Emergining Influential of the Year Nominee
Submitted by: Allison Marie, Associate Attorney
1. Why do you believe CSR is an important part of your personal brand?
We all have the power and responsibility to better the world around us and my personal service philosophy is to engage in activities with which I can personally connect and where I can most effectively apply my professional knowledge and life experiences to benefit my community. CSR embodies this same fundamental philosophy but on a grander scale, and promotes a culture of contributing to the communities we serve.
2. Do you believe that the CSR work you participate in should be affiliated with the work you/your company does? For example, should an Oil company’s CSR be in cleaning up oil spills?
Absolutely and, at the same time, not at all. CSR and having a strong commitment to service has the potential to enhance so many aspects of our lives, providing avenues for both personal and professional growth, and a greater sense of connection to the community. ShounBach is involved in myriad CSR activities; some that are tied to the law and some that are entirely unrelated. The impact of our providing pro bono legal services is different than the impact of our serving breakfast at a local family shelter, but they’re equally important. As attorneys, there’s a unique need in some of our CSR activities that can only be met by licensed attorneys, and for that reason I absolutely think that a certain amount of CSR work should be connected to our profession. And when my firm’s professional work and CSR activities intersect, we’re able to apply a deeper knowledge, understanding, and skill to the activity through decades of combined experience, and I think that connection is really important. That being said, I don’t think all CSR should be connected to professional work. There’s a different kind of importance and a different kind of fulfillment in engaging in CSR activities that have no relation to, and will likely have no impact on our professional world. We do them simply because we understand the intrinsic obligation to support our community.
3. Do you believe contributing back to the community allows you to have a deeper connection with your clients/customers?
Absolutely. The time we devote to supporting so many different community activities is a direct reflection of the kind of firm and the kind of people we are. Our practice is entirely local and so our clients, who are generally members of the community, can actually see our commitment to serving that community and can better understand the impact. I think that gives them confidence that we care about more than just our business, and that we’ll treat their individual cases with compassion and respect. That’s an incredibly important connection to develop in this kind of practice.
4. What are some events or causes that inspire you and your team?
I tend to get most excited by projects where I can actually see the impact of my time and energy. One of the projects I’ve dedicated myself most to over the past year was co-founding the Young Lawyers Section of the Arlington County Bar Association. The YLS’s mission is to support the development of the community’s young and newly-admitted attorneys by promoting service to our community and providing practical skills training, networking, and mentorship opportunities. So far we’ve laid the foundation of a volunteer mentorship program between members of the Bar and YLS, we’ve hosted a breakfast with several Arlington County judges to provide young attorneys a more informal opportunity to interact with the Bench, and we’re in the planning phase of initiating a court tour program for Arlington’s middle and high schools.
I’m also actively involved in the Future Fund, a giving circle of young professionals at the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia that provides grants to local nonprofit organizations. This year I serve as Co-Chairwoman of the Events Committee and a member of the Leadership Committee. I most recently planned the 2016 Young Professionals Mixer, which is a unique event that brings people together from across professions for an evening of networking and philanthropy, and also coordinated a weekend service project with FACETS, a non-profit providing assistance to families and individuals who suffer the effects of poverty in Fairfax County. Really for me, a native Northern Virginian, it’s all about giving back to my home. As for the firm, there’s no question that our team is excited by causes that have a connection to the law and legal process. There’s a certain innate passion for law in so many attorneys, and applying something we’re passionate about to serving our community naturally leads to enthusiasm. For example, a number of the firm’s attorneys have worked as volunteer conciliators, helping parties resolve preliminary disputes to try to avoid the need for litigation; others have volunteered with the Attorney of the Day program, representing victims of domestic violence. But we also get excited about causes that have nothing to do with the law. As one small but significant example, for several years we’ve teamed with Hendrick Honda and News Channel 8 for their annual Un-Trim a Tree and Adopt a Child initiative. Under this initiative, local school counselors identify families most in need of assistance during the holidays, and the firm, both as a whole and its individual employees, adopt those families and make sure that all of their children will have presents to open on Christmas morning.
5. What advice would you give to individuals trying to find a cause in which to participate?
Make it personal. Feeling that personal connection to a cause is what makes it meaningful for you; it’s why you’ll want to give it your all, it’s why you’ll really invest in its success; and it’s why you’ll enjoy every bit of the time you give.