Making a difference sometimes means stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something for the less privileged, says family lawyer Bernie Rinella.
By Dan Couvrette, CEO, Divorce Marketing Group, Divorce Magazine and Family Lawyer Magazine.
Guest speaker: Bernie Rinella
SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE:
- Bernie Rinella discusses the various charities that he has been involved in:
- Allandale School for Boys and Girls in Chicago
- the Bernie B. Rinella Jr. Learning Center in Miami University in Ohio
- the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Foundation
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HERE IS THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE PODCAST
I know you’ve been involved with many charitable organizations. Let’s start with the Allandale School for Boys and Girls. Can you just tell me a little bit about your involvement with that organization?
I became involved years and years ago. A friend of mine started an organization in Chicago called First Society. It was a gathering of single men and women, dance-type situations, and they raised money for a place called Allendale School for Boys and Girls. I didn’t know much about it, but I became involved, met some nice people, and raised some money for the school.
Well, we did such a good job that I was put on the board, and from that time forward I’ve been involved over, I’d say, 40 years with this organization. I’ve been chairman a couple of times. We have 150 kids and a beautiful campus outside of Chicago, and we’re on a lake. These are kids who are emotionally and somewhat mentally disturbed. They’ve been sent there by the courts in many instances, and we have a school that handles over a hundred children. We have branches in five or six other suburbs, so that we have probably over 300 kids that we take care of on a daily basis, if not more.
It’s really been a great opportunity and a privilege for me to work with this organization, because it’s grown and we’re over 125 years old. We have auxiliaries throughout the North Shore of Chicago and the city of Chicago. It’s just wonderful to see the good work that this place does for these kids who have really had very few opportunities in life, and who’ve been in trouble from an early age.
We take in boys and girls from the age of 10, and we even go through high school with these kids. We also have a program for kids after high school, and we have sent many kids on to local community colleges, and some regular colleges.
It’s just a great program. Success has been terrific. You’re not going to get 100%, that’s for sure, but you do as well as you can. This organization hasn’t been around for that kind of period of time without having some substantial success. And it’s great to see.
Fantastic. So tell me a bit about the Bernie B. Rinella Jr. Learning Center in Miami University in Ohio.
My son attended that university. He had some problems and he needed some tutoring, as many, many kids do. When he passed away, we thought about doing something, my wife and I, with regard to helping kids who had learning disabilities, or who just needed tutoring to get through their regular classes.
We set up this learning center at Miami for kids, and that was about 15 years ago. The center has put through over 30,000 kids over the years, and given them the opportunity to have this tutoring, to take tests untimed, and so on. And some of them don’t need additional help, they want to go on to medical school or something like that, and they get tutoring from pros. They need the help, but it’s not because their grades are suffering.
This has been a terrific, rewarding experience for my wife and I. In 2009 the center was selected the Outstanding Learning Center of four-year colleges in America. It’s obviously done well, because the people that we have at that center are just dedicated to these kids. It’s been a great experience for us, and it’s great for the kids. Plus, I think it broadens one’s perspective and experience to get away from the law occasionally and do other things, even though bar association activities are great. This is more expansive in my mind, and you get a little bit of a different feel for what’s good in the world.
It seems that you believe that if people just had a little bit more opportunity, they could be much better citizens, have much better lives and grow and develop themselves. Is that something you believe in in your heart and soul? And does that tie into your work with the University of Michigan’s scholarship for needy students?
Absolutely, Dan. You’re right. For instance, the scholarship — and there are hundreds and thousands of scholarships, this is nothing special but it’s one we’re interested in — is a scholarship for kids in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which is the poorest area in the United States, I think. My grandfather was from up there, and we thought that might be a great idea because a lot of kids don’t have the financial wherewithal. They might have the grades, but they couldn’t get a scholarship.
So we’ve been pleased to do that over the years, and we’ve had some kids who have just been incredible. We have one now who has a PhD in physics from MIT. She started at Michigan, we did the undergrad work with her. You meet such wonderful people, and you know that they’re going to prosper. We’re prospering, just as much as they are, from being involved in this.
We did the same thing with DePaul Law School. We set up scholarships for kids there because, again, they don’t have the opportunity and of course school today is so expensive, both undergrad and grad, that it’s nice to see these gals and guys move forward. We also have one in family law, which of course, is near and dear to my heart.
I know you have a number of other organizations—the Rinella Family Foundation, the McGraw Foundation. But I want you to speak just for a moment about the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Foundation and your involvement with that.
That organization started about 15 years ago. I was one of the original board members. The objective there was to raise money for kids or charities that deal with kids who have been involved in families in divorce. So we’re relating it to our field, matrimonial law. We just hit the million-dollar mark this year and the only people who contribute to this, basically, are the members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
We have system where you contribute your hourly rate. We have all kinds of ways of generating money from our membership. Then what we do each year is award scholarships or give money to organizations that deal with kids who are involved with divorce.
We have a whole series of places that we deal with, organizations such as wives’ abuse centers, where divorce is an element in the situation. We feel as family and divorce lawyers that we’d like to give back. That’s been a really great opportunity, and it’s created a great deal of involvement from people who, maybe otherwise, wouldn’t be involved. It’s one of the best things the academy’s ever done.
If people go to www.aaml.org, they’ll find the foundation there, and all of the organizations that the foundation supports are also featured there.
Bernie, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. It’s a pleasure as always. If people want to connect with Bernie, they can go to his website at www.rinellaandrinella.com. Bernie is always very generous with his time, his advice and his guidance.
Bernie Rinella is a partner at the prestigious Chicago family law firm of Rinella and Rinella, a selective boutique. Its clients range from business leaders and senior executives to celebrities and professional athletes. Bernie was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1961. He is a graduate from the University of Michigan (B.A., 1958) and De Paul University (J.D., 1961). Delta Theta Phi. Bernie was the President of Illinois Chapter American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers’ Foundation, Chairman of the Illinois State Bar Association Family Law Section, “America’s Top Ten Divorce Lawyers”, 1998 Town and Country Magazine, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Allendale School For Boys and Girls, Parents Council, Miami University (Ohio), President of McGraw Foundation, Board Member of the American Journal of Family Law and the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers U.S. Chapter Counsel. Bernie and his wife, Gloria, enjoy travel and getting away to their home in Scottsdale. He is also an avid touring cyclist.
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