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Joining the ISBA's charitable arm lets you give back to the profession, help those who need it, and have fun in the process.
It seems like only yesterday when Mark Hassakis called me on the phone and asked me to become a Fellow of the Illinois Bar Foundation. The year was 2000 and I could hardly say "no" to the passionate and convincing IBF president.
I'm glad I joined because it opened up a whole new world to me within the ISBA. Today, I know, many of you have had a similar conversation with IBF President George Mahoney. That conversation with Mark changed my life as a lawyer. For the first time, I had the opportunity to help provide access to justice and basic support to those truly in need.
Though many members are common to both organizations, not everyone is aware of the mission of the Illinois Bar Foundation. The IBF is the charitable arm of the ISBA. Its reach is far beyond the lawyers of our organization.
The IBF ensures meaningful access to the justice system, especially for those with limited means. We assist lawyers who can no longer support themselves due to incapacity. We also encourage pro bono legal work and educate Illinois residents regarding their rights and responsibilities under the law.
Whether its contributing to the many legal service organizations so vital to providing access to justice for the needy, or financially assisting those lawyers and their families who have fallen on hard times, the IBF is there. We serve people in need of legal services from all over the state, including many children who would not have legal representation without our support.
Some of the organizations that we fund include Cabrini Green Legal Aid, the Immigration Project in Bloomington, Land of Lincoln Legal Aid, and the Center for Prevention of Abuse. The IBF distributed $315,000 in grants across the state last year. Through the Lawyers Care Fund, the IBF distributed more than $85,000 in support to 10 attorneys in need.
Become a Fellow
A great way to get involved with the IBF is to become a Fellow. The Fellows are a special group of lawyers from around the state who have committed, through a direct donation or pledge over a 10-year period, sums ranging from $1,000 to $25,000. For a mere $100 a year, you can become a Fellow. Becoming a Fellow shows a lawyer's professionalism and demonstrates a commitment to assist the legal profession in serving the public. If you are already a Fellow, you have the ability to increase your level of support.
Now approaching their 30th anniversary, the Fellows have pledged and contributed more than $2.6 million to the Illinois Bar Foundation. If you need more information about becoming a Fellow, please email Beth Jensen of Peoria, chair of the IBF Fellows, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did I mention fun? So many of our events occur at fun venues. At Lawyers Rock Legends, lawyer bands perform live at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago (my band 5-thirty has rocked the stage there for the last two years). The IBF Annual Gala is an evening of wine, song, dance, and fabulous auction items. (This year's event is Friday, October 19, 2012, and the honoree is Hon. Abner J. Mikva.) Baseball games are usually in the mix, too, mostly involving the Cubs/Cardinal rivalry with games in both Chicago and St. Louis.
Our annual IBF Fellows breakfast at the ISBA Midyear Meeting is another wonderful event. We invite all of the organizations that receive our grants. It's a great opportunity to meet everyone face to face while we honor individuals in the legal profession. Nobody will forget the poignant speech of our honoree this year, Terry Hake. Past Fellows Chair Jim Riechardt, thank you for making that happen.
At some of our events, we're fortunate to personally meet the people for whom we've made a difference. During one IBF Fellows breakfast, we told one of our grantees we were able secure additional money for their legal service organization. When the grantee heard the news, she burst into tears. At our ISBA Assembly meeting this past December, Niccole Simmons spoke to us about the difference we made to her family after her lawyer husband became ill and passed away.
Give back to the profession, form great friendships
If you have any questions on how you fit into the IBF, call IBF Executive Director Lisa Corrao at (312) 920-4683. Lisa has fantastic ideas and would be more than happy to talk to you about all of the fun and exciting ways you can join us.
Please join and friend the IBF on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/illinoisbarfoundation and check out the website at http://www.illinoisbarfoundation.org. Many of our events have committees you can join.
We all became lawyers because we had high hopes of making a difference in this world. But as we became more specialized in our careers, we might have found that there was less opportunity to affect people's lives on a larger scale. The IBF provides all this and more.
Remember, all of us have been hit hard by this recession. But the IBF has been diligently working to raise money so we can distribute more and bigger grants that will make more of a difference in people's lives.
I will always be a member of the Illinois Bar Foundation. I am thankful for the opportunity it has given me to give back to the legal community and people of Illinois. The unexpected benefit was the priceless friendships that I have developed as a result of this. I urge you to join today.