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The hashtag #26Acts has been trending on Twitter this week -- a call to action to perform 26 acts of kindness in honor of the Connecticut school shooting victims. Lawyers would do well to join the cause, especially today, the one week anniversary of the tragedy.
The #26Acts idea came from NBC News correspondent Ann Curry, who posted it on Facebook and Twitter last weekend. Within days, hundreds of thousands were tagging social-media posts with #26Acts to share the good deeds they'd performed all around the world, NBC News reports.
While lawyers are often reviled as ruthless litigators (ever been called a shark?), there are many simple acts of kindness we can do every day to make a positive impact. Here are #26Acts lawyers can do to make the world, and the legal profession, better:
- Do pro bono work for children. Even just a few hours working with a local nonprofit, such as the Alliance for Children's Rights in Los Angeles, can make a huge difference.
- Keep your "Rambo lawyer" tendencies in check. In short, don't be a jerk, and treat the opposing party with respect.
- Recognize and respect your staff. Remember, a simple "thank you" goes a long way.
- Ditto for all the "little people" in your life. Thank the janitor who cleans your cubicle, and even the guy at the drive-thru window whom you see every night after a long day at the office.
- Really listen to your clients. And not just for facts that will help in litigation. Get to know them as people, and it can work wonders for your lawyer-client relationship.
- Ask your client what's going well in his/her life. You don't always have to focus on the negative. Try starting your next conversation by focusing on something positive.
- Give money to charity. Even with law firm starting salaries declining, lawyers still make more than most, and can afford to give a little away.
- Be upfront about a potentially bad case. It's not easy to walk away from a potential client. But if you truly think the client has a stinker of a claim, let the client know and don't just take the case to rack up your bills.
- LOL. Laughter is infectious, yet it is seldom heard in a law office. Tell a joke and lift everyone's spirits.
- Let someone merge into traffic. We all know you're important and that your time may be worth $1,200 an hour. But take your foot off the accelerator and cut back on the road rage.
- Leave a big tip. So what if the furniture delivery guy, pizza guy, or salon worker was late or did a bad job. Let it go. It's Christmas after all, so give a tip if you can afford it.
- Mentor a child. Groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters come to mind, and there are many others like them around the country.
- Mentor a new attorney. There are hordes of struggling unemployed (and underemployed) lawyers out there. Take a young trying-to-be-an-attorney under your wing and be encouraging.
- Give someone a ride home. If you work your staff to death with long hours, arrange for a ride, or even drop them off on your way home.
- Pick up the bill from time to time. For legal questions you can quickly answer, just give your advice and tell the client it's on the house. Those 15 minutes of free work can lead to a clien's lifetime loyalty.
- Help out at a court self-help center. If your court has a self-help desk, volunteer some time to help laypeople who don't know how to navigate the legal system.
- Let your staff leave early. It doesn't have to be often, but chances are good your staff will work harder if you don't overwork them.
- Serve meals at a soup kitchen. Nothing makes you appreciate what you have more than helping people who have so little.
- Give a free lecture. Everyone could use a little help understanding the law. Set up a free talk at a local community center to share your experiences and expertise.
- Donate old office equipment. When you upgrade to a new laptop or better copier, don't throw the old one away. If it still has some life in it, donate it to a local nonprofit.
- Volunteer for a local nonprofit. It doesn't necessarily have to be legal work. Your lawyerly skills can be put to good use on nonprofit boards and in other ways too.
- Volunteer to serve on a government commission. Your local library board, parks commission, or even a sister-city committee can benefit from your help. Reach out and see how your skills can be put to use.
- Give someone a compliment, even if it's a white lie. Sometimes it's OK to stretch the truth in order to brighten someone's day, like saying nice things about a new haircut or a homemade meal.
- Shovel someone's driveway. Lawyers know that slippery surfaces can be a liability. So if you have elderly neighbors, make sure their walkways are cleared.
- Treat yourself. Being kind to yourself is also a good thing. Give yourself some time off so you can recharge. When you get back, you'll be more ready to take care of your clients.
- Tell your family and friends that you love them. Like everyone else, lawyers are often guilty of not doing this enough. There's no time like the present to make amends.
FindLaw writers Andy Lu and Deanne Katz, Esq. contributed to this post.