Trial Lawyers Section makes second 75,000 gift

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Past Florida Bar Foundation President Bruce Blackwell accepts a $75,000 check from Wayne Helsby, chair of The Florida Bar Trial Lawyers Section, at the Section’s 2013 Summit Jan. 18 at the J.W. Marriott in Orlando.

The Florida Bar Trial Lawyers Section has provided a second gift of $75,000 to The Florida Bar Foundation to support the work of the Trial Lawyers Section Children’s Legal Services Fellow. The Section made its initial gift in January 2011 in response to the impending loss of legal aid attorney positions due to the prolonged and steep decline in revenue from Florida’s Interest on Trust Accounts Program.

The gift has enabled Jessica Rae, an attorney with more than 10 years of experience representing foster youth, to continue the Transitioning Dependent Youth Project at the Community Law Program in St. Petersburg, where over the last nine months she has helped 85 teenagers as they transition out of the dependency system.

“The Trial Lawyers Section is delighted to once again provide The Florida Bar Foundation with this gift of $75,000,” said Trial Lawyers Section Chair Wayne Helsby.

“As trial lawyers, we fully understand and appreciate the importance of obtaining legal representation in the course of our judicial process. So many Floridians are simply unable to afford that representation. We collectively feel a deep sense of responsibility to assist The Florida Bar Foundation in helping others obtain representation, especially our state’s foster children. We are hopeful that this gift will once again prompt other sections in the Bar to contribute a portion of their resources for this most worthwhile cause.”

The Trial Lawyers Section’s initial gift was instrumental in encouraging other Bar sections to contribute to The Florida Bar Foundation over the last year. The combined generosity of the Bar, its sections and divisions and their members resulted in gifts of more than $620,000 to the Foundation last year.

The leadership of the Family Law Section made a $75,000 contribution to the Foundation’s Children’s Legal Services Grant Program. The Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section launched an effort that brought in $85,000 in support for Children’s Legal Services, a significant portion of which came from individual RPPTLS members. The Florida Bar’s Young Lawyers Division made a $100,000 gift, which the Foundation has used to help fund its Law School Loan Repayment Assistance Program to help legal aid organizations retain staff attorneys. The Criminal Law Section approved a $25,000 gift, and the Alternate Dispute Resolution Section gave $1,000. Additionally, the Bar waived the Foundation’s booth fee at the annual Bar convention, allowing the Foundation to recruit additional Fellows at no cost.

The second year of funding for the Trial Lawyers Section Children’s Legal Services Fellow comes at a crucial time.
“Like most legal aid organizations, we are still in the midst of a sharp decline in funding from all sources that is not expected to level off anytime soon,” said Kimberly Rodgers, executive director of the Community Law Program.

“Despite this outlook, this incredibly generous gift from The Trial Lawyers Section, which has been repeated, has helped us build a formidable wall of protection for young people who need it the most. Many stakeholders in the child welfare community have taken notice of the tremendous impact Jessica’s advocacy has made, which is something our organization would never have been able to accomplish without this Section’s financial support.”

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