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Why Serve?

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, August 22, 2017

By Ashleigh Parker Dunston, Chair of the WCBA Public Service Committee


“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”-Winston Churchill

This is the quote that the WCBA Public Service Committee chose to place on the back of our very first t-shirt design.  I personally love this quote because, as lawyers, we can be overly concerned with how much money we make, the square footage of our home, and the type of car we drive.  Due to the everyday stressors of being a lawyer, coupled with the public perception of how we should “appear,” we can easily become obsessed with the living that we’re making for ourselves and our families that we forget to have a life outside of work.  With our high stress rate, mortality rate, and suicide rate, we find ourselves saying that there’s no time to manage my caseload, let alone take on a pro bono client who likely will require more work than my paid client.  We question ourselves, “Who has time to work in the soup kitchen when I don’t even have time to cook at home?”  “How can I mentor a law student or high school student, when I’m so far behind at work?” “I mean, where’s the quid pro quo in adding one more thing to my already toppling plate?”

Would you believe me if I told you that serving others leads to more happiness, less stress, and a longer lifespan?  An article by Kathy Gottberg entitled “Volunteering—7 Big Reasons Why Serving Others Serves Us,[i]” is one of many that discusses and provides empirical evidence of why serving is good for all parties involved.  I never knew why I always felt good after serving someone, but it turns out that there’s a biological response to selflessly serving -- our brain releases dopamine,[ii] which increases happiness.  Volunteering not only helps put things into perspective, which contributes to mental health, but it also takes our mind off of pain[iii] and decreases blood pressure[iv] due to the reduction in stress.  Most importantly, over forty (40) international studies have shown that volunteering on a regular basis can reduce early mortality rates by 22%.[v]  Finally, according to John Raynolds’ book, “The Halo Effect,” volunteering can lead to a more fulfilling career because when we serve, we feel happy, confident, and energized and those feelings extend out to all areas of our lives.[vi]  A longer, less stressful life is something that we can all benefit from in our personal lives and careers.

So, here it is--my shameless plug to ask you to join the Public Service Committee of the WCBA.   We need you, our community needs you, and you need it, too!  Even if you’re unable to make it to the meetings, we just need you to offer yourself, your gifts, and your talents to serve.  It’s important for you and for our Bar to give so that we can make a life, instead of just a living.

[i] Gottberg, Kathy. “Volunteering — 7 Big Reasons Why Serving Others Serves Us.” Huff Post, 22 Dec. 2014,

[ii] Post, Stephen Garrard. The Hidden Gifts of Helping: How the Power of Giving, Compassion, and Hope Can Get Us through Hard Times. Jossey-Bass, 2011.

[iii] Arnstein, Paul, et al. “From Chronic Pain Patient to Peer: Benefits and Risks of Volunteering.”Pain Management Nursing, vol. 3, no. 3, 2002, pp. 94–103., doi:10.1053/jpmn.2002.126069.

[iv] Sneed, Rodlescia S., and Sheldon Cohen. “A Prospective Study of Volunteerism and Hypertension Risk in Older Adults.” Psychology and Aging, vol. 28, no. 2, 2013, pp. 578–586., doi:10.1037/a0032718.

[v] Jenkinson, Caroline E, et al. “Is Volunteering a Public Health Intervention? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Health and Survival of Volunteers.” BMC Public Health, vol. 13, no. 1, 2013, doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-773.

[vi] Raynolds, John, and Gene W. Stone. The Halo Effect: How Volunteering Can Lead to a More Fulfilling Life--and a Better Career. Golden Books, 1998.




 *Any opinion or views expressed in blogs posted on this site are those of the identified author and not the Committee as a whole

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