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Bar News - March 19, 2010

Legal Aid Funding “Increases” in 2009


In the face of a very tough economic climate, members of the New Hampshire Bar stepped up and increased donations to the Campaign for Legal Services ("Campaign") by some $32,000 over what was raised in 2008. The final dollar amount of gifts for 2009 was $228,748 as compared to $196,215 for 2008.

The performance of members of the New Hampshire Bar was made more remarkable by the fact that the number of donors increased from 578 in 2008 to 634 in 2009. All segments of the Bar also increased their donations ranging from judiciary donations (a 225% increase), large firms, board members of two of the legal aid organizations, New Hampshire Legal Assistance ("NHLA") and Legal Advice and Referral Center (LARC"), a (215% increase) and, of course, individual members of the Bar.

For this year the fundraising target is $250,000 and volunteers will be beginning telethons in March. Telethons will continue through June/July and will resume in December, 2010. All telethons are operated and staffed by lawyer/volunteers who devote considerable time and effort reaching out to the some 4,000 members of the New Hampshire Bar.

For newer members of the bar, the Campaign is the annual fundraising initiative for the three legal aid programs in New Hampshire – the Pro Bono Referral Program, NHLA and LARC. All funds raised by the Campaign are distributed to the three legal aid organizations to support their efforts to provide legal services to the poor.

The funds distributed by the Campaign are unencumbered; that is, the distributed funds are not restricted to certain programs but are available for general support. Oversight of Campaign programs and activities is conducted by the Campaign’s Steering Committee. Other members of the Steering Committee are the directors of the three organizations, individual Board members of the three organizations and laypersons with particular expertise in professional fundraising and charitable giving. The Steering Committee meets once per month and its meetings are open to all members of the bar who wish to attend.

End notes: It is expected that IOLTA funding which supports in part the three legal aid organizations will not rebound to pre-2008 levels for some time to come. This means bar members’ contributions to the Campaign are even more critical than in the past in providing support to legal services to the poor. And to add a competitive edge to the effort, it should be noted that our colleagues in Maine regularly raise in excess of $400,000 annually to support their legal aid programs. New Hampshire lawyers can do as well as and even better than their colleagues in Maine, as we know from the Pro Bono participation of New Hamphire attorneys.

Never let it be said that Mainiac lawyers can best the members of the New Hampshire bar in anything, most importantly support for legal aid.

Elizabeth M. Leonard of the Wiggin & Nourie firm in Manchester and Peter Brown of the Brown, Olson & Gould firm in Concord, are the co-chairs of the steering committee of the Campaign for Legal Services.

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