Cathy Henson

‘Investing in Your Future’ Series Touts Importance of Philanthropy, Civic Engagement, Social Justice

A new lunch and learn series, “Investing in Your Future,” instructs students on how to develop their professional identity through the vehicles of philanthropy, volunteering, civic engagement and promoting social justice.

Investing in Your Future: Stepping Up:Promoting Fairness and Social Justice

  • When: Noon, Tuesday, April 18
  • Where: Room 342

The third installment in the series, “Stepping Up: Promoting Fairness and Social Justice,” will be at noon Tuesday, April 18, in Room 342. Catherine C. Henson (J.D. ’89) will moderate the discussion with panelists Andrea Young, executive director of the Atlanta ACLU; Professor Lauren Sudeall Lucas, director of the Center for Access to Justice; and Jack Hardin of Rogers & Hardin. Panelists will discuss the attorney’s privileged role and responsibility in civil society, especially helping those less fortunate.

“Starting in law school, it’s important to try to understand how people from all walks of life perceive and interact with the justice system – and to make a non-negotiable commitment, early on, to devote some time to using one’s skills as a lawyer to serve those in need,” Lucas said. “Regardless of whether you go on to work full time in the public interest or engage in pro bono work while in the private sector, there are always ways to give back – and to use the power of the law to change people’s lives.”

The series kicked off in February with Henson, who founded the nonprofit Georgia School Council Institute, as one its panelists along with Jennifer Hartz, owner of Corporate Hartz, a leading provider of corporate social responsibility consulting services, and Tim Phillips, general counsel for the American Cancer Society. Associate Professor of Law Cass Brewer moderated the discussion, which focused on how charitable work provides attorneys with opportunities to develop and expand their legal knowledge and experience as well as to cultivate a strong, positive public image. Panelists discussed how their philanthropic activities in the legal and corporate arenas positively influenced their careers.

Henson, who began her career as a corporate litigator, said one simple volunteer act redirected her career to something she finds more meaningful. As a volunteer with her children’s parent-teacher association, she helped raise money to pay for various school necessities.

“Through that involvement, I began thinking of the school nearby that did not have the same social and economic resources,” she said. That motivated her to become an advocate for meaningful parent involvement in public education, and she was eventually appointed to the state board of education as part of the school reform movement.

Similarly, one experience motivated Phillips to give back more. He assisted an elderly woman with a fairly simple case, which got a good result, he said. The woman later sent him a thank you letter.

“I kept the letter, and I realized that this is why I do what I do,” he said.

There is more to practicing law than putting time down on a sheet and getting paid, Phillips said. Lawyers should strive to put their skills to use in a manner that elevates more than themselves.

While in law school, students should also start to think about what talents or skills they have they can develop more, such as legal writing, that they can use to help others now and in the future, Hartz said.

Hartz shared how she became involved with Hands On Atlanta, where Atlanta corporations adopt certain areas of the city to assist with various projects. After winning an award for her work as head of corporate social responsibility at Home Depot, Hartz started her own consulting business, which works with individuals in personal philanthropy development in addition to companies.

The panelists advised law students how they can become involved in philanthropy while still in school. They encouraged students to reach out to scholarship donors to understand their motivations for giving back, to consider how skills learned in law school could be used for volunteer activities, and to apply for internships and externships with organizations that are focused on charity and philanthropy.

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