by Ellen Arabian-Lee
Hands-on volunteer work is nothing new for Jonathan Hayes and Catia Saravia of Dreyer, Babich, Buccola, Wood, Campora, LLP. Both have Catholic school backgrounds and recognized the importance of volunteerism at early ages. Hayes even dreamed of joining the Peace Corps, but deferred this dream when he became a busy attorney. Although their firm is well known for contributing to various charities, Saravia and Hayes wanted to get all the employees involved in hands-on volunteering, and so, in January 2015, they started a volunteer program at their firm called “Doing Well by Doing Good.”
Hayes and Saravia presented their idea at a partnership meeting, where they received overwhelming support. They recognized early on that it would be difficult to get people fired-up to participate unless the volunteer activities were well organized, fun, and rewarding, so they planned activities where people simply need to “show-up.” Most employees now regularly participate in the program, and volunteering with co-workers has been a great morale builder for the firm. An award is given by the firm at the end of the year to the employee(s) who contribute(s) the most to the program. Among the activities in which the firm has participated are officiating at the Special Olympics, walking in support of MADD, and serving dinner to women and children twice each month at St. John’s shelter for women and children. The firm volunteers also have helped educate high school students about trial law by guest lecturing at local high schools, and last year, Hayes organized the first mock trial presentation for the local law academies, held in the McGeorge courtroom. Saravia sums it up: Volunteering is “the right thing to do.”
Wendy Green, a busy litigation attorney at Hansen, Kohls, Sommer & Jacob, finds time to volunteer through the Junior League of Sacramento (JLS). Recognizing that she could “do so much more with her life,” Green found the JLS. Although only in her second year with the JLS, she is already the Chair of the Community Programs Committee.
Green prides herself most in the work that she has done with the JLS “hands-on” community projects. In helping to further the JLS mission of “empowering girls,” Green organizes classes for Girl Scouts in the outdoor kitchen (which was partially funded by the JLS) at the Broadway Sol Community Garden located in Oak Park. Known as the “Kids in the Kitchen” project, volunteers organize fun and interactive lessons and cooking demonstrations often by local chefs, which teach basic cooking skills and healthy eating habits. The participants receive healthy recipes to prepare a variety of healthy meals and snacks at home. Events are held monthly (weather permitting), and children learn about the USDA nutrition guidelines, “MyPlate” (which illustrates the four food groups that are the building blocks for a healthy lifestyle), “Rethink Your Drink” (which educates about sugar filled drinks), kitchen safety, good hand hygiene, as well as how to bring food from garden to table. Green also has helped organize garden education events – planting seeds, germination, composting, education about bees and pollination. She emphasized that the children “love” these activities.
One of Green’s most fulfilling moments as a volunteer occurred when a participant’s mother told her that she really “had a way with kids,” because the daughter typically does not open-up to anyone, but was smiling and laughing with Green. Green plans to continue volunteering because it gives her an outlet which is not driven by anything other than the giving of her time.
Margaret Doyle, a busy personal injury attorney and co-founder of Doyle & O’Donnell, is well-known for her very successful volunteer fundraising for Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS). The main event for Doyle and the hardworking committee of the Capitol City Trial Lawyers Association (CCTLA) is CCTLA’s “Spring Fling,” which ranks as the second most successful fundraiser for SFBFS, just behind the Run to Feed the Hungry. Through money raised by donations, sponsorships, and silent auction items, the event raised approximately $80,000 last year. Doyle admits that planning Spring Fling is labor intensive, but adds that it is a very rewarding experience considering that all money raised goes directly back into the community.
SFBFS Vice President of Communications and Marketing, Kelly Siefkin, noted that “every $1 donated turns into $10 worth of goods and services returned to the community at no cost. Margaret’s long-time fundraising efforts have brought millions of dollars’ worth of food, clothing, education, and support to those who need it most.” Blake Young, President/CEO of SFBFS, expressed SFBFS’s appreciation of Doyle’s work: “Margaret serves our community with kindness and compassion. She encourages friends and family to volunteer, neighbors to give financially, co-workers to sponsor events, and even encourages clients looking to improve their situation to seek out support from SFBFS.”
Doyle is motivated to volunteer by a desire to do good work in her community, and she is particularly proud to help with the SFBFS’s mission, which is to help individuals by meeting their immediate needs for food and clothing and then to help move families to self-sufficiency and financial independence through education. SFBFS provides free goods and services to over 135,000 men, women and children every month. Doyle says the people who work at the SFBFS are “are a joy to work with.” And she realizes that she could not donate all these volunteer hours without the support of her law partner, Dan O’Donnell, whom she thanks immensely for supporting her efforts.
Justice Art Scotland (ret.) cites the “hundreds of hours” Doyle devotes “to making Spring Fling a success.” He adds that “Margaret Doyle stands out as one of the most dedicated and hard-working philanthropists I have known.”
Recognizing that the need for quality legal representation outweighs the availability of legal services, the Orrick firm established a pro bono program in 2003 and “highly encourages” all attorneys at the firm to provide at least 20 hours of pro bono service each year. Orrick partner Norm Hile handles death penalty habeas corpus appeals for indigent prisoners. Although his background is in business and government litigation with an emphasis on complex litigation and counseling, he quickly learned all about death appeals and obtained a stay of execution for convicted murderer Kevin Cooper less than four hours before his scheduled execution. Hile’s work on the Cooper case was featured in CNN’s Death Row Stories, a series highlighting the stories of inmates on death row. Hile and Orrick senior associate Katie DeWitt led the appeals on this case and continue to advocate for Cooper’s innocence today. Through his pro bono work, Hile has been a proponent for the improvement of the criminal justice system, and he is a founding director of the Habeas Corpus Resources Center, appointed by the Central California Appellate Project.
In addition to his death penalty work, Hile has volunteered along with many Orrick lawyers and staff to help underprivileged children. The Orrick Sacramento office has built a sustained partnership with Oak Ridge Elementary School, which serves children from families who are living at, or below, the poverty line. The firm’s volunteers have made a significant impact on Oak Ridge students by supporting numerous programs, including Take Your Students to Work Day, school breakfasts and faculty and staff events, and by underwriting filed trips and purchasing school uniforms.
Mention the name Jill Telfer to anyone who knows her, and you are just as likely to hear “oh yeah, the animal rights advocate” as that “she’s a great plaintiffs’ lawyer.” People on Telfer’s email lists regularly receive her emails with “re” lines like “OT The Cutest Smile OMG Igor ~ to be euthanized 3/11 at county animal facility ~ help,” with an embedded (and heart rending) photo of the sweet dog who just wants a home and a person to love. Telfer is a true advocate for her clients, human and canine alike. She takes on pro bono animal rights litigation and hosts the annual “From Wags to Riches” reception at her home to raise funds for Scooter’s Pals, a Northern California all volunteer non-profit dedicated to saving as many dogs as possible from needless death. The event brings together members of the legal, political, and rescue communities to raise money for Scooter’s Pals’ rescue and adoption services. In recent years, Scooter’s Pals has rescued approximately 3250 neglected, abused, and abandoned dogs from euthanasia.
Jim Houpt, an Orrick litigation lawyer who has litigated a wide range of complex business disputes, was the partner-in-charge of pro bono work at the firm until 2011, when he semi-retired. He recognizes that it is important for new attorneys to see their firm supporting pro bono work because it motivates them at an early stage in their career to want to “do good” with their law degree. In addition, new attorneys at Orrick have received invaluable trial experience representing prison inmates that they would not receive in typical civil cases.
Houpt was instrumental in developing Orrick’s and Intel’s pro bono guardianship program in 2007, where Orrick and Intel attorneys team-up to provide representation in guardianship cases. These cases typically involve situations where disadvantaged children must be placed with a guardian (usually a relative) because their own parents are incapable of caring for them. When VLSP lost its funding for this program, Orrick and Intel took it over on a pro bono basis. Orrick also partners with Intel to provide services to VLSP’s bankruptcy clinic, which provides assistance to parties in bankruptcy cases. Houpt notes that, because lawyers have a monopoly over providing legal services, they are obligated to “give back” to society in the form of pro bono legal service. But, he does not limit his efforts to pro bono legal services. Houpt is also co-captain of Orrick’s fundraising team for the annual Sacramento Doggy Day Dash, benefitting the SPCA.
There are many pro bono and volunteer activities available where attorneys can “give back” and do good for others. VSLP’s Vicki Jacobs writes about the new Probate Court Pro Bono Panel, first proposed Judge Steven Gevercer, and now staffed by volunteer lawyers and paralegals, “housed” by VLSP, and set to start offering specific legal services in March. See page 8. The benefit to society and the personal benefit of performing volunteer work are great. Many thanks to all the attorneys in our community who volunteer their time to help others.