December 28, 2021
It may sound dubious to think that in the world of civil litigation one can find ways to give back to the community, but hopefully I can provide some helpful insights for other legal professionals who feel a desire to engage, participate and give back to their community by using our unique legal education.
By way of background, I litigate subrogation cases often involving business disputes related to torts, contractual issues, and product defects, which I recognize does not exactly fall under the umbrella of public service. And while I find subrogation work rewarding in its own right, it does not allow me to reach my immediate community on a personal level. Early on in my career, I knew I loved the world of subrogation, but I also knew I wanted to give back. To gain a greater sense of community involvement, upon admission to the bar, I immediately became involved in my local bar associations. In doing so, I found my “home” with the Palm Beach County Bar Association’s Law Related Education Committee and the Lawyers for Literacy Committee. I have also enjoyed remaining an appointed member of the Florida Bar’s Law Related Education Committee since 2019. It is through this simple first step that a wellspring of fulfillment has opened for me.
If I could give advice to any newly barred attorney, it would be to get involved with their local bar associations. These committees have opened endless opportunities for me to speak with groups of children, groups of adults, groups who speak English as a second language, and much more. Some of my favorite events have included participation in #readfortherecord, Life Literacy presentations, and the Florida Bar’s Benchmarks civics education outreach program. The Florida Bar’s Benchmarks program is a curriculum designed to educate adults in the community about civics. Through these programs I have presented to rotary clubs, assisted living facilities, and women’s groups on topics such as the constitution, the structure of the judicial branch, and voting. I especially love these presentations because it gives adults access to education that they otherwise would not receive. I truly believe that if you want to improve a community, one thing you can do is empower its members with knowledge. Even if public speaking is not your thing, there are other ways to contribute. For instance, the Florida Legal Survival Guide for young adults is a great resource administered by the Florida Bar’s Law Related Education Committee. The members of this Committee work to update this guide that serves as a resource for teenagers entering adulthood on a myriad of issues such as employment, housing, and driving laws.
Volunteering with these groups has also shown me what a joy it is to interact with children ranging from kindergarten age all the way up to teenagers. Because the legal system affects so many facets of life, there are a multitude of topics to connect with children on. Another event that I have participated in is Literacy Day, where we read children’s books to elementary school students about the “ABC’s of Law” and the United States Supreme Court Justices. At the end, each child gets to take home a pocket-sized copy of the United States Constitution. Even when an event such as this one involves a “story time,” the students always have great questions which leads to engaging discussions. Seeing children process these legal concepts and then follow up with questions is fascinating. Many times, the children I have interacted with have not been exposed to women in the legal profession, or instances where someone is first in their family to obtain a post-graduate degree. Helping them learn a new legal concept and open their minds to the reality that their upbringing does not define their potential has been incredibly fulfilling. In case I have not yet made the case to go out and get involved, I should mention the added bonus for any lawyer of the presentation and public speaking practice that comes along with participating in these events.
Derrevere Stevens Black and Cozad has consistently remained committed to its community outreach efforts. The firm previously participated in collecting donations for the annual Books and Bears drive. This program ensures that on National Adoption Day, each adopted child receives a book and a stuffed animal friend to keep as they join their forever families. Members of the firm also sign up annually to purchase holiday gifts for children in the Avanna Healthcare program, and this year the firm will be contributing to the Palm Beach County Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program to provide holiday gifts for children in need.
As the newly appointed chair for Derrevere Stevens Black & Cozad’s Community Give Back Committee, I am grateful to work in a place where philanthropy is prioritized and where my volunteering is supported. As the firm continues to grow, I am excited to see how we will positively impact the community now that we are physically present in multiple states and can reach beyond South Florida. There is so much that we, as legal professionals, can do to give back even when we do not work in the public sector. During this season of giving and gratefulness, I find myself reflecting on the many blessings I have. When people ask me why I love to volunteer through these programs, the answer is simple: we have so much. If we want to make the world a better place, we must give of ourselves.