What You Might Not Know about Lawyers: Pro Bono and a Commitment to Community is No Joke

So what is the difference between a dead deer in the middle of the road and a dead lawyer in the middle of the road?  There are skid marks in front of the deer.

I like lawyer jokes as much as the next guy.  In general, these jokes poke fun at attorneys as ruthless animals (i.e. sharks, vipers, jackals) or some other creature void of a soul, ethical core or any sense of propriety.  In short, anything that is selfish. Fair enough, I am sure many in our profession may act in such a manner.  After all, stereotypes do tend to exist for a reason.  However, I think the jokes are funny (and I even like to tell them) because I realize just how far they are from the truth.  The reality is that most attorneys out there, and most definitely those attorneys with whom I have been fortunate enough to work, are committed to so much more than just the law and their own selfish gain.

First off, when it comes to conduct, most people don’t know that attorneys actually have detailed ethical rules by which they must conduct business with clients, the courts and with one another.  These rules are critical to the effective administration of justice in our country.  Each state has its own professional rules, issued by that state's highest court, and to which every lawyer is held accountable.  (I know, I know, "lawyer" and "ethical" in the same sentence?  What's the punch line?)  Furthermore, almost every state's supreme court in some way or another also calls on its attorneys to serve the community through pro bono work and other volunteer work.  This is the case in Ohio.  As officers of the court, attorneys are expected to be leaders in their community, as well as in the courtroom.  Here at Faruki Ireland & Cox, we have a long commitment to the community through both pro bono legal work and other volunteer service.

1.  Pro Bono Service. Over the past couple of years, our firm has dedicated almost 1,000 hours to the provision of pro bono legal services.  Such pro bono service finds many forms and durations.  For example, an attorney might assist a consumer in a dispute assigned by the Greater Dayton Volunteer Lawyer's Project.  Such service might last only a day or maybe a week.  Some attorneys provide criminal defense services at the trial or appellate level, such as Jeff DeBeer and Jason Palmer have done.  Or an attorney might provide ongoing legal services, such as I do for the Victory Project or as Dan Donnellon does in providing sign language services as part of his pro bono commitment to the Deaf community.  Or such pro bono service could be much more intensive, such as the prosecution of a grievance for the Dayton Bar Association as done by Jeff Ireland and Jade Smarda.

2.  Service to the Community.  Beyond work in the office and the courts, attorneys all over Ohio dedicate countless hours to charities, nonprofit organizations and other causes.  The same is true here at Faruki Ireland & Cox.  As with any organization, a commitment to anything worthwhile must begin with a firm's leadership.  In addition to extensive fundraising for charities and nonprofits all over the region, our named partners have volunteered countless hours in the Dayton community.  Charlie Faruki is the past Chair of the Board of Managers of the Air Force Museum Foundation, an organization whose fundraising efforts raised the money necessary for the construction of the fourth building of the Museum. Jeff Ireland has served on the Board of Directors for the Salvation Army for almost twenty years.  Jeff also chaired the fundraising effort for the Salvation Army's Kroc Center, which raised $7.6 million in about 8 months.  In addition to extensive charitable work, Jeff Cox has volunteered countless hours to professional and community organizations, including serving as: President-Elect and Member of the Executive Committee for the Dayton Chapter of the Federal Bar Association; Member, the Miami University College of Arts & Sciences Pre-Law Advisory Board; and Chair for the Board of Trustees at Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School.

Following this example, many FI&C attorneys have likewise dedicated hours throughout the region.  Here are but a few:

Dan Donnellon serves on the Board of The Crable Foundation serving less fortunate high school youth seeking Catholic education who are spiritually, academically and athletically connected to their schools.

  • Erin Rhinehart holds various leadership roles in local and national bar associations.  She co-founded the Dayton Bar Association's 5 for the Kids 5K race to benefit CARE House, a local advocacy center for child victims of abuse and neglect.  Erin also served on the  Board of Directors for Hannah's Treasure Chest, a non-profit organization based in Centerville, Ohio, which enriches the lives of children in need by partnering with local and regional agencies to provide clothing, furniture and toys.
  • Matthew Bruce, Chris Hollon, Chris Herman, Erin Rhinehart, and Jade Smarda have all dedicated considerable time and effort over the years in coaching future lawyers on mock trial teams at both the high school and college level.
  • Steve Weigand serves on the Board of Directors for the Dan Beard Council, Boy Scouts of America. He is also Co-Chair of the Professional Leadership Network, which is an 85-member group of professionals that are engaged in the community and provide mentorship to underserved youth, meet with key leaders in the Cincinnati community, and raise funds for underserved youth through a large, annual dodge ball tournament in June.  (FI&C is a proud sponsor of this event.)

Also in June, as many of you may know, I will be shaving my head as part of an ongoing fundraiser for both Victory Project and St. Baldrick's. St. Baldrick's raises money for pediatric cancer research.

To be sure, this is but a brief, non-exhaustive summary.  It by no means accounts for the work everyone here is doing in their free time.  And this is just our firm.  Firms and attorneys throughout the state of Ohio and the country do this every day.  So, by all means, keep the jokes coming.  They are funny after all, and we all need a laugh.  But, as with all jokes, while there may indeed be a little truth, there is also quite a lot of fiction.

About The Author

Scot Ganow |