Why Give

When attorneys participate in The Foundation's philanthropic programs, we all play a key role in ultimately having a significant impact on life in New York State.

The New York Bar Foundation is a philanthropic organization that provides financial support to law-related programs, scholarships and educational activities throughout New York State.

For its current three-year strategic plan, launched in June 2018 to coincide with the term of its incoming president, Lesley Rosenthal, the Foundation selected the Rule of Law as its guiding theme.

The rule of law is a powerful concept that can bring people together in these fractious times.  The basic idea is that governments guided by the Rule of Law provide a level playing field, evenhandedly applying a well-publicized set of laws, allowing fundamental rights to flourish, and providing other preconditions for justice to be done.

As part of its planning process, the board of directors of the Foundation set a goal to improve rule of law adherence in New York State and sought to measure progress toward that goal.  The board determined to focus on improving access to civil justice, an area of significant concern and need, according to the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index. The Foundation determined to locate and refer to data gathered in the state to help guide its path.  By better understanding the most urgent unmet civil legal needs, the Foundation could apply its resources where they would do the greatest good. 

In 2010, then-Chief Judge Jonathan Lippmann established the Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York, since renamed the Permanent Commission on Access to Justice. The Commission aims to help ensure low-income New Yorkers access to legal representation in civil matters, in part by evaluating the needs of New Yorkers throughout all four Judiciary Departments of the state.  Heeding the various studies, court data, and listening sessions compiled and analyzed by the Permanent Commission, the Foundation’s grantmaking can prioritizing funding for legal services programs assisting with the essentials of life, namely:

  • child support;
  • consumer debt;
  • housing (including evictions, foreclosures, and homelessness);
  • family matters (including domestic violence, children, and family stability);
  • access to health care;
  • access to education; and
  • subsistence income (including wages, disability and other benefits).

Beyond the scope of the Commission’s focus, the Foundation is also determined to reach rural areas not included in the Commission’s community listening sessions, as well as non-litigation civil matters. For its 2017 fiscal year, IOLA reported that its grantees addressing such matters most frequently closed cases related to housing, family law, immigration, and income maintenance.

By concentrating on the essentials of life for which the vast majority of New Yorkers are still without representation, the Foundation can maximize its impact, helping make access to justice a reality for all New Yorkers and, thereby, enhancing understanding of and respect for the rule of law.

Click here to view the Rule of Law Report