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The Illinois Bar Foundation Gala is a great time and a crucial source of funding for the foundation's support of worthy law-related projects. Make plans to attend.
I've got my tux on and my dancing shoes are shined. Why, you ask?
On October 16, the Illinois Bar Foundation will honor Senate President John Cullerton with its Distinguished Award for Excellence at its annual Gala at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago.
President Cullerton is a great friend to the ISBA, supporting many of our legislative initiatives. Cullerton has also been a strong advocate of state funding for legal aid, an issue important to both the ISBA and IBF. Funds raised at the Gala support the important charitable activities of the Illinois Bar Foundation.
Through the support of the ISBA members at the Gala and throughout the year, IBF distributed more than $425,000 to support the charitable efforts of the bar last year. IBF approved more than $300,000 in grants to support legal aid, pro bono efforts, domestic violence victims, and advocacy for children. In a joint grant between IBF and the YLD Children's Assistance Fund, judges across the state will receive materials created by the Illinois Children's Advocacy Center describing how to make courtrooms friendlier to children without affecting the rights of litigants.
IBF also provided nearly $100,000 to 13 lawyers and their families who struggled to support themselves due to illness or incapacity. This subsistence program ensures that lawyers, whose medical issues have depleted their savings and put their very survival at risk, have a roof over their head and food on their table. As the economy has suffered, the demand for support from this program has expanded.
In addition to these important endeavors, IBF participated in the ISBA's celebration of the Lincoln bicentennial by making Lincoln's Legal Papers, a four-volume set, available to libraries in 100 Illinois counties. It also responded to calls from judges and court clerks across the state for an updated jury-orientation video. This video can now be seen in most jury rooms in Illinois.
Looking into the future, IBF recently completed a new three-year strategic plan. At a time when tens of thousands of low-income families need legal services to address basic human needs, IBF plans to step up as the statewide leader in advancing justice. Its updated mission is to ensure meaningful access to the justice system, especially for those with limited means, and to assist lawyers who can no longer support themselves due to incapacity.
IBF's new organizational prioritiesinclude:
1. enhancing the availability of legal aid to those of limited means;
2. encouraging pro-bono legal work; and
3. educating Illinois residents regarding their rights and responsibilities.
As lawyers, we all have a professional obligation to support these efforts, and I strongly encourage you to do so. If we believe we have a monopoly on the practice of law, we must find and fund ways for those who cannot afford our services to have an equal footing in the justice system.
IBF will launch a new and improvedWeb site in October that will provide ISBA members with more information about foundation activities and provide you with opportunities to get involved. Be sure to check it out.
These programs don't happen by accident. They depend on the generosity of ISBA members like you. The need for your support has never been greater. IBF President Vince Cornelius and his board and Susan Lewers and the IBF staff have been planning a Gala for a full year.
The Gala is a magical evening - the highlight of the bar year in my opinion. I am ready to party! I will see you there.