March 2012 President's Column
Sign Up and Be Counted. Volunteer Now
Robert C. Dortch, Jr.
If you are a Lawyer, I bet you are a volunteer.
Giving back to the community as a volunteer is one of the most significant ways we, as lawyers, can and do impact those in need. Look around you. Check out who is on the boards of local nonprofits, who is behind the never-ending, but oh-so-important fundraising campaigns, and who is often in leadership positions at your community and religious organizations. More often than not, when you look at who is spearheading change through civic organizations within the community, you will find a lawyer or two. Yes, it's true that lawyers are generous with their opinions, but never doubt that lawyers are also generous with their time and their financial support and are among the very first to volunteer.
Nationally, April is the month of the Volunteer. Locally, April is the month that the Mecklenburg County Bar is celebrating our lawyers who volunteer within our community. We want to highlight the activities of 1,000 MCB volunteers during the month of April. We will identify, organize and recruit volunteers to make this happen. Yes, we are celebrating our 100 years in many ways: with a book An Independent Profession: A Centennial History of the Mecklenburg County Bar, an exhibit of our history "Picturing the Past: A History of the MCB" at the Levine Museum of the New South, celebrations and receptions, and a CLE lecture series. Each activity is unique and special. But, lawyers giving back to the community is one of the most important activities we can do. Volunteering makes a statement about who we are and the amazing impact we have as a profession on our community. I can't think of a better way to say "We are 100 years old. We are proud of our profession and we believe in Rule 6.1&.. and the commitment to give back."
"What's Rule 6.1" you might ask. Here it is, taken straight from the NCSB Rule Book: "Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year. In fulfilling this responsibility, the lawyer should: (a) provide a substantial majority of the (50) hours of legal services without fee or expectation of fee to: (1) persons of limited means; (2) charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters that are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means; or (3) individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties or public rights, or charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization's economic resources or would be otherwise inappropriate; (b) provide any additional services through: (1) the delivery of legal services described in paragraph (a) at a substantially reduced fee; or (2) participation in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession.
In addition, a lawyer should voluntarily contribute financial support to organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means."
Opportunities to fulfill Rule 6.1's "responsibilities" and "aspirations" are everywhere. Bob Henderson and Sally Higgins are the co-chairs of the Centennial Community Service Project. Christopher Tucci and Jeff Schwartz are the chair and vice chair of the Lawyers as Volunteers Advisory Committee. I thank them for their service, dedication and leadership in helping to organize volunteer opportunities for our Bar. We have been identifying volunteer needs (and still are) over the past few months. We have been making lists of volunteer opportunities and we now want you to check them at least twice. These lists consist of specific places, ways, dates and times to volunteer. You can volunteer solo, with your family, with your firm, with your friends. Visit https://www.meckbar.org/ for specific opportunities. Go to the big maroon star logo on the right side of the homepage and "Click Here to Volunteer." Stay with the links and sign up. Easy. If you prefer, just send the Bar's staff an email or call the Bar Center. They are there to help you.
The opportunities range from volunteering for the NCBA 4All project to volunteering at the Dilworth soup kitchen and everything in between. You can give an hour or a week. You can give a can of soup or an ounce of blood. You can give a pack of pencils or $100. But, please join in and be a part of something bigger and something meaningful. These are great projects and will show you just how involved our Bar is. If you are on a volunteer board and know of an opportunity, let us know. We can have your project up on MeckBar.org with just a 'click'. Just sign up and be counted.
In celebration of our 100 years, we want to identify at least 1,000 MCB volunteers during the month of April. We have asked firms to let us know what volunteer projects you are involved with and projects in which you would like to be involved. What a great way to get your firm name splashed over our web site and your firm members' volunteer hours counted towards our total. Many of our firms have a relationship with a nonprofit agency and are already providing volunteer services. If you haven't informed us about what you are doing, please do so now. You can contact any of the following Bar staff - Nancy Roberson, Heather Blackley, Rhea Kelley, Anndel Williams -- or contact me. We want to highlight you and your firm and your project on MeckBar.org.
The Bar wants to give back in grand fashion, fitting for a Centennial celebration. We have this vision about reaching out. We want to provide support to LSSP, Legal Aid, the SelfServe Center and the Council for Children's Rights. We want to provide legal assistance to the members of our community who are in desperate need and cannot afford an attorney. We want to highlight our courts that need support in so many ways and we want to demonstrate what our local bar can do. And we want to highlight those lawyers (and their families if you are so inclined) and those firms who are volunteering to do good works within the community.
Whether you have an extra hour or an extra dollar, I encourage you to sign up and be counted. I believe that those folks who say lawyers have a bad rep don't know the lawyers in this Bar. Join me. Sign up to volunteer and be counted. April is right around the corner.