Phillips Murrah makes case for giving

DECEMBER 24, 2008 – You might call it Associates v. Partners but at Phillips Murrah law firm it has nothing to do with litigation.

It’s how attorneys and staff try to outbid each other this time of year to ensure needy local families can enjoy Christmas. This season, the Oklahoma City firm raised more than $5,700 for the family project – the most ever – and was able to provide presents, as well as necessities, for four families through its hands-on approach to giving.

Associates v. Partners: Phillips Murrah law firm makes case for giving

Marie Price, Reporter, The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY – You might call it Associates v. Partners but at the Phillips Murrah law firm, it has nothing to do with litigation.

It’s how attorneys and staff try to outbid each other this time of year to ensure needy local families can enjoy Christmas.

This season, the Oklahoma City firm raised more than $5,700 for the family project – the most ever – and was able to provide presents, as well as necessities, for four families through its hands-on approach to giving.

Attorney Dawn Rahme said the families were identified through the Oklahoma Family Network and the Positive Tomorrows organization, which works with homeless families.

“When we first started the program, we started off doing one family,” she said. “Then we were able to raise so much money from the firm that we decided we would add on additional families each year.”

Rahme said one of the selected families has a child with autism. Another has a child with Down syndrome and a third family has a child with cancer.

The 2008 economy being what it is, the firm started off cautiously this year.

Jennifer Miller, also an associate attorney, said the downturn and its reported effect on charitable giving was a big concern.

“That’s why we said we’ll take one family,” she said.

“That’s what we started with. Then the response was just so overwhelming with everybody that we kept calling to say we’d like to adopt another family. We did that multiple times this year.”

Rahme said the firm was able to make an additional donation to Oklahoma Family Network to help more families.

Things do get competitive as the fundraising gets under way, both attorneys said.

“We went around knocking a lot of doors, literally,” said Miller.

It’s not a difficult sell, Rahme said.

“Normal people are having tough times now, and it’s even more difficult for families that have a difficult time getting started,” she said.

Rahme said the firm matches whatever is raised from individual attorneys and staff.

“It started off with a little associate project and people wanted to help and it kept growing and growing,” she said.

Last year, Phillips Murrah raised $4,500 and helped three families.

Rahme said attorneys “adopt” a family after Christmas, to keep in touch with them and let the firm know how they’re doing.

Sometimes it’s difficult to get families to ask for things they want, such as toys for their children.

Rahme said that was the case with one of this year’s families, who asked for jackets, shoes, socks and the like.

“We called back and asked what are their likes, what toys do they like, so we could throw in some actual gifts,” she said. “Everyone likes to get a fun surprise at Christmas, not just a pair of pants, especially if you’re six years old.”

Rahme and Miller said gift cards enable families to buy extra things they need or want.

“When you go and deliver the gifts and see the reaction, that’s what Christmas is all about, and the holiday season,” Rahme said. “It’s the helping other people and giving because you can and because you know they need it.”

Miller said her family was out Christmas shopping last weekend, and talked about how fortunate they were to be able to buy sought-after gifts, especially now that the economy has negatively affected so many.

“It makes you so thankful that you have the opportunity to do that, when so many people can’t,” she said.

Marketing director Beth Rutledge said the firm’s overall charitable giving has grown more than $100,000 over the past four years.

“The largest portion of our discretionary funds goes to corporate contributions, community-support items,” she said.

Rutledge said that instead of establishing a formalized giving program, Phillips Murrah takes an approach that “comes more from the heart.”

“Rather than just writing a check, we are supporting actual time and energy and love that’s put into these things,” she said.

Rutledge said organizations and causes clients are involved in provide additional avenues to become involved.

From groups such as United Way, Boys and Girls Clubs of Oklahoma City, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and City Rescue Mission, to legal-community organizations and the arts, Rutledge said Phillips Murrah’s involvement is widespread.

“As tough as things ever may be for any one of us, it’s really a grounding thing to see that there is true need in this world, and to be in a position to give back,” she said.