I want to express my deep appreciation to the bar for the 2009 L. Jonathan Ross Award for Outstanding Commitment to Legal Services for the Poor. As wonderful as the award is, and the important themes that it stands for, bar members need to understand that resources for the world of civil legal services for the poor are in dire shape.
Based on current information, the most critical funding sources for that world – state appropriations for New Hampshire Legal Assistance and funds from the Interest on Lawyers Trust Account (IOLTA) program – are in jeopardy. In fact, funding to the major statewide civil legal services providers could be down by as much as 50 percent this year. The Ross Award has historically been awarded to heroes in the world of civil legal services for the poor, like Mike Hall, John Broderick, John Norton and Katherine Stearns, to name just a few. In the spirit of that award, I hope all of you can be heroes. I have four suggestions on how to be a hero today:
• Make the best contribution you can to the Campaign for Legal Services.
• Take a Pro Bono case.
• Contact your bank and ask it to pay a higher rate on your IOLTA accounts. Banks have been willing to do this if asked. The New Hampshire Bar Foundation can help you with this contact.
• Urge your local legislators to salvage as much funding as possible for civil legal services for the poor.
At a time when a growing population in New Hampshire is in dire need, please help. As part of the privilege of being a member of this bar and this profession, we need you now, more than ever, to be heroes.