June 4, 2018

Volunteerism at HBLC

Lyle Harris

The character of a law firm is the sum of the character of the individuals of the firm. A good yardstick to measure character is to ask: What do you do with your spare time? Do you pursue activities that result solely in your self-fulfillment? Or do you do something that “gives back” to your community?

At HBLC, we have many people who spend a large portion of their time giving back to their community.

Two of our paralegals are volunteers to a legal society called Amici Curiae. One of them, who speaks the Philippine language, works to assist Philippine women in preparing the legal paperwork to do their own divorces. The other assists disadvantaged individuals, including battered women, complete complex legal forms and affidavits for intimidating legal proceedings.

One of our lawyers volunteers as an officer for the local community agricultural commission, assists in a program that provides music to residential seniors, and drives a cancer patient to medical treatment.  Others coach local youth sports teams.

One of our legal administrative assistants works as a cook in a soup kitchen on East Cordova where she whips up scrambled eggs for up to 300 people. She helps with the planning and creativity goes into turning donated food into a cohesive meal.

One of our lawyers works with Access Pro Bono to provide free legal advice for persons in need. Another one of our lawyers volunteers with the Law Students’ Legal Advice Program (“LSLAP”) and, while a law student, served on the Board of that organization. Both Access Pro Bono and LSLAP provide free legal advice and representation to persons in need of legal help but who lack the funds to hire a lawyer.

One of our paralegals volunteers each Sunday at Canuck Place Children’s Hospice as the receptionist and has done so for 11 years. She describes it as a place filled with both sadness and joy and finds the strength and resilience of the sick children inspiring and humbling.

Several of our lawyers are also heavily involved in serving the legal profession in leadership roles within the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch (“CBABC”), which has over 7,000 members.  One of our lawyers was elected to the CBABC Provincial Council and Executive Committee in 2017, and continues to serve in those capacities. Two more of our lawyers were just elected to the CBABC Provincial Council in spring of 2018.  Our lawyers are also active volunteering within the CBABC promoting the activities of the Young Lawyers Lower Mainland section; sitting on the Advisory Committee to the CBABC Rural Education and Access to Lawyers (REAL) Initiative (assisting law firms and practitioners in small communities and rural areas of British Columbia to recruit, hire, and retain law students and new lawyers); serving as a “Connector” for the Connexions Pilot Project (a program matching new members with more-seasoned CBA peers in their jurisdictions, to assist the new members in maximizing the benefits and opportunities that the CBA offers); and lobbying Federal and Provincial governments to ensure that new policies and laws promote the interests of both legal professionals and society as a whole.

Additionally, one of our paralegals is a co-founder of an event called “Free to Be Fabulous” that fundraises for an organization called “Rainbow Railroad”, which assists gay and bisexual men in countries where they are persecuted, abducted, and tortured. Last year, the “Free to Be Fabulous” event raised almost $11,000 for Rainbow Railroad. This year, their goal is $25,000.

Several of our lawyers give freely of their time and expertise to present at continuing legal education seminars.  In particular, one of our lawyers was recognized by Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia (“CLEBC”) for planning, preparing, and writing papers for over 50 CLEBC seminars.  Another of our lawyers was recognized by CLEBC for participating in over 60 CLEBC seminars.

Also, several of our lawyers mentor younger lawyers engaged in our profession through both formal and informal mentoring programs.

One of our paralegals works as an event planner for the Canadian Cancer Society, assisting with setting up and taking down events, and with the progression of the events including last year’s Daffodil Campaign and the Daffodil Ball. Another of our paralegals is participating in this year’s Ride to Conquer Cancer. She hopes to raise much more than the minimum $2,500 over her 200+ kilometer bicycle ride. Many other HLBC members will be pledging money for her ride.  Further, last year HBLC sponsored a team of our female lawyers, paralegals, and legal administrative assistants to participate in the Women 2 Warrior challenge in support of East Seals BC/Yukon division.  By participating in Women 2 Warrior, we helped send over 800 children and young adults with disabilities throughout BC and Yukon for a week long camping experience at Easter Seals accessible camps.

Additionally, one of our lawyers serves as volunteer coordinator for the children’s Sunday school program, and as food bank coordinator, of a local church. One of our legal administrative assistants has been a director for many years of a community garden society. The garden society provides much joy for the members who pay an annual fee to dig in their plots, and for the persons who admire the garden.

When I read over this large list of our people who volunteer their time and talents, it is my belief that if each of them stopped doing what they are doing, society in the Greater Vancouver area would be a much poorer place.

You will note that all of the above descriptions are anonymous. That is because the persons above are happy to do what they do without any recognition at all. In fact, I had to twist the arms of some just to get them to tell their story! Several more HBLC members give their time and talents to community and service organizations as well, which are not noted here.  And many are mothers and fathers: perhaps the most time-taking “volunteer” position of all!

For anyone who wishes to explore the idea of “character” further I would recommend David Brooks’ book, The Road to Character. For the purposes of our clients and potential clients, character means having lawyers with the courage and judgment to make the right decisions. Character means having your case appropriately handled by people who take pride in what they are doing.  Character means having lawyers, paralegals, and legal administrative assistants that will work hard, with integrity, for our clients.

Hopefully you will agree, based on the brief examination above, that Harris & Brun Law Corporation has character.

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