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An opportunity for generosity

President, State Bar of California

Anthony P. Capozzi, President, State Bar of California

Throughout history, indeed even in the present, it is safe to say that the image and the reality of lawyers are quite far apart. I intend to travel throughout California to tell the "good lawyer" stories.

One of these has been a well-kept secret: Lawyers make a tremendous difference in many people's lives, simply through their willingness to donate.

We need to look no further than our own State Bar. On each member's fee statement, there are several opportunities to make this difference. And every year, our members respond, ensuring the continuation of vital programs that are not funded by any of our mandatory dues.

For instance, over the past two years, our members voluntarily contributed more than a million dollars to the Foundation of the State Bar of California. This generosity translates into some invaluable assistance. Each year, more than 40 aspiring lawyers who are strong academically and demonstrate a commitment to public service receive scholarships ranging from $2,500 to $7,500.

Contributions to the foundation also provide grants for a variety of access to justice programs, from youth education, to helping domestic violence victims, to counseling the elderly on their legal rights.

I recently attended the Legal Heritage Institute in Sacramento, where foundation contributions are used to bring high school students together to learn about law, law-making and the vital work that goes on at the Capitol — all from the people who do that work, our legislators and the staff for the state government.

One of the most visible contributions from the foundation is its support of our public education program, which includes three popular consumer guides: Kids & the Law: An A-to-Z Guide for Parents, When You Become 18: A Survival Guide for Teenagers and Seniors & the Law: A Guide for Maturing Californians.

With foundation contributions, we have been able to print and distribute more than 2 million of these three guides over the past three years.

In this past year alone, we held 21 public forums around the state, where more than 2,500 seniors received personal assistance from lawyers and legal services specialists on problems specific to our aging population.

We printed 1.2 million copies of Seniors & the Law, in English, Spanish and Chinese, and have reached at least a quarter of the 4.6 million Californians who are 60 or older.

The State Bar Foundation played a tremendous role in this effort, mostly through the contributions it received from you, our members, on the fee statement.

Lawyers also may make donations on the fee statement to the new Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations. The conference is now an independent association paid for totally by voluntary money. This generous support allows the new conference to continue its invaluable debate on prospective legislation and to make recommendations for improvements statewide.

Another opportunity to contribute to the betterment of our profession and society is the line item to donate money to our elimination of bias fund.

Lawyers have been exceedingly generous, ensuring the development and continuation of programs, most notably the work of our access to justice committees, to open doors for people of all backgrounds, working toward a more representative body of lawyers in our bar membership.

The annual dues statement also allows members to support the California Supreme Court Historical Society, whose aim is to recover, preserve and promote California's judicial and legal history with a particular emphasis on the state's highest court.

Your support of this important organization insures that our legal history not only is preserved, but that generations beyond us will have access to the treasure trove of court history in California. Our dues have remained the same since 2000 and they currently stand at $87 less than in the mid-1990s. We stand committed to keep our dues as low as possible.

These options are before you now, with each of these check-off lines on your current dues statement. We belong to an honorable profession that has done much for society.

I am confident that we will continue with our generosity as each of these programs moves forward with its irreplaceable work on behalf of all Californians.

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