In September, we released our 2015 Strategic Plan—a significant endeavor that reflects not only what we wish to achieve as a firm, but what our clients have asked for. We listened to what our clients told us about their needs and plans for growth, and we are committed to understanding the strategic, operational, regulatory, and business issues and opportunities associated with their industries. The Strategic Plan is also faithful to our historic core values and sets a course for growth to ensure that our brand continues to stand for excellence and will compete favorably with the best firms in the country.
Our core values and strategic objectives are below.
Many different facets make up an organization such as ours, from the cases we win to the people who choose to come and work for us. Much of what we do can’t be quantified in figures, but we have done our best, below, to create a snapshot of 2015.
Last year saw a number of significant verdicts, multimillion-dollar deals, and first-class regulatory work at the firm. The results we achieve for our clients are a testament to the knowledge, skill and dedication of our practice and industry teams. We are proud to share some examples of how we assisted our clients in 2015.
Our more than 1,300 employees are the lifeblood of our firm and investing in their development is critical to delivering the best outcomes for our clients. We achieve results through collaboration and supporting a culture of excellence, client service and professional development. The figures below demonstrate how we grew, professionally and as a firm, in 2015.
Throughout our 167-year history, a foundational pillar of our firm has been the work we do for clients who cannot afford lawyers, and for causes that call out for the skilled advocacy that only the best lawyers can provide. This past year was no different. Below is just a small sample of the brilliant public interest work our lawyers and staff have recently undertaken, the positive effects of which will be felt by thousands.
In July 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled in favor of our clients in Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc. a landmark case the firm initiated in 2006 on behalf of five Native Americans seeking to cancel trademark registrations of the Washington D.C. professional football team.
Like the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which ruled on the matter in June 2014, Judge Gerald Bruce Lee found that the term “redskin” disparages Native Americans and cancelled the team’s federal trademark registrations. Judge Lee also rejected the team’s argument that cancellation would violate the team’s First Amendment rights. The case is now on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and has the attention of much of the trademark bar and the country’s First Amendment lawyers.
As a result of a landmark federal class action settlement secured by the firm in conjunction with the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, New York City and State agencies will begin providing information about food stamps and Medicaid in a variety of alternate formats that are accessible to the blind or visually impaired. The settlement will ensure that low-income New York City residents with such disabilities will have independent and meaningful access to important information about these vital public benefits.
The class action, Rafferty v. Doar, No. 13-1410 (TPG), was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York under the Americans with Disabilities Act and related federal civil rights laws. The case is one of a series of public interest cases the firm has participated in as part of the Barbara McDowell High Impact Litigation Project, which celebrated its fifth anniversary in January 2016.
The firm, as part of the Barbara McDowell High Impact Litigation Project, together with lawyers from the Texas Fair Defense Project, the University of Texas Civil Rights Clinic, and the Susman Godfrey firm in Houston, has brought a class action against the City of Austin challenging the city’s practice of incarcerating individuals unable to pay fines and fees for traffic offenses and other petty misdemeanors.
The case, Gonzales v. City of Austin, No. 1:15-CV-956, is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas and alleges that the city’s routine jailing of those who cannot make their payments without affording them legal representation and other basic protections, violates their rights to counsel, due process and equal protection under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.
More than two decades ago, a Drinker Biddle partner began to work with a small coalition of mostly faith-based organizations that wanted to invest in neighborhoods and communities that had largely been ignored by traditional sources of capital. These groups – church pension funds and religious orders of women – made small unsecured loans to build low-income housing or to strengthen businesses and build employment in under-served communities.
That coalition, now called Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), has grown to become a leader among “community development financial institutions” (CDFIs). CDFIs are now part of a $12 billion industry that leverages (mostly) private funds for economic justice through building low-income housing and promoting job development, and also strengthening communities through investments in health care, education and other community-based services. OFN has led the way in setting high standards and establishing best practices for the CDFI community, as well as developing or adapting increasingly sophisticated and innovative tools for community investment. As OFN and its CDFI members have begun moving into secured lending, loan participations and joint ventures, the Drinker Biddle team continues to negotiate and document transactions between OFN, its members and investors.
In 2015, the firm continued its long-running battle to spare the life of Brittany Holberg by filing for federal habeas corpus relief in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on September 16, 2015. The firm took up Ms. Holberg’s cause in late 2004, and thereafter prosecuted a state habeas corpus petition to conclusion before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 2014. The federal petition, reviewing more than 15 years of proceedings and 40 separate claims for relief, is the next step collateral review of her conviction and sentence. The court has ordered amendments of the petition, with answers and a reply and other proceedings expected in 2016.
In July 2015, the Chicago office hosted a day of service with a firm client, Exelon, in conjunction with The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago and Northwestern University Bluhm Legal Clinic. Drinker Biddle lawyers partnered with Exelon lawyers to provide individual clients with expungement and sealing services to address their past criminal records.
Law2Life is an ongoing Legal Enrichment Program developed and implemented by Drinker Biddle in cooperation with Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey. Now in its third year, the program is designed to inspire students by introducing them to the legal profession and to other careers in business and government.
Every other week during the school year, the faculty (Drinker Biddle attorneys and guest clients from the public and private sectors) delivers a diverse curriculum focused on the practice of law and its intersection with business. Students receive a comprehensive overview of trial advocacy and are asked to test their trial skills, first, in front of their peers, and later before a sitting judge. Students also have the opportunity to meet lawyers and other business professionals to learn about their work, career paths and the real-life legal issues they encounter.
In August 2015, Drinker Biddle attorneys, along with the Public Interest Law Center and the Education Law Center, filed suit against the School District of Philadelphia, alleging that the school district refuses to interpret or provide parents with translated documents in a timely manner, hindering their ability to participate in meetings and make informed decisions regarding educational placements and services.
According to the plaintiffs’ class action complaint, at least 26,000 students in the Philadelphia school district come from families who speak languages other than English. A significant percentage of these families include children with disabilities who are entitled to individualized education programs. Yet, their parents are unable to assist with the development of such programs, because the school district refuses to translate essential planning documents, in violation of federal and state law. The school district’s motion to dismiss is currently pending. On Jan. 25, 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest.
Lawyers in the Wilmington office participate in a program established by the Delaware Office of the Child Advocate that engages firms to provide pro bono legal representation for abused and neglected children. Drinker Biddle lawyers help ensure that the best interests of the child are properly considered in civil family court proceedings.
At Drinker Biddle, we strive to foster a community that does not end at our doorstep. Our people have a long tradition of civic-minded community involvement that is nurtured in each of our offices in a variety of ways.
Lawyers and staff from Washington, D.C., took part in the Lawyers Have Heart 5K fun run in June 2015 to raise funds for the American Heart Association. Lawyers and staff from the Wilmington, Delaware, office participate in the Wilmington Heart Walk and attend the Heart Ball to raise funds for the American Heart Association.
The Chicago office holds a jeans day every Friday, where participants are asked to donate $5, which will then be distributed to the charities of the year. The office honors charities that office members are involved with. The 2015 charities were:
Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation—a Chicago-based organization that raises awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research, and provides support services to families affected by pediatric cancer. Pediatric cancer remains the number one cause of death by disease in children today, but funding for pediatric cancer research pales in comparison to other major diseases.
The Off The Street Club—Chicago’s oldest boys and girls club, which currently serves more than 3,000 kids in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country, West Garfield Park. Every child seeking a safe place to go is welcome at the club for games, play and mentorship. The club offers several afterschool programs, tutoring and mentorship opportunities for all the kids that pass through its doors.
The New York office participated in the 2015 Dear Santa Project, which is spearheaded by the NYC Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators. Each participating law firm received “Letters to Santa” from students who attend Public School 131 in Brooklyn, which is designated as a Title I school because a large percentage of its students are from low income families. Over a two-month period, everyone in the New York Office participated in Jeans Day Fridays or contributed independently to the Dear Santa Fund. Through these donations and a firm match, 22 children received their wishes from Santa.
The San Francisco office participated in its eighth consecutive Glide Memorial Annual Holiday food giveaway program in December 2015. Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, located in downtown San Francisco, is dedicated to alleviating suffering and breaking cycles of poverty in the community. Glide serves thousands of meals and distributes several thousand grocery bags of food each day during the holiday season. Lawyers and staff volunteers arrived in semi-darkness to begin the early morning shift, serving breakfast or working in the Glide kitchen preparing holiday meals for the homeless and disadvantaged.
The Los Angeles office raises money and participates in Race for the Rescues, an organization that believes that by uniting animal lovers and animal welfare organizations it can make our world a kinder place. The money raised by the fun walk/run is used to help save the lives of once-forgotten dogs, cats and horses and to help them become cherished family members. The organization also provides important community programs, such as veterinary care for the pets of low-income families, free spay and neuter clinics, and a shelter intervention program.
For the fifth consecutive year, the Women’s Leadership Committee led the Philadelphia office in support of Career Wardrobe, a nonprofit organization that empowers women in their transition to work by providing work attire, educational programs, networking tools and opportunities to help them achieve the next level of gainful employment. Through fundraising events and professional clothing donation drives, we look forward to providing many more years of support to Career Wardrobe in its efforts to help break the cycle of poverty for women.
2015 saw the 9th annual Investing in Justice Campaign. Every lawyer in the Chicago office contributed to the campaign, which raises money for Chicago Bar Foundation grants to legal aid nonprofits, to ensure that people in the community who are most in need have access to critical legal assistance. The lawyers raised $16,035.00, which was matched by the firm.
The lawyers in the Wilmington office contribute to the Delaware Combined Campaign for Justice, which raises money for Delaware Community Legal Aid, the Delaware Volunteer Legal Services and the Legal Services Corporation of Delaware. These important organizations help ensure that people in need receive critical legal assistance. In addition to direct contributions, Drinker Biddle lawyers participate and support the annual musical comedy show that also raises money for combined campaign.
The lawyers in the Delaware office contribute to the Delaware Combined Campaign for Justice, which raises money for Delaware Community Legal Aid, the Delaware Volunteer Legal Services and the Legal Services Corporation of Delaware. These important organizations help ensure that people in need receive critical legal assistance. In addition to direct contributions, Drinker Biddle lawyers participate and support the annual musical comedy show that also raises money for the combined campaign.
The Los Angeles office sponsored and participated in the Ronald McDonald House Walk for Kids, which raises funds to help families with seriously ill children.
The Washington, D.C., office raised more than $2,000 for the Generous Associates Campaign, which raises funds to benefit the Legal Aid Society. Each June, the first year associates manage the campaign in which each floor of the office competes for the most donations and participation by hosting ice cream socials, pizza parties and raffles with a nominal contribution to attend.
The Delaware office raises money and participates in the annual Bike to the Bay, a 75-mile bike race that supports Delaware Chapter of the National MS Society.
Bread for the City provides fresh produce for low income clients who live in Washington, D.C. from their farm in Maryland, with the help of volunteers who harvest the vegetables during the growing season. A team from the Washington, D.C. office provided labor for the 2015 sweet potato harvest.
City Year is an education-focused, nonprofit organization that brings together young AmeriCorps volunteers, ages 18-24, who commit to one year of full-time service at a selected school in a high-poverty community. Corps members provide individual support to students who need extra care and attention, focusing on attendance, behavior, and academic performance through in-class tutoring, mentoring, and after school programs. In doing so, City Year members have helped over 1.3 million students reach their full potential and graduate high school in communities all across America.
Drinker Biddle’s sponsorship of City Year Greater Philadelphia began in 2004. Our support has helped nearly 100 Corps members provide over 100,000 hours of direct service to Philadelphia students in need. Many of our lawyers and staff also volunteer their time in support of City Year events annually, such as City Year Days of Service, Holiday Drives for School Supplies and more.
Working with Gifts for the Homeless, a nonprofit corporation comprised of lawyers and staff from local law firms, for the 10th consecutive year, the Washington, D.C., office donated gently used clothes for children, men and women with an emphasis on warm hats, gloves, coats and blankets.
Working In The Schools (WITS) is a nonprofit organization that promotes literacy by pairing Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students with individual volunteers from the business community for various partnerships, mentoring and literacy programs. WITS brings the students to the Chicago office to sit with a mentor who reads with the student and assists them with their homework. The WITS Program gives CPS elementary students the tools needed to excel in academics through programs that foster strong mentor relationships with adult role models. In 2015, the Chicago office had 13 fourth and fifth grade students participate, along with 26 full-time volunteers.
After finishing the 2014 Battle of the Barristers Annual Charity Softball Tournament as victors, the Florham Park office was tasked with leading the 2015 fundraising campaign. The day-long tournament is the largest annual fundraiser for the Newark Day Center, which sends Essex County youngsters to day and sleep-away camps in rural New Jersey and New York each summer through the Greater Newark Fresh Air Fund.
Philadelphia Reads is an education-focused, nonprofit initiative that recruits reading tutors to provide one-on-one attention to public school children who may need to “catch up and get ahead” on reading skills. The program’s goal is to ensure that all children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade. The Philadelphia Reads program was established in 1997 by the Mayor’s Office to help those kids who were not provided a fair start in life, due to poverty and struggling school districts. The Philadelphia Reads “Power Partners” program matches corporations, law firms and other organizations with children from public school classrooms for weekly reading sessions.
Drinker Biddle has been a Power Partner with PHILADELPHIA READS for more than 16 years. During each school year, up to 30 children from second or third grade travel by school bus from their public school to the Philadelphia office for one-on-one tutoring assistance one day each week for approximately one hour. Last year, approximately 60 volunteers from the Philadelphia office took time out of their schedules to read with the students. PHILADELPHIA READS participants also enjoy a reverse visit (when our lawyers and staff visit the students at their school), a Holiday Party and a Goodbye Party.
Each year the Delaware office “adopts” a family in need during the holiday season. Lawyers and staff donate gifts so that the children have presents during the holidays, as well as clothes and any other items they need.
The Princeton office held fundraisers to support the American Cancer Society and Lymphoma research.
The Women’s Leadership Committee continues the vital work it began in 2007 to ensure that the firm attracts, retains and develops great women lawyers and leaders. The committee’s work to increase female representation in every aspect of the firm’s partnership and governance has been evident this past year.
The firm was once again named to the prestigious 50 Best Law Firms for Women by Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers for its exceptional family friendly policies and career and business development initiatives that allow not only for the retention of women in law, but also for the opportunities for women attorneys to advance in leadership positions.
Drinker Biddle was included on this list in 2015, 2014, 2011 and 2009.
In 2015, the firm implemented industry-leading paid parental leave policies that provide for generous leave without regard to the gender of the parent or whether the child is newly born, adopted or fostered.
At Drinker Biddle we are focused on ensuring that all our attorneys embrace our firm’s core values, which includes a culture that values civility and diversity. Our leadership, Diversity Committee, partners, counsel, and associates work hard to ensure that our firm reflects the rich diversity of the communities and clients we serve. We have many programs geared towards proactively recruiting, retaining, promoting to partner and fostering the professional development of talented diverse lawyers.
Below is a selection of Diversity Committee and diverse lawyer accomplishments for 2015.
Our Sixth Annual Diverse Lawyers Retreat brought together the firm’s Executive Partners, Diversity Committee, and diverse lawyers. The entire Chicago office also joined the retreat for a training session on the subject of “implicit bias,” presented by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association Academy for Leadership & Inclusion.
Our new diversity initiatives aim to enhance our inclusion efforts both within and outside the firm with the support of the Diversity Committee, Executive Partners, and Chairman. The initiatives focus on expanding our recruiting efforts, including partnering with deans/assistant deans and affinity groups at law schools, and strengthening mentor/sponsor relationships geared towards retaining our attorneys.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affinity Group was created in 2014 and is open to all attorneys who support LGBT equality. The group’s mission is to ensure that Drinker Biddle offers an inclusive environment for LGBT attorneys and staff where they can contribute to Drinker Biddle’s efforts to provide unparalleled client service. A sub-group of the Diversity Committee, the LGBT Affinity Group is focused on recruitment, retention, and development of LGBT attorneys and staff; providing a forum for guidance, mentoring and social networking; opportunities to partner with clients and prospective clients on LGBT initiatives and topics; promoting awareness within the Drinker Biddle community about issues of interest; and serving as a point of contact between the firm and the LGBT community at large.
2015 firm sponsorships included the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey, Black Women Lawyers Association, California Minority Counsel 25th Annual Business Conference, Corporate Counsel Women of Color, Empire State Pride Agenda, Hispanic National Bar Association, Lambda Legal, Lavender Law Conference, Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, Minority Corporate Counsel Association, National Asian Pacific Bar Association, National Bar Association, New Jersey Law Education Employment Project, and South Asian Bar National Conference.