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The Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, D.C., expected to get $1.2 million from fund raising for this year’s local AIDS Walk. But the timing was terrible. The walk, which took place Oct. 6, was the first event scheduled for D.C.’s National Mall after the terrorist attacks. As of Oct. 25, nearly three weeks after the walk, the clinic had gathered less than $500,000 — around 40 percent of its goal. “All of that contributed to almost no money coming in,” says Karyl Spriggs, associate director for legal services programs at the clinic. “We’re in a really tough situation right now.” Spriggs is not alone. Legal services providers throughout the city are straining financially, and not just because of economic fallout from the attacks. Twenty-four of D.C.’s legal programs rely on grants from the D.C. Bar Foundation, which will likely have much less to offer this year, in part because of decreased revenue from a key source: Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA). Last June, IOLTA provided the lion’s share of the D.C. Bar Foundation’s $819,500 that went into programs — from Whitman-Walker’s legal services for HIV-positive people to the relatively new D.C. Employment Justice Center, which advocates on behalf of low-income workers. IOLTA revenue is down 15 percent compared with this time last year. If the percentage holds, the D.C. Bar Foundation will have about $120,000 less than it did when it parceled out this year’s allocation. Meanwhile, providers say need is growing right along with the economic uncertainty. Layoffs are pushing low-income workers under the poverty line, immigrants are facing increasingly tough times in housing and employment, and agencies that protect victims of domestic violence say they are receiving more reports of abuse than earlier this year. At an Oct. 24 meeting of the D.C. Bar Foundation at Vinson & Elkins’ D.C. office, legal services providers discussed their clients’ changed circumstances. “Everyone around this table has a story about some family they work with,” said Judith Sandalow, executive director of the Children’s Law Center. “I can keep going, and that’s what’s so scary.” If unemployment among low income workers grows, the 19.3 percent of the city’s population that the U.S. Census estimated to be living in poverty in 1999 will grow, creating what James Bishop, director of the Archdiocesan Legal Network, calls the “new layer of poverty.” More people are likely to fall under the income threshold that qualifies a person for assistance from the Legal Aid Society and the Neighborhood Legal Services Program. But for the service providers, the problem touches closer to home. Although they can farm cases out to law firm attorneys willing to pick up cases, they are staring at laying off administrators and people who work most directly with clients. “Usually cuts are made in the administrative level,” says Jeannine Sanford, deputy executive director of Bread for the City, which, among other things, provides legal services to low-income D.C. residents. “For us, cuts are going to happen where people are providing services.” Many groups won’t know their actual financial status until fall fund-raising pushes and direct mailings are concluded, but with calls from clients steadily increasing, they are not optimistic. “It feels like the phone is constantly ringing,” says Sanford. “It’s rental assistance this month. It’s going to be landlord-tenant next month.” Ann Marie Hay, executive director of the D.C. Law Students in Court Program, expects the same. She says a union leader called her office last week to notify her of upcoming layoffs and the likely bulge in rental assistance requests. A GROWING LINE Two Washington, D.C., groups — Women Empowered Against Violence (WEAVE) and Ayuda — note that they are receiving increased reports of domestic violence. Ayuda Executive Director Yvonne Martinez Vega hesitates to attribute that to any particular trend because outreach programs may have simply brought more victims forward. But a higher instance of domestic violence after trauma like that imparted by the events of Sept. 11 would not be unprecedented. For example, reports of abuse in Oklahoma City rose dramatically in the months after the 1995 bombing. Says Stacie Mruk, WEAVE director of development: “If people have abusive tendencies, pressures like these exacerbate those tendencies.” Immigrants say that they are afraid to seek work in the post-Sept. 11 climate. Elisa Massimino, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, says one Afghan client, who was granted asylum after fleeing the Taliban, says he cannot find a job because of fear surrounding his nationality. “He has a work permit and is legally allowed to work in this country, but every time he tells someone where he’s from, they start shaking,” she says. As needs rise sharply, these organizations cast a nervous eye to the D.C. Bar Foundation, whose money comes from two main sources: IOLTA makes up the vast majority of its revenues, and law firm contributions — nearly $148,000 last year — account for the rest. The law firm contribution roughly equals the foundation’s costs in administering the program. Although banks have different rates and fees, the foundation estimates that the average daily IOLTA interest rate during the last fiscal year was 1.75 percent, compared with about 1 percent now. “The IOLTA numbers are scary,” says Vinson & Elkins D.C. partner Mark Tuohey, who is president of the D.C. Bar Foundation. Providers fear that firms may also be in a poor position to increase their donations this year. The D.C. legal community has already contributed millions of dollars to Sept. 11 and disaster relief funds just as many legal services providers are launching annual fund-raising drives. The firms also have to deal with the same slouching economy as the legal assistance groups. “The problem is that we don’t know,” says Willie Cook, executive director of the Neighborhood Legal Services Program, the only Legal Services Corp.-funded group in Washington, D.C. “And everybody is nervous as hell. We are just beginning our major fund-raising season in September through December.” Susan Hoffman, pro bono partner at Crowell & Moring in D.C., is more optimistic. “We have a set amount of money that we give, and it’s not going to decrease. And unless something traumatic happens between now and February, we’ll budget for as much next year, if not more,” she says. “For legal service providers, it’s sort of like a guaranteed pot of money.” Robert Duncan, partner in charge of the community services department at Hogan & Hartson, takes the same view. “We have given the same amount per year forever, and we did again this year.” As to the diversion of law firm money to Sept. 11 funds, Duncan, like partners at other firms, considers it a one-time grant. “There’s no indication that this is going to affect in any way our charitable giving.” But matching last year’s contributions may not compensate for less IOLTA revenue, and several organizations fear that they will be cut from the foundation’s grantee list if revenues are as low as projected. Tuohey says he would be reluctant to cut a group that has already been approved, since the foundation specifically earmarks its support for programs that serve needs not otherwise met by the legal services community. For legal aid groups, there may be one silver lining. As corporate work slows down, some organizations say there is no dearth of lawyers willing to give up their time. “As law firm business drops, so will revenue, but free time will be up,” says Joe Zengerle, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. “And what is the logical thing that you would do with lawyers with time on their hands? Pro bono.”

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