To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
The Northeast Ohio chapter of the ACC has a strong mission of providing opportunities for pro bono work to its membership. While there are of course noble and altruistic reasons for engaging in this type of volunteerism, we have found that there are also personal advantages to taking the time for these activities. Caught up in the daily crunch of business responsibilities, and then retreating to our homes, we may miss the opportunity to engage fully with our communities and lose the chance to reap the personal satisfaction of being a part of the solution to intractable problems.
I speak from personal experience. My dad was a hunter who became a game warden, and then a street racer who ultimately owned a drag strip. He lived his passions, but he did not live to a ripe old age. When he died, my stepmother sent me a poem celebrating his approach to life:
Life’s journey is not to arrive at the
grave safely in a well-preserved body.
But rather to skid in sideways
Totally worn out, shouting
“Wow . . . what a ride!”
In other words, live life as an adventure and take a few worthwhile risks.
When I look back at 24 years of legal practice, and close my eyes to see what images appear, this is what I see: The doctor handing me the scissors to cut the umbilical cord of the baby delivered by my pro bono client who had just aged out of the foster care system; the scrawny death row inmate walking into the visiting room at the Parchman, Mississippi maximum security prison, his eyes tearing up as I described our pro bono efforts to overturn his sentence (which were ultimately successful); and the federal courtroom full of mentally disabled adults and their parents, listening intently as I argued (pro bono) that the court must set aside the TRO that had erroneously shut down all the city’s adult workshops
Volunteering our legal services refreshes us and reminds us (and the community) that lawyers are not the nitpickers and naysayers so commonly portrayed, but rather the problem solvers and advocates who can make a difference.
Therefore, NEOACCA regularly provides its members with the opportunity to participate in the Brief Advice and Referral Clinics offered by The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. The next clinic will take place November 3. NEOACCA, led by our Pro Bono chairs John Moran and Cynthia Binns, has also helped lead the Reach Out initiative. Reach Out is designed to provide legal assistance to nonprofit organizations that are directed toward community service or revitalization and that demonstrate financial need.
As in-house counsel, our days are full of meetings to attend, issues to resolve, contracts to review. Our paid work is often stimulating, rewarding, and even important. But surely there is a value to us in trying something new, helping someone we would never have otherwise met, and making a difference in a very fundamental way.
Elizabeth (“Betsy”) Rader