Scwabe sets its major philanthropy goals through on a company-wide basis – in the past it has been lauded as a donor to the arts within the region. It also works with the United Way to funnel employee giving to local nonprofits, Russo says.
“We are encouraged to make a commitment through an automatic deduction out of our paychecks,” he says. Employees can either pick a charity themselves, or allow United Way to direct their funds. “The firm provides matching funds many times.”
Scwabe also goes out of its way to build time for volunteering into its attorneys’ schedules.
“We think it’s important for our lawyers to be involved in the community,” Russo says. “We have commitments to work X amount and bill, but we track our hours of community involvement as well. You are expected to be involved in the community. That is part of your commitment to the firm.”
When they aren’t volunteering, Scwhabe, Williamson & Wyatt’s Vancouver attorneys have expertise in land-use, real estate transactions, construction, commercial leasing, business formation and transactions, banking, foreclosure and litigation – a wide array of services.
Asked to reflect on how his firm has changed in recent years, Russo responds that, “The Vancouver office has not changed, but the practice of law is changing. When I started practicing law, you’d send a letter out and put the file away, because you wouldn’t hear anything for a couple of days. Now I might get 150 emails in a typical day. The expectation is for instant response. It’s not limited to law firms – but it’s a significant change.”
Even with that hectic modern pace, however, Schwabe staff find time to serve some of the most prominent community groups in Southwest Washington. They’re represented on boards including Leadership Clark County, Identity Clark County, the county parks foundation, Vancouver and Clark County planning commissions, the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, the Columbia River Economic Development Foundation.
And they’re not just figureheads on these boards. Kelly Walsh co-founded the YWCA Clark County Safe Choice Legal Clinic, which provides free legal resources to women facing domestic violence. As chairman of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Russo says he was heavily involved in the scrapped Columbia River Crossing bridge project.
Employees at Schwabe are encouraged to pursue volunteer opportunities that are personally meaningful.
“I served for eight years on the parks commission because I love parks,” says Russo. “Whatever you do, don’t get on a board that you are not interested in. Get involved in something that moves you.”