The Maryland State Bar Association Young Lawyers had our orientation today. We went sailing in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore. It was a great way to begin our bar year. Here is a video recapping the day:
Here is a funny sailing video from the classic movie “What About Bob” that really sums up the general enthusiasm for the day.
“What About Bob” Funny Movie Clip
I had the distinct pleasure of having a 2 hour breakfast the other day with Maryland’s Dan Clements, a prominent Plaintiff’s attorney in Baltimore. In short, volunteering is good on a personal level as well as a professional networking level. Here are some takeaways from the breakfast where we talked about being active in the community and volunteering or doing pro bono work for various groups.
If you join a group remember to be known as a someone “who does what they say they are going to do.” So many times in volunteer organizations people have good intentions and say “Yes” they will be able to do something and then don’t do it. “No” is a better answer than saying “Yes” and not doing it. Also, remember if anyone ever gives you a hard time in one of these associations, turn to them, look them in the eye, and tell them “I’m a volunteer.” That will shut them up quick.
Simple, yet effective concepts: Be reliable and don’t say you can, when you can’t.
Does anyone else have any practical tips for lawyers on getting active/participating with bar associations, specialty groups, rotary clubs, church groups or any other community groups?
That’s what Barry Bitter Barrister told me the other day while I was filing a motion in the clerk’s office. You see I had my motion in my Maryland Pro Bono Resource folder that I got at a recent event. The attorney next to me noticed the folder and started making the standard old, bitter, jaded litigator comments to me:
“Pro Bono?! I do plenty of that with clients who don’t pay me.”
Or a little more crude: “I am already getting bono’d by my clients, no need to be pro about it.”
I do not know if this is just the culture of the county I primarily work in or if this attitude is the norm nationwide. Is it?
A couple of years ago I interviewed at a firm and one of the last things I asked was what kind of pro bono/community involvement does the firm do? Awkward silence…
Why the awkward silence? (I got the job despite the daring question.) It seems like pro bono is why most of us went to law school: to simply help people. And if you truly are struggling to the degree that you can not provide pro bono, why is it advantageous at all for you to be condescending and bitter about it? The “Legal Lions” that I know embrace Pro Bono and promote it. If you can’t do it in this economy that is understandable… but what do you get out of doing anything but promoting Pro Bono?
What do you think?
“Every lawyer… has a responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay and personal involvement in the problems of the disadvantaged can be one of the most rewarding experiences in the life of a lawyer.” American Bar Association, Model Rules of Professional Conduct
“To do good is noble. To teach others to do good is nobler, and no trouble [to oneself].” Mark Twain
This past Saturday, March 16, 2013 (My Birthday!) there was a “one-day, one stop” opportunity for individuals and families experiencing homelessness to access benefits, medical care, substance abuse resources and mental health counseling as well as a variety of social services [including legal services] which can ultimately lead to housing and self-sufficiency. I advised the homeless on cleaning up their criminal records (these are called expungements) so they could have a better chance at getting a job. I also advised a few homeless women on getting a divorce from their husbands who were either taking advantage of them physically or financially. Overall it was a great experience and success. Our group of attorneys advised 90 people. The legal services portion of the day was organized by Anne Arundel County Pro Bono Rock Star Joan Bellistri. Thank you Joanie!
This past Saturday I had the wonderful opportunity to prepare Wills, a financial power of attorney and a health care directive for Maryland firemen. These men had a great way about them that I truly liked. They took their wills seriously because unfortunately many of the firemen’s parents or grandparents were also firemen who had unfortunately passed away at a young age. I plan on doing what I can when the next Wills for Heroes event sponsored by the Maryland Young Lawyers Section comes around.
By Scott MacMullan
I’m signed up to participate in the Wills for Heroes event this February 1st. Essentially, lawyers prepare wills for first responders at the event. I’m looking forward to it!
“Wills for Heroes is a free and easy service that provides Wills, Living Wills, Health Care and Financial Powers of Attorney to first responders and their spouses/partners. The foundation was started in response to the tragic events of 9/11. Of the 403 first responders who died that day, most did not have a will in place. First responders risk their lives each day to make our communities safer. This program provides free wills and other estate planning documents to our local heroes in about one hour using a program supplied free-of-charge by LexisNexis.”