Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Making a Difference at the Bar Foundation

“The MSBF Impact Grant has made a tremendous difference in the lives of trafficked victims by supporting Standpoint to provide victim-centered legal advice and consultation.”

– Rana Alexander, executive director, Standpoint

The MSBA’s Minnesota State Bar Foundation exists for the express purpose of providing monetary grants to community and law-related programs and activities. We focus on:

  • legal assistance to the disadvantaged;
  • improvements in the administration of justice; and
  • law-related education.

Typical foundation grant amounts range from $500 to $3,000. For some time, the foundation has explored the idea of making a larger Impact Grant. A significant cy pres award to the foundation in the spring of 2014 provided a source of funding for a $25,000 Impact Grant.

In October 2014, the foundation issued a request for proposals to provide legal services to victims of human trafficking throughout Minnesota. According to the Human Trafficking in Minnesota Report to the Legislature released in September 2012, trafficking in persons is a global and domestic problem requiring a comprehensive and coordinated response that prevents trafficking, prosecutes traffickers, protects victims, and promotes partnerships among agencies that work to address this issue. Qualifying organizations were nonprofits engaged in providing legal services to child or adult victims of human trafficking.

The criteria for the funded proposal included:

  • a strong legal component;
  • an innovative approach that might be replicated by other organizations doing similar work; and
  • a measurable improvement to that organization’s ability to provide services and improve outcomes for the victims of human trafficking that the organization serves.

A number of proposals were submitted to the foundation board for their consideration in December 2014. The proposal that was selected as having the most potential for improved outcomes for those served was submitted by Standpoint (formerly the Battered Women’s Legal Advocacy Project).

Standpoint proposed using Impact Grant funds as seed money to support a permanent expansion of statewide services by hiring a part-time legal advocate to provide direct representation for trafficked women and act as a resource for others needing support and training. This project was selected based upon its alignment with the foundation’s mission.

Other factors contributed to the foundation’s selection of this project. Standpoint was currently working with victims of trafficking, was uniquely positioned to increase legal services for them, and was committed to providing legal assistance to them as an ongoing and integrated part of its service. The project provided resources to other organizations that serve victims of trafficking, could be replicated as a cost-effective service model for other agencies, and addressed a service gap to trafficked women age 18 and older.

With foundation funding, Standpoint was able to help a part-time paralegal intern earn Board of Immigration Appeals certification through the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. This allowed Standpoint to represent victims of labor trafficking who had also experienced domestic or sexual violence. When the staff member decided to leave Standpoint to attend law school, Standpoint was able to leverage additional grant funding to employ a full-time staff attorney to represent these clients in the immigration appeals process.

The foundation’s ability to fulfill its mission depends on the generosity of its donors. The majority of the foundation’s contributions come from optional $25 donations given as part of the MSBA’s annual dues renewal process. Funds are also received from local district bar association donations, cy pres awards, and donations to commemorate the work, retirement, or memory of another lawyer.

You can help

Please remember to mark the Minnesota State Bar Foundation check-box when you renew your MSBA membership.

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