The West Virginia Bar Foundation (WVBF) is the philanthropic organization for the legal profession and justice system in West Virginia. It has celebrated more than thirty years of service since its incorporation as a non-profit charitable entity in West Virginia on December 30, 1988. WVBF’s primary mission is to make grants to organizations that provide legal services to low income citizens and that improve the administration of justice, including the Public Service Scholarship, to a worthy student at the West Virginia University College of Law. More than one half million dollars has been distributed and committed for grants in just the past 12 years.
WVBF also selects the Bar Foundation Fellows, who are outstanding lawyers and members of the judiciary. Approximately 400 individuals have received this high honor out of more than 6,000 judges and lawyers in the state of West Virginia. The Fellows have joint activities with the state’s members of the American Bar Foundation (ABF) Fellows, since most ABF Fellows are also WVBF Fellows.
In addition, WBVF sponsors programs and activities relating to the legal system, such as the very successful fundraiser, “Lunch and Laughs With Legal Legends,” and the Lawyer Leadership Institute for newer lawyers.
The West Virginia Bar Foundation Fellows
Since 1999, distinguished members of West Virginia’s judiciary and the legal profession have been selected as Bar Foundation Fellows. The Fellows criteria are those judges and lawyers whose professional, public and private careers have demonstrated outstanding dedication to the welfare of their communities and honorable service to the legal profession with the individuals selected reflecting the diverse nature of the legal profession in West Virginia.
Each annual class of Bar Foundation Fellows is honored at a black tie optional dinner attended by as many as 200 judges, lawyers and their guests from all parts of the state and all types of law practice. The Fellows support Bar Foundation grants which are provided to worthwhile nonprofit entities to fulfill the Bar Foundation’s mission and objectives.
Lunch and Laughs with Legal Legends
In October, 2020, the Bar Foundation held its 10th Lunch and Laughs With Legal Legends virtually to honor two legendary figures, Ellie and Ed Flowers, who have given so much to the judicial system and the legal profession in West Virginia.
Each year’s honorees, who agree to participate in a “friendly roast”, select worthwhile charitable entities to receive the net proceeds from the Lunch and Laughs. The Flowers selected the Black Law Students Association and the Career Services Center, both of which are located at the West Virginia University College of Law.
For the ten years of the annual Lunch and Laughs events, more than $89,000 has been generated for the entities selected by the Lunch and Laughs honorees, with all the funds directed towards various programs supporting WVU and its College of Law students. A similar amount has been utilized for Bar Foundation grants to improve the administration of justice and the provision of legal services for the citizens of West Virginia.
Lawyer Leadership Institute
For the past eight years, the Lawyer Leadership Institute has been held as a weekend session to provide newer lawyers with specific education and professional training that will enable them to become leaders in the legal profession, in their communities and in the State. The program consists of expert presentations on service skills, leadership traits, professionalism and civil discourse through participation in interactive sessions, networking opportunities and interpersonal relationship building in an informal learning atmosphere.
The participants are limited to twelve lawyers within 10 years or less of admission to practice law and possessing diverse experiences, who can be nominated by law offices, legal organizations or individually. During the Institute’s two days, the presentations are given by noted judges and lawyers on the topics of organizational leadership, professionalism leadership, leadership in general, interpersonal leadership, civility leadership, ethical and well-being leadership and public service leadership.
WVU Law Student Pandemic Grants
In July 2020, the Bar Foundation Board of Directors approved the awarding of approximately $26,000 to more than three dozen WVU College of Law students who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 virus pandemic. The vast majority of the funding for the special program was provided through a generous grant from the AccessLex Institute Law Student Emergency Relief Program, with additional financial support from the WVBF. The spirit of the Program was to provide direct payments to law students “who are experiencing unforeseen and immediate financial distress due to the COVID-19 dislocations.”
For many years, the Bar Foundation has provided grants for student scholarships, student legal clinics and student educational travel abroad programs at the WVU College of Law. This Pandemic Emergency Fund was just the latest opportunity for the Bar Foundation to support the future leaders of our state’s legal profession and judiciary.
The Bar Foundation was pleased to be involved in this special worthwhile endeavor and highly commends AccessLex Institute for committing a total of $5 million for grants to every law school in the nation during these extraordinary times.