May 08, 2015 Articles

Attorneys Serving the Community: Mixing Good Works with Good Business

By Kelli Hinson and Cortland Kelly Grynwald

Women lawyers’ schedules are stretched thin between work and—frequently—family. It is often hard to find time in the day for philanthropy or even getting together with friends. But the North Texas-based organization Attorneys Serving the Community creates the perfect opportunity for multi-tasking. ASC allows members to make a real difference for local nonprofits, obtain leadership experience, and form personal and business relationships with women attorneys from varying backgrounds, areas of practice, industries, and experience levels.

ASC’s Beginnings
Founded in 1987, ASC was the brainchild of Dallas lawyer Regina Montoya, who recently retired as the general counsel for Children’s Medical Center. At the time, she had just returned to her law firm after completing maternity leave. Brainstorming with the Dallas Women’s Foundation about fundraising efforts, Regina had the brilliant idea of hosting a fundraising luncheon in the summer, so that her target donors—Dallas-area law firms—could buy tables out of their recruiting or marketing budgets, rather than their philanthropic budgets. Julie Lowenberg, now a long-established Dallas community leader and activist, agreed to be Regina’s cochair for the lunch. Marlyn Schwartz of the Dallas Morning News was their keynote speaker. That first event raised about $12,000 for the Dallas Women’s Foundation.

The luncheon was such a success that Regina decided to do it again the following year. She and her cochair, Diane Pitts, chose the nonprofit now known as The ChildCareGroup as their beneficiary for the 1988 luncheon. Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder was the keynote speaker that year, and the group raised over $25,000.

Mission, Outreach, and Fundraising
Since those early days, the ASC luncheon has become a mainstay of the Dallas/Fort Worth summer calendar, featuring speakers such as Viola Davis, Laura Bush and Jenna Bush Hager, Antwone Fisher, Star Jones, Erin Brockovich, Dr. Joyce Brothers, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Over the years, ASC has solidified its stated mission: bringing together women lawyers to combine their time, talent, and resources to support local nonprofit organizations whose programs benefit women, children, and families. Each year, ASC’s members choose a different beneficiary in line with this mission. Past beneficiaries include amazing 501(c)(3) organizations such as Community Partners of Dallas, Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, Family Gateway, Dallas CASA, Wednesday’s Child Benefit Corporation, Camp Fire USA, Vickery Meadow Learning Center, YMCA’s Nurse-Family Partnership Program, Trinity River Mission, and Hope’s Door.

ASC continues to expand and improve its outreach by adding different types of fundraising activities to its calendar. What was once simply a summer luncheon has evolved into an almost year-round series of events that cumulatively raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for the chosen beneficiary. In addition to the summer luncheon—which remains ASC’s signature event—ASC now organizes a February Valentine’s 5K race and a silent auction in the spring. ASC also hosts numerous networking events for its members, including monthly planning meetings, a fall fashion show at Neiman Marcus, and a two-hour ethics CLE seminar.

Good Works and Good Business
ASC has become a powerful force in the North Texas community. Its membership now includes over 400 female attorneys—from first-year associates to senior partners, from solo lawyers to members of huge international firms, and from in-house counsel to public sector lawyers. ASC also incorporates judges, law students, and attorney providers of legal support services. ASC is proud to include in its ranks lawyers from most major law firms in North Texas, as well as in-house counsel from companies like 7-Eleven, AT&T, TIER REIT, American Airlines, NTTA, Bank of America, Cinemark Theatres, JP Morgan Chase, Mary Kay, Texas Instruments, USI Southwest, and Xerox Business Services. Together, the women of ASC have raised over $3.5 million for their beneficiaries. Last year, the members raised over $49,000 from their membership dues alone, and they raised a total of almost $400,000 for that year’s beneficiary, the Foundation for the Education of Young Women.

The key to ASC’s success is that it combines “good works” with “good business.” Women join ASC not only to provide a public service, but to network with other like-minded women within the legal community. Younger attorneys have the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with more senior lawyers and to demonstrate their leadership skills and work ethic. Moreover, ASC offers a flexible approach to participation. Members may contribute as much or as little of their personal time year-to-year as work and family schedules allow. ASC’s network has become a go‑to circle for advice about hiring counsel, client referrals, specific legal issues, or even job searches. And ASC’s sponsors can also feel good about using their marketing dollars to support events that not only provide them with great exposure, but make a positive impact in the community. ASC members understand what drives corporate and law-firm giving, and they try to support the companies, vendors, and firms that support ASC.

This year’s summer luncheon will benefit Helping Restore Ability (HRA), a local nonprofit that provides in-home care to individuals with disabilities so that they may live more independent lives. Every dollar raised goes directly to ASC’s beneficiary. (ASC does not even maintain a bank account.) HRA is applying the funds raised by ASC towards enrolling additional clients who would otherwise remain on the waitlist for services or be institutionalized. As a perfect complement to HRA’s mission, the keynote speaker for this year’s ASC luncheon is Dick Hoyt from “Team Hoyt.” Dick and his son, Rick Hoyt, have completed 67 marathons and 234 triathlons, despite the fact that Rick has cerebral palsy and has been confined to a wheelchair since birth. Dick’s story of love and devotion is truly amazing, and ASC is expecting a record crowd.

Keywords: woman advocate, litigation, Attorneys Serving the Community, community service, philanthropy, business development, fundraising, networking

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