Forty years after the founders of Kramon & Graham P.A. hung out their shingle, the Baltimore law firm decided to commemorate the milestone anniversary with a gift to the community.
Although the firm’s attorneys have been involved with dozens of local organizations, from cultural institutions such as theaters and the Baltimore School for the Arts to groups working to fight hunger and homelessness, their relationship with one organization in particular stood out, said firm co-founder and principal Andrew Jay Graham.
That’s why Graham, a former co-chair of the Equal Justice Council — Maryland Legal Aid’s fundraising arm — said the decision to donate $40,000 to the council was an easy one.
“We’ve had a culture of giving from the beginning, and I think it’s been a source of pride,” Graham said. “We thought, what would be a good, symbolic thing to do, and said, ‘How about giving $40,000 to one of the causes we’ve supported for many years?’”
Under Graham’s tenure as co-chair of the Equal Justice Council, which is focused on fundraising for Legal Aid through the private bar and business communities, the organization raised more than $3 million, according to the firm. Graham’s colleague, Lee H. Ogburn, succeeded Graham earlier this year as a council co-chair, responsible for developing and overseeing volunteer fundraising efforts.
Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr., executive director of Maryland Legal Aid, said Kramon & Graham’s contribution was unusually large for a firm of its size, with fewer than 40 attorneys.
“The type of people we serve are neglected children; frail, elderly people; poor, unsophisticated consumers,” Joseph said. “There is no guaranteed assistance to help these people with their civil legal needs. They give us hope that we can continue to provide meaningful access to justice … It lessens the anxiety about how we will continue doing what we’re doing.”
For the firm, Graham said, “there just seemed to be some sort of symmetry between 40 years and $40,000.”
“We thought it would be a nice gesture and would be helpful in a concrete way,” he said.
By donating to a legal services organization that aligns with its own values, Graham added, the firm could make a significant impact in its own field.
“It’s directly related to our profession and to how we see the profession,” Graham said. “We all make our living off our system of civil and criminal justice, and it’s something lawyers want to be proud of — it should be a system that provides equal justice to everyone, not just wealthy people. Legal Aid serves a pretty basic and fundamental purpose that lawyers believe in. … It just seemed logical.”
The support of private law firms such as Kramon & Graham not only allows Legal Aid to provide the legal representation it offers, Joseph said, but over time, it strengthens trust in the judicial system throughout society.
“Not only do they give us money, but their lawyers have provided substantial service to the organization,” Joseph said. “It’s safe to say that public service is woven into the fabric of that law firm. It’s definitely a part of their DNA.”