by Nancy Kinnally
|Sean Desmond, 2011-12 president of the Young Lawyers Division, presents a $100,000 check to Michele Kane Cummings, 2011-12 president of The Florida Bar Foundation. Standing in the back from the left are Michael Faehner, a Foundation board member and former YLD president; Paige Greenlee, YLD president; and Jewel White, a Foundation board member and former YLD president.|
ORLANDO — The Board of Governors of The Florida Bar’s Young Lawyers Division June 21 presented a $100,000 check to The Florida Bar Foundation at the Bar’s Annual Convention in Orlando.
The unrestricted gift will be used by the Foundation to offset cuts to its Law School Loan Repayment Assistance Program resulting from a steep decline in revenue from Florida’s Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) Program.
Young Lawyers Division gives $100,000 to the Foundation
"When the YLD became aware of the difficulties that The Florida Bar Foundation was experiencing due to the decrease in IOTA funds, we were very concerned about the impact it would have on the delivery of legal aid around the state,” said then-YLD President Sean Desmond. “The seriousness of the situation was highlighted further when I sat through a meeting of the board of directors for the Foundation on March 16th of this year. It was apparent that many great legal aid programs were facing serious cuts to their funding.”
Paul Doyle, director of the Foundation’s Legal Assistance for the Poor Grant Program, recommended that the YLD funds be used to reduce cuts to the Foundation’s Law School Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which the Foundation established to help its legal aid grantees attract and retain highly qualified legal aid attorneys.
The program was expanded after a 2007 study commissioned by the Foundation found that one of the top three reasons attorneys were leaving public service careers was “financial pressure due to student loans.” The same study found that the starting salary for a Florida Bar member in a Florida legal aid program was $38,500 and that the majority of law students graduate with educational debt of more than $100,000.
Under its Law School Loan Repayment Assistance Program the Foundation provides legal aid attorneys up to 80 percent of their annual payments on need-based law school debt for up to 10 years, subject to funding availability. Annual payments are capped at $7,500 and are in the form of one-year loans forgiven annually for attorneys who remain employed at a Foundation legal assistance grantee for the full 12-month period.
“You have no idea how very needed this is and how very appreciative I am,” wrote one legal aid attorney upon receiving her loan repayment assistance check.
In 2010-2011, the Foundation committed $1,103,905 to the program for benefits to 214 legal aid attorneys. The following year, the Foundation approved 182 applications for $798,452 after the grant program allocation was reduced by a little more than 12 percent.
“One of the biggest challenges through this crisis with IOTA revenue is keeping the legal aid infrastructure intact,” said 2011-12 Foundation President Michele Kane Cummings. “The Loan Repayment Program has been vital in enabling legal aid attorneys to remain in public interest law while paying down their law school debt. We know the members of the YLD can relate to this challenge, and we are so appreciative of their support for legal aid at this crucial time.”
Desmond acknowledged the key roles played by foundation board member and former YLD President Jewel White and Florida Bar Board of Governors member David Prather, who approached the YLD to suggest a major gift to the Foundation.
“In addition to wanting to help, the YLD also remembered the strong partnership we have developed with the Foundation, who has been instrumental in assisting us to develop our YLD Affiliate Outreach Conference,” Desmond said.
In 2004-05, when Foundation board member Michael Faehner was YLD president, the YLD gave $25,000 to the Foundation to support Children’s Legal Services grants. Since that time, Foundation grants to Young Lawyer affiliates throughout the state have supported community outreach projects.
“We remembered that the Foundation's early support of the conference several years ago under the vision of then-YLD President Jamie Billotte Moses and Foundation Executive Director Jane Curran, who helped create a special opportunity to inspire young lawyers to incorporate pro bono and community service into their lives and practices,” Desmond said.
“Since the mission of the Foundation reflects the spirit of the YLD so closely, it was an easy decision for the YLD Board to vote for this gift to the Foundation during this time of need. The YLD also remains dedicated to continuing to explore ways to assist the Foundation in the future with developing new ways to generate funding."