The Legal Aid Foundation’s associate’s campaign fundraiser saw more than $231,000 donated from 62 firms around Colorado for the organization providing legal services to indigent Coloradans.
The fundraiser, which has been running since 2005, brings young attorneys into the fold raising money for the organization. The campaign asks associates to donate half the amount of one billable hour, putting the fundraising goal at a mark that is expected to be affordable for associates.
“The associates campaign has grown by leaps and bounds since it started in 2005, thanks to the leadership demonstrated by young lawyers on behalf of legal aid,” said Kelly Bossley, associate director of Legal Aid Foundation of Colorado.
And while she said the competition aspect of the campaign is an easy way to get attorneys engaged, that’s not the focus of the campaign. Getting young lawyers involved and committed to legal aid early on in their careers is the key part of the campaign, she said.
“More important than the actual dollars raised is the education and exposure of a younger generation of lawyers and leader as they begin to assume the important leadership role played by the private bar in improving access to civil justice for those who cannot afford counsel,” Bossley said.
The campaign ended with 40 firms reaching 100% associate participation and 784 associates donating in total. The campaign raised $39,159 more than in 2018 and well over the goal of $200,000, Bossley said. “We had phenomenal results. We couldn’t be happier … that we were not only able to meet that goal but also to surpass it.”
And while the campaign celebrated seeing 87% associate participation across the firms involved, the fundraiser accelerates the giving when associates get active in recruiting others. One firm in particular is celebrating its success this year.
Sherman & Howard is touting its win this year of the “broadening participation” award for getting participation from beyond their associates. According to Sherman & Howard, it is also the first large-size law firm to reach 100% participation in the campaign for non-part time associates and non-part-time staff attorneys.
The firm raised just shy of $30,000 for the Legal Aid Foundation, and the attorneys involved said they relied on attorneys’ competitive nature as well as the firm’s members’ support in raising money.
Melissa Reagan, associate coordinator for Sherman & Howard, said the firm saw success in getting members to contribute as well as associates. And the opportunity for connections and face time with the firm’s high-level partners provided a good incentive: she said the firm offered incentives to top donors, and a member also agreed to host a party at his house for members and associates who donated at a certain threshold.
“Getting younger attorneys to get involved in this now is instrumental,” Reagan said. We want to give back and have a meaningful contribution.”
The firm also relied on using internal emails to track giving throughout the firm.
“In this instance, peer pressure is useful,” said Jessica Arrett, an associate who led the firm’s campaign efforts.
She said she was surprised to see so many people jump on board to give. “They took to heart the goal,” she said. “It’s lawyers who support legal aid, and they understand how important the work is that they’re doing.”
Arrett worked with fellow associate Spencer Rubin to organize the firm’s efforts. He said the competition within the firm was useful in getting wide participation, but he felt the mission of Legal Aid Foundation helped push everyone to give, as well.
“There are people out there where what we do seems like an ivory tower, and that’s not acceptable,” Rubin said. “We need to step back and say we don’t just set billable hour rates and get work pushed down to us, but we need to work to make legal services accessible. That we realize people can’t afford our services, and we need to find a way to get those services out to them.”
— Tony Flesor