The Atlanta Lawyer — May 2012
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Atlanta Bar Philanthropy: Doing Our Part Working Together
Rita A. Sheffey

Although in reality, the passage of time is constant, sometimes it appears to move by all too fast. Indeed, for me, the past year has flown by far too quickly. This time last May, I was getting ready to become the 104th President of the Atlanta Bar Association and I was busy with rehearsals for “A Courthouse Line IX: Law School Musical,” albeit only for my presidential cameo appearance as the “School Announcer” in the tower above the stage. Today, I am preparing to wrap up a very busy year and to hand over the gavel to the 105th President, Lynn Roberson. At the Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon, it will be a privilege and an honor to recognize some of the many people who have made remarkable contributions to the Atlanta Bar Association. I also will briefly recap highlights of the past year, with more detail to follow in the June/July 2012 issue of this publication. In this, my next to last President’s Message in The Atlanta Lawyer, I focus on our Atlanta Bar “family” and one thing that makes it special -- our philanthropy.

The Atlanta Bar “family” comprises many parts, but there are two main ones -- the Atlanta Bar Association and the Atlanta Bar Foundation. The Atlanta Bar Association is the membership, administrative, educational and charitable programming branch of the Atlanta Bar family. We provide numerous professional, social, financial, educational and charitable/civic programs and services, directly and through numerous Sections and Committees, our Continuing Legal Education Board, and the Lawyer Referral and Information Service. All of this is for the benefit of our members and our community.

The Atlanta Bar Foundation is our charitable arm, with a mission of supporting the charitable, educational, civic and humane purposes of our Association for the benefit of our members and the community at large. The Foundation Board and its Executive Director, Sally Hogsette, herself a former Board member, work hard year round to raise money to support some very worthy programs.

The Bard Show performances last May not only were great fun for the performers and the audience, but, more importantly, they helped us support a number of wonderful charitable programs and organizations, through the Atlanta Bar Foundation. Other activities during the year did likewise.They included our second Battle of the Lawyer Bands, LawJam, in June 2011, the Legal Runaround in September 2011, and a number of other smaller scale activities by the Atlanta Bar Association, its Sections, and our Members.As featured elsewhere in this issue, our third LawJam is scheduled for June 9, 2012, again at the Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points.

Through these fundraising activities, we have been able to provide substantial financial support for: the Atlanta Bar Summer Law Intern Program for high school students to gain valuable work experience in law firms, corporate legal departments, public interest organizations, and with judges, soon to begin its 20th year; the Minority & Diversity Clerkship program for first year law students; the Police Scholarship Fund, providing college scholarships to the children of Atlanta police officers who are killed or disabled in the line of duty; as well as supporting many of our pro bono and public interest organizations. In addition, many of the Atlanta Bar’s Sections made significant monetary donations to charitable causes during the past year as well.

As Lawyers Who Serve, the Atlanta Bar Association encourages our members both to give of their time, by providing free legal representation to people in poverty, by volunteering in our communities by serving on non-profit boards, by coaching a child’s sports team, or in one of the many other ways lawyers are involved in our community. We also urge our members to open their wallets, to the extent each is able to do so. We are very proud of our members’ philanthropy, both individually and collectively, and I have seen it more closely than ever during the past year.

As President of the Atlanta Bar Association, I have had the Privilege of serving on the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Bar Foundation. Besides observing their efforts firsthand, I am proud of one particular goal we were able to achieve working together this year. As the year began, I made it a priority to engage the leadership of the Foundation and the Association in a series of conversations to talk about how we can more effectively coordinate our activities and work together to provide greater benefit to our members and our community. As a result of our discussions over many months, recently, Bill Ragland and I, as Presidents of the Foundation and the Association, respectively, signed a document memorializing the respective roles of our organizations in fulfilling different aspects of lawyers’ civic, charitable, educational and professional responsibilities. We are confident this achievement will serve as an important guide for future leaders of the Association and the Foundation, leading to a stronger and more effective Atlanta Bar “family.”

Also, I am delighted that, for the first time, during this year’s Annual Meeting of the Atlanta Bar Association, the members of the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Bar Foundation will be sworn in along with the members of the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Bar Association and our Section Chairs. We hope this further symbolizes our renewed collaboration and Serves as a sign of even greater things to come. In addition, we have invited the outgoing and incoming Presidents of the Foundation to submit remarks for the June/July 2012 issue of this publication, to be published alongside remarks from Lynn Roberson and me. I personally thank Bill Ragland, Wade Malone, Liz Price, and Lynn Roberson, for their diligence, cooperation, good humor, unwavering dedication to the goals of the Atlanta Bar family, and for their exemplary leadership.

I am proud to be a lawyer and even more proud to be part of the Atlanta Bar “family.” If I could give one piece of advice to our younger colleagues, it would be to get involved and become a Lawyer Who Serves, both by giving of your time and by your philanthropy. I am deeply enriched by the many friendships I have developed and heartened by the good we are doing together to make a positive difference in our community.