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LRAP fundraising campaign entering final phase

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In 2007, Michael Schoen arrived in Indianapolis with a brand new Juris Doctor and $50,000 due in student loans.

He landed a job as a staff attorney at the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society where he could fulfill his passion of making sure the legal process works as well for those who have few resources as it does for those who have many resources. Although he loved the work, the salary was too small to cover living expenses plus his law school debt.

John Floreancig Floreancig

Schoen maintains he would have had to leave ILAS and take a position at a bigger law firm if not for the funding he received from the Justice Richard M. Givan Loan Repayment Assistance Program administered by the Indiana Bar Foundation. For nine months, he used the money to make his loan payments and afterward, aided by his wife getting a boost in income, was able to meet his household’s financial obligations without assistance.

Today he continues paying off his loan but instead of working to satisfy his checkbook, he has been able to stay at the legal aid society and serve people who otherwise might not get help.

“There is a right way and a wrong way and to me that’s what public service is about,” Schoen said. “I want to make sure the process lives up to its highest ideals.”

To help keep attorneys like Schoen in legal aid, the IBF is making sure LRAP funds continue to be available. The foundation is in its final push to raise funds for the program. Monies collected between now and the end of 2012 will go into the endowment and will be matched by the Indiana Supreme Court.

LRAP awards short-term grants to help attorneys who are working in low-paying public legal services pay their educational loans. Since the program was established in Indiana in 2006, the IBF has made 51 awards to 30 lawyers.

New life

Mulvaney Karl Mulvaney

Three years after it started, Indiana’s LRAP was temporarily suspended. However, at its relaunch in October 2009, the program had a new moniker and renewed support. The program was renamed in honor of the late Indiana Chief Justice Richard M. Givan. The Indiana Supreme Court re-energized the program by making an initial gift of $25,000 and then offered to match all contributions made to the endowment up to $175,000 by the end of 2012.

As of June 30, 2012, the endowment totaled $170,785, which includes the Supreme Court’s matching donations. In addition, the IBF has another $37,470 that is awaiting matching funds.

howtohelp.jpgNow the IBF is focused on raising just under $71,000 to meet its goal.

Money crunch

At the ILAS, nine staff attorneys deal with the fallout of the economic recession every day. Foreclosures, marital disputes, child support, guardianships, and job loss entangle community members to the point where they need legal assistance.

“Once the line of income dries up, everything just falls through the floor,” said John Floreancig, general counsel at ILAS.

Attorneys at the organization handle between 1,300 and 1,600 cases annually, and they make a salary in the $40,000 range. Floreancig conceded lawyers can struggle to support themselves at that income level when they may owe $80,000 to $100,000 in student loans.

Compounding the money crunch, the agency receives no federal funding so the attorneys do not qualify for federal assistance. About four attorneys have relied on LRAP funds, which has not only helped with their loan payments but also kept them in legal aid.

“It’s probably the most important program I’ve seen in the last 10 years to help us retain these attorneys,” Floreancig said.

abeska-tim-mug.jpg Abeska

Fittingly, the state’s LRAP fund carries the name of an individual who devoted much of his legal career to public service. Givan spent his career in the public sector, serving as the first law clerk of the Indiana Supreme Court, then as a public defender, assistant attorney general and state legislator. He was elected to the state’s highest court in 1968 and served as chief justice from November 1974 to March 1987.

Karl Mulvaney, partner at Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP, applauds connecting Givan to a program that helps legal aid attorneys. He clerked for Givan at one time, and he is an advocate of LRAP as well as a donor.

The idea to rename the fund the Justice Richard M. Givan Loan Repayment Assistance Program came from retired Chief Justice Randall Shepard. After Givan’s death in the summer of 2009, his former law clerks, including Mulvaney, were trying to think of a way to honor their mentor when Shepard made his suggestion.

eligibility.jpg“Justice Shepard is one of the brightest people you’ll ever meet,” Mulvaney said. “He’s had a million tremendous ideas, and I think this was one.”

Asking for help

To raise funds for the program, the IBF has focused on individual appeals in part because budget constraints are preventing such tactics as mass mailings. The strategy, said Theresa Browning, director of development and communications at IBF, is to have “key people” talking to others about the program and the financial goal.

“It’s been a challenge to identify attorneys who are interested in it,” Browning said.

However, since IBF is more than halfway to its goal, she is optimistic the support is out there and the last $70,872 will come by the end of the year.

Timothy Abeska, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP in South Bend, attributed the difficulty in raising funds to the downturn in the economy. Also, lawyers receive countless solicitations for donations to various worthy causes, and they directly support legal aid services by taking pro bono cases.

Abeska made an initial gift of $25,000 to LRAP in 2010. He was inspired to do so from his service on the IBF board and his desire to support those lawyers going into public service.

His donation, he said, will have a ripple effect by sustaining legal aid attorneys who then provide assistance to marginalized people who might otherwise go unrepresented.•

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  1. The $320,000 is the amount the school spent in litigating two lawsuits: One to release the report involving John Trimble (as noted in the story above) and one defending the discrimination lawsuit. The story above does not mention the amount spent to defend the discrimination suit, that's why the numbers don't match. Thanks for reading.

  2. $160k? Yesterday the figure was $320k. Which is it Indiana Lawyer. And even more interesting, which well connected law firm got the (I am guessing) $320k, six time was the fired chancellor received. LOL. (From yesterday's story, which I guess we were expected to forget overnight ... "According to records obtained by the Journal & Courier, Purdue spent $161,812, beginning in July 2012, in a state open records lawsuit and $168,312, beginning in April 2013, for defense in a federal lawsuit. Much of those fees were spent battling court orders to release an independent investigation by attorney John Trimble that found Purdue could have handled the forced retirement better")

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  4. I'm currently seeing someone who has a charge of child pornography possession, he didn't know he had it because it was attached to a music video file he downloaded when he was 19/20 yrs old and fought it for years until he couldn't handle it and plead guilty of possession. He's been convicted in Illinois and now lives in Indiana. Wouldn't it be better to give them a chance to prove to the community and their families that they pose no threat? He's so young and now because he was being a kid and downloaded music at a younger age, he has to pay for it the rest of his life? It's unfair, he can't live a normal life, and has to live in fear of what people can say and do to him because of something that happened 10 years ago? No one deserves that, and no one deserves to be labeled for one mistake, he got labeled even though there was no intent to obtain and use the said content. It makes me so sad to see someone I love go through this and it makes me holds me back a lot because I don't know how people around me will accept him...second chances should be given to those under the age of 21 at least so they can be given a chance to live a normal life as a productive member of society.

  5. It's just an ill considered remark. The Sup Ct is inherently political, as it is a core part of government, and Marbury V Madison guaranteed that it would become ever more so Supremely thus. So her remark is meaningless and she just should have not made it.... what she could have said is that Congress is a bunch of lazys and cowards who wont do their jobs so the hard work of making laws clear, oftentimes stops with the Sups sorting things out that could have been resolved by more competent legislation. That would have been a more worthwhile remark and maybe would have had some relevance to what voters do, since voters cant affect who gets appointed to the supremely un-democratic art III courts.

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