The ABA YLD Subgrant Program: Tips from the Chief Judge and a Former Subgrant Recipient

Volume 37, Number 3


Alyesha Asghar is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and an Associate with the Charleston, West Virginia, firm of Spilman Thomas & Battle PLLC.

With the application process in full swing, the ABA YLD Subgrant Program is poised to affect change in the lives of several quality projects developed by the Division’s affiliated young lawyer organizations. The 2012 Subgrant Program is designed to assist in the success of projects developed by ABA YLD Affiliates across the nation by providing support through program funding.

“In 2012, the ABA YLD Subgrant Program will, in a nutshell, award approximately $25,000 to young lawyer Affiliates for public service and bar leadership or member service projects,” said Lesley Pate Marlin, Chief Judge for the ABA YLD Subgrant Program. “Public service projects are eligible for awards as high as $2,000 per subgrant, and member service projects are eligible for awards as high as $500 per subgrant.”

Tips from the Chief Judge

Marlin marveled at the uptick in the number of applications for subgrants and attributed it to the increased awareness about the program during the past several years. “While funding from state and local bars has been more difficult to come by during the past few years, the ABA YLD Subgrant Program offers a unique alternative for Affiliates seeking funding,” Marlin said.

Subgrant applications are thoroughly vetted, however, and each application is reviewed by a panel of judges. The judging team comprises ABA YLD Affiliate members. In 2011, 36 programs out of the 56 applicants for subgrants were awarded funding.


As such, it is especially important for subgrant applicants to create meticulous applications that conform to the rules. Affiliates must pay careful attention to what subgrant funds can and cannot be used for. Food, for example, cannot be funded through the subgrant program. ABA YLD funds also cannot be used to pay for staff or attorney time, rental of meeting space, or travel reimbursements. According to Marlin, successful subgrant applicants must show income outside of the ABA YLD subgrant monies to cover these expenses.

Successful proposals for subgrant funds must include the following:

• well-defined and achievable goals,

• specific measures of success,

• collaberation at monority bar associations and senior bar associations,

• inclusion of underrepresented or diverse minority groups,

• original and unique project activities, and

• projects that can be replicated by other Affiliates.

Priority will be given to projects that provide law-related services to the public, which help meet an otherwise unmet need. “Even though anything that helps the public is worthwhile, given the ABA YLD’s mission, subgrant applications for programs that demonstrate a clear legal nexus helps judges prioritize the ABA YLD’s affinity to a particular project in comparison to projects that may not demonstrate such a connection,” said Marlin. “The quality of an application also speaks to the judges and it is frequently apparent to judges how much or how little time an affiliate has spent preparing the application. A thoughtful, well-prepared application is certainly appreciated.”

Marlin also cautioned subgrant applicants to pay special attention to their budgets. “A good and thorough budget is very important,” said Marlin. “Affiliates that invest time in putting together a detailed and comprehensive budget are doing themselves a great service.” Although several subgrant applicants may have great concepts, it is often the budget that helps judges determine whether ABA YLD subgrant funding will help the Affiliate actually achieve the goals that it has set for the program.

A unique feature of the ABA YLD Subgrant Program is the ability of past subgrant recipients to reapply for funds in subsequent years. Although Marlin said that the program’s judges take an applicant’s status as a former recipient of subgrant funding into consideration, it is simply one among several factors that judges evaluate before awarding funding. Another factor that judges consider is whether the subgrant applicant has received funding from an alternate source.

Tips from a Successful Subgrant Recipient

In 2011, the ABA YLD Subgrant Program helped Judge Helen Ginger Berrigan of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Suzanne K. Scalise, a past chair of the Younger Lawyers Division of the New Orleans Federal Bar Association (YLD NOFBA), and other members of the YLD NOFBA organize and facilitate two field trips to Angola State Penitentiary for groups of at-risk students from New Orleans alternative schools. School administrators selected the students from each school for the tour, and school staff as well as local attorneys acted as chaperones throughout the field trip.

“The subgrant funds made it possible for us to transport the students by bus to and from the prison,” said Scalise, the primary author of the ABA YLD subgrant application for the Angola Tour project. “Once they were inside the bus, the students viewed a DVD about Angola and YLD NOFBA attorneys talked to the students about conflict resolution and about Louisiana’s criminal justice system.”

In the prison, students were given candid insights into prison life when they walked through some of the camps and even attended a presentation by some of the prisoners. The ABA YLD subgrant funds also enabled program organizers to award one student a $50 Visa card for writing an essay about his visit to the prison.

“The award, which was given to the student during a special ceremony that we organized through his school, was a great way for us to demonstrate to these at-risk students that they had an incentive to do well and that they would be recognized for their hard work,” said Scalise.

Scalise was especially impressed with the ABA YLD subgrant program because the program made it possible for the YLD NOFBA and Judge Berrigan to bring the project to life. “The ABA YLD was terrific,” said Scalise. “They had a very workable grant process, which was not too difficult for an already busy attorney to participate in. The application process was easy to complete and it didn’t take forever. As a working attorney, it would have been impossible for me to complete a terribly onerous application process.”

Scalise advises other organizations seeking subgrant funds to start early and to communicate their questions regularly with the ABA YLD. “Gina Sadler [ABA YLD Finance Administrator] was amazing,” said Scalise. “She was very flexible and willing to help.” According to Scalise, one of the most impressive features of the ABA YLD Subgrant Program is its lack of narrow restrictions for the use of funds. “The process was convenient and the authorization to use the funds for a variety of public service projects encourages people to apply.”

In short, the ABA YLD Subgrant Program represents an excellent, and somewhat untapped, source of funding for Affiliate public service and member service projects. The 2012 Subgrant application process will begin on March 1, 2012, when applications must be received at the ABA YLD offices. All Affiliates are encouraged to apply for subgrants. There is no limit to the number of applications an Affiliate may submit; however, the competition is keen and Affiliates are encouraged to submit only their best projects for consideration. To qualify, projects must start no earlier than May 3, 2012, and must be completed no later than May 3, 2013. Winners of 2012 subgrants will be announced at the 2012 ABA YLD Spring Conference in May 2012. At the conclusion of the project, subgrant fund recipients must submit a subgrant status report to the ABA YLD. This report must include a project narrative and detailed accounting of program expenditures and needs, which is to be received by the ABA YLD no later than May 31, 2013.

Detailed guidelines regarding the ABA YLD Subgrant Program can be found online at or contact Gina Sadler at for additional information.



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