How well do you know your co-workers?
by Molly Osberg
Sure you may have meetings, you pass them in the hallways, and you probably give the obligatory half-smile-nod and mutter "hi" when you run into them.
Granted, this isn’t the 1950s and law practice has changed over the last half century to include larger firms, more job changes and less office camaraderie, but does that mean getting to know co-workers shouldn’t be as important?
Sam and Jean Guyton took notice of this "loss of spirit and lack of knowledge of each other’s lives in the law firm," and wanted to bring back that historic sense of community in the office. With that in mind, the Guytons helped establish, with leaders of the firm and support of its Management Committee, the "Holland & Hart Foundation," an organization that breaks down the barriers in the workplace by providing opportunities for people to volunteer together.
Sam, a former Holland & Hart partner, credits Jean with the idea, but it’s been a joint effort since the get-go in 1999. Inspired by the firm’s dedication to community service—it’s one of the top three firms to provide pro bono work in the country—the Guytons had dreams of taking Holland & Hart’s volunteerism to new heights.
What started as a germ of an idea, now includes over 500 firm personnel and their families in six states and 11 offices. Alumni and retirees of the firm and their families are also part of the foundation community.
"The foundation just took off. Each year is surprisingly bigger than the past year," Sam said. "Never in our wildest dreams did we envision the depth of dedication and creativity from the volunteers of this community, and the impact foundation activities have had in helping others."
All community service ideas are inspired from people in each of the firm offices. A few months ago, in the Boulder office, an attorney’s wife had premature twins born with many problems. This incident created a spark among people in that office to produce an evening education program about premature births. The foundation worked with two other organizations in Boulder and drew more than 200 people to the program, which raised $4,000 to help educate mothers on avoiding premature births.
At the end of 2001, the foundation was involved in over 71 projects. Projects have ranged from building houses for Habitat for Humanity; organizing paint-a-thons for seniors’ centers; collecting diapers for an orphanage in Haiti; organizing races and walks to benefit programs dealing with arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and cancer; to adopting senior citizens’ home and battered womens’ shelters.
In response to the Sept. 11 tragedy, the foundation promoted blood donations by firm personnel, organized educational seminars on dealing with trauma and understanding Islam, and collected children’s letters to NYC firefighters and police officers.
"The foundation furnishes a vehicle for what people want to do anyway," Jean said. "It gives people ideas and opportunities to help others."
By helping the community through service projects, Holland & Hart lawyers and staff have gotten to know each other on a more personal level. This, in turn, has brought an aspect of camaraderie back into the office, which supports the foundation’s motto of "building community through service."
"Everyone benefits," Jean said. "If you’re working with a co-worker building a house for Habitat for Humanity, you’re not only providing shelter to a needy family but getting to know the community in your own office."
A principal focus of foundation activities is to make them "time sensitive and family friendly." Sam and Jean are aware that personal time is very important to people, and most want to spend as much time with their families as possible. Because of this, many volunteer opportunities are open for the entire family and involve only a few hours. The DTC office recently organized a food and supply collection for a "no-kill" animal shelter in Brighton. When the volunteers and their families took the supplies to the shelter, the shelter owner introduced the families to the animals and taught the kids about how to take care of them.
"It was a project that benefited everyone," Jean observed. "The shelter received food and blankets, the volunteers got to help the community while spending time with their families, and the kids had a ball."
Since its inception in 1999, the foundation has been involved in over 150 projects. Some newcomers to Holland & Hart have said that the foundation and the firm’s commitment to community service were factors that persuaded them to join the firm. Retired members of the firm have also re-connected by volunteering for projects.
"The enthusiasm for the foundation is contagious," the Guytons said. "We get e-mails and calls everyday that move and amaze us."
The Guytons hope that other firms and businesses will form similar foundations or committees to build stronger ties within the workplace and help those in need in their communities.
To find out more about the Holland & Hart Foundation or to learn about upcoming projects, contact Sam and Jean Guyton at firstname.lastname@example.org or (303) 233-8412.