Monday, August 01, 2005


By Stockton

Many professionals, including lawyers, are active in the community. A surprising number of firms are proud of their community involvement and urge their new associates to "give something back to the community." So, don't be surprised if during the first few weeks of your employment, you receive a knock on your door. It will be a partner and that partner will encourage you to become involved in some community related, charitable activity.

You will have one of two responses: "Give something back to the community? Sure! Great! Since the community is paying my student loans, since the community just spent three years in school, since the community is working this lousy, 12 hour a day, slave-wage job, I'll give something to the community. How about the finger?" Make sure that this response comes from your "inner" voice and your "inner" voice only.

Instead, muster all your energy into a feigned look of interest and say, "Great, I have two or three free hours every week. I'd love to help."

There is a wide variety of community groups, activities and projects you can participate in to keep your employers happy. Here are just a few.

Battered Women

Before you jump into this, make sure you know what you're dealing with. Despite the name, this has nothing to do with smearing pancake mix onto females. In this context battered means violence, not a pasty mixture used to make pancakes or fish fries. Battered women's advocacy groups can always use free legal counseling on a wide variety of issues. It is a worthy endeavor but proceed with caution when selecting a group. If you decide to do pro bono work for a battered women's group, make sure it's an anti-battered women's group. I learned that one the hard way.

Youth Groups

A partner at my firm was able to combine his love of basketball and his desire to work with inner-city street gangs. When he was finished, he had turned four inner-city youth basketball teams into street gangs. Quite a success rate. The street gangs are now 7-0 this season and are heading to the state finals.

Indigent Teens

Another partner spends his spare time working with indigent teens. He says many of those teens just need someone who will listen. He is very dedicated to this work. On weekend nights, when I'm out late, I often see his car parked in a disreputable neighborhood. He must be well-liked though, because I usually see young females leaning in his passenger window listening to his advice. Once, I even saw him give someone some money and a ride. He has a big heart and I still don't understand why he's been divorced four times.

Indigent Lawyers

It's a little known fact but some lawyers can fall on hard times. There's nothing more worthwhile than to aid the needy within your own profession. It's a heart-wrenching experience to see a lawyer that has lost his second Mercedes or the summer home on Lake Watchamacallit in Vermont. Others become overwhelmed by their success, suffering from anxiety when they have to choose a particular tax shelter to protect their money from the government. Alcohol is another problem area for some attorneys. Fulfilling your community service might be as simple as stopping at a liquor store every morning and picking up a few things for a fellow attorney whose family will not allow liquor in the house.

Catholic Defense League

For the athletes among you, this is a worthy endeavor. The CDL teaches the art of self-defense to Catholic Alter Boys. It also raises money to purchase and supply alter boys with pepper spray and whistles.

Don't forget, your charitable activities can begin in law school. However, you must never question the charitable event after the decision to host that event has been made. You may be labeled as insensitive. During my second year of school, our class hosted a "Day Out" for the homeless. This event included a cookout in a local park. I made the mistake of pointing out that the homeless are always out of doors and perhaps we should host a "Day In" for the homeless. The event planners were not amused.

Now go do some good!


Legally Intoxicated (Retired) said...

Brilliant! Someday, I hope to start a charitable foundation dedicated to making sure that the homeless get the cheap vodka and Boones that they so desperately need. (I think I posted on this some time ago, but am entirely too lazy to go find the link.)

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