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Is your firm looking for a way to increase brand recognition, create happier employees, and connect to the bench? Look outside your walls and into the community for opportunities to volunteer, especially activities that tie in to the legal community. Below are four ways that your firm can benefit from these types of activities as well as some examples of how to get involved.

Increase Brand Recognition and Grow Networks
Right off the bat, it’s easy to see that firm representation in outreach programs yields a greater presence in the community. Having your firm connected to such good works builds trust, fosters a sense of belonging, and can grow its network to include more people than even advertising might.

For example, each April, local chapters of the Federal Bar Association (FBA) organize community outreach and community service projects as part of the National Community Outreach Project. Aimed mainly at connecting students with the federal courts, firms in chapters nationwide will make a direct impact on their communities—and yours could be next.

Engage Employees Beyond Billable Hours
Are your firm’s employees excited to come to work, and happy about their accomplishments? A recent study by Deloitte shows that employees who participate in community outreach programs “are more likely to be proud, loyal and satisfied employees,” and you can bet this carries over into the legal industry as a whole.

For example, during last year’s National Community Outreach Project, the Chicago Chapter of the FBA will presented a program entitled “The William J. Hibbler Schoolhouse to Courthouse Event” at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Attorneys got out of the office and met with high school freshmen at the courthouse and discussed their career trajectories and what led them to pursue the law.

Engaging employees in volunteer opportunities shows that upper management cares about more than just dollars earned—that employees are worth more than their billable hours. This kind of support pays off in more commitment and “going the extra mile” when the time comes because an employee feels respected as a person and is proud of the company—and getting out of the office helps avoid burnout.

Educate Your Future Clients—and Employees—on the Rule of Law
Lawyers do great works, and children especially will take notice. Many volunteer opportunities include working with children, and the legal community can use these activities as a way to help the children access the law from a friendly point a view. (A perspective not all children may get otherwise.)

“Something as simple as hosting a mock sentencing scenario is a great way to educate middle and high school students on the workings of the federal courts,” said Hon. Michael J. Newman, magistrate judge at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and FBA national president. “Their participation in programs on the courts allows the students an inside look at the way the law touches people’s lives every day and affects us all.”

Fostering an interest in the law—including spreading the word about the FBA National Civics Essay Contest—can only mean good things for your future clients—and you might be inspiring future attorneys as well!

Build a Bridge Between the Firm and the Bench—in Person
By participating in community outreach projects, your firm is positioning its attorneys as heroes in the community. This year, the FBA—working in conjunction with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts—has planned programs that not only encourage federal judges to go into schools to meet with students, but also to encourage middle and high school students to come to Federal Courthouses.

By facilitating the connection between judges and students, your firm can position its attorneys to help answer questions about how civil and criminal cases are decided, what judges do every day, and to hear about some of the less glamorous activities judges and court personnel have to perform as well (can you say paperwork?).

For example, the South Carolina Chapter of the FBA is bringing federal judges into local Charleston classrooms this month. Attorneys from the FBA Board of Directors as well as local attorneys from the chapter board will come together to facilitate this program. Planning resources for similar programs are available on the FBA website; the courts will remember that your firm assisted in the planning and execution of these types of programs.

It doesn’t take a huge undertaking for your firm to benefit from performing community outreach activities—even the seemingly smallest volunteer opportunity can bring these benefits and create a more well-rounded firm.

About Author

Stacy King serves as the Chief Staff Executive of the Federal Bar Association (FBA), the premier bar association serving the federal judiciary, the federal practitioner, and the community they serve. She is a Certified Association Executive and provides leadership and oversight on all areas of governance, finance, and operations for the FBA and its affiliated Foundation.

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