For James Helm, Founder and Owner of TopDog Law, philanthropy has opened the door to creating a deeper connection with his clients in some of Metro Philadelphia’s most vulnerable communities.
Helm, who in his early adulthood struggled with painkiller addiction, understands how an opportunity could change the lives of young people struggling with substance abuse, gun violence or economic hardship. Today, this Philadelphia-born attorney works hand-in-hand with organizations supporting at-risk youth in downtown Philadelphia.
“Most of our client base lives in downtown Philadelphia, in communities with many economic necessities,” Helm said in a recent interview. “What has been so rewarding about running TopDog Law is the ability to work directly with vulnerable communities and bring relief and opportunity where they live.”
Nearly three years after founding TopDog Law, Helm has grown his firm into one of the most recognized personal injury law firms in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. TopDog Law’s main office in the Olney section of Philadelphia, and it has two other satellite offices in suburban Philadelphia. Over the past several years, Helm and his team have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of injury victims across Pennsylvania.
Helm has made philanthropy a central pillar of his company’s social mission. His work representing accident victims in Philadelphia’s most vulnerable neighborhoods has allowed him to witness the economic and social needs of these communities.
In a recent video interview, Helm discussed TopDog Law’s social mission and his commitment to leveraging the success of his business to support community centers and organizations impacting the lives of at-risk youth in Philadelphia.
Helm is not at odds with wrestling. Before becoming the owner of a successful seven-figure law firm, Helm fought a years-long battle with prescription painkiller addiction. With the support of mentors and resilient determination, he managed to complete his graduate degree in law and business at Rutgers University and overcome his addiction.
After opening TopDog Law in 2019 and growing it into a renowned citywide law firm, Helm felt a natural drive to help those who struggled with addiction like himself. However, his close interactions with the economically vulnerable communities of downtown Philadelphia inspired him to change the scope of his social mission.
“Because of my past experience with painkiller addiction, when I decided to do philanthropic work, I first thought of communities struggling with addiction,” Helm recounted. “But, through my job at TopDog Law, working with clients primarily in downtown Philadelphia, I realized how many necessities they had outside of their legal business.”
Helm describes how many of his clients cannot afford some of their basic needs. Limited economic opportunities, a weak social safety net, and widespread gun violence keep most downtown residents mired in poverty.
As Helm explored how to give back to his community, he had the opportunity to meet activist Ryan Harris, the founder of As I Plant This Seed. This non-profit organization runs the North-Philadelphia Community Center and provides hundreds of young people with access to education, preventing them from engaging in gun violence or juvenile delinquency.
“More of the grant money to fight gun violence should be directed to people like [Ryan], but sadly, that’s not the case,” Helm commented. “So when I met him, I thought, ‘what if we leverage our network of lawyers and doctors in Philadelphia to find a way to help him.'”
In 2020, Helm teamed up with As I Plant a Seed for the first time on a holiday ride. During this first fundraising event, he and his company helped raise over $15,000 for the North Philadelphia Community Center. Helm nearly quadrupled that amount the following year, raising over $59,000.
In 2021, “we raised over $59,000 through our holiday campaign to support As I Plant This Seed’s work with at-risk teens in Philadelphia,” Helm said. “Gun violence is rampant in Philadelphia, and many of the people who commit these crimes are at-risk youth. [As I Plant This Seed] gives them a positive influence and provides them with love and a safe space, functioning as a proactive gun violence prevention measure.
Helm credits his clients in low-income Philadelphia communities with being critical to his company’s rapid success. Today, as TopDog Law becomes one of Philadelphia’s leading personal injury law firms, Helm maintains its commitment to giving back to the community and helping organizations that support teens in the most vulnerable areas of the city.
This experience “taught me that wrestling is wrestling no matter what,” Helm concluded. “My personal struggle was with addiction and recovery, but I want to help other people in our city who are struggling with other real-life issues.”
By Juan Sebastian Restrepo,
With the Artistic Initiative Agency