For his entire adult life, Joel Friedman (JD ’75) has been busy. That’s been the key to his success, but he’s never had the time for volunteering. And he thinks volunteering is something that people should do. “I was successful because I was always available to my clients. And at some point I realized that, instead of struggling to find ways for me to volunteer, the better thing would be to help others to do it successfully.”
Transforming Personal Success Into Public Service
While still an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, Friedman earned his CPA classification. During law school, he served as a revenue agent for the IRS. These experiences proved invaluable to his subsequent tax and estate practice.
Eager to work, Friedman chose JMLS, the only school on his acceptance list that allowed him to maintain a full-time job and attend classes at night. As a 1L, he married and soon began a family with his wife, Iris. After 25 years of operating his own firm and other endeavors, he joined Horwood Marcus & Berk in 2000 and practices taxation, estate planning, and business law. Grateful for both his professional and personal success, Friedman desired to give back and volunteer on behalf of the underserved. However, his time constraints continued to increase and his wish to help became more challenging to realize.
Finding a Way to Give Back
The opportunity arose when Alvin and Ann Baum, tax and estate planning clients of Friedman’s, named him trustee of their fund. Initially, the Fund awarded one or two student scholarships each year. Over time, a strategic internship evolved, where financial support was combined with work to benefit worthy organizations such as the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “It works better now,” Friedman says, “since we changed to offering a larger number of smaller grants, with me targeting where the opportunities will be—because I know they will be good organizations.”
A Desire to Do Good
Today, the Alvin H. Baum Family Fund Internships at JMLS are one initiative of more than 50 diverse programs and organizations supported by the Fund. Friedman believes you don’t have to choose between success and making a difference.
“What I want to accomplish is establishing the willingness, the inclination to do good. Exposing students to the types of things that lawyers can do for the social good, in a variety of areas—from poverty, to crime and violence, to the environment—with the hope that some of them make it a career, and even if they don’t, they’ll volunteer, or they’ll support it financially, or all of the above. And the more people that are doing that, the better.”
“I like to think of it as a ‘triple win.’ John Marshall gets its students a better education; the students get very good experience and make some money, which a lot of them need; and the organization gets a very skilled law student performing the work that the organization needs done. We’ve been doing this for a few years now, and in virtually every instance it’s worked exactly that way.”