by Sarah Bennett

Award-winning legal legend Skip Keesal has a motto: “Lead from the side.” It’s a reflection of how the lawyer runs Keesal, Young & Logan (KYL), the successful law firm he founded in downtown Long Beach in 1970. It also shows how he encourages his partners and employees to humbly give back to the community in which they reside.

Through both its charitable foundation (which has donated $6 million to local organizations since 1991) and the volunteer efforts of individuals, the firm’s philanthropic contributions in Long Beach are legendary. Most of them, however, remain behind the scenes.

“If you talk to Skip, you’ll find that he’s involved in 100 things you didn’t know about and he’s doing it all for the good of those organizations, not for the credit,” said Justin Hectus, the KYL’s director of information. “People here are doing all kinds of charitable work that they’re not going out and telling people about. It’s a part of the fabric of the firm.”

Hectus himself is active in local arts, both as a longtime former board member of the Arts Council for Long Beach and co-founder of the seven-year-old Summer and Music (SAM) concert series, which presents live music in the streets of downtown. He continues to volunteer his time each year to help organize and put on SAM’s four distinct events, giving local musicians an opportunity to play outdoors for thousands of people.

But Hectus isn’t the only person affiliated with KYL who gives back to Long Beach arts. Most of the large arts organizations in the city have had a KYL partner on their board at some point or another. International City Theatre, Musical Theater West and the Long Beach Symphony have all benefitted from the donation of time, money and event space.

“We’ve created a support system where if you think this is worth it, then the firm will support you in your efforts,” said Hectus. “The thing I talk to folks about in encouraging them to have similar efforts at their companies, is that it provides personal development that’s almost impossible to do at a corporation. It allows your employees to have opportunities to grow and to learn.”

The most visible example of KYL’s involvement in the arts can be found on your next invitation to a fundraising event, meeting or initiative kick-off. Many of these events are hos_ted by KYL at their office at 400 Oceangate, which they donate to charities and nonprofits.

Most recently, the firm’s office was donated as a venue for The Harmony Project’s launch party. The program promises weekly instruction on a classical instrument for elementary and middle school students and is rolling out a pilot program in several Long Beach schools.

“There’s a broad recognition that the arts are a way to bridge socioeconomic gaps and build community in a way that no other nonprofit sector can,” said Hectus. “Especially in a community as diverse as Long Beach, if you can bring people together and make them feel good about where they live and who their neighbors are, that’s a pretty significant thing.”