In a year fraught with financial uncertainty, the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia recently got some good news: the civil legal services group's annual Generous Associates Campaign blew past its goal and previous fundraising highs, taking in a record $901,000.
Legal Aid, like many civil legal services groups in D.C. and across the country, has been hit hard by the economic downturn, which caused revenue to drop as demand for services grew. Director of Development Gregg Kelley said he was "blown away" by the amount of money raised this summer.
"If you'd asked if we would go over $900,000, I'd say you were crazy," he said. Money earned from the campaign, which is run by associates at law firms across the city, makes up between 20 to 25 percent of the organization's operating budget, according to Kelley.
This is the campaign's 22nd year. Kelley said that when it began two months ago, they were meeting goals from the beginning, which gave the campaign much-needed momentum.
Last year's campaign generated what was at the time a record of $782,000. Of the 70 firms that participated this year, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr and Latham & Watkins led the pack, raising $90,365 and $80,000, respectively.
The news comes just over a month after the group learned that they would be receiving less funding than last year from the D.C. Bar Foundation. In a previous interview, Legal Aid Executive Director Eric Angel said that they were predicting a deficit in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and that they may have to consider deficit spending.
Kelley said it is too early to predict how this year's budget will play out, but that the money raised from the summer campaign "will certainly make a dent in that deficit."
Wilmer associate Jeremy Moorehouse said that his firm set a goal of raising $80,000 after raising more than $73,000 last summer. He said that Legal Aid staff estimated that the $90,000 they raised would be enough to support two full-time staff attorneys in the Family Law Unit.
"This just recognizes that [the] end goal of contributing towards those who are in need of that legal aid, it's really important to a lot people here," he said.
Latham also shot past its fundraising total of $64,000 last year. Danny Dominguez, a Latham associate and one of the co-chairs of this year's campaign, said in a statement that he is "proud to see that our colleagues are continuing to carry on our tradition of generosity, and it is gratifying to see this campaign end on a very high note.”
Kelley said that especially in light of reports this year about the tough job market and shrinking salaries for associates, the results of the campaign were impressive. "There's just not a lot of good news for associates right now," he said. "This demonstrates the generosity and compassion of the legal community in D.C. especially. It's really remarkable."