Several years ago, shareholders of law firm Mathis, Marifian & Richter established the Mathis, Marifian & Richter Foundation to provide donations to worthwhile causes and charities in the community. Funded through donations from the firm’s attorneys and staff, the foundation has donated to many different organizations and causes including the Haitian Relief Fund, Catholic Social Services, the St. Vincent DePaul Society, the Christian Activity Center, the Boy Scouts of America and the Glen-Ed Food Pantry.
One event nearly all MM&R employees participate in is what founding shareholder Patrick Mathis refers to as “jean day.” Once a month, employees may wear jeans to work by contributing to jean day. At one of the staff meetings toward the end of each year, the firm administrator sits down with the office staff; together they pick the charities the firm opts to support in the coming year with jean day funds.
“The shareholders and other attorneys don’t get input into that,” Mathis said. “It’s important that the staff as a group not only contribute, but that they also select the organizations that they want to support.”
Shareholders at MM&R share a collective philosophy, Mathis says, of giving back to the community.
“It’s not one or two people who drive it,” Mathis said. “It’s the entire group of shareholders. And it’s not just the owners; it’s the associates and the staff as well. One of our associates went to Haiti with his wife. She’s an operating room nurse. The two of them traveled to Haiti for 10 days. She worked in a surgery center and he worked building buildings.”
One of the main thrusts of the firm is support for youth who are interested in the law profession. MM&R helps sponsor a program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale that introduces high school students to the profession.
And for many years, MM&R has provided $1,000 scholarships to area high school seniors who are interested in pursuing a legal education. Applicants must meet certain requirements that include a high grade point average and commensurate ACT scores. Applicants are also required to write an essay describing their interest in the law, what sparked their interest and why they want to pursue a legal career. The firm awards three scholarships every year and hosts a luncheon for the recipients and their families, during which time the scholarships are presented.
“We just feel that, as a firm, the profession has been good to us and we should encourage young people to pursue it,” Mathis said.
Another focus of the firm is the High School Sculpture in the City Program that is part of Belleville’s annual Art on the Square. Each year the firm works with a local high school, bringing in a professional artist to visit the school and work with art students. Together they create a sculpture which is then presented at Art on the Square in May. The piece then returns to the school’s campus permanently.
“The students love it,” said Mathis. “We get to meet each of the kids at the Friday night sculpture unveiling at Art on the Square and we go to the school when they dedicate the piece. The kids really like it because they get out of the classroom and they can see their piece in front of the courthouse Friday evening when it is unveiled. It’s exhibited throughout the weekend at Art on the Square, and then the students have the opportunity to place it on their campus as a permanent reminder of their efforts.”
In addition to MM&R’s contributions to charity, its support for legal education and the arts, the firm’s shareholders and staff support their community through participation in causes including the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Representatives serve on boards such as the United Way, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, Hospice of Southern Illinois and many more.
MM&R attorneys also provide pro bono legal assistance to the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation and other charitable organizations.
“The community supports us and we have an opportunity to support the community,” Mathis said. “I think it’s been rewarding for us in a variety of ways on a personal level and on a firm level, and people feel committed to these projects.”