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The Office and Michael ScottThe Office’s Michael Scott didn’t quite get it — but these law firms do

By Geri L. Dreiling, Esq.

The notion of helping others is what attracts many to law school, and that desire to give back to the community continues even after graduation.

For lawyers, making a difference can mean many different things: representing clients on a pro bono basis, raising money for a local nonprofit group, establishing a grant award for community programs or recognizing a group that provides a valuable service.

Although the primary purpose of these gestures is to help others, community outreach is one of the most positive ways to raise the profile of your law firm in the community and educate the public about your practice.

The importance of community outreach is something that many corporations have long recognized. Most business have an individual — sometimes even a whole department — whose sole focus is to review grant applications and provide funds that help support charities and nonprofits.

Even smaller companies view community support as a component of good corporate citizenship. Anyone who has ever been to a Little League game has seen the names of local insurance agencies and sporting goods stores who have sponsored teams. Many school programs include the names of local business sponsors who helped contribute to the events’ success.

Of course, there’s a right way and wrong way to go about community outreach. The Office’s Michael Scott didn’t get it quite right when he pushed to have Boy Scouts attend a gambling fundraiser, on a school night, catered by Hooters.

Most law firms, unlike Michael, are able to successfully incorporate community outreach into their practices. Here are three examples of Legal Media Matters clients that get it right.

1. Project XOXO

Responding to the sluggish economy and increased strain on public services, several St. Louis law firms joined forces in 2010 to raise money for various local charities by launching Project XOXO.

Established to coincide with Valentine’s Day, Project XOXO managed to raise more than $60,000 for St. Louis-area nonprofits.

2.  Conflict Resolution Month

For St. Louis family law attorney and mediator Marta J. Papa, resolving conflict in a peaceful manner is a key part of her practice. Therefore, for October’s Conflict Resolution Month, Papa’s law firm took a three-pronged approach.

With the help of Beth Lewandowski, another of the firm’s lawyers, Papa was able to get a proclamation from St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay noting the significance of Conflict Resolution Month. Papa also presented a plaque to Forsyth School in recognition of its program that teaches children how to resolve their conflicts in a peaceful manner. Finally, Papa shared with KSDK (Channel 5) anchor Jennifer Blome tips on how viewers can resolve conflict at home and at work in a positive fashion.

At Legal Media Matters, we believe in supporting the community, too.

After chronicling the struggle of one family from Sierra Leone for St. Louis Magazine, I became interested in the plight of immigrants and war refugees who have resettled in St. Louis. That’s one reason that I am involved with the St. Louis Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma.

Has your firm reached out to the community? If so, what organizations do you support, and how does your firm make a meaningful difference?

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