I’ve been meaning to write about charity and the legal profession for a quite awhile.
First, let me say there are countless professionals, professional organizations and everyday people who give charitably, generously, often anonymously to benefit others. There is no right or wrong way to give – it is entirely personal.
It is also why I have such a vocal position about lawyers being forced to donate their time in order to keep their professional license.
Yet, there are ways to give that actually enhance the profession that don’t include force, provide tremendous benefits to the recipients, make the lawyers feel good and Stratton Faxon of New Haven, Connecticut is most notable in my mind for creating a charitable philosophy which is a 100% win across the board. They are just one example of a law firm advertising what they do and doing it right, in my opinion.
Stratton Faxon has created the 10% philosophy:
Stratton Faxon sets aside 10% of its fee on each case for charitable causes. This giving policy reflects our understanding that although money may offset a grievous loss or injury, it can never fully right a wrong. Giving back to the community allows us as trial lawyers to create a sense of legacy out of the monetary settlements achieved for our clients. Donations are directed to the client’s charity of choice as well as other groups that support the civil justice system. Stratton Faxon also enjoys sponsoring a number of community events throughout the year.
In one fell swoop they’ve taken on the image of ‘greedy lawyer’ and said ‘not so.’ They’re giving to client-directed charities from their profits on each case. I don’t take issue with them using it as a potential selling feature. It’s smart. Everybody wins and there is nothing wrong with this philosophy. I know Mike Stratton from my days as a young attorney. He’s a heavy-hitter in the Connecticut personal injury world and took over the litigation of our first major personal injury case. And it’s certainly easier to have this philosophy when your cases are multiple millions of dollars.
Imagine if every legal heavyweight did something we all could see. And even if you are not a heavyweight, doing whatever you can. And to those who would say, ‘I do it anonymously, it’s my business’ that’s fine. It is your business and your choice. To those who are new and need every penny earned, this is totally understandable. But imagine if you are already doing something and considered doing something additionally that is visible and in your capacity as a legal professional. This type of visible contribution would go a long way to challenging the ‘greedy lawyer’ image and start a positive trend. And if you are brand new and struggling, yet at some point you are inclined to make charitable donations, this may be something you aspire to in the future. It’s just an idea. And it may ultimately be the deciding factor when clients choose a lawyer all other things being equal. It’s a 100% win across the board.
Imagine a Trust and Estates lawyer giving a dollar amount from every trust created to a charitable trust of the client’s choice. Imagine lawyers who work with startups giving to organizations which foster entrepreneurship or sponsor programs which encourage children to learn business. Imagine a dogbite lawyer donating to an animal shelter to prevent automatic euthanizing of unwanted dogs. Imagine a criminal lawyer donating to groups which get kids off the street or D.A.R.E. The tie-ins are obvious. No, it’s not for everyone. I wouldn’t presume to tell you how you must spend your money. But for those who are so inclined, how terrific would this be!
Solo Practice University has always had a stated mission of donating a portion of its proceeds when the time is right. That time is coming soon. We’re closing in on the right organization. Watch for details.
Do you know any legal profession who states their charitable philosophy as clearly as Stratton Faxon?