A new name launches a new era
By R. Scott Wylie
As Shakespeare is so often quoted, “What’s in a name? That which
we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.” For nearly two
decades, the charitable foundation representing the attorneys of the state
has gone by the somewhat inelegant and cumbersome name of the Foundation of
the State Bar of California.
Lots of “ofs.” Too many words. Not marketed very effectively.
It was time for a change.
Today the board of the Foundation is announcing what we hope will be a much
sweeter sounding name — California Bar Foundation. Not a lot of “ofs”;
more concise; and easier to fit on a check. Along with the new name, the board
is undertaking a broad initiative to re-introduce the Foundation and its important
work on behalf of California’s legal community, including a newly relaunched
In the near future, you will begin to see new marketing pieces and advertisements
that tell the compelling story of the good lawyers do in California. Good,
by the way, that the supporters of the Foundation do on a voluntary basis and
without compulsion. More than 10,000 of the state’s attorneys and judges
voluntarily support the California Bar Foundation financially each year. We
also count among our top donors a fast-growing number of law firms committed
to giving back to the community.
The California Bar Foundation was created in 1990 to serve as the charitable
giving arm of the State Bar of California. Since that time, the Foundation
has focused its giving on investing in the next generation of public interest
attorneys and access to justice efforts undertaken by local, specialty and
minority bar associations, legal services agencies and California courts. Over
the years, the Foundation has distributed more than $2 million in scholarship
assistance and nearly $3.5 million in grants to eligible organizations. All
of this giving comes from attorney and law firm donations and revenue from
corporate sponsors and generates immeasurable goodwill for the state’s
legal profession as a whole.
Through our Law School Scholarship program, hundreds of public-service minded
law students from nearly every law school in the state have received substantial
scholarship support to ease the crushing debt burden that keeps so many new
lawyers from choosing to serve in the public’s interest. According to
a recent sampling, more than one-half of the Foundation’s past recipients
are pursuing public interest law careers. This diverse group of California
attorneys is working with public defender offices, for district attorneys and
federal prosecutors, and with pro bono and legal aid organizations. Through
our scholarship program, we help ensure that a corps of impressive public interest
attorneys, committed to serving the critical legal needs of an increasingly
multicultural California, flows from the state’s law schools.
The Foundation has also been instrumental in supporting many of the State
Bar of California’s education and outreach efforts that cannot be funded
by mandatory membership dues. For example, we support the Lawyer Assistance
Program, diversity pipeline projects, public education programs sponsored by
our sections, and the widely respected publication series that includes Kids & the
Law, Seniors & the Law, and When You Become 18.
While we are very proud of these important efforts, we know that we can do
so much more. By marshaling the philanthropic efforts of California’s
attorneys and their firms, the foundation is in a unique position to galvanize
the state’s legal community to invest in building a better justice system
for all Californians.
Unlike many funders, the California Bar Foundation has a special role supporting
causes throughout the entire state, including rural areas that may not be served
by large legal service agencies or bar associations. The foundation is often
the only funder available to small, unstaffed local, specialty and minority
bar associations who wish to create pro bono service opportunities for their
members and the community. If you attend the State Bar’s Annual Meeting,
you need only attend our law school scholarship ceremony to understand the
I hope that those of you who support the California Bar Foundation
on an annual basis will continue to do so and will increase your giving this
year. For those of you who have not joined our efforts, I encourage you to
visit our Web site at www.calbarfoundation.org or to contact our staff at 415/856-0780
to find out about our programs and giving opportunities. Once you discover
the good we do, you will want to be part of our efforts.
• Scott Wylie is president of the California Bar Foundation and a former vice
president of the State Bar of California. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.