Law Foundation update

Warren Wilson, QC provided a broad review of the Law Foundation of BC’s history, mandate, priorities and operations to the Benchers at their November meeting. The Chair of the Foundation’s Board of Governors reported that a three-year funding strategies review has recently been completed, assessing the alignment of the Foundation’s funding with its mission and evaluating the effectiveness of its grant-making.

“The review confirms that the right groups are being funded the right amounts to do the right work,” Mr. Wilson informed the Benchers. He added, “the Law Foundation plans to continue to use its limited resources to maximize benefits to the public and the legal profession in its five mandated areas of legal education, legal research, legal aid, law reform and law libraries.”

The former President of the Law Society noted that the Law Foundation has approved grants totalling more than $298 million from its inception through 2005, fulfilling the Foundation’s mission to support organizations and programs that advance the rule of law and a just society. Mr. Wilson reminded the Benchers that by persuading the BC government to enact enabling legislation for the creation of North America’s first law foundation in 1969, BC lawyers pioneered the harnessing of interest earned on pooled trust accounts for the benefit of the public.

2005 saw the Law Foundation distribute $16.9 million in grants, $13.6 million of which provided core funding for 51 continuing programs, including the BC Courthouse Library Society, Legal Services Society and Pro Bono Law of BC. Seven child welfare grants totalling $500,000 were issued from the Foundation’s Child Welfare Fund. Thirty-nine new project grants accounted for another $2.3 million, supporting various one-time initiatives in the areas of public and professional legal education and legal aid, including:

  • $600,000 for new awards to UBC and UVic law students who demonstrate both academic merit and need;
  • $300,000 for Public Interest Articling Fellowships, providing articling opportunities for six deserving students; and
  • $100,000 to each of the Community Legal Assistance Society, the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre, the Legal Services Society and Pro Bono Law of BC.

On the financial front, Mr. Wilson advised that because increased trust balances and improved interest rate agreements combined to offset generally low interest rates, “the Foundation was able to increase funding as well as add to its grant stabilization reserve in 2005.”

He concluded by noting that with sound finances, strong governance and “invaluable” staff, the Foundation’s outlook is bright for continuing its work to enhance public access to justice.

Financial institutions raise rates

Over the past two years, the Law Foundation has negotiated an improvement of .5% on its benchmark rate of interest earned on pooled trust deposits (from prime minus 3.25% to prime minus 2.75%). The Foundation is pleased to recognize the following financial institutions for honouring and in some cases exceeding the new benchmark rate: Royal Bank of Canada, Vancouver City Savings Credit Union, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, TD Canada Trust, Bank of Montreal, Bank of Nova Scotia, HSBC and Canadian Western Bank.