So, this very official envelope arrives at my extremely modest office the other day. I figured I was in trouble. After all, why would someone pay a buck seventy to send me something unless they expected to reap something from the investment?
Once opened, it contained a very pretty, 8.5” x 11”, full-color, glossy brochure. The subject: all the wonderful pro bono activities of their illustrious, 162-attorney firm.
I perused it whilst visiting the fortress of solitude and discovered that they received awards. Lotsa awards. They cherish their Distinguished Service to the Arts Award. They relish the sight of their Volunteer Service Award. They bask in the glow of their Award for Excellence. It featured pictures of happy partners and associates, thrilled with their ascent to the pinnacle of charitable excellence.
Being the practical sort, though, I want numbers. Something concrete. Something tangible.
They didn’t disappoint.
What does this mean? Let me break it down and hope my meager math skills don’t fail me.
First, that $3,220,764 figure is impressive. If I continue working at my current pace, I’ll need to live to 128 in order to have earned that in my lifetime. Please send vitamins.
They value their average hour of work at $423.
Assuming they are not including the hours of paralegals and support staff, each attorney works 47 hours per year on pro bono matters. I realize that my assumption in this matter is significant. No, huge. No, astronomical.
Knowing that the average member of a large firm spends 60+ hours at work each week, this means less than 1 average work week.
Assuming that each lawyer bills 2200 hours in the average year, those 47 hours account for 2% of their yearly efforts.
Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask a few questions.
1. Are they including time spent creating and mailing their fine brochure?
2. Why am I receiving this? After all, I’m so low on the lawyer totem pole that I’m subterranean. Am I really worth $1.70?
3. At what point did someone discover the magnitude of the firm’s aggregate pro bono activities and decide to tell the legal world about such charitable awesomeness? Or, did they keep track of it from the beginning, knowing that they’d want the whole world to smell their rose-scented farts at the end of a bountiful pro bono year?
4. Suppose one of their associates helps an elderly woman to cross a busy street. Is this same associate then encouraged to publish his good deed to anyone within earshot? “Hey, everyone, did you see what I just did?! I helped this little old lady across the street! I’m awesome, especially since I work at…” Does he get a special gold star on the in/out board at the office? Does his time used to assist the elderly woman count toward the firm’s charitable total? If it weren’t for the promise of recognition and self-promotion, would he even give a damn about the old lady?
Now, I’m not going to leave these guys on a bad note. After all, it is the holiday season. You know, a season where I open my shut-up heart to the world.
So, to my big, charitable, bragging friends, I give the following advice and counsel:
1. Consider doing some work for someone in need. Do so without tracking your time. Do it because there are people who just need help and lack means. Don’t put it in a ledger. Don’t look for ways to use it to publicize your awesomeness to the world. See how good you’ll feel, just knowing that you helped someone without promise of reward or recognition.
2. That $1.70 you spent on postage and professional printing? Send it to a charity, a really good charity. Do so anonymously. Again, see how good it makes you feel. I believe I speak for everyone else who received your mailing on this one, we’d rather you put that extra scratch in a place where it really helps.
3. While I do not advocate any particular religion or faith, do us all a favor an read Beatitudes. The Sermon on the Mount is a reminder all of us need. Regularly.
With that said, I feel like I’ve done something charitable this holiday season. I’ll chalk this up as another .4 hours of pro bono service.
Now the whole world will know how awesome I am. A very Happy Holidays to me.