A party with a purpose

Fifty articling students in Toronto have decided their gruelling schedules aren’t too busy to plan one heck of a party. That is, a party with a purpose: raising money for world AIDS charities.

On Nov. 25, the Toronto legal community is gathering at downtown hot spot This is London to raise money at the Give a Night cocktail party and silent auction. With a fundraising goal of $20,000, the students hope that their contribution will be the biggest one in the event’s history.

Launched in 2007, Give a Night is now an annual event organized by Toronto articling students and benefits the Give a Day campaign. Every year on World AIDS Day, Give a Day encourages legal and medical professionals to donate a day’s pay to world AIDS. Proceeds go to two widely respected charities: the Stephen Lewis Foundation and Dignitas International. Both organizations were founded specifically in response to the AIDS pandemic, both have Canadian roots, and both keep administrative costs low to maximize the impact of donor funding at the community level.

For only $20 admission, partiers at Give a Night can enjoy great music, drinks, dancing, and bid on incredible auction items. The auction includes tickets to all major Toronto sports teams, symphony, theatre and opera, golf packages, gift cards to Toronto’s hottest restaurants, fitness classes, and even five nights of accommodation in B.C. This is a chance to see old friends, make new ones, and escape from the daily grind of legal practice.

But while Give a Night promises to be a lot of fun, Caroline Lutes is quick to point out this is more than a night out at the bar. Lutes, an articling student at Heenan Blaikie LLP and one of three co-chairwomen of the event, says: “Almost 100 per cent of the $20 ticket cost goes straight to one of the charities. The same goes for the proceeds from the silent auction. In buying a ticket and bidding on prizes, attendees can know that they are contributing directly to some of the work being done to assist individuals and communities in Africa who are dealing with the impact of HIV/AIDS in their everyday lives.”

Give a Day’s campaign director Julie Weiss notes that the contribution Give a Night makes goes well beyond the funds raised each year. What excites her the most is that young professionals are brainstorming ways of getting their colleagues engaged in HIV/AIDS awareness.

Planning an event of this size requires a lot of helping hands. Michael Mandarello, chairman of the venue committee and an articling student at Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, says he quickly learned that “the legal community is full of compassionate young professionals who are eager and willing to give their time to a great cause.”

Weiss agrees: “The way that the legal community has taken action to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic has reminded me that the reason most people choose a career in law is their passion for justice.”

Donations continue to come in from law firms and local businesses for the silent auction. Even two national embassies have donated prizes associated with their countries. As Mandarello points out, “lawyers are competitive by nature, so I expect some fireworks at the silent auction!”

Mandarello is right to note the competitiveness and intensity that characterizes the legal profession, for better or for worse. Amid the long hours and pressure of early legal practice, it is important to be mindful of the many ways in which lawyers can bring about positive changes both locally and globally. Learning about and joining in the fight against HIV/AIDS is one way of bringing what’s important into focus.

“Thinking about people fighting for their lives on a daily basis makes the challenges of articling seem pretty insignificant. This perspective makes dedicating a little time to the cause that much easier, and makes me thankful for all the opportunities I have,” says Mandarello.

 Susanna Kam, chairwoman of the charitable awareness committee, echoes these sentiments. “Give a Night is a great opportunity to meet new people and to have a great time while supporting a worthy cause,” says Kam, who is articling at McMillan LLP. “The charities have very positive messages of hope that are really inspiring to students.” The message is one that goes beyond simple charity: fighting HIV/AIDS is a global problem that requires solidarity and solutions.

Give a Night will be a rare opportunity to meet and mingle with colleagues from across Toronto in all areas of law. The event is geared towards young professionals in the early stages of their practice, a segment of the legal community that doesn’t always have the time or opportunity to network. Oslers articling student and Give a Night co-chairwoman Lia Bruschetta encourages all law students, articling students, and young lawyers to attend. When asked why busy professionals should “give a night,” Bruschetta doesn’t miss a beat: “Because it’s a chance to mingle, network, and contribute to an amazing cause. How could you possibly say no to that?”

To buy tickets or make a donation to Give a Night 2010, please visit giveanight.ca.

Lindsay Scott is an articling student at Toronto litigation boutique Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP. She is also the third co-chairwoman of Give a Night 2010.

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