Charitable Foundations

Keeping Education in Reach: Trial Lawyers Give Back in Louisiana

Each year, the American Association for Justice (AAJ) presents the Trial Lawyers Care Award to an exemplary AAJ member who serves the community and fosters positive relationships with the public through volunteer activities.

The 2017 honoree is attorney Jennifer Greene of New Orleans.

Jennifer Greene headshot

(Jennifer Greene, 2017 TLC Award Honoree)

In August 2016, devastating floods hit Louisiana, killing 15 people and displacing 30,000 others. All told, the state suffered losses of more than $10 Billion. Hardworking folks lost everything in the state’s worst disaster since Hurricane Katrina. Families watched as their belongings, including their children’s backpacks, literally floated out of reach.

In the immediate aftermath, attorney Jennifer Greene did not hesitate. She immediately began brainstorming with fellow attorneys about how to help. Replacing school supplies seemed important, and do-able. While families began the long process of rebuilding their homes and their lives, their children could at least be prepared to go back to school right away.

A colleague suggested the attorneys coordinate with Trial Lawyers Care. Once connected, they moved mountains in mere days.

Within two weeks, lawyers from across the country answered Jennifer’s call and a team of volunteers in New Orleans had unpacked and organized 800 boxes of school supplies and filled backpacks for hundreds of kids. Louisiana’s First Lady, Donna Edwards – herself a teacher – brought Jennifer’s volunteer effort together with Team Comeback Kids to get the backpacks distributed.

Every child who received one of Jennifer’s backpacks surely had a little bit easier time getting back to the normalcy of life.

 classroomflood(Flooding of schools in Louisiana, 2016)

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(School supply donations from trial lawyers over the course of two weeks)

Posted on July 19, 2017 at 10:18 pm in Charitable Foundations, Community Outreach, Disaster Relief, General, Good Lawyer Stories by Marie D'Avignon - RSS 2.0

A Lawyer’s Job is to Help: Pickert is Jacksonville Lawyer of the Year

Alan Pickert, longtime partner at Terrell Hogan and AAJ member, is 2017’s Lawyer of the Year in Jacksonville, Florida. The Jacksonville Bar Association (JBA) and Daily Record chose Mr. Pickert as this year’s honoree, out of 2200 lawyers, because of his efforts both inside and outside of the courtroom. Pickert has been practicing law for 27 years, handling a wide range of personal injury cases for his firm.

He first became involved with JBA more than 20 years ago when he volunteered to join their work with the Special Olympics. Over the next two decades, Pickert became increasingly involved with both the JBA – joining their Young Lawyers Section, then the Board of Governors, eventually serving as president of the association – and with JBA’s philanthropic activities. JBA is heavily involved in the Jacksonville community. In addition to supporting the Special Olympics, the association is involved in projects ranging from aiding foster children to providing legal aid for the homeless to making it easier for Jacksonville kids to read classic literature.

Outside of JBA, Pickert is heavily involved with a nonprofit organization known as the HEAL Foundation which seeks to inspire, educate, and fund services for those affected by autism. In 2003, Pickert began representing clients with autistic children and soon became aware of the lack of programs available in the area for autistic children and families. Pickert, and a group of other determined individuals, helped create HEAL (an acronym for Heal Every Autistic Life) to fill that niche.

HEAL started as a small organization, but has grown to create an enormous impact within its community. The foundation’s first fundraiser earned just $400 net; over the past 10 years, it has raised almost $2 million. Fundraising efforts support summer camps, sports leagues, support groups, and educational seminars. The foundation also supplies iPads to aid in the education of non-verbal students and service dogs for those with special sensory needs.

Pickert has encouraged his own four children to get involved with the organization as well. He explained, “Helping the community has an altruistic effect, but also gives you great perspective in life – there is a big world out there.”

For lawyers, Pickert argues a different reason why they should get more involved in their communities and organizations like HEAL. “A lawyer’s job is to help people.” If a client contacts a lawyer, it is because he or she needs help in some way. “Volunteering is just taking what lawyers do in the office every day and extending it to the rest of the world.”

Learn more about HEAL at www.healautismnow.org and keep reading the Trial Lawyers Care website for information on other volunteer opportunities.

Posted on June 28, 2017 at 8:26 pm in Charitable Foundations, Community Outreach, General, Good Lawyer Stories by Marie D'Avignon - RSS 2.0

Finding Closure for Victims of Tragic Fire

On February 20, 2003, a catastrophic fire at the Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, killed 100 people and injured more than 200 others. In May of this year, the surviving victims and their families came together to honor their memories at the opening of a memorial park.

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The Station Fire Memorial Park, standing on the same site as the catastrophic fire, was formally opened Sunday, May 21, at a gathering of 500 survivors, family members, and community leaders. In addition to multiple gardens and a courtyard, the one-acre park includes stone monuments inscribed with the names and birthdays of each victim.

The Station fire was the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history, with former Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri describing it as the “state’s worst tragedy.” As AAJ member and Rhode Island attorney Mark Mandell explains, “Rhode Island is a small state; there aren’t that many degrees of separation among its residents, and the fire just devastated Rhode Island and people from surrounding states as well.”

Mandell’s firm, Mandell, Schwartz, & Boisclair, Ltd., teamed up with other plaintiff firms to lead the litigation in the civil case surrounding the fire. The case served to provide a sense of closure that the victims and their families weren’t able to receive from criminal prosecution. The fire forever changed the lives of those involved; in a positive way, so did the lawsuit.

The opening of the memorial park is another step toward that closure.

Spearheaded by the Station Fire Memorial Foundation and a woman named Gina Russo, a client of Mandell’s who lost her fiancé and suffered severe injuries in the fire, the opening of the memorial park involved more than a decade of planning and difficult fundraising. In the end, several different groups came together to support the cause. The memorial park now serves as a beautiful place to remember those who were lost.

To make a donation toward continued maintenance of the Station Fire Memorial Park, please visit: http://www.thestationfirememorialfoundation.org/.

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Posted on June 27, 2017 at 1:48 pm in Charitable Foundations, Community Outreach, Disaster Relief, General by Marie D'Avignon - RSS 2.0

Standing Up for Warriors

Trial Lawyers for Warriors is a nonprofit organization that assists U.S. special forces, including Navy SEALs, Delta Force, Green Berets, and Army Rangers — as well as other military personnel. P. Craig Morrow, senior partner at Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett, & Haik in Opelousas, La., founded the organization.

Initially, he simply wanted to take some special operations personnel hunting and fishing with him to give them a break.

Morrow still takes military personnel hunting and fishing, but he also represents them pro bono and helps them and their families in other ways — such as buying plane tickets so that family members can be with their wounded warrior at a hospital.

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Now called the “Legal SEAL” by some special ops personnel, Morrow gained some clout when he stuck up for veterans at a town hall meeting about the Gulf Coast oil spill. Some veterans asked Morrow to attend, and he saw how they were being mistreated. “I almost didn’t stand up,” he said, but then he decided he needed to speak up. “I grilled this BP rep, and I got a standing ovation.”

Morrow has helped members of the military in various ways, including stopping predatory lenders from taking advantage of military personnel while they were away at war in Iraq and Afghanistan because they couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer; helping someone get his Purple Heart; defending a Marine who was falsely accused of a crime in Afghanistan; and drafting legal LLC documents to help people start their own companies.

“I felt that if these warriors were willing to sacrifice their lives and fight for our freedoms on the battlefield, then why shouldn’t I use my unique legal skills and help them in the legal battlefield we call the courtroom?” Morrow said. “I feel that trial lawyers have a unique skill set that we can and should use to protect and defend the warriors who protect and defend our way of life in America.”

Morrow represents some of the SEALs portrayed in the movies Lone Survivor and American Sniper. “They trust me, and I will say it was difficult at first because of the false propaganda spewed against our profession as trial lawyers,” Morrow said. “And I have personally witnessed a complete turnaround from countless military warriors that are now defending trial lawyers through social media.”

Morrow sees this chance to fight negative lawyer stereotypes as a secondary benefit of his efforts. “Trial Lawyers are in a helping profession, and, in my opinion, it is time to turn the tables and demonstrate that we are the good guys and not the people that our critics make us out to be.”

Trial Lawyers for Warriors has also collaborated with the organization Suiting Warriors to give veterans suits to wear to their first job interviews. “I was amazed at how almost none of our veterans had a nice suit to wear to a job interview,” Morrow said. “Who do you know that has more suits than trial lawyers?!”

“Founding Trial Lawyers for Warriors has given me an enormous sense of pride and inner peace in knowing that I am helping those who protect and defend our very freedoms — including the practice of law,” Morrow said.

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Learn more about this organization at www.triallawyersforwarriors.org.

Posted on June 26, 2017 at 4:46 pm in Charitable Foundations, Community Outreach, General, Good Lawyer Stories, Pro Bono by Marie D'Avignon - RSS 2.0

Passion for Justice: Resources to Help Detained Immigrants

Policy changes under the new administration have led to a new and complicated immigration environment in the United States. One of the biggest effects we are seeing, is an increase in deportations and a lack of constitutional protections for detained immigrants. According to the American Immigration Council, less than 20 percent of detained immigrants in the US have legal counsel in their deportation proceedings.

Many AAJ members have expressed concerns over this new dynamic and asked how they can help. We’ve compiled a list of resources and volunteer opportunities below for anyone who would like to lend a hand or learn more about the issues.

Resources:

  • Through the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), you can sign up to be a volunteer or mentor in specific legal areas and receive training specific to immigration cases.
  • AILA’s Immigration 2017 webpage is a one-stop-shop for legal and policy analyses of the recent executive actions on immigration.
  • AILA and the American Bar Association have teamed up to encourage lawyers to stop “Notario Fraud” – individuals who falsely represent themselves as qualified to offer legal advice, often taking advantage of immigrants. The Stop Notario Fraud website provides legal resources to help prevent fraud at both the federal and state levels. They also provide resources for attorney and law enforcement and training materials including recorded webinars.
  • Stay up-to-date on legal and political actions related to immigration with AILA’s Immigration Politics Ticker.

Volunteer Opportunities:

  • The Immigration Advocates Network has a Pro Bono Resource Center with a state-by-state map of organizations looking for pro bono volunteers and a calendar of upcoming trainings by state.
  • Advocates for Human Rights has a volunteer program with details on their take action page.
  • Volunteer opportunity in Georgia: The 1,800-bed Stewart Detention Center (run by private prison company CoreCivic) in Lumpkin, Georgia, is one of the largest – and most underserved – immigration detention centers in the country. The Detention Watch Network has written this report on this notorious facility, as part of its “Expose and Close” campaign. Volunteer lawyers will be doing intake, case/litigation prep, and bond hearings. Contact AILA for more information.
  • Volunteer opportunity in Texas: The Dilley Pro Bono Project needs volunteers to help represent detained immigrant children and their mothers – most of whom have fled horrific violence in Central America – at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX. The detention of these families is a shameful policy, and AILA has been at the forefront of advocacy to end family detention once and for all. Resources and background information on this fight can be found here. More than 20,000 children and mothers have been represented through the volunteer efforts in Dilley. If you are interested in volunteering, please email the project’s volunteer coordinator Crystal Massey at crystal@caraprobono.org. To learn more about additional opportunities to volunteer at a second family detention center in Karnes, TX, please see the CARA Family Detention Project

Thank you for your support!

Posted on June 15, 2017 at 1:40 pm in Charitable Foundations, Community Outreach, Featured, General, Pro Bono by Marie D'Avignon - RSS 2.0

A Culture of Philanthropy at Denver Law Firm

Bachus and Schanker 1Colorado attorneys Kyle Bachus and Darin Schanker were two of the more than 1,100 trial lawyers who volunteered after the September 11th terrorist attacks to provide free legal services to any family who applied for help from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The client they helped is, to this day, a friend, and the experience of giving back inspired them to do more.

They continued to give and participate in causes locally and decided to formalize their giving in 2009 by creating the Bachus & Schanker Cares Foundation. In 2013 the foundation contributed more than $85,000 to 19 organizations. Since the 2009 launch of foundation, it has donated nearly $350,000 to local nonprofits.

Kyle Bachus addresses the crowd at an event sponsoring Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Kyle Bachus addresses the crowd at an event sponsoring Mothers Against Drunk Driving

And beyond the money, is the time. The Bachus & Schanker attorneys and staff have given approximately 600 hours of their time to support nonprofits across Colorado in 2013 alone. Employees have done road races, packed toys, given out candy, built houses—among other things—to help the organizations and causes that have applied for help.

“There are so many reasons to interact with the community, make a connection, and show them that we care,” says Schanker.

He explains that while the financial support to the organizations is critical, it’s also important to figure out how to involve everyone on staff. To that end, employees at the firm can be on the Bachus & Schanker Cares Foundation board. It’s the board who reviews the various applications from community groups and organizations and decides where the money goes and in which projects to participate.

With their bright green T-shirts, Bachus & Schanker staff get to work!

With their bright green T-shirts, Bachus & Schanker staff get to work!

They’ve sponsored everything from Boo at the Zoo, to food drives, to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, to Dolls for Daughters, and the Brain Injury Foundation. If a former client has started a foundation or supports a particular cause, Bachus & Schanker will often fund it.

“The relationships that we have built with members of our community, and the privilege of helping others—it’s humbling and awesome,” says Schanker.

For 2014, Schanker estimates that they will start their budget of giving where they ended last year, at $85,000. But, he expects that number will be up around $100,000 by year’s end.

“When some other good causes apply for help, we increase our giving,” says Schanker.

He hopes that other firms that have not yet developed a community outreach or volunteer program will be inspired to start.

Staff select the charities and participate in fundraising events.

Staff select the charities and participate in fundraising events.

 

 

Posted on April 8, 2014 at 3:56 pm in Charitable Foundations, Community Outreach, General by kloiacono - RSS 2.0

Georgia Lawyer Keeps “Heads in Helmets”

Teaching classes, holding fundraisers, cook-offs, and other events to raise safety awareness and provide for families in need are among the many ways that trial lawyer Howard E. Spiva gives back to his Savannah, Georgia community.  In 1999, the founder of Spiva Law Group decided to do more than practice law and protect the rights of his clients; he started the Justice For Children Foundation to prevent injuries and to promote safety.

In his years as a lawyer, Spiva had seen children injured in car and bike accidents. He believed he could make a difference through JFCF.

“We do not do [JFCF] in the name of the law firm. It’s a real charity and it’s not just a promotion for the law firm. It’s something that we play an active role in and participate in the community,” said Spiva.

Some of the JFCF projects include classes on the proper use of children’s car seats, amusement park safety, and preventing falls and dog bites. Through JFCF, Spiva hopes to educate the public and to teach parents and community members how to prevent unnecessary accidents.

One of JCFC’s most successful programs is called Heads in Helmets. This program focuses on the importance of using bike helmets and how to prevent injuries to the head, brain, and spinal cord. The program offers free helmets to children. Since the program started, Spiva estimates that he’s given thousands of helmets to children in his state. All of its funds, sponsorships, and donations go back into the helmet program.

“Basically our goal is to make helmets cool so that kids will wear them. I think the community has embraced us because they recognize that this is a great cause and a worthy cause. They see that we are providing a safe service in the community for children,” said Spiva, who believes children should use helmets not only when they ride bikes but also when they ride in cars.

Another goal is to increase participation among attorneys across the country so that they are actively involved with their communities and putting more heads in helmets. Spiva recognizes that JFCF is both an opportunity to help families and a way for people to get to know lawyers in a non-legal context.

“We have been widely recognized by the community, from the local and state bar associations, the local small and large business chambers, state-wide lawyers association, local trial lawyers associations, and selected as hometown heroes from the largest local TV station,” Spiva said.

JFCF plans to go national and expand to every city in America. Learn more about this program and how your firm can help kids in your community: http://12unlimited.com/lawyers-care.html . Another way to learn more is from Spiva’s book, “Building a Presence in Your City,” which explains how lawyers can start a charitable program for their communities. A free excerpt is available here: http://12unlimited.com/charity-program.html.

JFCF’s next major event for Heads in Helmets will be a Helmet Fling on June 15, at Lake Mayer in Savannah, Georgia. The event will involve safety courses with the police department, face painting, clowns, and, of course, a helmet giveaway.

Posted on April 1, 2013 at 4:49 pm in Charitable Foundations, Community Outreach, General by kloiacono - RSS 2.0

Colorado Lawyers Working to End Human Trafficking

Colorado attorney Beth Klein was first exposed to human trafficking in the late 1970s, when her grandfather bought a mail-order bride. As a young woman, she watched him marry a 21-year-old and she recognized that the purchase of another human being was a “harmful, shameful and inhumane” practice.

She recalled that experience in 2000 when, now armed with a law degree, she visited Costa Rica and witnessed American pedophiles arriving there as sex tourists. As a result of those experiences, Klein has drafted laws allowing prosecutors to charge entire prostitution rings and is working with prosecutors to end sex slavery and obtain compensation for victims.

Together with her law partner Carrie Frank, who is also a social worker, they formed the Klein Frank Foundation and are leading the effort to end human trafficking by writing and consulting on effective laws for more than 30 states and several nations. Klein and Frank are developing national trainings and apps so that a multi-disciplinary approach, involving health care professionals, social workers, victims’ organizations, lawyers, and law enforcement can be brought to the problem for early identification and treatment of victims and prosecution of those responsible.

For more information on these national initiatives and how you can help, visit http://www.init2endit.com/home

Posted on January 23, 2013 at 8:36 pm in Charitable Foundations, Community Outreach, General by kloiacono - RSS 2.0