Michigan State Bar Foundation
The Foundation was established in 1947 in recognition
of the legal profession's responsibilities to the public. Since then,
the Foundation has made over 1,817 grants totaling more than $180 million in grants to support civil
legal aid to the poor and improve the administration of justice in Michigan.
The mission of the Foundation is to provide leadership and funding to
improve the justice system by:
1) improving access to justice for all,
particularly through civil legal aid for the poor and through expansion
of the provider system and the resources to improve that system, and
2) improving public understanding about the law, the importance
of the rule of law and peaceful resolution of disputes through education,
research and publicity.
Aid for the Poor: The largest share of grant funds supports non-profit organizations which provide civil legal services to low-income families across Michigan. Vulnerable people receive help with
critical legal needs such as protecting families from domestic violence,
helping an elderly couple preserve their minimal income and assets from
an unscrupulous home repair contractor or assisting a mother navigating insurance procedures
to obtain health care for a gravely ill child.
of Justice: A smaller but important amount of funding
is designed for projects that improve the administration of justice. Specifically,
the Foundation prioritizes funding of innovative law-related education
and conflict resolution projects. These grants have included efforts such
as helping elementary students become "peer mediators" in a
program taught together by lawyers and teachers, helping citizens learn about being a juror, and supporting
a forum broadcast on public television exploring barriers to a justice
system open to all people.
receives funds for its grant programs from a variety of public and private
sources. Legal aid grants are funded primarily by the IOLTA (Interest
on Lawyers Trust Accounts) program and state court filing fees
allocated for civil legal aid to the poor. Through IOLTA, the Foundation
receives interest on pooled lawyer trust accounts containing client funds
that are too small or held for such a short period of time that they cannot
generate interest to benefit the individual client. Key partners in the
IOLTA program are Michigan's banks, many of which waive all service
charges on IOLTA accounts to provide more grants funds. The Foundation
also administers bids and contracts under a public law that earmarks court filing fees to support civil legal aid to the poor.
also receives generous private donations. Fellows of the Michigan State Bar Foundation have provided more than $1.7 million to support the Foundation's public interest program. More than 2,150 lawyers have been elected to Fellows membership for "outstanding legal ability and devotion to community." The Foundation also receives contributions to its Access to Justice Fund which supports civil legal aid for the poor. Some $14.2 million in contributions and pledges have been raised for operations and endowment needs since the ATJ Campaign began in 1997 as a partnership of the State Bar of Michigan, the Michigan State Bar Foundation and our state's civil legal aid programs. For more information on how to make a donation, see www.atjfund.org.