The TRIAL.COM Foundation
The Network of Trial Law Firms, Inc. (the “Network”) is a not-for-profit association of 24 member law firms producing continuing legal education. The Network is organized pursuant to the law of the State of New York and is qualified as a 503(c)(6) business league under the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”). The Network, however, is not a charity within the meaning of the Code.
Following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005, the Network’s executive committee began discussing the responses of individuals, member law firms and other legal organizations to the catastrophe. We were struck by the enormity of the disaster and the plight of those affected by it. We considered what more could be done to help.
In response to a poll, we confirmed that Network member firms have been very generous, making and continuing to make substantial contributions to various relief organizations. Many Network member firms also matched contributions made by their employees. The response of the public and of corporations appears to be similarly positive, with the Red Cross, Salvation Army and others appearing to do well in terms of contributions, at least in the short term. We estimated that Network member firms have already donated more than a half million dollars, not counting individual contributions separately made.
Our thoughts turned to concern about the ability of our affected member law firms to meet the needs of all of their employees. Our thinking went to support personnel in particular, file clerks, runners, secretaries, etc., some of whom sustained substantial losses. Thus, in response to the evident need of persons affected by these recent natural disasters along the Gulf Coast, TRIAL.COM FOUNDATION, INC. (the “Foundation”), a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation, was formed on behalf of The Network of Trial Law Firms, Inc., to carry-out certain charitable activities of the Network, as specified in the Foundation’s organizing documents. Specifically, the Foundation plans to:
The first project that the Foundation has undertaken is the raising and distribution of funds for the relief of the immediate needs of employees of member firms who are victims of one or more 2005 hurricanes. In accordance with guidelines provided in the IRS publication, "Disaster Relief, Providing Assistance through Charitable Organizations" the Foundation has: (a) established objective criteria for determining need and selecting relief recipients (see below); and (b) created an independent selection committee to choose recipients for aid.
After the initial project, the Foundation has supported pro bono publico and other similar public interest programs. In addition, the Foundation will be prepared to provide disaster relief should a similar need arise in the future.
Effective September 19, 2005, the Foundation has been and will be classified as a public charity under IRC 170(b)(1)(A)(vi).
Funds distributed by the Foundation to individuals must be made on a true charitable basis in furtherance of the purposes for which TRIAL.COM FOUNDATION, INC. has been organized. Thus, the Foundation must keep adequate records and case histories that demonstrate that grants to individuals serve our charitable purposes, showing names, addresses, purposes of grants, manner of selection, and relationship (if any) to members, officers, trustees, or donors of funds.