Your Bar Foundation Needs Your Help Today
Michael A. St. Pierre, Esq.
President of the Rhode Island Bar Foundation
Although we are well below the IOLTA income levels of prior years, IOLTA is still vital to fulfilling the critical need of providing civil legal services to the poor.
The Rhode Island Bar Foundation was created in 1958 to serve as the fundraising and charitable arm of the Rhode Island Bar Association. During the past fiscal year, the Foundation’s Board of Directors and other dedicated volunteers have continued to help the Foundation fulfill its mission to foster and maintain the honor and integrity of the profession of law and to study, improve and facilitate the administration of justice.
For over 30 years, the Rhode Island Bar Foundation has invited members of the Bar who meet certain standards to become Fellows of the Foundation. Fellows are attorneys and judges who have distinguished themselves professionally, who have made a significant monetary contribution to the Foundation, and who have given generously of their time to public service in communities where they live and where they work. At our Annual Meeting in June, I am pleased to report that we welcomed 10 new Fellows. At this time, 339 attorneys are Fellows. It is truly gratifying that many Life Fellows have answered the call during these difficult economic times as evidenced by the fact that annual donations have increased significantly over the past two years. We also receive annual voluntary contributions from members of the Rhode Island Bar whose generosity is likewise noted.
The Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program continues to face challenges. Since the 2008 recession hit, the falling numbers continue to astound Bar Foundations across the country. This year continued to be a difficult year for funding legal services programs. It is expected that the near zero federal funds short-term interest rate will continue for at least the next year.
Although we are well below the IOLTA income levels of prior years, IOLTA is still vital to fulfilling the critical need of providing civil legal services to the poor. The Board of Directors is optimistic that the future economic climate will improve, resulting in increased revenue. Under the leadership of Treasurer James Jackson, we have a very strong Finance Committee and thank them for their diligence in monitoring the investment accounts in order to maximize additional income for the IOLTA grants and other Foundation Programs.
Again this year, with the continued generosity of The Horace A. Kimball and S. Ella Kimball Foundation, The Champlin Foundations, and The Nicholas J. Caldarone Foundation, we were able to award two, $20,000 Thomas F. Black Jr. Memorial Scholarships to two promising first-year law students from Rhode Island who demonstrated financial need, achieved superior academic performance and community and public service, and who have established contacts with and commitment to the State of Rhode Island. This past year, we also received additional donations earmarked for the Scholarship Program totaling $3,450 from Rhode Island Bar Association members. To date, this fund has awarded 54 scholarships, totaling many thousands of dollars to promising law students from Rhode Island, many of whom returned to Rhode Island to further contribute to our mission.
As the Foundation’s activities have grown, the efforts and commitment of Board members, Committee members, and Fellows have increased. None of these outstanding initiatives would be possible without their valuable wisdom and service to the Foundation. We also commend the leadership of the Rhode Island Bar Association for their on-going support, and we are grateful for their assistance with our programs.
Together, we look forward to bringing more Fellows, and more donations and funds to the Foundation to support our worthwhile programs.
Note: Rhode Island Bar Association members are encouraged to donate to the Rhode Island Bar Foundation by using the Foundation Gift form found in all issues of the Rhode Island Bar Journal.