The Allegheny County Bar Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was established in 1980 by the Allegheny County Bar Association (ACBA) to conduct a broad range of educational and charitable activities related to the law. In the late 1980s, the foundation began to address the unmet legal needs of low-income residents in our community. The Center for Volunteer Legal Resources was established in 1990 to help facilitate the delivery of pro bono legal services in the community. In the early 1990s, the foundation also assumed the management of the Divorce Law Project and the Juvenile Court Project to provide direct pro bono legal services to qualified low-income clients.
In 1996, the foundation established the Fellows program as a formal means of recognizing and honoring attorneys who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in charitable, community, professional, and public service activities. To date, over 700 attorneys have been inducted into the Fellows program. Using funds generated through the Fellows program, the foundation initiated a Grants program for the first time in 2000, and has awarded grants, totaling over $265,000, to community organizations in support of their pro bono programs.
In 2005, the foundation created the Pro Bono Coordinator position to manage the Pro Bono Center, formerly the Center for Volunteer Legal Resources. Since the Pro Bono Coordinator position was created, the number of Pro Bono Center community partners has more than doubled, growing from 14 to 33. Since 2005, Pro Bono Center member organizations and projects have provided services to over 50,000 low-income residents in Allegheny County.
In 2005, the foundation launched the “Building Bridges to the Future” Endowment Campaign, resulting in over $1.2 million being pledged to the campaign by generous firms and attorneys. To date, the campaign has raised over $1 million in assets. Interest income from the Endowment will allow the foundation to continue to make an impact in the community for years to come.
In 2006, the foundation established the Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP). One of the first of its kind, LRAP distributed nearly $175,000 in financial awards to 33 public interest attorneys with financial need and significant law school debt. Because of its success, LRAP serves as a model for other loan repayment programs.
In 2009, the foundation established the Young Lawyers Fellows (YLF) Program as a means to recognize newer attorneys committed to charitable and public service activities. Modeled after the Fellows Program, YLF pledges are designated to the Grants Program and the Endowment. The Fellows Committee nominates only a select group of young attorneys each year. To date, 26 attorneys have been inducted into the YLF program.
Also in 2009, the foundation created the Public Interest Law Fellowship Program (PILFP) through a generous grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development. This grant allowed the foundation to award $100,000 in financial stipends, over two years, to 27 public service attorneys who demonstrate exemplary job performance, a commitment in their area of law, and financial need.
The foundation also spearheads various public service initiatives, including Attorneys Against Hunger (AAH). Established in 1993, AAH supports fourteen local hunger service agencies in their fight against hunger. One-hundred percent of the proceeds go directly to the supported agencies. Since its inception, AAH has raised over $1 million.
Other foundation programs include the annual Backpack Project, annual Law Day, the Lawyers Fund, Named Funds, Scholarships and Loans, and the annual ACBA Golf Tournament.