One of the least visible but most valuable entities in Maryland’s legal community is the Maryland Bar Foundation. This volunteer group of attorneys and judges offers generous financial support to legal services programs that promote public good and assist those in need. Over the last 39 years, the Maryland Bar Foundation (MBF) has issued grants to a large number of public service programs and pro bono projects to serve the needs of the community, aiding the disadvantaged and needy.
A non-profit charitable corporation, MBF was founded by the Maryland State Bar Association in 1968 to finance public service and education programs. It is recognized as one of the primary funding sources for legal service programs, giving seed money to launch new projects. Its mission is to raise money to improve the legal profession and the practice of law, and since 1990, MBF has contributed roughly $300,000 to various legal services programs.
“One of the values of the Foundation is that it adds to the good work that the state, local and specialty bars provide to their communities,” states Tracey E. Skinner, MBF President. “It can assist in funding programs and projects that the bar associations, because of budget and volunteer restraints, cannot assist in promoting or establishing. The Foundation truly is integral in promoting and supporting the good that the law and the profession bring to the public.”
MBF’s mission is to obtain gifts and contributions from volunteer lawyers and judges to be used to foster and maintain the honor and integrity of the profession of the law; improve and to facilitate the administration of justice; and promote the study of the law and research therein, the diffusion of knowledge thereof, and the continuing education of lawyers.
Traditionally, MBF has provided seed money to grant programs in the areas of domestic violence, the protection of children and gender equality. It has assisted in the creation of notable legal services groups such as the Pro Bono Resource Center and the Public Justice Center. The Foundation also gave funds to the Citizenship Law-Related Education Program for its Baltimore City Teen Court project, the focal point of MSBA President Alison Asti’s “Youth-at-Risk” initiative this year, to provide peer-driven alternative sentencing for delinquent teens.
In addition to the projects designed to improve the delivery of legal services and the administration of justice in Maryland, MBF recognizes the good works of lawyers with its “Legal Excellence Awards.” These special awards honor Maryland lawyers who have done an exceptional job of advancing professional competence, public service responsibility, unpopular causes and the public understanding of the law. The 2007 Legal Excellence Awards, presented at an award reception on September 25, are listed below. At the Annual Meeting, MBF presents the Edward F. Shea, Jr., Endowment Professionalism Award and the H. Vernon Eney Endowment Fund Award.
All MBF donations to fund the grants it issues every year come from its fellowship and MSBA members. There are currently over 1,000 MBF Fellows. Attorneys interested in supporting MBF and learning more about becoming a Fellow should refer to www.msba.org/departments/administration/mbf/barfoundation.htm.