The highest of distinctions is service to others.
— King George VI
I’ve been fortunate to have been presented with a number of opportunities to volunteer and provide support to many worthwhile organizations and causes since I started practicing as a lawyer while I’ve actually never stopped to consider why I volunteer until now. When I did pause to contemplate my motivation I realized a number of things. My volunteer activities have ranged from volunteering at a music festival, and acting as a moot court judge for a law school, to being on the board of various volunteer organizations such as the Canadian Bar Association, Legal Profession Assistance Conference, the Alberta Lawyer’s Assistance Society, Saskatchewan’s Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, and the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame Alumni Association. Each of these experiences has been positive. In fact, I can selfishly confirm that I probably have received more out of my volunteer work than I have put into it. Volunteering has become a rich and rewarding part of my life. I have found that my volunteer activities remind me of what I value as important. They also help me maintain some semblance of balance in a time where it seems that the practice of law is becoming more and more demanding on a nearly monthly basis.
In my view, it truly doesn’t matter what it is you volunteer to do as long as it is something that you find meaningful and worthwhile. Lawyers have a long-standing tradition of volunteering their expertise and there are thousands of lawyers across Canada who regularly volunteer their time and energy as coaches, mentors, board members, advisors, as well as in many other capacities.
The reasons that, like myself, so many lawyers find volunteering to be such a rewarding experience are varied and many. Perhaps some agree with Marian Wright Edelman, a children’s activist, who said that “service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” I’m sure others are motivated by different considerations. Each time you volunteer you are highly likely to meet new people that you would not otherwise meet. This is obviously good business. By expanding your social circle you are actually engaging in informal marketing. There are also less fiscally motivated reasons to volunteer. You will likely expand your interests, meet new friends, reap the rewards of having done something good for someone else, build your self-esteem and self-confidence, increase your level of personal satisfaction, add experience and depth to your resume, further develop your “people” and communication skills, share your talents with others, experience the pleasure of being challenged by doing something different, and actually have an effect upon the community in which you live.
Take some time to consider what the most meaningful sort of service for you would be. You may want to support a cause that is important to you. You may also wish to address a need in your local community. Others may wish to join family or friends when they engage in their volunteer work. Once you’ve made the decision about what you want to do, it’s easy. Volunteer. You will be making a contribution to society by sharing your skills and doing something meaningful with your friends and colleagues.
Not only will volunteering make you better prepared to fulfill your duties as a lawyer, it is likely to make you a better friend, a better spouse or partner, a better parent, a better son, a better daughter, and a better citizen because it will, in short, make you better prepared to live and to appreciate your life.
Dana D. J. Schindelka