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A recent article in Motion Magazine, entitled Lawyers Giving Back: Barrister Book Buddies, spoke of one Farmington Hills, Michigan law firm and its efforts of giving back.  The firm, Kaufman, Payton & Chapa, makes a weekly visit to the Detroit-area school and spends several hours reading to and assisting students in their own efforts at learning to read.  The staff commits their lunch hours for “their” students.  The office administrator, Linda Nickerson, said in the interview that the initial goal of the firm was to collect shoes, coats and socks for students over the holidays.  She’s then quoted as saying, after arriving to drop off the donations that first time, “We all looked at each other, we had tears in our eyes and we said, ‘We can’t just let this go.  This can’t just be a hit and run’.”  From there, the Reading Buddies program was launched.  It’s been an incredible success – the kids always look forward to their weekly visitors and the staff members are learning quite a bit about themselves.

This had us wondering how many other legal professionals were able to take a step back from their own lives and give back to their communities.  A. Harrison Barnes, attorney, career coach and founder of, says “The legal sector is actually home for some of the most generous people to be found”.  He continues, “Many, despite their busy schedules, make their efforts of giving back a priority”.  Often, these habits are formed long before they ever even graduate law school.  Sometimes, as part of a sorority or fraternity, students are introduced to those most in need; whether it’s an hour spent helping a child learn to read or committing to working in a local homeless shelter, the fact is, there is always something to be done.

“It’s important to remember what your focus is”, says the founder.  Anything you do should be from a place of genuine concern and a sincere effort of making a difference.  Any other reasons are not going to benefit anyone.  If you approach these efforts with the mindset, “I’ll have done my good deed for the day”, you’re not going to feel fulfilled and anyone who is hoping to benefit from your time is going to feel it too.  So what are the right reasons?  We conducted an impromptu poll of lawyers, paralegals and legal secretaries who are active in their communities.  The question was simple: Why do you volunteer/give back to your community?  Here are a few of the most cited reasons:

• I wanted to share my blessings; to make a difference somehow.
• I saw a need and had the tools/resources to make a change.
• I know how a couple hours of my time can change another’s life; I was once the one whose life needed changing.
• It’s important to me in my walk with God.
• I was raised to believe you give more than you take.

So what are your reasons?  Have you been considering your own community and wondering what difference you can make?  Now’s the time, says A. Harrison Barnes.  “It’s up to each of us to ease another’s burden at some point in our lives”.  We couldn’t agree more.

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