Legal Aid for Washington Fund (LAW Fund) and its Campaign for Equal Justice raise charitable contributions to ensure justice is a reality -- not just for those who can afford it -- but for everyone in Washington state.
Legal Aid for Washington Fund (LAW Fund) was founded in 1991 by three leaders of the Washington State Bar Association— the late Jack Dean of Spokane, Mark Hutcheson of Seattle, and Paul Stritmatter of Hoquiam, all of whom recognized the need for a more stable funding source for civil legal aid programs at a time when funding for such such programs was in jeopardy on a national level. At its beginning, LAW Fund raised charitable support for Washington State’s staffed attorney programs— Columbia Legal Services and Northwest Justice Project.
In 2003, LAW Fund merged its administrative functions with the Legal Foundation of Washington (LFW), the IOLTA-fund grant making agency, in order to create financial efficiencies and widen the circle of civil legal aid programs receiving LAW Fund money.
In 2000, the Access to Justice (ATJ) Board (the policy-making board for civil legal services that was established by the Supreme Court) formed a committee to address the need for stable funding sources for civil legal aid providers statewide. In 2004, the ATJ Board adopted the committee’s recommendation to form a collaborative fundraising campaign that would benefit both staffed and volunteer civil legal aid programs around the state, and the ATJ Board asked LAW Fund, the only statewide charitable fundraising effort for legal aid in the state, to spearhead the creation of this unified effort,
In 2005 LAW Fund launched the inaugural collaborative statewide “Campaign for Equal Justice” to free individual legal aid programs from the burden of raising their own funds and to increase giving. Bill Gates, Sr. and John McKay served as the effort’s Co-Chairs and helped guide the way. Ever since, The Campaign has been serving as the Washington legal community’s annual fund drive to raise support for operating expenses for the state’s more than 20 civil legal aid programs.
Prior to The Campaign, only 2-4% of the legal community participated to donating to civil legal aid annually. By 2010, $1.38 million was raised and 28% of the statewide legal community donated to The Campaign, thanks in large part to a formal collaboration established between LAW Fund and the Washington State Bar Association in the fall of 2009, which allows WSBA members to make a contribution to the Campaign when they renew their annual license each year.
Contributions to The Campaign provide undesignated, current use support for Washington’s more than 20 legal aid programs and supplement IOLTA grants from the Legal Foundation of Washington each year. Campaign proceeds comprise 10% or more of each IOLTA/Campaign for Equal Justice grant to legal aid programs.
The uncertainties of the economy, including interest rates, shifting political winds and the steadily increasing number of poor people require additional financial stability. Recognizing this, in 1999, Mark Hutcheson, J. David Andrews and other civic leaders from the private bar formed the Endowment for Equal Justice to address the intractable problem of the formidable gap between the need for civil legal aid services and the resources available to fund those services.
In 2001, the Endowment for Equal Justice became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to create a permanent source of funding by seeking major gifts, bequests, or other planned gifts from lawyers and others in our community who champion the long term viability of programs that ensure that justice remain a basic civil right and not just a perquisite for the privileged few.
The Endowment’s short term goal is to raise $10 million by the end of 2012, at which point $500,000 will be distributed annually. No funds will be disbursed until the threshold goal is reached. To ensure a stable financial base for legal aid providers, the Endowment has set an intermediate goal of $200 million, and an eventual goal of $500 million. For more information about the Endowment for Equal Justice, click here.
LAW Fund, the Endowment for Equal Justice, and all members of the state’s legal aid community are guided by the Washington State Hallmarks of an Effective Statewide Civil Legal Services System (“Hallmarks”), which outline our civil legal aid community’s core values.
The Hallmarks hold that poverty should not be an impediment to Justice. Statewide civil legal aid services will offer low-income families, individuals, and groups both direct representation and other legal assistance that allows them to:
protect and enforce their rights;
use the civil justice system to oppose laws, regulations, policies and practices that operate unfairly against them;
develop and implement laws, regulations, policies and practices that improve their quality of life; and
effectively advocate their legal rights and interests on their own behalf.
Further, LAW Fund and the Endowment for Equal Justice maintain that the legal community serves as guardians of our justice system and has the power to improve equal access to justice for all. All stakeholders are critical to fulfilling our mission—contributors, grantee legal aid programs, board members, volunteers, staff, state bar members— and everyone in our state that benefits from an accessible legal system.