I’m honored to write this column in place of KCBA President Kate Battuello. For those who don’t know the pattern, the King County Bar Foundation president (this year, that would be me) is typically the guest author of the “President’s Page” in the Bar Bulletin before the annual Breakfast with Champions (this year, March 30 at the Seattle Sheraton).
So, why should you support the KCBF and attend this year’s Breakfast with Champions (“BWC”)? Let me count the ways!
1. Access to justice matters more than ever. We are in a very fluid environment. If you want to support access to justice programs, this is a great way to do that.
The money raised goes directly to support KCBA pro bono programs — all six of them1 — and minority student scholarships at Seattle University School of Law and University of Washington School of Law. You are making a direct difference for the 10,000-plus people in King County who are served by KCBA Pro Bono Services and some 60 bar scholars each year. This is real, tangible access to justice.
Civil legal aid breaks cycles of poverty. Legal aid, such as the six pro bono programs provided by KCBA, can help people in our community stay in their homes, keep their families together, get access to necessary health care and assistance, protect them from fraud, and ultimately build productive and stable lives.
Intervening early (e.g., by protecting a domestic violence victim from abuse) can help avoid downstream issues like the loss of a job, eviction and other legal issues. Not only does the money that we raise at the BWC help those in need, it also makes our communities stronger. With uncertain future federal and state funding, our pro bono programs are the ultimate safety net for those individuals in need and for the community as a whole.
Diversity/minority scholarships mean that young people of color can more easily afford to attend law school (or in some cases the only reason that they can afford law school). Often these bar scholars make a real and tangible impact on the legal communities and on their own communities. We see many of these bar scholars become judges (tipping my hat to you Judge Cox) and partners at major law firms.
Last year we presented $70,000 each to the UW and SU law schools. As grateful as the two law school deans are for our contributions, they tell us regularly that they could use more, so that more worthy, historically underrepresented students can attend law school. We can give more if we raise more money. This is a worthy goal that we can achieve with your help.
2. You get to see and hear the legendary Morris Dees, founder of and chief trial lawyer at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Dees will give his thoughts about the role lawyers play in creating justice. We are fortunate to have him speak to us about being fierce advocates for justice.
Dees is a pioneer civil rights attorney. His groundbreaking cases helped integrate public and government institutions. He founded the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971 along with his law partner Joseph J. Levin, Jr. and the venerable civil rights leader Julian Bond.
The SPLC brought innovative lawsuits that crippled the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups. Today, the SPLC continues to be an advocate and educator regarding tolerance and how to combat hate, as well as actively litigating against hate groups and wrongful actions by governments and institutions that violate individuals’ civil liberties.
3. You get to see and have breakfast with your best friends in the legal industry — approximately 999 of them. How often do you get to see all of your legal friends in one location? Not often enough. Hey, we’re busy. We have deadlines, client and work obligations and family obligations. Sometimes it is hard to find time to see all of those legal friends often enough.
Here’s your chance — come early, share a cup of coffee or tea with your friends from the law schools, the courts, your former classmates, friends from bar/professional committees, even your former law firm friends and colleagues. This is the largest gathering of lawyers in the state. Don’t miss out!
4. You will get to hear firsthand how your contributions help real people. In past years, we have heard inspiring stories of individuals and families who sought help from KCBA’s pro bono programs and achieved a successful outcome. We also hear inspiring stories about how much the diversity scholarships mean to young bar scholars. This year will be no exception. Please come see and hear them.
5. Giving will make you feel good. Research finds that charitable giving makes you happier. In 2009, a Harvard Business School study2 found, “Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more).” This is an easy way to get happy and make a difference.
If you haven’t yet signed up to attend (or better yet, to be a table captain and/or sponsor), I urge you do so. The BWC will nourish you not just for that morning, but will nourish your professional and charitable giving spirit for a long time to come. Plus you are making a real and tangible impact at a time where impact is truly needed.
Please join us on March 30 at 7:30 a.m. at the Sheraton. (Registration details appear on page 14.) And if I haven’t met you yet, please look for me and introduce yourself. I welcome it!
1 King County Bar Association pro bono programs: (1) Housing Justice Project; (2) Family Law Mentor Program; (3) Neighborhood Legal Clinics; (4) Volunteer Legal Services; (5) Kinship Care Solutions Project; and (6) Self-Help Plus Program. For more information, see http://www.kcba.org/pbs/volunteerpositions.aspx.
2 L. Anik, L. Aknin, M. Norton, and E. Dunn, “Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior” (Harvard Business School 2009): www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/10-012.pdf.