New Fellowship Promotes Public Service
Michael A. St. Pierre, Esq.
President of the Rhode Island Bar Foundation 

Students entering their second year at Roger Williams University School of Law will receive a stipend for an internship in a Rhode Island nonprofit organization engaged in providing legal services to persons of limited means.

For many years, the Foundation and Association have jointly supported a Law Center to serve the Bar's and the public's interests consistent with our mission to foster and maintain the honor and integrity of the profession of law, and to study, improve, and facilitate the administration of justice in Rhode Island.

As many of you are aware, during the past year the joint effort of the RI Bar Foundation Board of Directors and several dedicated volunteers have been very focused and busy on facilitating our move to new headquarters at 41 Sharpe Drive in Cranston, RI. In choosing a new Law Center space, our joint priority was highway proximity and parking in order to make the Law Center as accessible to all, no matter what part of the state you travel from to visit the Center.

In addition to important issues of highway  proximity and parking to facilitate travel to the  Law Center,  all  should  note  that  we  have,  with  this  move,  significantly  lowered  our  long-term  financial liabilities while at the same time securing many excellent new features directly benefiting Bar members and the public.  Among these new features are a new CLE classroom and conference rooms which have been updated with the very latest in technology. As we enjoyed seeing many of you at the Open House that took place last October, we hope you join us once again on Thursday, October 27, 2016 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our Volunteer Lawyer Program. Look for our formal notices in your mail.

For over 30 years now, the Rhode Island Bar Foundation, on an annual basis, 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. I am pleased to report, at our Annual Meeting in June, that we welcomed eight (8) new Fellows. At this time, 342 attorneys are Fellows. We also receive annual voluntary contributions from members of the Rhode Island Bar whose generosity is likewise noted.

We are very excited to announce the establishment of a new program. The RI Bar Foundation was recently honored with a generous donation from the Honorable Thomas J. Caldarone, Jr., which will be utilized to establish an endowment for summer fellowships. Students entering their second year at Roger Williams University School of Law will receive a stipend for an internship in a Rhode Island nonprofit organization engaged in providing legal services to persons of limited means. The Rhode Island Bar Foundation recognizes that frequently there are no funds to compensate law students for their important efforts in the public interest and, given today's costs of a legal education, many are forced to turn away from the beneficial experience afforded by such service. As Caldarone Fellows, second year law school students will have the opportunity to assist in providing crucial legal services to the public, and in so doing, may encourage those students to pursue public service careers.

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 have demonstrated financial need, superior academic performance, community and public service, and demonstrated contacts with and commitment to the State of Rhode Island. This past year, we also received donations for this program from Fellows and other members of the Rhode Island Bar. To date, this fund has awarded 58 scholarships to promising law students from Rhode Island.

The Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program continues to face challenges. Since the 2008 recession hit, we have seen a significant decrease in IOLTA income. This year continued to be a difficult year for funding legal services programs. The net effect is of course a devastating blow to low-income persons most in need of our services. While most IOLTA grant money continues to help fund legal services for the poor, some funding has been allocated to promote knowledge and awareness of the law. While the Board of Directors remains cautiously optimistic about a gradual improvement on the economic climate in the coming year, we are likewise mindful that any increase in IOLTA income will be gradual at best.

I am very proud to say that the Rhode Island Bar Foundation has survived these very difficult times. This was largely due to the hard work of the Board of Directors, and its Finance and Grant committees, who long ago recognized the need to have a reserve on hand in the event that there were changes in the economy and markets. But for the skills of our Finance Committee, I dare say that our ability to award scholarships to college and first year law students and others would have been curtailed years ago. Unfortunately for other Bar Foundations around the country, that has in fact been their fate. We have been prescient enough to avoid that event to date and are hopeful that these scholarship and fellowship programs can continue.

I would be remiss if I didn't especially commend the leadership of the Rhode Island Bar Association for their ongoing support and assistance with our programs and with our objectives.

In closing, I would continue to urge all RIBA members and Fellows of the Foundation to consider making future donations to the RIBF by using the Foundation Gift Form found in every issue of the Rhode Island Bar Journal.