Created in 1990, the Foundation of the State Bar
funds law-related education and public service projects, and provides scholarships to law
students who demonstrate an interest in public service.
It was established in response to the U.S. Supreme Courts 1990
ruling in Keller v. State Bar, which prohibits the use of mandatory member dues to fund
From the first corporate sponsor contribution $6,000 donated
by MBNA America, a Delaware-based credit card company the foundation has steadily
increased its revenues to a 1999 total of $681,679.
Over eight years, it collected $3.7 million and has awarded between
30 and 40 grants each year to worthy projects and given $550,000 in scholarships to 161
The foundations revenue-seeking efforts focus on three areas,
Pfeiffer explains: indirect gift-giving through products and services offered by corporate
sponsors, an annual fund-raising drive through dues bills sent to each bar member, and a
Until now, seven corporate sponsors have provided the bulk of the
foundations revenue, contributing $600,000-plus annually.
Direct giving by bar members has experienced starts and stops,
Pfeiffer said, but over the last three or four years our sense of legitimacy has
grown and attorneys have begun to express themselves in terms of support.
In 1998, the foundation also created a Society of Fellows, with 75
members currently who commit to a $2,500 contribution, either as a lump sum or over 10
years. Those funds have been spent to develop peer courts for first-time youthful
offenders who commit a misdemeanor.
The foundations scholarship program, developed with input from
Californias law schools, now attracts applicants from every school and awards
scholarships of $2,500, $5,000 and $7,500.
Efforts to help high school and college students are just beginning,
with the offer of a summer internship at the foundation to a college student and the
development of a Legal Heritage Institute at the high school level.
That program, expected to begin in the next school year, will invite
every public high school to select two candidates to vie for an expenses-paid week in
Sacramento, offering exposure to courts, the law and legal issues. Winners will also
receive a partial college scholarship.
The heritage program is being developed in collaboration with the
state Department of Education in order that it dovetail with the high school curriculum.
Pfeiffer acknowledges the difficulty of raising money for law-related
education: Its not very sexy.
But the projects the foundation supports are worthy, he said. For
instance, the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association puts on an annual community
law school, a variety of groups have published free consumer education pamphlets, and
seminars and outreach efforts on a variety of legal issues, ranging from employment
disabilities to conflict resolution, have been funded.
Responding to criticism that too many foundation grants have gone to
State Bar projects, Pfeiffer says every project must be worthy in order to be funded.
The State Bar had to be on the same playing field as everyone
else, he said. The projects had to be worthy, had to meet the grant criteria
and had the same chance as everybody else. We dont tilt our grant-giving in favor of
Since 1995, he said, the majority of grant applicants have been from
outside the bar and more funds have been awarded to non-bar sponsored projects.
He offers both gratitude and praise for donors to the foundation,
saying they represent what is best about the legal profession.
Despite 10 years of listening to bad news about lawyers,
he said, all Ive ever seen is generosity. Lawyers give both time hours
and days and money because they want to see some good done.