They Give at the Office … Literally
Doug Sorocco helped turn Dunlap Codding’s law office into a free community-event space
Published in 2017 Oklahoma Super Lawyers magazine
on October 10, 2017
Updated on October 12, 2017
Initially, Dunlap Codding just needed a nice view from the kitchen.
In 2012, the IP boutique converted a 100-year-old warehouse—formerly an ice house and prop studio—into its offices. The firm removed a large commercial garage door next to the kitchen, replaced it with a glass one, then wanted something better looking than a cement slab outside. Firm director Doug Sorocco, who managed the project, envisioned a pocket garden area with modular seating and a pergola for shade. The result resembled a stage.
“When we saw the space and the infrastructure once it was built,” says Sorocco, “we were like, ‘Well, why don’t we make it available?’
“Usually you encourage lawyers to go out and be active in the community; we encourage the community to come be active with us.”
The result is DC on Film Row, a 3,000-square-foot event space that is open free of charge to all manner of community groups. It hosts 70 to 80 events per month, and roughly 30,000 people have been there since it opened in 2013.
There was a lot of skepticism initially. “People thinking, ‘What’s the catch? Sneaky lawyers always do sneaky things,’” Sorocco says. “But then we participated in this big district art walk that really opened it up. Two things happened: It gave everybody an opportunity to say, ‘Oh my gosh; they weren’t kidding. They really are letting people use it.’ And two, we identified a paralegal in our office, Julie Oseland, who must have been in event planning in a different life. She’s become our director of community outreach, and is probably more well-known than any lawyer in our firm.”
On any given day, a nonprofit might be doing training in the conference room, a startup pitching to investors in the board room, food trucks feeding the homeless out front, and a band playing in the courtyard. “We just shake people’s hands and say, ‘We’re inviting you into our home. Our two rules are: Treat all of our neighbors with respect, and leave it in better shape than you found it.’ And 99 percent of the time, people have,” Sorocco says.
DC charges $20 an hour for private events, which pays for an employee to host the groups. The firm turns away overtly religious or political events—“because those are things that tend to divide us,” Sorocco says—but it has welcomed controversial art showings, same-sex marriage ceremonies and the OKC Pride Parade. “We had an international latch-on day for breastfeeding. One spring day, there were 150 breastfeeding moms in the courtyard having their kids latch on at the same moment, to be in Guinness World Records. I had no idea this [group] existed. But these were people that this was very important to. To that group, that is community.”
The firm pitches in on events, too, from creating a haunted house for Halloween to fundraising for deadCenter Film Festival with the Glitter Ball. “We threw up a 40-by-100-foot circus tent in the back of our lot, and turned the outside and inside into kind of a circus club atmosphere with Cirque du Soleil-like performers and bands. We usually have about 400 to 500 people here,” Sorocco says. “We find glitter in everything for a year.”
When groups reach out to reserve the space, Oseland meets with them. “If you’re a nonprofit and you’re putting on an event, it’s likely now that we know all the caterers in town. We know these groups will donate linens or, ‘You need music? Here’s a band—they’ll do a great job and help you out.’ We’ve kind of become a resource to help things along,” Sorocco says. “We’ve helped raise, at different events, $30,000 to $100,000. And that all goes right back into the organizations.”
From a marketing standpoint, DC on Film Row has been invaluable. The firm is mentioned in local media multiple times per week, and clientele associate Dunlap Codding with community. Sorocco says, “The response we get when people call us is, ‘You’re the type of people we want to work with.’”