Community partnerships with MCCH, Best Buddies and others make law firm more than just a place to work

Lori Swim has led marketing for Shulman Rogers for 25-plus years. It’s a job she clearly enjoys. But she will readily tell you that she loves helping lawyers and staff across the law firm take part in charity and volunteer programs in the communities where they work and live.

“A lot of our attorneys and staff are involved in community outreach,” Swim shared. “That’s always been, secretly, my favorite part of my job — being able to do that in addition to marketing our legal services.”

Although Shulman Rogers now has a staff of more than 150; services clients nationwide; provides dozens of practice areas supported by nearly 100 lawyers, many with big firm pedigrees; and has offices and facilities in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Northern Virginia, it continues to focus on differentiating itself from the big “K Street” practices by being part of communities across the metropolitan Washington region.

A strong piece of that is in Shulman Rogers’ DNA, Swim said.

“It’s always been a part of the fabric of the firm. Founders Larry Shulman and Don Rogers were very involved in community,” she said. “Larry established the automotive trades foundation and construction trades foundation in Montgomery County. Don founded the EagleBank Foundation and served as its leader for many years.”

Today, the Community Outreach Committee helps manage programs that support dozens of charitable organizations, nonprofits and foundations across the DMV, like the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless.

Partnering to rid homelessness in Montgomery County

The law firm’s involvement with MCCH goes back almost two decades. “One of the reasons that we love working with MCCH so much is because they already have programs in place that work very effectively to help members of the community,” Swim said.

Over the past 10 years, lawyer Michael Lichtenstein served on the MCCH Board, the last three years serving as board chairman. The firm has partnered with MCCH on a variety of initiatives, from helping gather household goods for move-in kits and collecting food for Thanksgiving dinners to regularly serving meals at the coalition’s men’s shelter, which can house 200 men.

“We have some fabulous partners, like Shulman Rogers, that know that we can’t do it by ourselves. We really are doing this together,” said Lynn Davey Rose, interim director for development and community partnerships. “They have a role we have a role, and because we’re working together, 306 people in 2022 exited shelter and went into a stable and permanent home.”

Organizations like Shulman Rogers have and continue to be essential to MCCH tackling its mission, Rose said.

“The communities’ piece of ending homelessness is pretty significant,” Rose said, adding that businesses and organizations provide 20% to 25% of the financial support for the 32-year-old MCCH’s operations.

“If we didn’t have partners like Shulman Rogers, we literally couldn’t end homelessness the way we know it should be done to be successful,” she said.

Today, Montgomery County has about 577 people experiencing homelessness, according to MCCH data. “That is not a lot of people for 1.2 million to try and care about,” Rose said.

The coalition has been a part of a five-year, 34% decrease in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the county, she said. “But here’s what the challenge is: It’s not getting actually any easier to stay in your house. It’s getting harder every year to stay in your house.”

The lack of affordable housing increasingly makes ending homelessness a challenge locally. Plus, it’s a bit of an invisible problem, Rose explained. “Because people are bulking up. If we literally looked at the number of people that are housing insecure, that would be a huge number.”

For instance, a room that rented for $500 five years ago, today rents for more than twice that typically, at $1,100, she said. “We’re not necessarily having success at helping the larger community have reasonable housing expenses.”

Providing opportunities for community involvement for all

For Shulman Rogers, continually looking at how the law firm can help across the region is the focus of its Community Outreach Committee, which has 18 members. It’s why the committee continually works to support long-time partners like MCCH but to also look for new opportunities too.

“Our goal for any year is to really serve as many different communities as we can,” Swim said. “And we try to provide an avenue for everyone who wants to help to help.”

Letting people’s personal experiences drive volunteerism: Shulman Rogers and Best Buddies

A chief avenue for identifying charities and nonprofits for Shulman Rogers to support are the personal experiences and connections of its lawyers and staff.

“We have gotten involved with many different organizations over the years, often through our attorneys’ and staff members’ involvement,” said Lori Swim, marketing manager for Shulman Rogers.

One example is Best Buddies in Maryland, which the law firm has supported for more than a decade. Shulman Rogers became a partner with the Maryland chapter of the organization through Managing Shareholder Sam Spiritos. He learned about Best Buddies, which helps pair friends and mentors with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, from a business acquaintance.

“I had never really heard of Best Buddies before,” Spiritos said. “I asked him about it, and I asked him if it was OK if I got involved. And lo and behold, I got very involved and have been chairman of the Best Buddies in Maryland Advisory Board for probably eight years. It’s been very rewarding for me.”

He was particularly drawn to the organization, he said, because of his brother.

“My brother had Down syndrome and was very high-functioning and integrated into society,” Spiritos said. “He would have loved to be a part of the one-to-one friendships that is the core of Best Buddies.”

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