It was love at first site when attorney Bruce Denson, a criminal defense attorney in the Tampa- Saint Petersburg area, stumbled upon the new sport of stand-up paddle boarding. A native of Florida, Bruce spent much of his childhood in and around the water, but paddle boarding was a novelty — and he was intrigued. Buying a board for himself and a few family members, he began honing his skills and networking within the paddle boarding community as his love of the sport grew.

Attorneys who are passionate about a particular sport are a dime-a-dozen, but Bruce decided to take his passion to the next level. Following the advice of his Atticus® Practice Advisor, Gary Holstein, he created a marketing event in which he could share the sport with his colleagues. Both the Tampa and St. Petersburg Bar Associations agreed to sponsor a session and two “Pro Bono Paddling” events were held. At these events Bruce was able to share his paddling expertise and get to know more colleagues at the same time — a great example of how to incorporate your passions and interests into your marketing efforts.

If the story ended there, it would be a great success — but Bruce decided to take it to yet another level. Enthusiastic about the psychological benefits of this kind of exercise, Bruce began sharing the idea of paddle boarding with his clients – many of whom deal with substance abuse issues. Addicts take an important step toward recovery when they replace their self-destructive behavior with something more positive. With Bruce’s encouragement paddle boarding became that positive new behavior as he got clients out on the water and in the sun — having fun in a healthy, non-destructive way.

As more clients took up the sport and word spread, Judge Dee Ana Farnell, a runner and someone who understands the transformative effects of exercise, heard about the program and was impressed. So much so that she made it into an official court-endorsed Challenge Program which allows defendants to take time off of their probation for time spent participating in the program.

A number of different substance abuse and addiction facilities have also embraced Bruce’s program and regularly send their residents to participate. Not only does this provide him a platform to build relationships with treatment facilities, Bruce is happy that paddle boarding presents a great alternative for those dealing with substance abuse.

This past Memorial Day he held his inaugural “Race Across Tampa Bay,” attracting more than 80 paddlers despite bad weather. He vows that next year’s race will be bigger and has created a non-profit organization to promote the sport on an ongoing basis.

Bruce is a great example of an attorney who managed to take a personal passion and incorporate it into his practice in a way that really contributes to the greater good in his community. For him, client development became effortless when he combined his passions with his marketing efforts and these efforts have, in turn, helped him grow his practice. It’s all neatly summed up by Bruce’s Practice Advisor who says, “Doing well by doing good – it’s the best of both worlds.”

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