Sharing Core Values And Doing The Right Thing

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 - 00:00

The recent economic tumult has brought many venerable companies and law firms to dissolution, and has inspired those still standing to reflect on their past and their future. In 2009, DuPont is 207 years old, and our law firm, Phillips Lytle, is celebrating its 175th anniversary. We are honored to have represented DuPont for the past 65 years, and as we reflect on our valued client relationships, it is clear that sharing core values is one of the keys to success. Throughout the decades, our relationship with DuPont has been hallmarked by two unwavering concepts: acting ethically and doing the right thing. Sharing core values such as ethics, integrity, respect for people, and corporate social responsibility is important to that relationship, as well as to the relationships we have with other clients. In fact, we have declined or disengaged from representing certain other companies which, in sharp contrast to DuPont, expected us to compromise our ethical standards.

DuPont as a company and with its employees uses its resources to make people's lives better. As a law firm, we have tried to do the same, and the parallels are interesting. DuPont supports and is active with Habitat for Humanity in a number of communities in the United States and Canada. For example, DuPont helped rebuild Greensburg, Kansas (a community which was leveled by a tornado in 2007) by donating products and contributing employee time to Habitat for Humanity. Our firm has worked with Habitat for Humanity since 1991, providing pro bono legal work and countless hours of hands on work for projects in upstate New York.

Recently, the DuPont Yerkes plant in Buffalo, New York generously donated DuPont Corian®panels to brighten interactive hospital playrooms for pediatric cancer patients. (In addition to brightening the playrooms at numerous hospitals, the non-porous characteristics of Corian® help prevent the spread of infection.) DuPont Yerkes employees were involved with installing Corian® at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, one of the hospitals at which our firm's Volunteer Crew, and our Musical Ensemble, donate their time and talent. The Phillips Lytle Volunteer Crew was formed in 1994 to assist not-for-profit organizations, and in any given year includes more than 100 individuals (attorneys, staff, and family members) who volunteer at schools, senior centers and not-for-profit organizations.

DuPont's commitment to pro bono legal work and community service is vast; DuPont's in-house attorneys, executives and employees serve on countless boards and support numerous community and national organizations. In 2007, DuPont's Legal Department was recognized with the Appleseed Award for its leadership in pro bono and diversity in the workplace. Appleseed, one of the largest legal pro bono networks in the United States, praised DuPont's in-house lawyers - led for nearly a decade by Stacey J. Mobley - for their "unwavering leadership and pathbreaking contributions to creating a more just and diverse society." As he accepted the award Stacey, acknowledged, "Treating people with respect is one of DuPont's core values. We are proud to 'walk the talk' and assist others where we can through our business relationships." Stacey's successor as Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Thomas L. Sager, is also nationally recognized for his contributions to promoting diversity in the legal profession. The Minority Corporate Counsel Association created the Thomas L. Sager Award to recognize Tom's trailblazing efforts.

As a law firm with offices across New York State, we are dedicated to the communities in which we serve. Phillips Lytle supports more than 400 community and national organizations, and our attorneys are active on more than 250 boards. In the past two years we have donated nearly $1.5 million in pro bono work for not-for-profit organizations, and our attorneys have received national and local awards for their pro bono work. In 1991, Phillips Lytle established a scholarship program for students at the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School who are traditionally underrepresented in the legal community. This program is sponsored solely by the firm and to date, the firm has sponsored 60 scholarship recipients.

In thinking about anecdotal stories that illustrate concern for people, I am reminded of our firm assisting an employee in the aftermath of her husband's untimely death, and supporting fundraisers for employees with cancer or a child with a serious illness. And I know without having to ask that DuPont has done the very same thing - the right thing.

Lisa L. Smith is a Partner in Phillip's Lytle's Litigation Practice Group focusing on products liability.

Please email the author at lsmith@phillipslytle.com with questions about this article.