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Be a Giving Lawyer

Special to the News Columns

One of the cornerstones of being a giving lawyer lies in extending a helping hand to fellow legal professionals. Sharing knowledge, experience, and insights with peers fosters a culture of collaboration and continuous learning.

Jim Vickaryous

Jim Vickaryous

New to town, I showed up for a local bar association lunch meeting. The five lawyers in the room told me that they just learned that the meeting had been cancelled. The bar had not told the caterer, so we had our own bar meeting. The manager gave us 95 packed meals, letting us know that the bar had paid for them. We all agreed to give the meals to charity. My new friends had very important things to get done that Friday afternoon, and I was left with 95 meals.

I had a new practice and needed that afternoon to get work done. Perhaps I could quickly drop off the food to a local charity. Three hours later, I still had the food. Five different charities said no, as they did not know whether the food had been prepared in a licensed kitchen. One kind church lady recommended that I visit her friend at a local homeless shelter. Frustrated, I drove to the homeless shelter and met Sylvia.

Sylvia grilled me on where the food was prepared, as she took great care in what she served. She made a deal with me — she would take the food, but only if I took a tour of the shelter and met the residents. It was past four, and with the workday gone, I agreed. This providential meeting changed my life for the better. As I was leaving, Sylvia asked me to be on the shelter’s board. I told her I would think about it, not really intending on joining. That evening, I told my wife about my day. She asked me, “Well, are you going to join the board and help Sylvia?” My wife is the most generous person I know. She encouraged me to become a giving lawyer. I served over a decade on the shelter’s board, making many lifelong friends. While I gave much time and money, I received much more back.

In the legal world, where time is often measured in billable hours and outcomes hinge on precision and strategy, the concept of giving might seem like an anomaly. However, being a giving lawyer is not only possible but also vital for the growth and well-being of our legal community.  Let’s explore the multifaceted dimensions of being a giving lawyer, emphasizing the importance of generosity towards fellow lawyers, clients, communities, families, and the legal profession as a whole.

One of the cornerstones of being a giving lawyer lies in extending a helping hand to fellow legal professionals. Sharing knowledge, experience, and insights with peers fosters a culture of collaboration and continuous learning. The simplest way to do this is just showing up to a local bar association meeting and becoming a member. Every local bar needs giving lawyers to help. There are many mentorship programs, such as The Florida Bar’s Counsel to Counsel program. By nurturing a supportive environment within the legal community, we not only strengthen our collective knowledge base but also create a more robust and proficient legal system.

While it’s true that legal services come with a price tag, being a giving lawyer involves recognizing the needy in our community. It means showing empathy, understanding, and compassion.  Organized pro bono service programs have a great need for giving lawyers. Most local bar associations have affiliate pro bono legal aid societies that provide the infrastructure for giving lawyers to meet clients that need a lawyer. There are also many regional pro bono legal service providers across Florida and the country that provide a great platform for giving lawyers to help those who have nothing and are truly in need.

A giving lawyer is not confined to the walls of a law office or courtroom. They are an active participant in the community at large. This can take various forms, from participating in local events to offering legal workshops for community members. Engaging with the community not only strengthens our connection with society but also helps dispel the notion of lawyers as distant or unapproachable figures.  Additionally, community involvement can shed light on legal issues that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Being a giving lawyer extends beyond professional boundaries. It encompasses the personal sphere as well. Balancing the demands of a legal career with family commitments requires deliberate effort and a commitment to giving time and attention to loved ones. This balance not only contributes to personal fulfillment but also enhances our effectiveness as legal practitioners. A contented and supported lawyer is better equipped to serve their clients and contribute meaningfully to the legal community.

Our legal profession thrives when its members actively contribute to its growth and development. This can involve engaging in bar association activities, participating in legal education initiatives, or even writing articles and sharing insights with the wider legal community. By being actively involved in our profession, we not only stay updated with the latest legal trends but also help shape the future of our field.

There are rewards for being a giving lawyer. The first reward is the feeling of accomplishment for helping others. The Florida Bar also asks lawyers to commit to an aspirational minimum number of hours of pro bono service, which is reported by every lawyer each year. The most prestigious recognition of a giving lawyer is the Annual Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Awards. Each January, one giving lawyer from each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits is recognized and praised at the Florida Supreme Court.

Embracing generosity is the essence of being a giving lawyer. Let us remember that in giving, we receive so much more in return. The gratitude of a client, the camaraderie of fellow lawyers, and the satisfaction of knowing we have made a positive impact in our communities — these are the true rewards of being a giving lawyer. Let us be generous with our time, our expertise, and our hearts, and in doing so, let us collectively elevate the legal profession to greater heights of integrity and excellence. Let’s all resolve to be giving lawyers.

Jim Vickaryous is the managing partner of the Vickaryous Law Firm in Lake Mary and represents the 18th Circuit on The Florida Bar Board of Governors. 

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