Bar News - October 15, 2014|
President's Perspective: Proud To Be a Community Lawyer
By: Lisa Wellman-Ally
To some people, I am known as Cassidy’s mom, the lawyer. Or, I am the “Don’t you shop at Market Basket?” lawyer or even, “the credit union lawyer” (because my office is inside a credit union).
All of these identities make me a community lawyer. Whether you practice in a small town or in a big city, our profession is a big part of who we are; being a lawyer is not just a job, it is a way of life. You don’t punch a time clock and say, “Okay, only from 9-5 am I a lawyer.” It permeates your whole being, and it is what makes us valuable members of our community.
I’m not talking about working all the time. I’m talking about being a part of something larger. Recently, I wrote an article about mentoring and how it is part of the culture of our profession to give back, by guiding those coming behind us. Being a part of this culture of shared values is vital to who we are as professionals. No matter where or in what areas of law you practice, you are a part of something larger.
We are also members of the communities where we live. Our neighbors look to us for guidance, for thoughtful insight and problem-solving abilities, for leadership, and judgment. As legal professionals, we have unique education and training. Our communities respect our status as lawyers and welcome us into their lives. We are sought out to serve on local school boards and government committees, as well as being asked to get involved in our communities as others do by coaching children’s teams, playing in recreational leagues, or merely shopping in a store.
Those of us who work in small towns know that people take notice of our involvement in our communities, and that we are contributing and giving back to society. But it takes only a few minutes of watching a movie or a TV show, to see the prevalence of the greedy, amoral lawyer stereotype. These TV lawyers are usually shown in fancy offices, in gleaming office towers, or badgering witnesses in a TV courtroom.
That is why Jaye Rancourt, my predecessor as Bar President, led the creation of the Justice for All Challenge, which asks lawyers throughout the state to sign up, as an individual or firm, to commit or acknowledge that they will have or have already devoted at least 30 hours (per attorney) of voluntary legal services during the 2014 calendar year – including but not limited to participation in the Bar’s Pro Bono program. (Many of us contribute our time and expertise in many ways that go beyond the Bar’s formal Pro Bono program, and we want to count that, too.) The culmination of the Justice for All Challenge will result in some form of official recognition for those who sign up early next year.
In addition to individual acknowledgments, the Bar Association wants to add up our collective hours of service so that our communities, our neighbors, those who know us as individuals, will see that we are part of a larger community, the legal community, that is responsibly giving back, every day, to increase access to justice for everyone in our communities.
I encourage you all to sign up for the challenge, so that our communities will be able to more fully acknowledge all that we do.