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This article was originally published in The Barrister, the official monthly publication of the Camden County Bar Association for which DeMichele & DeMichele attorney MATT ROONEY serves as Young Lawyer Trustee.

By Matt Rooney

CCBA Young Lawyer Committee Halloween Party at Anna Sample House.
CCBA Young Lawyer Committee Halloween Party at Anna Sample House.

We hear so much about the importance of “service” in modern America that it’s almost becoming… robotic?

It’s something you do because everyone else at your college, grad school or law office is doing it even if zero actual drops of blood, sweat or tears went into the exercise. The term itself has also begun to take on radically different (or shallow) meanings for different people. For some, service is something you do to advance a pet cause; others view service as a predominately social activity or, even less flatteringly, as a necessary part of resume building. And for more still, provided the “fun run” allotted a portion of the registration revenue to a good cause, that’s service enough even though the participant ran 5 miles without ever coming within 10 miles of contact with the folks the money is supposed to help.

‘Tis the season for a fresh perspective on service!

I think Pope Francis, a religious leader who has garnered near-universal renown for his humble, personal and controversially-honest style, really hit the nail on its head during a September 2014 homily addressing the intersection of faith and politics: “Every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path?’ If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good.”

He could’ve just as easily been talking about lawyers.

Francis’s approach is instructive for each and every one of us regardless of your personal religious beliefs. The root of “service” is obviously serve, not “lip” service. It’s all about getting your hands dirty and adding value to the community by laboring, listening, learning and, in many cases, humbling yourself. All the better when it’s fun! You should derive satisfaction from helping bring about a positive change in someone else’s life. But the “fun” is supposed to be a means to an end and not the other way around. Lasting change only comes about through persistent hard work.

I’m proud to say that our Camden County Young Lawyer Committee members know all of that instinctively and they live it both inside and outside of the courtroom. We already told you about the hugely successful September 2014 Lobster Bake for LARC School. In October, our active Young Lawyer Charity Committee continued a cherished annual tradition: hosting a spookily-fun family Halloween party for the residents of Camden’s Anna Sample House. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this incredible Volunteers of America project, Anna Sample’s dedicated staff works with homeless women and their families, providing them with a safe place to develop self-sufficiency and acquire the skills and strength required to reenter society as productive members. Sponsored programs include occupational skills workshops, substance abuse awareness, and even parenting and life skills training.

What do we provide? Pizza, cupcakes, scary decorations and a fantastic magician with his very own special assistant: a magic rabbit. As you can imagine, the kids absolutely love the pizza (and the bunny), laughing and cheering non-stop throughout the magic show! It’s a much-needed break from reality during a tough period of their young lives. Of no less importance, however, is the fact that their parents are reminded how the rest of us haven’t forgotten about them. We care. Moreover we want them to succeed. And we’re willing to fight for them for as long as they’re willing to fight for themselves.

It’s the same dedication our members provide to their legal clients day-in and day-out, Monday through Friday, all-year.

Feeling like you missed out? Good! But no worries. There are plenty of opportunities ahead to assist the Camden County Bar Association and Young Lawyers Committee this holiday season including the upcoming Children’s Christmas Party and Adopt-A-Family drive hosted by our wonderful Camden County Bar Foundation. And when the jingle bells stop ringing, save the date for our back-by-popular-demand 2nd Annual Chili Cook-off on February 7th. More on that later…

More networking and CLE opportunities also lie ahead; for example, our fall social events at Treno Pizza Bar in Westmont (September) and Flying Fish Brewery in Somerdale (in November) were attended by a combined 100+ young lawyers! A large percentage of which were brand new members. They’d love to meet you at the next event.

First thing’s first. Are you ready to serve the greater South Jersey community? And make the most of a unique opportunity to make your neighbors’ holiday season merry and bright? Then load up the sleigh, deck the halls and join our Camden County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Committee! Contact me at matt@southjerseylawfirm.com, find us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/camdencountyyounglawyers), and follow us on Twitter via our handle: @CCYoungLawyers.

Post Author: Matt Rooney

is a New Jersey attorney, former Superior Court law clerk, and noted commentator who focuses his practice on family law, municipal court defense, and personal injury matters. He was recognized by SJ Magazine as a 2018 “Top Divorce & Family Attorney."