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H. Ward Classen: Community Service Has Many Benefits

For the past several years, in-house lawyers have come together to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, to assist in rehabbing houses in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. Next scheduled for Sept. 7, Community Service Day spans the spectrum of legal departments from large multinational corporations to companies with just one attorney.

While the intended benefits of this volunteer effort seem straightforward, there are many intangible benefits that go well beyond the provision of free labor to a worthy cause.

The first comes from the personal interactions that arise when working together for a common good outside of a traditional work environment. Too often, in-house attorneys are closeted in their offices with little ability to get to know their counterparts from other companies. Working as a team to perform manual labor can forge new relationships and a pool of resources that participants can later draw upon when seeking solutions to common legal problems.

Bar associations and continuing legal education courses also offer networking opportunities, but they are generally focused on lawyers in private practice. In-house counsel face unique issues that are often not addressed by those organizations. This makes the networking opportunities provided by the Community Service Day especially important, since participants have encountered similar issues and can often provide practical, proven insights to their fellow in-house counsel. The opportunity to work together provides a forum to better understand the nature of our individual responsibilities and skill sets as well as the culture of our employers.

A separate set of intangible benefits goes to the employers of these attorneys. A company’s willingness to allow employees to volunteer during the work-week sends a powerful message of commitment to the community.

Encouraging and supporting employee participation in community service enhances the reputation of the employer. Last year, the entire legal department of Allegis Group volunteered for the community service day at Habitat for Humanity. This was a major commitment by Allegis, one of the region’s largest employers, which was not lost on the volunteers from other corporations. Altruistic actions like those establish a company as a leader in the community and make it an “employer of choice” for attorneys seeking in-house positions.

I encourage all in-house counsel and, indeed, all members of the bar to join us on Sept. 7 for this year’s Community Service Day for Habitat for Humanity. The rewards will be many: the development of lasting relationships and networks, giving back to others who are less fortunate, and a renewed commitment to our community. Together we can make a difference while reaping many personal benefits. If you would like to participate, please do not hesitate to contact me at hclassen@csc.com.

Mr. Classen is Deputy General Counsel of Computer Sciences Corporation. The views expressed herein are those of Mr. Classen and not those of Computer Sciences Corporation.