated a record $537,190 to the Campaign, 52 of which have contributed at the "Champions of Justice" level. The 2011–2012 King County Law Firm Campaign goal of $525,000 was a big stretch - the $500,000 mark had never been broken in the joint campaign's eight-year history - but King County's law firms were more than up for the challenge, as were KCBF's and LAW Fund's trustees who spearheaded the fundraising effort.

This outstanding generosity comes at a time when the need for civil legal aid is on the rise. According to the 2003 Civil Legal Needs study commissioned by the Washington Supreme Court, three out of four low-income people face at least one civil legal problem each year. As you can imagine, the effects of the down economy have not helped to improve the situation.

King County's 2-1-1, a referral program available for King County residents, reports the following increases in requests for legal help in 2011 compared to 2008:

  • Unemployment benefits: +355%
  • Domestic violence advocacy: +95%
  • Food assistance: +213%
  • Home foreclosure help: +490%


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