Winston Churchill once said that “[w]e make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Although this applies to all aspects of life, it is especially germane to the practice of law.
As attorneys, we possess knowledge, skills and abilities that—despite the breadth of lawyer jokes—are highly valued and can be of great benefit to our communities. Although there are a number of opportunities to volunteer, both related and unrelated to the practice of law (i.e. volunteering at the humane society or taking on pro bono/guardian ad litem matters), getting involved with non-profit organizations is a great opportunity to give back to the community while developing your professional career. However, in order to maximize the benefit to both you and the organization, it is important to keep a few things in mind.
· Look for opportunities. Ask other attorneys, either in your firm or elsewhere, about their involvement in non-profits. Also, as my grandmother would say “do the Google”—research local and national non-profits, and reach out to its directors/personnel to inquire about opportunities.
· Pick an organization that shares your passion. As an attorney, there will be a number of opportunities to serve non-profits. As a young attorney, those opportunities will likely come from smaller, lesser established non-profits—United Way will not solicit you to be a Board of Director and General Counsel. Although it can be tempting to accept the first leadership role you are offered, it is important to research and evaluate each opportunity, and select an organization with a mission best suited to your ideals.
· Do not spread yourself too thin. Once you have researched the best non-profit fit, stick with one organization. As a young attorney, it can be difficult to say no to opportunities to become involved in charitable organizations—especially when the offer comes from a superior. However, getting involved with a number of groups means a lot of organizations get a little. You and an organization will be best served if you devote a significant amount of time to one organization, and one alone.
In sum, get involved in a non-profit or charitable organization in your community. However, do so deliberately and in a manner that will make the most of your participation.