Dinner recognizes challenges of economy, praises efforts of community

October 18, 2010
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IL reporter Rebecca Berfanger wrote this blog post.

The 2010 Randall T. Shepard Award Dinner, an annual event to recognize pro bono efforts of the Indiana bar, went off without a hitch on Oct. 15. If anything, it was probably one of the most efficient awards events I’ve been to, but that didn’t make it any less emotional for those in attendance.

Justice Brent E. Dickson started the awards presentation by discussing the importance of pro bono to the legal community. He said the way the districts approach these cases is “exceptional” and said the Indiana Pro Bono Commission had “kept pace with the times,” including innovative ways of handling issues that weren’t as big of a deal when the commission started, such as mortgage foreclosures.

“Kudos to you all for accomplishing what many would think is impossible,” he said, referring to the low interest rates that have led to low amounts of funds from Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts. On Friday, it was also announced to the pro bono district plan administrators that the Indiana Bar Foundation would allocate $427,000 from IOLTA revenues, in addition to $175,000 from the reserve fund – and a possible allocation of some or all of the additional $100,000 Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum gave to the IBF on Friday. Even if all $100,000 went to the pro bono districts, that would still leave a shortfall of $75,000.

To compare to past years: IOLTA income as of mid-2008 – part of which was distributed for use for 2009 budgets – was $3 million; the IOLTA income as of mid-2009, part of which was distributed for use for 2010 budgets, was $1.5 million; and the revenue as of the end of June 2010 was $670,000 – part of which will be distributed for use for 2011 budgets.

But even with smaller budgets, the districts still need to achieve the goals they had a few years ago, “with your hands and feet tied behind your back,” Justice Dickson said.

He also applauded the IBF’s Justice Richard M. Givan Loan Repayment Assistance Program for attorneys in public interest positions, as well as a matching gift program for donations given to the LRAP fund before Nov. 1, 2011, giving attorneys a year to contribute.

He ended his section of the evening by reciting part of the oath all new attorneys take: “I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless, the oppressed or those who cannot afford adequate legal assistance; so help me God.”

IBF president and Muncie attorney Bob Beasley then spoke about the importance of pro bono, including how he hoped “in the not too distant future that this or other events that celebrate pro bono will attract the largest crowds” of any other event in the legal community.

He added that when attorneys retired and look back at their careers, it will likely be the pro bono cases they took on that they’ll be the most proud of, and what they enjoyed most. Like Justice Dickson, Beasley also explained the importance of the IBF’s LRAP efforts for attorneys who want to do public interest law.

He then recognized Carmel attorney Wendy Clar, who had represented 10 family law cases in 2009, and already nine cases in 2010, through the Heartland Pro Bono District (District 8); Jean Blanton and Jennifer Elston of Evansville, who’ve been working on appeals pro bono for family law cases through District 13 in southwestern Indiana; Baker & Daniels and Wishard Health Services, both in Indianapolis, for their Medical-Legal Partnership; the Indiana Supreme Court’s Courts in the Classroom project about Indiana suffragette Helen M. Gougar; and Baker & Daniels and Eli Lilly and Company’s Street Law Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline Program.

Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Melissa May then recognized Ralph S. Adams of Fort Wayne with the Randall T. Shepard Award. Adams was at Legal Services of Maumee Valley until 2008, and continues to work with the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana, Inc. (District 3). In his first year of retirement, he donated nearly 400 hours to help 144 clients. He has also started a hotline on a dedicated cell phone, so if he gets a call, he can respond quickly.

After the awards, most people were ready to head home, but I was able to speak with a few of my regular sources about what they’ve been up to and what I will hopefully be able to soon share with readers about new and ongoing pro bono efforts in Indiana.
 

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