The Burlington County Bar Association has been the difference in my life between simply practicing law and engaging in a deep and meaningful profession. So it is my honor to serve as the President of this great organization, where collegiality and professionalism are fostered as the norm. In many ways, I am here not because of me but because this Association made me. Through this Association, I have developed friendships with so many quality people that I would have never had the opportunity to meet in my daily practice as a local government and land use attorney, such as family and criminal section practitioners, transactional attorneys, prosecutors and public defenders. Not to mention the ability to meet and speak with our Burlington County Judges at dinners and less formal settings. These relationships have allowed me to understand the practice of law not just through my own experience, but the experiences of others. It is a broad and complex profession, facing great challenges and imbued with great reward.
The Installation Dinner at the Medford Lakes Country Club on June 9th was well-attended and a memorable event. A personal thanks to all those that attended. At that time, I outlined my goals for the year. About five years ago our Association, through the Foundation, purchased our own headquarters on High Street in downtown Mount Holly. The space was brand new and a significant upgrade over our prior space in terms of size, functionality and condition. Further, the monthly carrying costs are equal to what we previously paid in rent. The idea was not just to improve our facilities, but to put the Association and Foundation in a better long-term position financially. When we discussed that long-term picture with our members at the time, we said that if every member gave $300 to the building fund, we could pay off the building. Now that magic number is only $150 per member.
Before you write a check for $150, the reality is that about 20% of an organization typically pays for 80% of a fundraising need. So if you have read this far, I regret to inform you that you probably fall within that 20%. Whatever anyone can give will be appreciated, but we have established funding levels including: Founder Sponsor ($1,000), Silver Sponsor ($3,000), Gold Sponsor ($5,000) and Platinum Sponsor ($10,000). We also allow a commitment of sponsorship at these levels to be paid in three installments over three years.
In addition to the above, if you have any ideas on how to reach this goal and eliminate the mortgage on the Bar Headquarters, I am all ears. I recognize that we have a huge pool of talent in our Association, and many of you may be better and more experienced fundraisers than I and a few others who have worked on this issue over the past few years. I’d love to hear from you and am open to suggestions.
My other goal this year is to highlight members of our Association who currently give back to their community in some fashion. No matter where we are in our careers, from young attorneys just starting out to senior attorneys trying to wind down, there are many demands on our time as practicing lawyers. But if every day all we do is get up, go to work, service our clients, and go home (while hopefully we have done some good), we owe it to our communities to give back. Whatever obstacles we have overcome to become professionals, we have been given much in this world, and we need to seek to return the favor.
Giving back can take many shapes. It could be as simple as volunteering for the local bar association (hint, hint). Some attorneys in our Association have sought and achieved public office, whether it be local office, county-wide, or serving on a local school board. Other attorneys have volunteered to serve on boards or as chairs for non-profits. Many are active in religious groups with a community service focus. There are many options and opportunities, and the only wrong option is doing nothing at all.
Over the next year, I will be discussing and highlighting some of our members that give back in this column and at our events. My hope is that by holding them up as an example, it will encourage and inspire others to do likewise. In the words of the great Jackie Robinson, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” I do not profess to understand the meaning of life, but I know it is not simply to make a dollar and call it a day. We are better than that, and our communities need us.
If you know any of our members that fit this description, please pass their names along to me, as I’d love to grow this list. And if you fit this description, don’t be shy, and let me know what you do.