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Can you spare a (billable) hour?

Late last month, I found my two boys flipping through the Toys R Us and Target holiday toys catalog with markers in hand. They meticulously reviewed each toy’s description, debated the merits of ownership and finally circled and initialed each potential present. They then left the catalogs in plain sight, with hopes my wife or I would happen upon them and realize that some or all of these items would be suitable gifts for Christmas. (Sure enough, we did use the catalogs as a gift-buying guides.)

When asked by my kids what I want for Christmas, my reply has been simple.

“I have everything I need, so you don’t have to buy me anything,” I say. “I would love you to make me something so I can keep it at the office.”

And, truth be told, I am fortunate that I do not have much to “want” and I know that I am lucky to have food on the table, a roof over my head, a stable job, and a loving family.

Unfortunately, I occasionally lose sight of this when thinking about my daily struggles or issues. Too much work, not enough time, spending too much money on Christmas presents, gaining weight because of so many fancy holiday parties, traveling to see family — the list goes on and on. But these are good problems. Having too much work is better than the alternative. Having the means to buy presents is better than having nothing under the tree. Fancy holiday parties are filled with food, drinks, and good spirits. And as much as my family (and my wife’s family) drive me crazy, I still love them as family.

Every December, the MSBA Public Awareness Committee and Young Lawyers Section organize a Toys for Tots drive. Every year, we drop off bags of toys to be distributed to families that do not have presents under the tree. (This year, we had two cars full of toys.) I got an email last week from a women desperate to get one of the toys for her son. Unemployed and without financial means, she simply wanted to have something to give her child on Christmas. I directed her to the Toys for Tots website, where she could sign up.

The Y of Central Maryland has a giving tree in its front lobby where those in need can put up a paper ornament with a wish list their families. The tree was full of requests for clothes, shoes, toys, and other essentials. I grabbed one request for a boy close to my oldest son’s age, and I hope he likes the pair of shoes I bought him.

Along those lines, a group of lawyer friends get together each year to celebrate the holidays. This year, wanting to add a charitable component to our festivities, one of the organizers suggested we adopt a family from her church; within days of getting the list, almost every item that this family of six requested has been purchased and wrapped.

The holidays are a time for giving and, at this time, we also cannot forget the legal organizations that help others. One of my law partners has asked each lawyer in the firm to donate the equivalent of one billable hour to a law-related entity. In all candor, my first reaction at the request was, “Can I afford to?” But I then immediately thought about my situation in comparison to others’. Many of the same people looking for a present under the tree for their kids are also looking to our legal community for help. And these people are helped by a number of legal organizations, including the Women’s Law Center, Pro Bono Resource Center, Legal Aid, Homeless Person’s Representation Project, Lawyers Campaign Against Hunger, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service and the Lawyer’s Campaign for CollegeBound. (This is by no means an exhaustive list, and if you have another organizations that come to mind, please mention them in the comments section below.) And these organizations need the support of the legal community.

So before we all head off for our holiday vacations, consider donating the equivalent of one billable hour to one of these organizations or other legal charitable organizations. It’s only one hour, right?

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