Law Firm Anniversary Spurs Volunteer Effort

Hope is that example will inspire others

By Eric Velasco
News staff writer

When its 10th anniversary rolled around this year, the law firm Marsh Rickard & Bryan could have patted itself on the back and thrown a party for employees, spouses and clients.

Instead, the 10-lawyer plaintiffs' firm chose kindness.

The effort was dubbed "Ten not-so-random acts of kindness," each lawyer chose a charity to support with time or money, and the firm sweetened the pot in some cases, said David Marsh, one of the firm's founding partners.

For example, lawyer David Steelman decided to volunteer with The Emergency Animal Rescue Service for 10 hours during its weekend pet-adoption efforts. The firm kicked in $1,000 for the no-kill shelter, which takes injured animals, then tries to find families to adopt them after they heal.

"TEARS is a great organization," said Steelman, who learned about the Birmingham-based group when his wife rescued an injured dog she found by the side of the road. "It's nice to know there is an organization that will take in abused and injured animals."

Marsh said the firm's effort ties in with its mission to protect the little guy and small businesses. It also helps counter the image many people hold of plaintiffs' lawyers.

"Lawyers in general, especially lawyers who do trial work, get all kinds of negative publicity," Marsh said. "The truth is we're just like everybody else. Our children are important to us. We go to our churches and synagogues. We're involved in our community."

Candi Williams, director of an organization that coordinates volunteer efforts by businesses and individuals called Hands On Birmingham, said Birmingham's legal community is known for a spirit of volunteerism.

"But this takes it up a notch," she said of Marsh Rickard & Bryan's kindness campaign. "It's such a fine idea. Everybody wins."

The firm's anniversary actually was in May, but its lawyers didn't solidify the not-so-random-acts plan until September. Most of the projects are continuing.

Each lawyer was asked to pick a cause that meant something to him or her personally. Marsh decided to sponsor 10 children with cancer for a week at Camp-Smile-A-Mile, which he and his wife have supported in the past. Marsh said he has lost his mother and best friend to cancer.

"It's an organization I have admired," he said. "I feel it does a great job for the kids."

Marsh was reluctant to talk about his firm's project, saying members are not doing it for publicity or to drum up more business.

But he hopes other firms will be inspired to perform similar acts of kindness - or perhaps help establish a foundation to make the giving more permanent.

Williams, of Hands On Birmingham, said she normally sees departments within a corporation - such as a firm's audit division - decide to volunteer together for something like a Habitat for Humanity project. Some corporations offer a day off for individual employees to volunteer.

She said it was "such a fun idea" for a single company to choose an array of programs to support individually and collectively.

"We encourage that type of creativity," she said. "Anyone who wants to can call us, and we'll help them organize it from start to finish."

The lawyers at Marsh Rickard & Bryan would like to make their not-so-random-acts efforts an annual project, Marsh said. Steelman said he likes that idea.

"Anytime you can get out and do something good for people, it's special," he said. "Kindness begets kindness."

'Not-so-random acts of kindness'

Marsh Rickard & Bryan projects:

  • Sponsor 10 children for a week at Camp Smile-A-Mile.
  • Donate to Wylam-based Acknowledge Outreach Ministries.
  • Sponsor 10 meals each at Thanksgiving and Christmas at Jesse's Place women's and children's shelter.
  • Prepare 10 hot meals at First Light center for homeless women and children.
  • Sponsor cost of emergency YWCA shelter for 10 families for one week each.
  • Donate to the Alabama Child Caring Foundation, which provides uninsured children with health care.
  • Spend at least 10 hours removing trash from Shades Creek.
  • Fill 10 Wounded Warrior Project backpacks for soldiers returning from Iraq.
  • Donate 10 hours of time to TEARS and money toward its new building.
  • Teach 10 parenting skills classes through the Exchange Cub's Family Skills Center, and donate materials and supplies.

Source: Marsh Rickard & Bryan

To volunteer through Hands On Birmingham 251-5849

To read news article, click part 1 and part 2.