We are all connected. Law firms and community development.

“We have great clients,” this is a phrase that I commonly hear emanating from the corner desk of Skunkwork’s Client Services Director Marni MacLeod. And, after a quick review of our client’s charitable activities, I have to say that it’s true. The vast majority of Skunkwork’s clients actively support some form of community development; whether it is the establishment of scholarships or donating to a local charity.

In an age where the headlines are constantly marred by the latest transgressions of industry leaders, we thought that it would be refreshing to share some of our clients’ stories. The following is a very small selection of the socially conscious firms that we work with and the projects that they support.  We are fans of doing good and we believe you can’t go wrong by contributing to the development of communities whether they are here in Canada or across the globe. So, to show our appreciation and to help spread the word we plan on turning this post into an ongoing series and, in the future, will highlight the efforts of other firms and organizations.

Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman: Project Somos Children’s Village

Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman (CFM) is a Vancouver law firm that specializes in representing plaintiffs in product liability, aviation, and class action lawsuits. Often arguing on behalf of a diverse group of individuals wronged by a single corporate entity, CFM recognizes the value in utilizing a group approach to confront the problems of individuals. Coincidently, this is a philosophy that is mirrored in Project Somos Children’s Village: a non-profit initiative championed by CFM partner Joe Fiorante, Q.C..

The project’s goal is to create a village that will provide a secure home, loving family, and hopeful future to 49 Guatemalan children orphaned and living in dire poverty. The Children’s Village is being constructed just outside of Tecpan, Guatemala, and will feature buildings for village activities, art and music workshops, a library, a large playground and a soccer field. The project is a collaborative effort between local stakeholders and foreign supporters and promises to provide an integrated effort to confronting the issue of child poverty.

Joe is the Chair of Project Somos, and is incredibly passionate about its goal of providing safe, secure, and community oriented housing to orphaned children. Joe’s interest in the organization and Guatemala was sparked by the backpacking trips that he took to the Central American country in the early 1990s. This year, Joe will be participating in the Axel Merkx Penticton Gran Fondo on July 8, 2012.  Italian for “Big Ride” the ride is a 160km bicycle tour and Joe is riding in support of Projects Somos.

You can sponsor Joe’s “Big Ride” and help contribute to Project Somos by clicking here.

We also encourage you to go check out the Project Somos website. They have the most amazing photography and the initiatives they are organizing are as inspirational (and aspirational) as it gets.

Legal Aid + Access to Justice

In a blog post about community development, we would be remiss not mention the dedication of two other CFM lawyers. Specifically, we’d like to highlight the efforts of CFM partner Sharon Matthews who happens to be the current CBABC branch president and associate Melina Buckley who has devoted her time to various projects aimed at achieving universal access to the law.

Among other things on Sharon’s “to do” list as CBABC President, is confronting the legal aid crisis in this province. Under her leadership, the CBABC has undertaken a fact-based awareness program that seeks to advance the understanding that BC’s legal aid programs are far from adequately funded. The informative website www.weneedlegalaid.com is a manifestation of Sharon’s efforts and features news pieces on the legal aid crisis as well as moving stories from individuals whose lives have been negatively affected by the lack of legal aid.

Melina, likewise, has a distinguished record of providing support to various programs that aim to increase access to the legal system. Currently Melina is serving as policy counsel to the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry and chairs both the Canadian Bar Association’s National Access to Justice Committee and the CBA’s Legal Aid Test Case Advisory Committee. In the past, Melina has also provided advisory services to the Canadian NGO Equality Effect. Equality Effect is an international network of human rights advocates who develop creative legal solutions to address issues of gender inequality in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi. By creatively applying their knowledge of the law to the crisis of female inequality, participants in Equality Effect aim to improve the lives of women and girls who are discriminated against by institutionalized sexism.

McQuarrie Hunter LLP and the Two Hospitals

McQuarrie Hunter LLP supports many foundations, associations and institutions. Currently, however, their paramount focus is on donating to causes that positively contribute to local healthcare. This focus has been manifested in the work that the Surrey-based firm has pursued on behalf of both the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation and the Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation.

McQuarrie Hunter’s dedication to the two foundations is substantial. In addition to providing monetary contributions to the Royal Columbian Hospital foundation, McQuarrie has also lent the foundation the expertise of two of its partners. David Worthington currently serves on the foundation’s Board of Directors, while Wade Winkler sits as co-chair of the Gala committee. The foundation’s mission is simple but essential: to help save lives, restore health and provide comfort by raising funds that directly benefit patients at Royal Columbian Hospital.

The Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation similarly was established with the principal goal of saving lives. Since its establishment in 1992, the foundation has raised more than $60 million to purchase medical equipment, fund innovative programs, and support training and research to further this goal. Recently, McQuarrie Hunter announced that they were committing $50,000 to the foundation. In addition, McQuarrie Hunter Partner Jacy Wingson is past president and a current member of the foundation’s Board of Directors.

Honorable Mention

Rahim Talib technically isn’t a client of Skunkworks, which is why we’ve titled this section “Honorable Mention”. However, we met Rahim recently while working for his Alma Mater, the University of Victoria Faculty of Law, and were deeply impressed by his commitment to community development.

Rahim left a promising career in Corporate M & A in order to follow his dream of business ownership, and is currently the owner of Meadowfresh Dairy. When not running his business, Rahim dedicates his activities to fighting global poverty through active involvement with both the World Partnership Walk and the Aga Khan Foundation Canada.

The World Partnership Walk is Canada’s largest annual event dedicated to raising funds that go towards the fight against global poverty.  In the past, money from this initiative has gone towards projects to revitalize a rural economy, ensure clean water and sanitation, strengthen community-based organizations, and educate new generations of girls and women. The World Partnership Walk works in association with The Aga Khan Foundation Canada, which raises funds that go towards various critical issues, from supporting female literacy classes in Afghanistan to creating tenable career choices for children in Mozambique.

More Information

If you’re interested in getting involved in any of the organizations mentioned in this blog post then you can click the following links for more information.

Somos Children’s Village
We Need Legal Aid
Equality Effect
The Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation
The Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation
The World Partnership Walk
The Aga Khan Foundation Canada


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