Diversity - Law Firms Ballard Spahr - A Star In The DuPont Network

Friday, April 1, 2005 - 01:00
Mark S. Stewart

Editor: Please describe your background and education.

Stewart: I graduated from the University of Delaware in 1978 and the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1982. I spent a year in London at the London School of Economics on a Rotary Foundation scholarship. Prior to joining the firm, I served as a judicial clerk to Justice Sydney Schreiber of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Editor: How long has Ballard Spahr been a part of the DuPont network of Primary Law Firms?

Stewart: I would say approximately twelve years. DuPont did their initial convergence in the western U.S. Ballard Spahr was selected to join the Primary Law Firm Group when DuPont started choosing East Coast firms.

Editor: What does your role as engagement partner with DuPont entail?

Stewart: In simple terms I am responsible for ensuring the success of the relationship. In more detail, I see my role as ensuring that DuPont's expectations for its Primary Law Firms are conveyed throughout Ballard Spahr. I try to instill in members of our firm an understanding of the principles of the DuPont Legal Model. That includes making sure the lawyers here understand our commitment to: diversity, including the advancement of women and minorities within the firm; the efficient provision of legal services; and effective collaboration with other firms within the Primary Law Firm network. Those three fundamental principles create the framework for the entire DuPont relationship.

My external role is to ensure that DuPont understands the expertise that we possess within Ballard Spahr and our broad range of legal capabilities. I do what I can to convince DuPont to employ our services whenever and wherever appropriate.

Editor: Does DuPont use a geographic distribution for awarding work to its firms?

Stewart: That was the initial vision of the Primary Law Firm network, but more and more I think DuPont is shifting to a commitment of assigning the right law firm to the right matter, regardless of geography. The original geographic arrangement was primarily geared around their litigation program. We have been fortunate to do some corporate transactional work for the company, as well as some bankruptcy work. In the litigation area they are very much interested now in putting teams of lawyers together among the Primary Law Firm Group and having those firms effectively collaborate to achieve the desired legal and business results.

Editor: I understand that Ballard Spahr recently received the DuPont Challenge award. For how many years has the firm received this award and what does the award signify?

Stewart: The award has been offered for eight years and we have received it in seven of those eight years - more than any other member of the Primary Law Firm network.DuPont's primary criteria for presenting the Challenge Award has been the efficient provision of legal services. By that I mean the work that we do for DuPont is consistently done by the appropriate level of attorney and the results that we get are most favorable for the client.

Editor: Julie Mazza, Manager of Law Firm Partnering, mentioned your firm's outstanding qualities in her interview in the March issue of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel. What were some of the categories in the benchmark survey conducted with all DuPont firms where Ballard Spahr scored so very highly?

Stewart: Those that I have mentioned - effective collaboration with other firms, efficient provision of legal services, and a commitment to including women and minorities in the provision of our legal services to DuPont.

Editor: I understand that the firm has participated in DuPont minority job fairs where students can hear more about the requirements for becoming a lawyer. What strategies have you used to convince them to continue on to law school or seek out good careers with law firms or corporate legal departments?

Stewart: What we have tried to do in the DuPont minority job fairs, which we organize for DuPont every year, is to ensure that minority law students see that there are opportunities for them to grow in the law. We have arranged for lawyers in the firm to speak about their various career paths. We have arranged to have outside speakers talk about careers in the law. We have also brought in alumni of the job fair to talk about the different paths and opportunities that they have had. We try to stress that there are many opportunities for minorities in the law and to open their eyes to the full range of career options and possibilities.

Editor: Does the firm employ minority young people in the summer or during the year?

Stewart: I led Ballard Spahr's Hiring Committee for fifteen years, and during that time we had minority students in our summer program every year that I was involved. We also have a commitment that we will hire at least one minority first year law student. We have had great success in keeping and convincing these first year law students to come back to the firm after graduation. In fact, we have made special opportunities for our first year students, both minority and non-minority. One thing we do with all our summer students is to have a "shadowing" opportunity with clients. We take the law students to spend a day or more with our clients so that they can get to know our clients and for the clients to convey to the law students what they think of Ballard Spahr. That has been very helpful and reassuring to students that this is an excellent place to start their career.

Editor: Has the firm provided scholarships to these students?

Stewart: While our program does not fit the traditional scholarship model, it has a comparable effect.For first year students who commit to coming to us after they graduate from law school, we pay them to undertake public interest work their second summer. We have had first year students go off and do spectacular things that second summer.

Editor: It is a fine way to underwrite their efforts. I understand the firm will host the Dupont Minority Counsel's Conference very soon.

Stewart: That is correct. On June 13 - 15 we will serve as the primary host for the DuPont Minority Counsel Conference in Philadelphia. Stephanie Franklin-Suber, one of my partners, has been on the planning committee. During the conference, we will host events, provide speakers, and have a very large number of our minority lawyers participate in all of the events. Four or five years ago, I had the opportunity to speak at the conference when it was held in Detroit. Not only do our lawyers feel it is an extremely worthwhile educational experience for us and all minority students in attendance, but it is an important opportunity for our minority lawyers to network with other minority lawyers from across the country, leading to many new long-term professional relationships. Past conferences have actually resulted in an exchange of work among the Primary Law Firms. It is very much to DuPont's credit to have conceived the idea of the conference, which is a true gift for all of the Primary Law Firms.

Editor: Ballard Spahr's participation with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights in assisting the National Commission for the Voting Rights Act is another facet of your firm's commitment to diversity. How did you come to be a part of that committee?

Stewart: We are a firm committed to doing pro bono work. Organizations like the National Commission on the Voting Rights Act knew of our commitment. We were given the opportunity to volunteer on this project and did so without hesitation. Ballard Spahr is pleased to participate in a series of nationwide hearings on race discrimination and voting by the Commission in connection with the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. Our lawyers will interview members of the public who wish to testify at the hearings and draft testimony of invited witnesses in order to document the history of racial discrimination in voting since the last Voting Rights Act reauthorization in 1982. The firm will participate later this year in Commission hearings in Phoenix, Minneapolis and New York City.

Editor: As part of this participation some members of the firm were on hand in Montgomery on March 11 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery. What services did they perform?

Stewart: We had three lawyers in Montgomery on that day, including Lucretia Clemons, a leader within the firm's Corporate Diversity Practice. These attorneys were at the hearings on the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act as the marchers came through Montgomery. Residents testified before the Commission on their experiences in Montgomery when they were denied the right to vote and the problems they had. To actually meet people involved in the civil rights march at the same time this re-enactment was going on outside was a truly moving experience for all of the attorneys involved in this important effort.

Editor: In keeping with your leadership among Primary Law Firms and your work on the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, your firm has also been outstanding in meeting the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge.

Stewart: As I mentioned earlier, we are a firm committed to pro bono. We have met the challenge every year. The firm handles a diverse range of pro bono work, including death penalty, voting rights, asylum, immigration, and child advocacy cases. The firm also provides tax, corporate, and employment assistance to a wide variety of nonprofits. We commit 3% of our billable hours to pro bono work. The firm contributes about 27,000 hours per year, or almost $6 million in lawyer time, to pro bono efforts. Over 75% of our lawyers perform pro bono work, averaging fifty hours a year per lawyer. That commitment to the community and to the needs of the less fortunate is one of the reasons lawyers like to work in this firm.

Please email the interviewee at stewartm@ballardspahr.com with questions about this interview.