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Bar News - March 16, 2012

McLane Firm Gift Launches Justice Funds Initiative

In an effort to develop a sustainable source of funding, the NH Bar Foundation is working with a number of law firms to establish Justice Funds.

McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton was the first this year to make a gift to the NH Bar Foundation’s Justice Fund initiative, contributing $40,000 as a firm to create the "McLane Fund, in Honor of Jack Middleton." Joseph Foster, who chairs McLane’s management committee, said that establishing the McLane Fund serves two purposes. "Creating a Justice Fund supports the work of the Bar Foundation and it is a tangible expression of the values our firm embraces."

"The McLane firm has had a tradition of supporting education about the legal system and access to justice through pro bono and legal services – these are the same as the missions of the Bar Foundation, " he said. "Starting the fund is a reflection of the culture of our firm and its dedication to pro bono service. It is something that will endure and reinforce the continuation of that culture."

Foster said that commitment to service is deeply embedded in the culture of his law firm. "It is impressed on you as a duty of being a member of the firm to be involved in these pro bono and legal services."

Jennifer Parent, a member of the McLane management committee and current NHBA President, said that in recent years, McLane attorneys have averaged 2,000 hours in pro bono activity each year, and a number of attorneys also serve in leadership roles in legal services, including Mark Rouvalis, current chair of NH Legal Assistance Board of Directors, and Jeremy Walker, a member of the NH Bar Association’s Pro Bono Referral Program Governing Board.

"As a professional and as a lawyer, we are committed to pro bono service, and we also have a commitment as a firm," Parent said, adding that performance evaluations include pro bono activity.

Parent said that it is a natural choice for a law firm to create its own fund to support the Bar Foundation endowment. "This is a unique way for lawyers to give to the profession and the public. Our Bar Foundation funds activities supporting professionalism, legal history, and civics education, including the Civics in Action program for adults. These are areas where funding has been increasingly hard to find or traditional sources are declining. The Bar Foundation is unique as the Bar Association’s arm to provide charitable giving." It will also be possible for individual lawyers to contribute to the fund, in honor of a colleague, for example.

The McLane fund honors Jack Middleton, a noted community and legal leader who is in his second stint as chair of the NH Bar Foundation. (He was chair from 1983 to 1989 and returned to the Foundation chairmanship last year.) Notably, Middleton in the early 1980s championed the creation of IOLTA in New Hampshire, which became one of the earliest states to implement the revenue-raising mechanism in 1982, which to date has raised $28 million for legal services and education.

But with IOLTA declining in a low-interest rate era, Middleton says it is important for the Bar Foundation to build its endowment. The Bar Foundation’s endowment is nearing $800,000, held by the NH Charitable Foundation.

Speaking as Bar Foundation chair, Middleton said: "It is our hope that we can build these funds to be a steady stream of funding. We need to supplement the interest we receive from IOLTA."

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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