As a national nonprofit based in Buffalo, NY, The Milestone Foundation is committed to building meaningful relationships with attorneys and related organizations around the country. Thus, we jumped at the opportunity to attend the inaugural Impact Litigation Funders Symposium in February 2023. This symposium was held directly before the Impact Fund’s annual Class Action Conference, an invitation only, national class action conference for nonprofits, private practice, government, and academia committed to social justice.

Co-hosted by the Impact Fund and Justice Catalyst Law in San Francisco, the symposium brought together organizations and individuals providing funding in support of plaintiff-side litigation. The group included nonprofits and specifically:

  • Foundations interested in investing in cases fostering social justice,
  • Academics who study the impact of litigation funding on outcomes, and
  • For-profit funders looking to grow their social impact and make a difference.

The symposium provided a collaborative experience to:

  • Discuss the use of third-party litigation funding,
  • Brainstorm effective funding models,
  • Form a code of ethics for philanthropists and litigation funding organizations,
  • Improve the accessibility of litigation funding,
  • Establish an educational network for both the public and litigation funders, and
  • Discuss how communities can leverage philanthropic support to achieve sustainable goals.

We were inspired to be a part of this conversation and engage with industry peers who are willing to fund influential cases to progress economic, environmental, racial, and social justice. We heard about the impact that nonprofits like the Impact Litigation Fund and Justice Catalyst Law are having by providing grants to support litigation expenses for cases targeted at enhancing social and economic justice. Their support, along with the other participants at the symposium, is crucial in maintaining momentum for marginalized groups in their pursuit of justice.

While our program at The Milestone Foundation is unique in that we provide funding directly to plaintiffs towards their essential living expenses, one thing was clear—everyone attending the symposium was wholeheartedly committed to providing support to individuals who required additional resources to access justice.

A key takeaway from the symposium was the commitment by participants to build a shared intake for cases in the hopes that more cases and individuals can receive funding tied to the missions of each organization. Additionally, we welcomed the chance to promote the Foundation’s services; many of the conference participants were not aware that an ethical funding resource for plaintiffs existed, and they’ll now be able to refer clients to The Milestone Foundation as appropriate. Finally, we were inspired by the case studies presented by the Impact Fund grant recipients. For example, litigators achieved justice for the foster children through the class action lawsuit M.B. v Howard in Kansas, addressed the harmful practice of moving children to multiple foster homes and the necessity for these children to have mental health support and stable housing, and also toward litigators advocating for immigrant voting rights in Georgia through Trinh v. Homan, which addressed voting restrictions on Vietnamese immigrants detained before July 1995.

Attending the Impact Litigation Funding Symposium gave us the opportunity to collaborate with likeminded organizations and establish a funding network for litigators. It was invigorating to be surrounded by the drivers of positive, social change, and we are excited to continue to build upon these new relationships.