James Frazier III
Lexington, KY -As managing member of McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland (MMLK), James H. Frazier III knows his firm sets the bar high for its employees when it comes to community involvement.
“It kind of started with [senior partner Terry] McBrayer’s vision 25 to 30 years ago when I first started. Everybody should be giving back to the community,” he said.
And Frazier walks the walk in that regard. He’s currently chairman of the Lexington Parking Authority and serves on the board of his alma mater, Transylvania University.
“We encourage [MMLK employees] to spend 200 hours a year doing community service,” he said. “That’s non-billable work, but it’s things that give back to the community, and it’s hopefully something that they want to do.”
Altruism and capitalism
The effort, which amounts to an average of just under four hours per week of community service for each employee, is altruism with a side of capitalism, according to Frazier. He has numerous examples to offer of friendships and business relationships that originated with contacts made through community service.
“If a person likes a lawyer, they’ll want to do business with you,” he said. “People don’t hire a firm, they hire an individual — especially in today’s market."
More than filling a seat
Frazier encourages MMLK associates and new members to make their community service choices based on passion rather than obligation. Employees are advised to pick a cause they are truly interested in and not something they feel they should be involved with.
“If you like what you’re doing, it won’t be a drudgery,” Frazier said. “And if you like what you’re doing, the people you’re with will know that, because they sniff out those who are just filling a seat.”
Frazier himself has found a role he didn’t expect when his college and law-school classmate, then-mayor Teresa Isaac, asked him to be part of the newly formed Parking Authority Board.
Frazier had grown up parking cars in lots owned by his family around Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium, and Isaac thought he might be a good person to help out the new cause, Frazier said. He’s been on the board ever since and found it unexpectedly rewarding.
“We’ve changed the whole dynamic of parking ... and I really think it’s helped the community,” he said. “Cities are so cash strapped… it really [relieved the city of] a function that the government couldn’t do or really didn’t want to do. ... It’s really been a nice marriage.”
Frazier hopes his work on the Parking Authority Board will serve as an example to others about doing more than just showing up for a meeting.
“If you really want to know what an organization’s about, you have to do more than just go to the monthly or quarterly board meeting. You have to get on the subcommittees and spend some time with it,” he said. “That’s where you get to meet the people. That’s what’s worked for me.”
In addition to the 200 hours of service per year, Frazier adopted service days at the suggestion of Morgan Hall, MMLK’s marketing manager. Each employee can spend up to three workdays per year volunteering for the nonprofit of his or her choice.
“To me it’s not billable hours I’m losing,” he said. “I’m investing in them — in their personal growth, in their professional growth, in the law firm’s growth.”
The dividends come in the form of a stronger self-image and a greater sense of worth for both the firm and its employees, according to Frazier.
“The sense of pride and the sense of accomplishment weaves you into the fabric of this place. You raise your profile within the community with individuals,” he said. “They know who you are. That means they know who the law firm is.”
About James H. Frazier III
Title: Managing Member of McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland for the past 18 years. Also Fayette County Master Commissioner
Areas of practice: Real estate development
Work history: Been at MMLK for 26 years, practiced on his own after law school before joining his current firm
Hometown: Bowling Green, Ky.
Education: Transylvania University class of 1976, and University of Kentucky College of Law, class of 1979