Read the full article in the Fall-Winter 2013 issue of Carolina Law.
When Gardner Altman '71 attended UNC School of Law more than 40 years ago “the whole philosophy of the law school was service,” he says.
From the professors, who gave up higher paying legal work to serve by teaching, to the idea that law is the cornerstone of a stable society, Altman says service was a fundamental lesson of Carolina Law. A lesson that stuck.
Over the course of four decades he’s served as a board member for at least nine different organizations, including three terms on the Carolina Law Alumni Association board. He’s devoted countless hours to organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Campbell University and the Institute of Political Leadership, among others.
He also hosts an annual breakfast on his farm that brings together political leaders from Columbus, Bladen and Cumberland counties to discuss common issues in a bipartisan forum.
After hearing people complain that they could never reach their Congressional representatives, he organized an annual meeting through collaboration with Fayetteville Technical Community College, Methodist University and Fayetteville State University that brings together the three U.S. House members that represent the region to town and provides an open mic forum so citizens can ask questions.
And then there’s Hogs and Rags, a nonprofit he created eight years ago to raise money for the Shriners Hospitals for Children and the American Cancer Society. The group organizes an annual ride of hundreds of motorcycles (the “hogs”) and convertibles (the “rags”) to raise money. So far, they’ve raised more than $125,000.
Practicing law, at its core, is a service, Altman says. “It’s helping people do something they can’t do for themselves.”
When you think that way, you can’t just turn off the urge to help people during your nonbillable hours.
“My experience has been with my colleagues of 40-plus years that attorneys help tremendously in their communities,” Altman says. “They are a facilitator for many good things in a community.”
Though Altman works less (a little less) than he used to, he’s still using his legal talents and relationships to help others. He serves pro bono as general counsel (and a founding board member) for the N.C. Church Loan Fund, a non-profit corporation that lends money to churches,
Even his business ventures aim to make a positive difference. He’s involved in a business his son helped organize that’s creating an economic model so forestland owners in the Southeast can let their trees stand, rather than harvesting the timber or clear-cutting for alternative uses. The landowners can earn money by selling credits that are bought by companies that emit greenhouse gasses under the California mandatory cap-and-trade program or emitters who voluntarily desire to offset their emissions.
“That’s something I feel very good about,” Altman says.
-December 3, 2013