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How to create and implement a community program at your law firm

Here's how to launch a successful community initiative at your firm.

Make sure you have genuine support from your firm's decision makers. If they are not truly behind the effort, you won't get very far. Everything you do should be strategic – partner with client charities, align with your firm's mission and core values. Define how you will measure your community program's success, and track it.  

Community is a very broad concept so start by organizing your initiative into 3 main categories: giving (i.e. financial donations), hands-on involvement, and pro bono.

GIVING - Determine an annual budget, identify the organizations that you plan to support, and amount to allocate to each. You may want to support organizations in which your lawyers hold board positions. You could survey your team for organizations they already support. Or, consider forming an internal committee who will consider sponsorship requests on a case by case basis. As mentioned above, look for opportunities to partner with clients wherever possible.

HANDS-ON - Create an event calendar for the year and plan for at least quarterly events. Break up the activities by category (or focus on one theme per year): arts, education, health, environment, and children. Camillus House is always looking for volunteers to serve dinner at their meal program. You can organize a beach cleanup, or host a backpack drive for an under-served school in your area. United Way of Miami-Dade has year round events that firms can participate in.

PRO BONO - Assign a partner or someone in senior leadership to approve all pro bono projects that your lawyers work on. Track the number of hours that your lawyers spend on pro bono matters. You may want to set a required (or suggested!) number of hours to complete each year. In terms of cases, lawyers can sign up for The Florida Bar Foundation's Florida Pro Bono Matters program or the Florida Guardian Ad Litem program.

Be sure to generate buzz about your community initiative by creating a page on your firm's website about it. Take photos where appropriate and share on social media. Invite local media to attend events. You may want to brand your program with a name and t-shirts for firm participants. But, above all, keep in mind the words of Winston Churchill: "we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

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