This past month, I had the privilege of speaking to nineteen newly minted attorneys joining our ranks as licensed attorneys in the State of New Jersey. The ceremony was held at the Olde Court House and conducted by Judge Bookbinder with most of the Bench in attendance. It made me think back to being sworn in by the late, great Bob Vetra, the Bar President in 1996. (If you didn’t know Bob Vetra, and about half of you probably didn’t, I guarantee if you ask an older attorney about Bob, they will have at least one great story about him.) At the time, I was the Law Clerk to Judge Bookbinder. What I didn’t know then, and what I tried to convey to these new attorneys, is how lucky we are to practice in Burlington County. One does not have to stray too far to get a sense that the collegiality and professionalism that we enjoy every day is not a shared experience everywhere. We also have a great Bench, with Judges that come to our Bar functions, and more importantly, remember what it was like to be a practicing attorney with sometimes difficult clients, competing demands, and too many deadlines to count.
As has been my mantra this year, I also encouraged them to find ways to give back. They all nodded politely, but how do you say something impactful in two or three minutes… it sometimes feels like there are no words sufficient to convey the simple message that this whole practice of law thing is not really about making money, but about helping people. And the more I fulfill my duties as Bar President, the more that truth is reinforced.
About ten years ago, there was a best-selling book by Rick Warren titled “A Purpose Driven Life”. I did not agree with everything in the book, or in fact, remember much about it now. But I loved the opening line: “It’s not about you.” What a great way to open a book. Simple, succinct and most importantly, unsettling. The question becomes, what do we do in the face of that? We cannot be offended, because it is not about any one other person either. I think the best we can do is… something. So we are now about half-way through this Bar term, and my question to you is, what are you doing? Are you volunteering? Are you coaching? Are you involved in your place of worship? As we start the new year, it is a great time to resolve to get more involved in a non-profit or similar venture.
I tried to think of a clever segue here, but I’m coming up short. Over the past month, something else happened. You all should have received a letter from me asking you to contribute to the Burlington County Bar Association headquarters fund to pay off the remaining debt on our office space. The fundraising goal is $150,000. In one of my less-involved endeavors, I am a member of the Medford Lakes Lions Club. For those unfamiliar, the Lions provide a food bank, rides to the doctor appointments, and many other great resources to the local community in need. The Lions recently purchased a building in Medford Lakes to headquarter its operation, and in doing so, sent a notice to each member to pay $250. The notice was not so much a request as a demand, and I thought to myself, why didn’t we do that? Surely if a bunch of volunteers for the Lions can pay $250, a bunch of attorneys can pay $150. And while I paid my $250 to the Lions and actually admire their gusto, I’d prefer that we raise these funds on a volunteer basis.
The good news is before the letters even went out, we have received about $18,000 in donations. The largest is from Parker McCay. Parker gave $10,000 during our initial drive five years ago, and just donated another $5,000. I’d also like to point out Powers Kirn in Moorestown. That firm gave a substantial donation on the first round, and without even placing a phone call or formal request, we received another $3,000 from them. They are not one of the largest firms in the County, and yet they have repeatedly stepped up and made significant contributions, and for that, I thank them. I would also point out a few individual sponsors have come in, and quite a few have been for more than $150.
The reality is that many of our members will not give. That is the reality of any organization this size. If everyone gave $150, we would reach our goal. If you are reading this and can give more, even if installments, please consider doing so. And there is the added incentive that if we reach our goal, you’ll stop hearing about it from me.
As we start the New Year together, I wish you the best in your practice and in your health, and I look forward to seeing you at events throughout the year.